This Southern US Tourist Destination Is A Must-Visit For Film Lovers

You may not know South Carolina's second-oldest town, Beaufort, by name, but movie lovers might know it by sight. While Beaufort isn't the biggest city — with a population of around 13,000, it ranks 44th in the state — Hollywood has often made it look larger than life. The city has appeared in numerous films, including Academy Award nominees and winners like "Forrest Gump" and "The Big Chill." It was an especially popular filming area in the '90s when rural parts of it appeared in "The Fugitive" and Julia Roberts came to town to film "Something to Talk About" at a former antique store.

Horse-drawn tours of Beaufort, such as SouthurnRose Buggy Tours and the Sea Island Carriage Company, will immerse you in the sights of mossy live oaks and Civil War-era homes, and you can learn about the city's history and how it has intersected with Hollywood's. Beaufort Tours also has guided walking tours and golf cart tours, the latter of which will show you even more sites from movies like "The Prince of Tides." You can also head out on your own to visit some of the locations on our list.

The two closest international airports to Beaufort are located in Charleston (perhaps the ultimate vacation destination for foodies) and Savannah, Georgia, which tourists have called the most friendly U.S. destination. If you're in the area already and looking to add some film locations to a trip, along with good food and friendly locals, Beaufort is just the place.

Movie locations in Beaufort, South Carolina

One of the first major Hollywood films to shoot in Beaufort was "The Great Santini," starring Robert Duvall. The coming-of-age movie about a military brat and his strict Marine father is based on the late Pat Conroy's semiautobiographical novel. Conroy lived in Beaufort and still lends his name to the local literary center. The movie was filmed in downtown Beaufort and the Edgar Fripp House, commonly known as "Tidalholm," on Lauren Street. Built circa 1853, Tidalholm is an antebellum mansion that doubled as the main setting for the all-star baby boomer reunion in "The Big Chill."

Back toward Beaufort's downtown area at the Lewis Reeves Sam House on Bay Street, you'll find another mid-1800s estate that served as a shooting location for "The Prince of Tides," starring Barbara Streisand and Nick Nolte. Conroy co-wrote the screenplay for that film, based on another book of his. The house is in the Old Pointe neighborhood, which runs alongside the Beaufort River, and both it and the downtown area are part of the Beaufort Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. In 2023, the nearby Woods Memorial Bridge joined the National Register of Historic Places as well.

The bridge is the same one where reporters caught up with Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) on his famous cross-country run. However, the makers of "Forrest Gump" added a sign to the bridge to make it appear as though he were crossing the Mississippi instead of the Beaufort River.

Forrest Gump and other movie locations

The protagonist in "Forrest Gump" also rode a lawnmower across the field at Beaufort's Basil Green Sports Complex. The Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina Beaufort became Alabama's fictional Gump Medical Center. Another movie released the same year, "The War," starring Kevin Costner, used the massive oak tree outside Beaufort's Carolina Shores subdivision as a key setting. It's sometimes conflated with a similar live oak that served as an important gravesite in "Forrest Gump," but that's reportedly a different tree in Yemassee, South Carolina.

The city of Beaufort itself is located on Port Royal Island, which is surrounded by dozens of other islands. Two of them, Harbor Island and Hunting Island, are where Ridley Scott filmed Demi Moore becoming a Navy SEAL in "G.I. Jane." "Forrest Gump" and Disney's 1994 live-action "The Jungle Book" used Fripp Island to stand in for the jungles of Vietnam and India, respectively. The land there has since been redeveloped into the Ocean Creek Golf Course, though it's been known to hold Gump-themed anniversary races.

Just a few miles south of Beaufort is Parris Island, which served as the boot camp setting for another movie set in Vietnam, Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket," though Kubrick shot his film on a British Territorial Army base and elsewhere in England. The real Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Beaufort County is America's second-oldest Marine post, and you can visit the Parris Island Museum and its Vietnam exhibits there.