Making Marines and Bringing Tourism

With scenic waterfronts, majestic Spanish moss trees, and more than one charming downtown, Beaufort county has a wide variety of excellent tourism opportunities for outside visitors. With this knowledge in mind, it may be of some surprise that one of the major draws for tourists in the Beaufort area doesn’t really seem like a tourist attraction at all – the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

This fact is official per the Visit Beaufort, Port Royal, and the Sea Islands organization, the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for the City of Beaufort, the town of Port Royal, and the unincorporated Sea Island regions of northern Beaufort County. The organization’s summer visitor summary found that MCRD Parris Island ranks number five in the list of top destinations for visitors in the region. Ahead of the Parris Island, listed in descending order are: Hunting Island, Fripp Island Resort, Waterfront Park, and Downtown Beaufort.

MCRD Parris Island is, of course, a destination for parents and family members of graduating Marine recruits, but, as one of the nation’s oldest and most famous military bases, it is also a draw for any Marine Corps veteran or military history enthusiast. The Parris Island Museum, located on the installation but open for civilian access, is a particular draw for anyone interested in the history of the Marine Corps or recruit training. It also has exhibits on the local history of the Parris Island site itself which explains the fascinating intersections of Native American history and French and Spanish settlements that occurred prior to the founding the United States.

(for more information on this topic, see our previous blog posts on Beaufort’s unique history:

This report and the visitor statistics from MCRD Parris Island are important to help frame the extent that our local military bases effect the Beaufort region economy. Although Parris Island and its sister installations at MCAS Beaufort and Naval Hospital Beaufort directly employ thousands of local workers and provide contracting opportunities for many local industries, the indirect impacts of these installations cannot be seen as easily but are just as valuable. For example, local businesses miles away from MCRD Parris Island still turn a higher profit when families of recruits are in town or Marine Corps veteran organizations sponsor reunions in the area. In a 2022 study, MCRD Parris Island was found to contribute $655 million to the Beaufort Region, over $70 million more than MCAS Beaufort and an amount which estimates the vast value of the installation’s tourism draw.

Whether it be providing for the Nation’s defense or providing a unique extension of the Beaufort experience, we’re proud to have our military bases such as MCRD Parris Island woven into the Beaufort Region community.

A History Display at the Parris Island Museum
Graduating Marines at Parris Island – a site witnessed by many visitors to Beaufort County.

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The Military Enhancement Committee (MEC) of Beaufort County Support Fund is a charitable fund administered by the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. Its mission is to enhance the quality and value of the military installations of Beaufort County, namely, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Naval Air Station Beaufort, and Beaufort Naval Hospital. The MEC seeks to defend these installations against any threats like closure or natural disaster, while also positioning them for enhancement through personnel, resources, and other opportunities that both benefit the Department of Defense and our region.