By Elizabeth Bishop Later | Tourist season is in full swing in our lovely home town. Folks from all over are driving down Highway 17 and up Interstate 95, taking a little detour on Highway 21 and ending up in one of the most beautiful places in the country.
OK – the universe. (Bias is an inherited southern trait.)
We love and welcome visitors to Beaufort and are so happy they’ve chosen to spend some of their precious vacation time strolling down Bay Street and riding in carriages through the Old Point. There’s a lot to see; a lot to do. And it’s great fun.
However, for those of us who grew up in Beaufort, live elsewhere, and visit regularly, we admit that we have a very serious character flaw. They say that admitting it is the first step to recovery, so here goes: we are snobs about being native Beaufortonians. It’s a pride thing, really. So when we visit, the very last thing we want is for someone to mistake us for tourists. Once I was walking down Carteret Street with my dad, who had a camera in his hand. He said, “I probably should have put this camera in a bag. Walk like you know where you’re going so no one will think we’re tourists.”
The only thing worse than being mistaken for a sightseer is someone thinking you’re a Yankee. Heaven forbid.
Rest assured that you will never catch us in a t-shirt that says, “It’s a Beaufort Thing.” We avoid the stores on Bay Street between the months of May and September unless we’re wearing dark glasses. And just in case we do have a real need for carrying a camera downtown, we’ve got our bases covered with car decals like this one, which eliminate any confusion. The decal’s message: “We’re in the cool club. We were born here.”
Of course, we enjoy all the great things Beaufort has to offer, too. We just don’t do it when anyone’s looking. So if you want to visit Beaufort like a native Beaufortonian, here are five suggestions:
1. Eat at Duke’s BBQ. Eat your BBQ with several slices of Sunbeam white bread from the loaf on the table along with a double helping of fried pork skins. Wash it all down with a big glass of sweet tea but don’t use a straw. Straws are for tourists.
2. A visit to the Chocolate Tree is a must, but put on your best southern accent when talking to the chocolatiers. “I just LOVE these darlin’ chocolate sand dollars! I just can’t get enough of ’em.” Pay in cash. Credit cards are a dead give-away.
3. If you get caught on the bridge, stay in your car. Opening the door and resting your feet on the door handle is acceptable. However, if you absolutely must lean on the railing to watch the boat go under, go with the nonchalance of Robert Mitchum and make sure you don’t point at anything.
4. Take a ride to Frogmore and eat lunch at the Shrimp Shack. Get the Shrimp Burger but do not, I repeat, DO NOT ask if the Shrimp Burger has shrimp in it. My schoolmate Julie will stare at you like you’ve got a head growing out of your left shoulder.
5. Grits are a thing here. But if you ask for milk and sugar everyone’s going to think you’re from New Hampshire. (A very nice place, but remember the goal here….) Butter and salt, mix it all up with your eggs and bacon, and eat it with a spoon.
So there you have it. Our top five ways to visit Beaufort like a native. Of course, you can always throw caution to the wind, forget what everybody thinks about you, and just enjoy it. Take the carriage tour. Wander in and out of the little stores on Bay Street and buy lots of stuff adorned with seashells. Walk on the waterfront and gaze at the sailboats. Stroll into the Chamber of Commerce and pick up some postcards and brochures.
You never know what might happen. You might even find a new Facebook friend from New Hampshire.
Editor’s note: Written as ‘The Beaufortonian’s guide to visiting Beaufort’ by Elizabeth Bishop Later for A Place Called Home: A memoir of Beaufort and St. Helena Island, South Carolina. You can read more from the book and writings of Sonny Bishop and Elizabeth Bishop Later at http://ouryardfarmhome.com and see the original piece here. We appreciate Elizabeth and Sonny’s sharing of their Beaufort memories, local lore and history, and some musings with us all. It’s good stuff.