Discover Charming Beaufort
Coming to Beaufort is discovering a pint-sized waterfront town alive with creative spirits.
Only three hours from Raleigh, this charming Crystal Coast town seems far removed from urban centers. Designed for strolling, pedaling, paddling, beach walking, shell gathering, and unhurried shopping, Beaufort lets you exhale in relaxation.
In the off-season, golden autumn, crisp winter and the blooming time in April and May are magical. Perfect for exploring long stretches of uncrowded sand at nearby Cape Lookout National Seashore or Bogue Banks. Even December and January can bring sunny T-shirt weather.
Summer is “the season.” Daytime temperatures can be sultry. Staying coolly wet in ocean and waves is just the ticket. Swim with the fishes--snorkeling and great shipwreck diving are found just offshore. With night come soft breezes, the scent of jasmine.
Information central is the Beaufort Historical Site's The Old Beaufort Shop. Pick up self-guided tour brochures, or join organized tours. Reserve your place aboard the red, double-decker English bus. A wonderful collection of Beaufort books, hand-made dolls, candles and more make original gifts. The site's ten restored buildings give a glimpse into old-time Beaufort. After viewing the crude medical and dental instruments at the 1859 Apothecary and Doctor's Office, you'll surely bless modern medicine.
Known originally as “Fishtown,” Beaufort's waterfront was once lined with fish processing plants. Now gone, along with the pungent smell of cooking fish – which the locals called the “smell of money" – but the boat-building and fishing skills are very much alive.
Discover what put Beaufort on the map and view cannons from Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, at the fascinating North Carolina Maritime Museum. If you're itching to build your own little boat, the Watercraft Center schedules boat-building weekends for adult/child teams.
Wisteria cascades and century-old oak trees shadow the hauntingly beautiful 300-year-old Old Burying Ground. Here are the graves of the little girl buried in the rum keg and the British soldier buried standing up, in full uniform, facing England and saluting King George. Pick up a self-guided tour brochure at the Historical Society headquarters on Turner Street.
Historic home lovers will find plenty to admire. Bahamian-style, double-porched cottages line the leafy streets of the Historic District. The much-haunted Hammock House dates from 1709. Blackbeard and evil associates stayed here while plundering local waters. Mix your history with chills and tales by going on a lively Ghost Walk.
Enter popular red-bricked Clawsons 1905 for imaginatively prepared local seafood, plump burgers, and spicy peel-and-eat shrimp. Great crab cakes. Their ample pub section bubbles with laughter and conversation.
Blue Moon Bistro offers full meals and lighter fare. A fruity Chardonnay along with an appetizer of juicy duck over wilted baby greens is a treat. Or maybe the pan-seared sea scallops in a cognac sauce over penne pasta?
Stillwater has a back room bar that's so close to the water it feels afloat. Come here for yummy bar food and toasting down the sun. In fact come here for lunch, dinner and sensual brunches. The food's superb.
Remember the TV series Cheers? Well, Cheers' spirit is alive at the Back Street Pub. Known as “the friendliest and funkiest pub from Maine to Venezuela,” you'll not be a stranger here for long. Many musicians stop here. And dancing? You bet. Solo or with a partner. Get on up. Traveling with a pooch? Not to worry. Your dog is invited to the Back Street, too.
Need to plug in? You'll find WiFi access at Taylor's Big Mug and The Wine Bar & Coffee House. The Wine Bar has a chocolate factory upstairs, so grab a gourmet chocolate bar. The bar with jalapeno peppers will perk up your taste buds.
Shopping's fine in Beaufort. Many galleries, both fine and funky, display work of local artists. Check out John Masterson's whimsical Fish Heads Gallery. The Mattie King Davis Gallery at the Historic Site offers paintings, weavings, photographs and sculpture created by Beaufort artisans.
If it's jewelry or clothes you want, just do the Beaufort stroll down Front Street. Don't forget the little side streets. Handmade jewelry and pottery sparkles at Handscapes Gallery.
To live as a local, take a picnic out to Shackleford Banks. The Coastal Community Market provides fixings with gourmet cheeses, fresh produce, artisan breads and organic wines. Massage and hair-styling services are in the small complex, too, so you can get your body, mind and spirit all renewed at the same time.
With picnic in hand, you're ready to hop aboard the small pedestrian ferry for the quick run out to the banks. “Shak” spills over with natural treasures. Gather shells while gathering your thoughts.
Watch for the wild horses, descendants of Spanish mustangs from shipwrecked galleons. Dolphins are often sighted just offshore. Gliding pelicans suddenly crash into the sea in pursuit of sushi.
By Patricia Frank
By Patricia Frank
added: December 22, 2008
updated: December 12, 2012