This sleepy little town of 4,000 between Beaufort  and Parris Island  touts itself as a leader in “small town New Urbanism.” This is certainly true, with its manicured emphasis on livability, retro-themed shopping areas, and relaxing walking trails. However, Port Royal is still pretty sleepy—but not without very real charms, not the least of which is the fact that everything in town is within easy walking distance of everything else.
The highlight of the year is the annual Soft Shell Crab Festival, held each April to mark the short-lived harvesting season for that favorite crustacean. Indeed, the rhythms of the sea mean everything to Port Royal, as indicated by the recent hubbub over a proposal to close the town’s Port Authority dock. Though the controversy happened at the height of the season, anxious shrimp-boat captains refused to leave the dock for fear that demolition might begin in the middle of the night while they were offshore.
While much of the tiny historic district has a scrubbed, tidy feel, the main historic structure is the charming little Union Church (11th St., 843/524-4333, Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.), one of the oldest buildings in town, with guided docent tours.
Don’t miss the new boardwalk and observation tower at The Sands municipal beach and boat ramp. The 50-foot-tall structure provides a commanding view of Battery Creek. To get to The Sands, go to 7th Street and then turn onto Sands Beach Road.
Another environmentally oriented point of pride is the new Lowcountry Estuarium (1402 Paris Ave., 843/524-6600, www.lowcountryestuarium.org , Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., feedings at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., $4 adults, $2 children). The point of the facility is to give hands-on opportunities to learn more about the flora and fauna of the various ecosystems of the Lowcountry , such as salt marshes, beaches, and estuaries.