*This article was originally published in June 2015. All links have since been checked and updated.
We needed an adventure, and we needed it badly. My husband and I were both working long hours that often overlapped and we hadn’t spent a Sunday together as a family in weeks.
“What about that day trip to Beaufort we’ve been talking about for years?” I suggested. (Yes, YEARS. That is how long it took us to pick a date and pack the car for a one-day trip.) We assessed the calendar and made our plans. The planner of our family mapped our route and itinerary (God bless him). I spent a few minutes looking at pictures of places I wanted to go and planning our daughter’s outfits. Our two-year-old only knew she was going to get to watch Frozen in the car at 8 am on a Sunday, and she was obviously cool with that. (Side note: If you need recommendations for a car DVD player, I have the Sylvana brand and love it.)
If you are in dire need of an accessible family adventure, a day trip to Beaufort is ideal. Very close with beautiful sights and a couple of very cool sites to explore on the way there. If you’re like me and just want someone to tell you exactly what to do (to save you time and the hassle of research), I’ve shared our itinerary from that trip below along with appropriate web links and tips for traveling with a toddler included. You’re welcome.
Beaufort Day Trip Itinerary:
8-9 am: Drive to Old Sheldon Church Ruins.
9-9:30 am: Explore ruins, including obligatory photoshoot in and around the ruins. This church has had a rough run. Burnt twice—first during the Revolutionary War and again by Sherman—it is 100% worth a stop on the way to your final destination and packed with history, tombstones, and Live Oak Trees.
9:35 am: Get back in the car en route to Hunting Island State Park. *Note: This quick taste of physical freedom will confuse your toddler. Bribe them with a food pack and special road trip treat to overcompensate.
10:25 am: Park in the lot closest to the lighthouse for less walking time. Explore the park on foot and leave the stroller in the car in lieu of babywearing. We ended up dragging our stroller along the bumpy beach while our toddler skipped along beside it because #ThisIsRealLife.
This park is huge and you could easily spend an entire weekend here hiking, camping, fishing, and beaching. Remember, this itinerary is exclusively for day-trippers. There were many people literally beaching it and/or hiking here when we visited. We were a bit underprepared (and overdressed), though you could easily pack a beach bag with a change of clothes and stay here for an extra hour exploring trails with the baby on your back or just playing on the beach. We thoroughly enjoyed a long walk along the beach towards the tip of the island, sidestepping (and posing on) fallen trees, and we captured some very cool family photos.
Noon: Lunch Picnic at a table by the lighthouse while you try not to panic about getting your toddler to nap in the car at exactly the right time.
12:30 pm – Back in the car en route to downtown Beaufort. Frozen has mysteriously disappeared as parents try to nonchalantly trick toddler into sleeping. (It works! THIS TIME.)
1 pm – Park in the sleepy (an understatement) downtown of Beaufort. Enjoy lunch at Lowcountry Produce, while baby naps in the stroller until elderly lady kicks stroller while walking past and then decides to stop and lift stroller blanket and say hello to the baby she doesn’t know while mother scowls at her. (Okay, hopefully, that won’t happen to you.)
2 pm: Mosey on over to Historic Downtown and stroll among the gorgeous historic homes, many with stunning marsh views (aka more photoshoot opportunities). *Note: This is the FREE explorer option that was perfect for our family, as our daughter ran through the empty streets and we could explore at our own pace, but there are guided walking tours available and this tour of the John Mark Verdier House Museum looks sweet (and air-conditioned if it’s summer in the South and you don’t want to sweat to death).
3 pm: Time for a rest and a cool down. Grab an iced coffee at a local cafe, Common Ground Coffeehouse, and Market Cafe and head to Monkey’s Uncle toy store right on Main Street. Let your little one play with the unique assortment of toys and read some books in the reading corner. *Note: Staff was super sweet here and allowed a diaper change in said reading nook. #clutch
3:30 pm: Bring your bubbles and a picnic blanket to Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and relax by the waterfront while your kid gleefully chases bubbles on the large grassy area (what is the DEAL with kids and bubbles?!) Then head to the adjacent playground, which is either incredible or a nightmare depending on your child’s age *Note: Playground is quite large and impressive, but was crowded with older children when we were there. If you have older children, they will definitely enjoy it, and chances are toddlers will enjoy it, too.
5:00: Dinner time—The Old Bull Tavern is rated the number one restaurant on Trip Advisor and seems worth a try. It looks a bit fancier, but this is a mini-cation, after all, and I recommend braving an early semi-nice dinner (with child) because that’s the grown-up stuff that also feeds your marriage. Personally, we ate at one of the restaurants on the waterfront and the food was subpar (a “tourist trap,” if you will), so I would recommend venturing off the beaten path for some grub and a quick drink.
6ish: Hop in the car and head on home to Charleston. You will probably be ready to leave by now because you’re a parent. It’s a quick drive and there’s nothing wrong with watching Frozen twice in one day. NOTHING AT ALL.
7:20 PM: Home sweet home. Pat yourself on the back for an affordable adventure well planned and fun memories created.