My childhood friend LaDonne and I cleared out a weekend to meet in Beaufort for a couple of days. I’d never been, but she had visited before and told me of several fun experiences. A few weeks ago, on a partly sunny morning, we set out to meet at our destination — The Cuthbert House Inn on Bay Street.
The inn's picturesque views of the bay and canopy of ancient oaks with welcoming porticos were enchanting. The inn is steeped in history and has survived everything thrown its way, including hurricanes and the ravages of war. Cuthbert House was abandoned by its original owners and occupied by Union soldiers who seized Beaufort during The Civil war. I believed this type of history had seeped into it's walls, becoming ever-present. And I was right.
Union soldiers pose on the steps of the inn.
We stayed in the Federal Room on the top floor, facing the bay. Our period room was so beautifully decorated that I wanted to throw a cover over the modern little fridge that seemed to break the spell. Squeaky floors, flawed plaster, and a crooked fireplace combined with elegant furnishings and amenities gave the room a perfectly imperfect balance. The king-sized canopy rice bed was as comfortable as it was beautiful. The tiled bathroom floor led me like the yellow brick road to a huge porcelain, antique claw-footed tub. LaDonne pulled heavenly bath bombs out of her bag for the anticipated experience of filling the tub to the rim. I called first dibs.
Later that night, I filled the claw foot all the way to the spigot and sank down into it for an ethereal soak. I forgot how well porcelain holds the heat of water and planned on staying until it got cold, but it never did, and I reluctantly left when I feared the wrinkles from soaking so long wouldn't come out.
Views from the porch
Owners Jeff and Mary Ann Thomas have done a wonderful job maintaining the inn's historical appeal in the modern century by tastefully blending old with new. Mary Ann's decorating tastes are superb; her welcoming touches are seen everywhere. The huge vase of aromatic pink and white lilies in the foyer set the welcoming pace of the stay. There were private little nooks tucked everywhere to enjoy a breeze, a book, a nap, coffee, or a glass of wine.
Ancient oaks stud the property.
Other than my dear friend's company, I would have to say the parlor experience in the evening hosted by the owners was my favorite part of day. Reminiscent of the inn's antebellum days, wine, hors d'oeuvres, and conversation flowed freely. Topics mirrored those of days gone by—travel, religion, politics, dogs, history, wars, and rumors of wars. It was mesmerizing. I could imagine the clinking of glasses and soft piano music from the past. It made me wonder what the ghosts of these parlor walls would be most surprised by.
Breakfast was amazing both mornings and the staff was incredible—my friend and I found little need to leave the heaven we had just found. We did venture out for a small jaunt the first day to McIntosh Book Shoppe (a new fave for me) and an antique store. The next day, we took a riverfront shop walk and had a delicious lunch at Q on Bay. We found the hors d'oeuvres and wine sufficient for dinner both nights and retired to the upper portico afterwards. Two couples were playing a lively game of rummy while waiting for late dinner reservations. They emptied the remainder of their bottle of (good) wine into our glasses and headed off. We gladly finished it and capped off the evening enjoying conversation and hypnosis (the huge oaks were brimming with crickets, cicadas, and tree frogs of avatar quantities.)
The trip ended with a visit to paradise, The Chocolate Tree. Not for the weak-willed, this is Beaufort's one-stop-shop for fine chocolates. LaDonne comes annually now for the all-you-can-eat wine and chocolate night.
We pulled out of Beaufort and I vowed to return. When you live in the paradise that is Charleston, it's kind of hard to pull yourself from it to visit sister seaside towns. But, if the wanderlust strikes, I highly suggest this Highway 17 jaunt to Beaufort.