Spotlight: The Rhett House Inn

The historic Beaufort, South Carolina, inn promises guests the star treatment
Rhett House Inn veranda
Breakfast is served on the veranda and accompanied by the clip-clop of horses and the chiming of church bells.

With a name like The Rhett House Inn, it’s no wonder many guests think this bed and breakfast in the heart of the National Historic Landmark District of Beaufort, South Carolina, was named after Rhett Butler, the dashing anti-hero of Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With the Wind. But according to local stories, it’s the other way around. Mitchell is believed to have named her character after the prominent Rhett families of Beaufort and nearby Charleston (and the Butlers of Atlanta), and it was a scion of that line, the wealthy antebellum planter Thomas Smith Rhett, that built the grand Greek Revival mansion, now home to the luxurious inn, on the Beaufort River around 1820 as a summer retreat.

Ultimately, I don’t know if there’s any real connection to the beloved novel and movie, but with its magnificent staircase and English and American antique furnishings, the Rhett House does feel a bit like Tara. And from the moment I arrived, I was as pampered as Scarlett O’Hara. Complimentary champagne and hors d’oeuvres during happy hour and homemade dessert served in the grand living room are just a few of the ways the innkeepers make guests feel welcome.

Beaufort River, South Carolina
The Beaufort River is home to an abundance of wildlife, from shore and wading birds to dolphins.

Photograph by CG Photo

Also recommending the Rhett House is its location. Bay Street, just one block away, is lined with eclectic boutiques, art galleries, and top-notch restaurants. Complimentary bicycles are available to guests, so hop on and explore.

Bay Street, Beaufort, South Carolina
A block from the inn, Bay Street beckons with its lively strip of boutiques, galleries, and cafes.

Beaufort’s natural beauty and antebellum homes have made it the perfect setting for films such as The Big Chill, The Prince of Tides, and Forrest Gump, and the Rhett House has welcomed a host of Hollywood royalty, from Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford to Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. I bedded down in room ten, the Innkeeper’s Suite, where Ben Affleck once stayed. With a comfy king bed, large bar, whirlpool tub, and private entrance, it’s certainly celeb-worthy.

For me, the best part about a bed and breakfast is the breakfast. I sat on the veranda at an elegant table shaded by a live oak draped with Spanish moss and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of blueberry pancakes. It was all so . . . genteel.

The pancakes were delicious, but I’m one of those “the grass is always greener” types, so I kept eyeing my husband’s hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and grits. Fortunately for me, at the Rhett House, tomorrow is another day.


•{ While You’re There }•

Tour of Homes
On the last weekend in October, owners of some of Beaufort’s most beautiful and storied homes unlock their gates and throw open their front doors during the Fall Festival of Houses & Gardens. Organized by the Historic Beaufort Foundation, the annual fundraiser has been an area tradition for more than thirty-five years. Take a self-paced walking tour through three centuries of Beaufort architecture, and on Sunday, enjoy local chefs’ specialties prepared and served in the homeowners’ kitchens. Tickets are $45 each day.

Three miles from Beaufort, the town of Port Royal recently opened the Cypress Wetlands. A free walking tour takes visitors along elevated boardwalks around the nesting grounds of hundreds of white egrets. Near sunset, it’s dramatic to watch flocks of elegant white birds come swooping in to roost.

Celebrity Sighting
Novelist Pat Conroy of Prince of Tides fame dines regularly at Griffin Market. Stop in for their signature tagliatelle Bolognese and local lump blue crab.