Beaufort, North Carolina
A petite waterfront hamlet with a colorful sea-faring history
Beaufort village serves up the zippy flavor of international sailors along with its salty tang. Maybe it's the spice of the lusty pirates who hid out in these waters, or maybe it's the current crop of wide-ranging buccaneers who moor their yachts here while passage-making on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) who deliver the flavor. A port city's always a bit saucy. Whatever the reason, Beaufort's a happy place to vacation, to explore as a weekend getaway—or to live.
Front and center
Life centers on waterfront Front Street. A rainbow collection of restaurants, art galleries, clothing stores, antique shops, gift stores, inns, coffee shops, pubs (three with WiFi access), wine bars and friendly gathering spots dot this harbor, commercial and entertainment area.
Here, too, you'll find locals and visitors walking their pooches along the boardwalk. It's fun to discover who's in port—and from where. Classic wooden sailing sloops and yawls share dock space with gleaming white motor yachts—some with helicopter landing pads on their decks.
Beaufort NC is a watery place
The town's sea-faring, boat-building and fishing heritage is captured within the popular North Carolina Maritime Museum. Inside, you'll find a treasure chest of boats, maritime exhibits, and an extensive library of nautical books. Notable marine artifacts are on display--including the cannon from Blackbeard's ship, The Queen Anne's Revenge. Her wreck lies close to the town, and is being excavated.
Just across from the museum is the Watercraft Center. Inside, classic boats are being restored, boat-building classes are found, and friendships are cemented over sweet-smelling wood shavings. Sea tales are swapped--and grow richer with each telling.
The Friends of the Maritime Museum offers merry events and learning opportunities throughout the year to members.
Those without boats aren't left out of the watery fun. Small passenger ferries depart from Front Street for nearby Shackleford Banks or Sand Dollar Island for fun-filled hours of swimming and sea-shell gathering. Or cruise up the Newport River in search of dolphins. Beaufort's cherished wild horses are found just across from the waterfront on Carrot Island and the Rachel Carson Preserve.
Front Street's where you can rent a kayak, and a couple of dinghy areas are fine for putting in your small watercraft such as canoes, kayaks and car-top sailboats. A bustling boat ramp at Front Street's end is launch-central for larger craft. Very busy in the summer.
The fishing's pretty good in the local waters. So good, in fact, that a much-loved musical is called King Mackerel and the Blues Are Running. Charter boats can take anglers where the fish are. Or if you're feeling too laid back to fish, just order up the catch of the day.
If you see a genuine pirate swaggering about town, don't be alarmed. That would be Capt. Horatio Sinbad, Beaufort's own genuine privateer, commander of his hand-built brigantine, Meka II. Captain Sinbad is the only privateer granted a commission from the State of North Carolina—thus realizing his childhood dream of becoming a real pirate.
Founded in 1709, Beaufort is North Carolina's third oldest town. Much of its history flourishes in the wonderfully preserved homes of the Historic District. Many of the homes harken back to the 1700's. Double porches—called galleries—on first and second floors, brightly-hued flowers, rocking chairs, sweet tea and more robust drinks, friendly waves and conversation are found in abundance. The flavor of small town life is alive and well.
To live the life, consider a room in one of the friendly B & B's. One, the former Poor Farm, offers a haven to people and their best friend, the dog.
Vibrant Historic District anchored by Historic Site
The Historic Site on Turner Street sports a pillory for the naughty, and a maze to amaze. Other buildings on site are a apothecary shop of yore—stocked with scary-looking early dentistry and medical tools. The old jail and the Mattie King Davis Gallery, housed in a circa 1732 building, are great to visit. Board the red, double-decker London bus for a fun and fact-filled tour of historic Beaufort. The bus stops in front of The Olde Beaufort Shoppe.
The Shoppe itself is bursting with local crafts, gifts and maps for walking tours. Pick up a brochure for a self-guided tour of the nearby Old Burying Ground. Shaded by ancient moss-draped oaks, this is a favorite haunt to explore local history and legends. The legends are many. Discover the toy-decorated grave of the little girl buried in the rum keg and the British soldier buried standing up, facing England and saluting King George—at his request.
Grab some great grub and grog
Beaufort's a town that likes fine food. A goodly variety of great grub and grog are on offer. As befits Beaufort's fishing heritage, the seafood's often fresh from the boat. Local softshell crabs, oysters, clams and other catch-of-the day fish are served during the season. The corn n' crab chowder brings raves. Peel n' eat spicy shrimp are on special during the shrimping season.
Eating an ice cream cone on the porch of the General Store is a summertime custom, and a great way to view the passing parade of visitors from “off.”
Step lively, mates
Year round music flavors Beaufort's air. Restaurants and pubs are lively with local bands—outside, under the stars, during the summer. The second weekend in May brings the beat to Beaufort with the Beaufort Music Festival. Favorite local bands, including The Infectious Blues Band and Unknown Tongues, perform with other great groups such as Southern Culture on the Skids.
While many outdoor activities center on the water, Beaufort's residents are also fond of strolling—a great way to greet neighbors and hear the news. The waterfront and the quaint streets of the Historic District are two favorite ambles. Beaufort's flat terrain and compact lay-out make it easy to ditch the car and get around on two-wheels or two-feet.
Favorite natural places
Cape Lookout National Seashore, along with the dramatic black and white diamond Cape Lookout Light, are accessed by private boat or ferry. Beach-combing, shell gathering, surf fishing, and miles of pristine sand for roaming are the draw here. Locals and visitors love nearby Shackleford Banks and Carrot Island.
Flora and fauna
In coastal zone 8A, Beaufort's common trees of Loblolly pines and oak varieties are enriched with many sub-tropical plants and flowers. Azaleas and Crepe Myrtle are bountiful. The town's common mammals are rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and opossums. Bear and deer are found in rural areas. Dolphins frequent the sound and rivers. Sea turtles nest on Cape Lookout's and Bogue Banks shores. Beaufort's bird habitats include terrestrial, marsh and and sea, so many varieties are spotted.
A popular coffee house with WiFi shares space with the Cru Wine Bar on Turner Street. At night the coffee shop closes and the Wine Bar takes over both spaces for live music. Along with wine, beers and imported waters, the Wine Bar offers light repasts. A Sunday afternoon pot-luck for boaters and locals is hosted here. Bring your favorite dish.
The rollicking Front Street Dock House serves burgers and nachos along with catch of the day and an assortment of grog and beer. Outside tables at street level and on their upstairs deck catch sea breezes. Free live music all through the summer. Meet captains and boat crews here.
Popular Clawson's used to be grocery store. Now it's a place for brew and seafood and burgers. Or a dirigible. Check out all the old town Beaufort memorabilia--lots of history hangs on those old brick walls. One hundred years--and still counting.
Just off Front Street, The Back Street Bar is known as Beaufort's Living Room. A local favorite, no one's a stranger for long. Serving beer and wine only, most Friday nights finds a crock-pot full of hearty stew, chili or soup free for the taking--while it lasts. An interior courtyard showcases weekend afternoon live music. At night, go upstairs to find musicians and dancers having fun.
Finz Restaurant, close to the Maritime Museum, has an airy deck on Taylors' Creek and is a relaxed place for casual good eats. In fact, it's a rite of Spring to sit out on the deck on the first warm day, have a crab cake burger and hope a dolphin or two will happen by.
There are fine dining options for the having in Beaufort Town, too. A delicious topic we'll cover for you in the future.
Earning a living
With few sizable companies in the area, it can take a bit of creativity to earn a living in Beaufort. Some re-locators create their own jobs in tourism, inn-keeping, retail operations or marketing their art. Look to the medical field in doctors' offices or nearby Carteret General Hospital for jobs. Teaching, skilled tradespeople, warehouse work, hospitality and needed professional areas are worth exploring, too. Or bring a job with you.
Some retirees opt for creative loafing. It's fine. Miles of water and shore beckon for fishing, boating and exploring. But with lots of lively volunteer opportunities, classes and social activities, many retirees report they've never been busier—or having more fun. Some work part-time to supplement their retirement incomes.
Real estate: Simple three bedroom, two bath homes a mile or so from the water can be found under $200,000. Prices climb steeply for water view or waterfront properties. Expect to pay $650,000 and up for a good water view and over a $1 million for waterfront in the historic district. More if you want a dock. Apartments are found starting at $650 a month. House rentals begin at $950.
Location: East coast on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks. Three hours from Raleigh, an hour from New Bern, 90 minutes from Wilmington.
Elevation: From sea level to twelve feet.
Population: 4119 within the town limits. 12,000 in the zip code. 1500 new addresses will be added when the new North River Club is fully built out. Just across the bridge, neighboring Morehead City adds another 8500 people and major shopping. County population (Carteret) is 62,436.
WiFi: Three locations. Cru Wine Bar/Coffee Shop on Turner Street, the Town Creek Marina on West Beaufort Road, the Carteret County Library on Hwy 70.
Airports: Craven Regional Airport (EWN), New Bern, 40 miles. Albert J. Ellis Airport (OAJ), Jacksonville (60 Miles). Michael J. Smith Field, Beaufort (serves private aircraft).
Weather: Temperate climate. Long Springs and Falls, short winters, with snow rare. January and February are the two coldest months; nights with temperatures below freezing are few. Sultry summer days filled with water activities are followed by soft tropical nights perfect for porch and deck sitting.
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