Languid and lovely Beaufort is steeped in historic charm and natural beauty, but you might not realize just how amazing that history and nature are. Here are 10 of our favorite fun facts about one of our favorite places.
1. Beaufort, founded in 1711, is the second oldest city in South Carolina, after Charleston. Though the harbor town was ideally located at the head of the deep and protected Port Royal Sound, the town grew much more slowly than nearby Charleston. The reason? Battles with native people already living in the area and the constant threat of attack by the Spanish in Florida.
2. The first European settlement in the area was actually attempted by the French in 1562 on nearby Parris Island. They called the settlement Charlesfort.
3. The French settlement of Charlesfort was short lived. After the French Navy failed to come back to resupply the struggling soldier-settlers, they mutinied, built their own ship, and sailed back to France with sails made of bed sheets.
4. The boat the French settlers made makes Port Royal Sound the first port in the U.S. to build and launch a transatlantic vessel.
5. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Beaufort was founded by the French, too, with its French-sounding name, but it was actually settled by the English and named after Henry Somerset, the Duke of Beaufort.
6. Beaufort is actually made up of 68 islands. At high tide, the town is as much water as it is land.
7. Look around Beaufort and you’ll notice you are surrounded by spectacular salt marshes, as far as the eye can see in many places. Almost a quarter of all of the marshland on the entire east coast is found in the Beaufort County area.
8. Frogmore Stew got its distinctive name at Gay Fish Company sometime in the 1960s, but the iconic South Carolina dish has been a staple of Lowcountry cuisine for decades or longer. It is also sometimes called Beaufort Stew.
9. There are no frogs in Frogmore Stew. It’s made of shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob. Frogmore is the name of a village on nearby St. Helena Island. (The dish is also sometimes called “Lowcountry boil,” but there’s no poetry in that).
10. Robert Smalls was an enslaved man who organized and executed one of the most daring escapes in the Civil War to free his wife and children. He commandeered and piloted a Confederate ship through Charleston Harbor to freedom. He was born and died in Beaufort, and you can still see his home today at 511 Prince St.