Pirate Tours and Hideouts

Pirate Tours and Hideouts

Blackbeard and other pirates left a mark on the North Carolina coast

Up and down the North Carolina coast you’ll find places where pirates walked, sailed, lived and died; places steeped in pirate lore; and people dedicated to keeping their stories alive.

Outer Banks

According to legend, Nags Head was home to pirates and proggers, or shipwreck salvage artists, who would lead a mare along the crest of Jockey’s Ridge. Sailors would see the beacon and think they’d found a safe harbor only to wreck on submerged sandbars, providing treasure for those waiting onshore.

Explore pirate legends including Blackbeard’s supposed pact with the devil by taking the Graveyard of the Atlantic Walking Tour in Manteo or visiting the Whalehead Club in Corolla. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in nearby Hatteras has exhibits devoted to pirates off our coast, and Pirate Adventures of the Outer Banks gives kids the chance to become pirates as they search for treasure with the crew of the Sea Gypsy. The Outer Banks Pirate Festival, held annually in August, includes a treasure hunt, pirate-themed games, a Scallywag School where kids can learn pirate ways, and more.

On Ocracoke Island, you can visit Teach’s Hole, the channel where Blackbeard met his fate, and the shop by the same name that features a life-size Blackbeard, an impressive display of pirate weapons and flags, scale models of Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and a documentary about his life and death. Legend says that Blackbeard, impatient to start what would be his final battle, stood on the deck of his ship in the pre-dawn darkness and cried “O crow cock! O crow cock!” giving the island its name.

Crystal Coast

Blackbeard had a home in Beaufort; you can see it and learn more about him and his fellow pirates on the Beaufort Ghost Walk tour from Port City Tour Company, one of many tours they operate here. Stop by the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort to see artifacts recovered from Blackbeard’s ship, and explore the town’s numerous historic sites on a double-decker bus tour.

Shackleford Banks is home to the survivors of the wreck of a Spanish pirate ship. The Banker ponies, descendants of Spanish mustangs that washed up here more than 300 years ago, live their lives on this uninhabited island just a short boat ride away.

Topsail Area

Topsail Island, a barrier island just north of Wilmington, is rumored to be a favorite hiding spot of Blackbeard, but wary captains learned to look for the highest masts, or tops’ls, and flee. You can cruise the waterway where the Queen Anne’s Revenge lay in wait on the Belle of Topsail Pirate Cruises. On your tour, be wary, a pirate-packed galleon may try to board and a water-canon battle might ensue.

Wilmington Area

Explore Money Island, the supposed resting place of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure, on a Pirate Cruise with Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours. A costumed guide and cohort of Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet and other pirates who plied these waters will tell you of their lives, deaths and the acts of piracy that made them famous. If that’s not enough, Museum of the Bizarre will give you all the ghastly details on the capture of Stede Bonnet in the mouth of the river and the death of Blackbeard in Ocracoke.

Brunswick Islands

Make your way to Southport, where Stede Bonnet was captured in Bonnet’s Creek not far from downtown, and stop by the North Carolina Maritime Museum while you’re there. Across the river, you’ll see Bald Head Island, where the ghost of Theosodia Burr, daughter to Aaron Burr, is said to roam. Ride the ferry across to Bald Head Island, climb Old Baldy, the oldest lighthouse in the state, and take the Ghost Walk to learn Theodosia’s story and hear more about the pirates, ghosts and legends that inhabit this island. Each year in August, pirates invade Bald Head Island and set up camp on the grounds of Old Baldy. There, you’ll be able to see a pirate encampment, look at replica and antique pirate weapons and artifacts, learn to walk and talk like a pirate, hear pirate songs and participate in a host of piratical activities.

Jason Frye is the author of two North Carolina guidebooks and lives and writes in Wilmington.

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