By Mike Steely

It’s only 8 hours away, more or less, and it’s a place you’ve seen even if you’ve never been there.

Beaufort, S.C., is north of Hilton Head Island and south of Charleston. The little town is a more affordable vacation spot than some of the other east coast beach resorts. My wife and I have been there several times, always camping, and we are always finding places, houses and scenes we like.

Oddly enough the little town is pronounced “Bu-fort” in South Carolina while Beaufort, N.C., which we’ve also visited, is pronounced “Bo-fort.”

During the main tourist season you can find fresh seafood in and around the town, everything from fresh shrimp and oysters to various salt water fish. Even in late fall, we found fresh shrimp and the boats deliver it daily to the local docks. We noticed that parking can be a problem on a busy day and it took us a while to find a place to pull in and walk downtown.

Hunting Island State Park is just beyond Beaufort, has full hook ups except for sewer, and almost all of the sites are on or near the long Sandy Beach. The sound of waves can rock you to sleep. The stretch of shoreline, complete with lots of shells, driftwood, and sand dollars, leads to the Hunting Beach lighthouse. Nearby is a small museum and long fishing pier. Wi-Fi is also available now for campers, although we found the signal pretty weak.

We enjoyed walking out on the beach after dark and star watching. It’s pretty dark there and on a clear night you can see lots of twinkling lights in the open sky.

Just beyond the beach is Fripp Island, an upscale community sitting on the end of the peninsula. Parts of “The Prince of Tides” were filmed on the beach there but most of that movie was filmed in Beaufort, even the parts that were supposed to be New York City.

If you’re a movie buff, you’ll love Beaufort. The Vietnam scenes in “Forrest Gump” were filmed on Hunting Island; “The Great Santini” and “Something to Talk About” are among the numerous movies filmed in the community.

My favorite place for movie scenes is the Tidalholm House at the end of Laurens Street, where “The Big Chill” was filmed. I can still remember the characters in the movie tossing a football around in the lawn there.

Beaufort has most of the downtown shops you’d expect as a tourist hotspot, plus a nice waterside walk and dock downtown. Just outside town, away from the causeway, are the national chain stores and franchise restaurants.

South of Beaufort a few miles is Paris Island Marine Base and Port Royal, another little coastal town with its own beauty and a noted tower for miles of viewing.

We visited the area over Thanksgiving and found you should plan ahead if you’re camping. We thought Beaufort would be almost empty but found it pretty crowded with tourists.