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Port Royal, South Carolina
Port Royal Municipal Offices
Port Royal Municipal Offices
Location of Port Royal, South Carolina
Location of Port Royal, South Carolina
Country United States
State South Carolina
County Beaufort
 • Total 19.55 sq mi (50.64 km2)
 • Land 16.96 sq mi (43.94 km2)
 • Water 2.59 sq mi (6.70 km2)
23 ft (7 m)
 • Total 10,678
 • Estimate 
 • Density 780.14/sq mi (301.22/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 843, 854
FIPS code 45-58030
GNIS feature ID 1250223

Port Royal is a town on Port Royal Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. Largely because of annexation of surrounding areas (including Parris Island), the population of Port Royal rose from 3,950 in 2000 to 10,678 in 2010, a 170% increase. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, Port Royal is included within the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area. Port Royal is home to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Naval Hospital Beaufort.


Port Royal takes its name from the adjacent Port Royal Sound, which was explored and named by Frenchman Jean Ribault in 1562. Ribault founded the short-lived settlement of Charlesfort on Parris Island. The area later became the site of a Spanish and still later Scottish colony during the 17th century.

Port Royal was the site of the Naval Battle of Port Royal during the Civil War. Later during the war, it was the one of the sites of the Port Royal Experiment, which included most of the Sea Islands in Union hands. In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was first read at Christmas under the Proclamation tree in Port Royal.

Due to the benefits of a large and sheltered natural harbor, Port Royal was able to develop port facilities to support the growing phosphate mining activities after the Civil War. The Port Royal Railroad was completed from Port Royal to a junction with the main Charleston and Savannah Railway in Yemassee, thus establishing a land route for trade and commerce. Development of a community around the previously isolated port site at the end of the Beaufort River and Battery Creek led to the platting of streets and town lots by development interests. A land rush ensued, and Port Royal was officially incorporated in 1874, 300 years after initial settlement efforts.

The Sea Islands Hurricane of 1893 destroyed much of the phosphate industry and stunted development, but the port continued to operate throughout the 20th century. The opening of Parris Island as a Marine Corps recruiting station brought some vitality back to the community, though rapid residential growth did not occur until the later decades of the 20th century. The port's vitality however began to decline as the State of South Carolina began to focus on dredging Charleston's harbor and expanding port facilities further up the coast. In an effort to save costs, the State Ports Authority closed the port facility in Port Royal in 2004. Efforts to redevelop have been ongoing but been hampered by the Great Recession.

The Camp Saxton Site, Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve, Hasell Point Site, Little Barnwell Island, F.W. Scheper Store, and Union Church of Port Royal are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Port Royal SC Sands Beach Boardwalk
Sands Beach boardwalk

The Old Village is the historic center of Port Royal. Streets running north-south are named after the capitals of nations whose immigrants have settled in the Port Royal area (Paris, London, Madrid, and Edinburgh). Paris Avenue is the primary commercial street in the Old Village. Immediately north of the Old Village is a low-density residential area known as Mossy Creek, which crosses over into incorporated areas of the city of Beaufort to the north. A large portion of Port Royal's population lives in the Preserve at Port Royal Apartments, in between the Old Village and Mossy Creek.

Historically, Port Royal's municipal boundaries were defined by Beaufort to the north, the Beaufort River to the east, Parris Island to the south, and Battery Creek to the west. Since the start of the 21st century however, Port Royal began to aggressively annex lands west and south of its core area, prompting controversy. Port Royal annexed Parris Island Marine Corps Base on October 11, 2000, effectively doubling the municipal population overnight due to on-base housing. Port Royal also annexed properties in the Shell Point and Burton areas of Beaufort County.

Challenges were filed, and the 2000 annexation of undeveloped Rose Island was to be heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2005. Town representatives said the city annexed Rose Island because it was within the "line of sight" of the Doggett Tract, a group of islands off Shell Point already under the town's jurisdiction.

In 2006, Port Royal annexed two tracts of land south of the Broad River based on the so-called line-of-sight rule.


In film

The hurricane scene from the 1994 film Forrest Gump was filmed in the town's dock area.

Community events

Paris Avenue (the main street of the Old Village) periodically hosts Street Music events throughout the year. Port Royal also hosts an annual soft shell crab festival in late April and a community oyster roast in late October.


Moll - A Plan of Port Royal-Harbour in Carolina
Herman Moll: A Plan of Port Royal-Harbour in Carolina, 1736

Port Royal has expanded in recent times by annexation of parcels of land on the west side of Battery Creek.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 22.0 square miles (57.0 km2), of which 19.0 square miles (49.1 km2) is land and 3.1 square miles (7.9 km2), or 13.92%, is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 170
1890 524 208.2%
1900 601 14.7%
1910 363 −39.6%
1920 383 5.5%
1930 353 −7.8%
1940 342 −3.1%
1950 793 131.9%
1960 686 −13.5%
1970 2,865 317.6%
1980 2,977 3.9%
1990 2,985 0.3%
2000 3,950 32.3%
2010 10,678 170.3%
2019 (est.) 13,235 23.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[1]

2020 census

Port Royal racial composition
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 8,323 58.53%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 2,773 19.5%
Native American 38 0.27%
Asian 327 2.3%
Pacific Islander 14 0.1%
Other/Mixed 652 4.59%
Hispanic or Latino 2,093 14.72%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 14,220 people, 3,868 households, and 2,291 families residing in the town.


Port Royal is served by U.S. Highway 21, and S.C. Highways 128, 170, and 281. The Marine Corps Crossing Bridge (U.S. 21) connects the Old Village with Parris Island and newly annexed areas in the Shell Point area. Port Royal was previously the terminus for the Port Royal Railroad, which is being converted to the Spanish Moss Trail, a 14.9 mile rail trail connecting the town with Beaufort and other communities to the north.

Notable person

  • General Randolph M. Pate (1898-1961), Commandant of the Marine Corps, 1956-1959

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Port Royal (Carolina del Sur) para niños

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