Southern Hospitality, Cosmopolitan Living
Beyond the beauty, the sports and the wonder of the great outdoors that is unsurpassed in the Beaufort County lowcountry, there is a community of people who care about each other and who love a good time.
Lowcountry friendliness is absolute. Walk down a street, strangers greet you. Need a hand? Six are offered. New to the area? Your neighbors will welcome you and introduce you to more people than you dreamed of meeting at one time. And if you are willing, someone will draft you for a committee. The warmth and welcome that the lowcountry extends to newcomers cannot be overstated.
Here are a few recent accomplishments of lowcountry newcomers:
o Started a new business, from photography to antique stores to art galleries.
o Ran for mayor, and won.
o Saved the lives of baby loggerhead turtles.
o Became a popular artist or wrote a novel. (Actually, quite a few newly published authors have emerged in Beaufort County.)
To live in the lowcountry is to live with history. National Historic Landmarks and landmark districts include the antebellum homes and beautiful churches in Bluffton and Beaufort, some dating back to the Revolutionary war. Penn Center on St. Helena represents the first time education came to the freed slaves. Ruins of tabby (oyster shell, lime and sand) foundations turn up on old plantation sites. Old lighthouses and remnants of old forts bring the past to life.
Today, the outdoors is everybody’s favorite playground. Dozens of golf courses and tennis courts provide challenges worthy of champions, and champions do play here. Fishermen delight in the seasonal visits of cobia, tarpon and the best game fish from both northern and southern waters. Fresh-water ponds are well stocked. The hunting season is long, and nearby forests are home to many hunt clubs. Bicycle/walking paths are everywhere.
All kinds of water craft find a place in the lowcountry sun. Sailboats and motor yachts travel the intracoastal waterway and venture out to the ocean. Kayaks, canoes and john boats find their way through the marshes and tidal creeks. Shrimp boats cast their nets offshore and deep-sea fishermen go even farther out to sea. Much of the land, both public and private, remains preserved for animal life. Endangered species are thriving. Eagles, ospreys, gators, occasional bobcats and a large population of white-tailed deer appear perfectly at home with the human residents.
The entire county is a vibrant art colony. Many art teachers and professional artists have retired to the area. Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head have thriving art association galleries and clusters of private galleries. Many of the community developments have active artist groups. Theater, dance and musical performances, large and small, are regular events.
Hilton Head Island has the most nightlife– live music in bars and restaurants, clubs, resort entertainment. Beaufort has some too, plus a packed schedule of festivals and a new dinner theater. Fine dining is offered in restaurants all over the county. Shopping covers the gamut from Saks on Hilton Head to Lowe’s in Beaufort. Two immense discount malls with all the upscale retail names are big draws in Bluffton.
Beaufort County is easy to get to. By car on Interstate 95 and by Amtrak train, the area connects with the eastern third of the U.S. From the Savannah/Hilton Head Airport, five airlines -- Air Tran, Continental, Delta, United and U.S. Airways – offer non-stop flights to 17 destinations, most of them international hubs. Hilton Head Island has a small airport from which U.S. Air flies non-stop to their hub at Charlotte, N.C. and seasonally to Washington, D.C. Beaufort’s small airport is used by private aircraft.
Health care is excellent with two major hospitals one in Hilton Head and one in Beaufort and doctors in every specialty. Hilton Head has a cardiac rehabilitation center and Beaufort, which is affiliated with Duke University, has new heart and cancer centers. Another hospital, Naval Hospital of Beaufort, is so well regarded that some military personnel retire to the area because of it.
Those who love learning will love the lowcountry. University of South Carolina Beaufort is opening a new four-year campus near Sun City. Technical college of the Lowcountry, with many adult-oriented courses, also is building a new campus near Okatie. There is so much expertise among the retired population that professional-level instruction in art, photography, hobbies of all kinds, ecology and the environment, gardening – you name it, it’s available in every community. The library, with branches throughout the county, is first-rate. New high schools are opening, with more scheduled for the near future.
But the bottom line is the people. Newcomers instantly feel the hospitality. There are hundreds of shared-interest groups, from bridge games to birding, and an equal number of volunteer groups that help out in schools, state parks and the arts. They are always looking for new hands, new ideas and new friends. It’s a wonderful way to live.
Written by Kristine Cox