Visitors are often surprised at the number and variety of weekly vacation rentals throughout the area.. Vacation rentals are, in fact, an increasingly popular accommodation available to vacationers, and visitors will find that the sheer number of rentals available allows them to find an ideal retreat to fit their crew, from quiet condo complexes to brightly colored oceanfront sand castles.
The Crystal Coast is renowned for its centuries of history and fascinating attractions, and new visitors will discover that when it comes to maritime heritage, all roads seemingly lead to Beaufort. Renowned as North Carolina’s third oldest town, with a long legacy of being a hopping port community, visitors will find an assortment of museums in the region that pay homage to this history, as well as the local ecosystems and culture that make this area distinctively unique.
Fort Macon State Park, located outside the eastern borders of Atlantic Beach, is one of the most visited and highly acclaimed destinations along the Crystal Coast, and for good reason. The expansive 389 acre park, which features gorgeous inlet views, fantastic beaches, and plenty of history in plain view around every sand dune, always tops the list of Crystal Coast attractions that can't be missed.
Even a town as sunny as Beaufort can be subjected to the occasional rainy day, but visitors will soon discover that a dreary afternoon is no reason to forego the fun in this small town destination that’s overflowing with on-site and neighboring activities. From cool and educational classes to some of the best eateries in Eastern NC, Beaufort is designed for entertainment inside and out. So if a rainy day happens to coincide with your upcoming Beaufort vacation, use it as an excuse to discover these fascinating and engaging activities that can be effortlessly enjoyed, rain or shine.
Hitting the seashore in Atlantic Beach is an easy venture, thanks to a number of local public beach accesses, including the sprawling Picnic Street Park. With a prime locale that straddles the borders of the Fort Macon State Park and the town limits of Atlantic Beach, this expansive parking area, known locally as "The Bathhouse," can accommodate hundreds of summer visitors, and provides a perfectly relaxing and undeveloped stretch of seashore that's easy to enjoy on any summer day.
Trace the historic roots of Harkers Island and its centuries-long life on the water with a visit to the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center. Located in the heart of Harkers Island along Island Road, (an authentic Crystal Coast community that is a far cry from the bustling beaches), this uniquely surprising museum shines a light on how fascinating and essential this small-town community is to the Southern Outer Banks landscape.
Take a walk on Pine Knoll Shores' wild side with a visit to the pristine, undeveloped Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, an expansive 265 acre nature preserve, conveniently located next to the town's most visited attraction, the North Carolina Aquarium.
Dive into a wealth of coastal artifacts, folklore, and legendary figures with a visit to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Operating as one of three maritime museums along coastal NC, this distinctive site is known for its unique ship-worthy exterior, its vast collection of exhibits that span centuries, and its close ties with the Southern Outer Banks’ most famous resident, Blackbeard the Pirate.
Resembling a cross between a train depot and a mariner's port, The History Place is certainly an excellent first stop for anyone who wants to learn a little more about the fascinating inland and barrier island history that is found in abundance along the Crystal Coast.
Visitors who want to enjoy the natural atmosphere via rustic accommodations, or who crave a resort-quality experience where their RV serves as their home away from home, will find everything they’re looking for and then some in the Beaufort area. This charming coastal town is close to a collection of islands, scenic waterways, and wild nature reserves or refuges, which means that finding a pretty camping setting where the pristine environment shines is an easy venture.
Soak up the centuries-old history of beautiful Beaufort with a visit to the Beaufort Historic Site. Renowned as the third oldest town in North Carolina, there’s a lot of history to explore in this quiet Southern Outer Banks community, and visitors can dive right in by touring a collection of 10 historic homes and structures that are located within the downtown region.
Visitors of all ages will have a blast at this destination that is designed for great times along the Crystal Coast shoreline. Professor Hacker's Lost Treasure Golf and Raceway is situated in the centrally located beach community of Salter Path, and is a favorite spot for families who want to have a little fun off the sand.
Dive into an exploration of some of the Southern Outer Banks’ most remote shorelines with an excursion that’s led by Island Ferry Adventures. Featuring both transport to the outlying islands as well as guided tours of some of the region’s most wild spots, this tour company has a lot to offer for shell seekers, nature buffs, and everyday adventurers alike.
Based in the town of Beaufort, and offering departures from both Beaufort and nearby Harkers Island, Island Express Ferry Service serves as the link between the communities of the Crystal Coast and the spectacularly beautiful and isolated barrier islands of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Accommodating passengers who want to explore the miles of pristine beaches, exceptional fishing and shelling, wild horses, and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Island Express Ferry Service serves as the gateway for one of the most unforgettable adventures along the North Carolina coast.
The coastal town of Beaufort has quickly become one of the most popular vacation destinations for Inner Banks travelers and boating enthusiasts of all varieties, and for good reason. The small 2.7 mile town, (surrounded by nearly a mile of water), is a vacationer and maritime lover's dream, with a hearty downtown scene lined with shops, galleries, and acclaimed restaurants, in addition to dozens of maritime supply stores.
Small parks and benches border the seemingly endless docks, and cafes and coffee shops have sprung up all along the harbor front so folks passing through, or anyone enjoying an early morning stroll, can relax with a hot cup of Joe or a big breakfast while enjoying the scene. Home to some of the Inner Banks' best loved dining establishments and galleries, and a 20 minute water taxi or maritime shuttle away from the enticing Shackleford Banks, Beaufort has gained a recognizable name on the North Carolina tourism scene as one of the best spots to unwind and let your inner mariner shine through.
Hundreds of years ago, well before European settlers appeared, the town of Beaufort was called "Cwarioc," or "Fish Town" by the local Coree Indians who called the region home. Early settlers began purchasing property in the region around 1709, and by 1713, a local Craven County merchant hired a surveyor to lay out to the not-yet fully constructed town. The surveyor designated streets and names, including Anne, Queen and Moore Streets, (named after Colonel Moore who ended the Tuscarora War), and the names have stuck ever since. It should be noted that Beaufort's busiest stretch of town, located right along the downtown's waterfront, wasn't constructed until the early 1800s, and as commerce grew along this road, the street was eventually called "Front Street," in honor of its waterfront locale.
After these early town layouts and surveys, Beaufort was officially appointed a port for unloading vessels by the Lords Proprietors, the New World's form of government, and the town blossomed with dozens of lots and sites purchased within the city's limits by merchants, traders, boat builders, and countless other members of the maritime industry. The port town of Beaufort grew, and commerce blossomed.
Unfortunately for the town, a thriving port town was just the sort of allure that attracted pirates in the late 1600s and early 1700s, and sure enough, Beaufort was a popular destination for both Edward Teach, (more commonly known as Blackbeard the Pirate), and his former lieutenant, Stede Bonnett, a gentlemen by birth but eventually a successful pirate in his own right. Both notable pirates were frequent visitors to the Core Sound, located on the outskirts of Beaufort, and also of the town itself - Blackbeard was said to be a regular guest at Beaufort's own "Hammock House."
After the era of pirates had subsided, (with Blackbeard meeting his end off the coast of Ocracoke just 40 or so miles away), the town grew at an unhurried pace, still serving as a port town, and delving into a little bit of the commercial fishing industry that is a prime characteristic of the Outer and Inner Banks.
Today, not much has changed since the town was first patched together in the 1700s. Historic homes stand a block or two away from Front Street, carefully preserved by the Beaufort Historical Association, although more modern buildings have taken up residence along the busier waterfront downtown sections as well, catering to passing mariners, day-trippers, and long weekend or weeklong tourists who want to admire the coastal scene. The area has also become a favorite retirement or second-home spot for water lovers, and new communities can be found outside of the downtown with private boat docks or community boat launches for easy access to both the Shackleford Banks and the Core Sound.
A first-time visitor to Beaufort will find plenty of ways to stay entertained, beginning with the incredible dining options located throughout the town. Several restaurants are historic sites in their own right, dating back over a century, while a half-dozen downtown eateries feature unparalleled outdoor seating overlooking the always busy waterfront docks. All of these restaurants feature fresh seafood in abundance, including oysters, blue crabs, NC shrimps and scallops, and plenty of seasonal fish, and are a perfect destination for any seafood lover.
The downtown also has a renowned collection of shops and galleries that vary from the practical to the downright fun. In Beaufort, travelers will find a bevy of maritime supply stores to replace or add onto existing boating equipment, innumerable galleries, and souvenir shops to take a few treasures back home.
There are a number of adventures to be had in Beaufort as well, and local cruise ships and ferry vessels offer everything from a water taxi to the neighboring Shackleford Banks to full-on pirate cruises with the option to shoot cannonballs at rival vessels.
A quick ferry ride to Shackleford Banks is a very popular venture, as this island is home to the famous "Shackleford Ponies," the barrier islands' feral residents and the supposed descendants of shipwrecked Spanish Mustangs from passing Spanish ships of the 1500s. In addition, the beaches produce some incredible seashells, sand dollars and starfish, and are a sunny and secluded respite for Beaufort visitors who want to soak up miles of the sand and sun. Located just 15-20 minutes away by passenger ferry, with summertime and seasonal departures every 30 minutes or so, a waterfront taxi to a neighboring island is a must for anyone who loves spending the majority of their vacation time on the water.
Accommodations are relatively limited, but very enticing. There are several waterfront inns, complete with boat docks and fantastic views, a number of cabins and vacation rentals, and several campgrounds on the outskirts of the town. There are also a number of Bed and Breakfasts located in converted historic homes along the downtown's side streets, which are idyllic romantic and quiet retreats. Due to Beaufort's growing popularity, especially in the summer season when the climate is warm and inviting and the town is home to a number of events like the annual 4th of July Celebration, advanced reservations are strongly recommended for in-town accommodations. Rooms and vacation rentals can fill up months in advance, and early bookers will enjoy their pick of places to stay, in addition to plenty of time to look forward to their vacation.
Beaufort is, at its heart, a nautical town. Filled with maritime stores, restaurants featuring fresh seafood, and hundreds of docks bordering the waterfront Front Street, this North Carolina community never lost its ties to its history as a reliable port town. A popular destination for maritime traffic and day-trippers alike, visitors will find Beaufort a charming and unique destination, as well as a definite highlight of the Inner Banks' tourism scene.