Sculpted by the rivers that slowly carve their way to the ocean, the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia claim a unique geography. It’s referred to as the Low Country for the marsh land and river basins that make up the area. The diverse local culture comes from early English, French and Spanish inhabitants, along with the African and Caribbean people brought to work the indigo and rice plantations of colonial settlers. The remnants of the African Gullah culture and creole language are a vital part of Low Country heritage.
Ancient oaks draped in Spanish moss and verdant sea grass in the sweeping marshes add a surreal beauty to the landscape. Colonial settlers’ plantations have been transformed into nature preserves and protected wildlife habitats. Today, residents work hard to preserve the Low Country and its way of life.
The coastal region’s economy is driven by tourism. Visitors are drawn to world-class fishing, golf and tennis. Summer vacationers are attracted to the slow pace of life along its gorgeous beaches. Boaters have the best view of the Low Country. Approaching the area by water gives the same perspective appreciated by the early settlers with many views unchanged in 300 years.
The Low Country offers history-rich towns such as Beaufort, SC, and Savannah, GA, along with the polished resort atmosphere of Hilton Head Island. These three communities combine to make an exciting weekend cruise, and first-class marinas in each location proudly serve the visiting boater.
DAY 1: BEAUFORT, SC
Beaufort is known as much today for the number of films shot in this charming village as it is for its southern hospitality. Beaufort is located on a picturesque bend of the Intracoastal Waterway on Port Royal Island, one of South Carolina’s coastal Sea Islands.
It’s famous for antebellum mansions, especially in the downtown historic district. While residents didn’t appreciate it at the time, Beaufort was captured by the Northern army early in the Civil War. Army officers confiscated most of the town’s mansions for homes and offices, saving them from destruction that occurred in other towns during the war.
The Downtown Marina of Beaufort is the perfect place to tie your boat and explore the area. Beaufort History Museum makes the past come alive, along with tours of old churches and plantations. A thriving cultural scene is on display in the USCB Center for the Arts, galleries, museums and the annual film festival. Taste of Beaufort (May 6-7, 2019) mixes art and music with unique seafood dishes prepared by local chefs.
DAY 2: HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC
Beaufort to Hilton Head Island, 24 NM
With miles of unspoiled shoreline, Hilton Head Island is a vacation dreamland. The island is home to world-class golf, tennis and beach resorts. Hilton Head is also an adventurer’s paradise for boating, fishing and water sports.
With six marinas to choose from, dockage is easy for an enjoyable weekend of kayaking, parasailing, deep-sea fishing, surfing, jet skiing, windsurfing and dolphin watching. Access to the island’s marinas and protected waters is a breeze through Port Royal Sound on the north side of the island and Calibogue Sound on the south.
The Harbour Town Lighthouse helps boaters navigate smoothly into The Harbour Town Marina, which can accommodate boats 80 feet and larger and is perfectly located for exploring the island. Shelter Cove Marina, situated in the middle of the island with 178 slip rentals, is a haven for water sports, fishing and crabbing charters, and dolphin tours. The nearby Coastal Discovery Museum features heritage buildings, trees and themed gardens. Between the island and mainland, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is teeming with deer, alligators and sea birds.
DAY 3: SAVANNAH, GA
Hilton Head to Savannah, 18.4 NM
This Georgia treasure is only separated from South Carolina by the Savannah River, a deep tidal river flowing to the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Roads. Consistently named one of the “world’s friendliest cities” by Condé Nast Traveler, this coastal town has earned a reputation for hospitality and grace.
Described as historic and hip, Savannah’s neighborhoods are full of character. Most neighborhoods are centered around manicured, tree-filled public squares. The city invites walkers to stroll leisurely around town, so not to miss its hidden jewels.
First settled in 1733, the city became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later its first state capital. This port city played a key role in the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and visitors are drawn to its plethora of historic sites, including Old Fort Jackson, Bonaventure Cemetery and Fort Pulaski National Monument.
Culture and cuisine are other star attractions, thanks to scores of museums, galleries, musical events, and fantastic restaurants. Established in 1978, Savannah College of Art & Design adds to the cultural scene by running six galleries in town and offering degrees in topics such as art history, interior design, sculpture and visual effects.
The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa is conveniently located in the Savannah River District across from the historic downtown. Access is easy through the Intracoastal Waterway from Hilton Head or through a deep, well-marked channel from the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island.