As evident by the dozens if not hundreds of vessels that are perched along the downtown docks on a daily basis, Beaufort is clearly a community that’s in love with boating. From marine stores in the heart of the downtown area, to water tours and taxis that cross Taylor’s Creek and the Bogue Sound on an hourly basis, the town of Beaufort is truly a boater’s dream.
Bring your vessel along, take a side trip via the Intracoastal Waterway, or just hop aboard one of the many recreational boats found alongside the docks. In Beaufort, every boating activity can be catered to with ease, whether a mariner wants to enjoy a quick lunch cruise around the sound, or dock a while at one of the posh local marinas and simply relax.
Where to go Boating in Beaufort
From Beaufort, mariners can launch on explorations that entail the cool creeks and canals found just offshore, or which encompass miles upon miles of watery routes along the East Coast.
Beaufort either directly or indirectly connects with a number of minor and major bodies of water, which includes the Back Sound, the Bogue Sound, and the Core Sound, the Beaufort Inlet, the Atlantic Ocean, the North and Newport Rivers, Taylor’s Creek, and a number of other smaller channels.
It’s also a popular spot along the Intracoastal Waterway, (and is located at roughly AICW Mile Marker 202 / 203), which makes Beaufort an easy rest stop for mariners cruising down the ICW, or who want to launch a trip to neighboring coastal destinations like Wilmington or Oak Island, North Carolina. Mariners who pause to explore while travelling along the ICW will find a charming town that’s packed with maritime supplies and stores, marinas, restaurants, museums, pubs, and a wealth of cultural attractions.
Beaufort Marinas and Transient / Public Docks
Whether you need a spot to dock for a couple of hours to explore the town, or a slip year-round so you can stay at the water whenever the mood suits, Beaufort has a lot of options when it comes to marinas and transient docking.
The handful of marinas that call Beaufort home are all stationed close to the water, and are generally concentrated along Front Street, which is Beaufort’s “main drag.” This means that mariners will be walking distance away from a wide range of shops and supply stores, restaurants, pubs, and other amenities, as well as Beaufort’s historical and cultural center.
Some marinas or docking spots, like the Core Creek Lodge, may have slips available for patrons as well as on-site accommodations which includes motel rooms or condo units, community facilities like public pools, and other amenities. These destinations are ideal for mariners who want to stay a few days while traveling along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) or who are simply taking a cruise along the coastline.
Other spots, like the Beaufort Town Docks on Front Street, may be available for a limited amount of time on a first come, first serve basis. At these sites, mariners will want to call ahead to ensure that space is available for their upcoming Beaufort travels.
The adjacent towns of Morehead City and Atlantic Beach also have several marina and docking options for mariners, and are just 10-15 minutes away from the heart of Beaufort. As a result, these communities are both good places to look if slip availability is limited in Beaufort proper.
Mariners should also watch out for popular weeks and dates when local marinas and boat slips will be full, including and especially the annual Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament. Held in early to mid-June, this fishing tournament attracts hundreds of mariners, so reservations at local marinas during these dates should be made as early as possible.
The following are the primary Beaufort options for marinas, transient boat slips, and / or accommodations.
Old Towne Yacht Club
100 Olde Towne Yacht Club Road
Core Creek Lodge
307 Core Creek Road
500 Front Street
Boathouse At Front Street Village
2400 Lennoxville Road
Radio Island Marina
156 Radio Island Road
Town Creek Marina
232 W Beaufort Road
Boat Ramps and Launches
As one would expect, considering the town’s locale that borders a half dozen major bodies of water, boat ramps and launches are everywhere in the town of Beaufort.
Privately owned ramps that allow launching, (sometimes for a small fee), are dotted throughout town, and Beaufort mariners who bring along their vessel will find a number of public boat ramps and launch sites that are managed by the Town of Beaufort, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, or other neighboring towns as well.
From paddles out to Taylor’s Creek on a kayak, to multi-day adventures that begin at the Intracoastal Waterway, mariners can scope out these sites when looking for an easy neighborhood spot to launch.
Downtown Beaufort - 2370 Lennoxville Road, Beaufort
This site is located alongside Taylor’s Creek in the downtown area, and features 31 parking spaces for boats with trailers as well as public restrooms.
Grayden Paul Park – Intersection of Pollock Street and Front Street, Beaufort
This public park features a floating dingy dock as well as a walk-in launching area that is appropriate for kayaks and smaller vessels. Angled street side parking is available all along the adjacent Front Street, and this site connects with Taylor’s Creek.
Fishermen’s Park - Intersection of Gordon Street and Front Street, Beaufort
This site has a dock as well as a boat launching area that connects with Taylor’s Creek, and which is suitable for smaller vessels. Street side parking is available along the adjacent Front Street.
Derwood’s Landing – Broad Street, Beaufort
This site on the western edge of Broad Street close to Taylors Creek has a deck with a railing and a floating dock that can accommodate vessels 14’ ft. or less. As such, it’s a good launching destination for kayaks, although visitors should note that parking in the immediate area is limited.
Western Beaufort - 298 W Beaufort Road, Beaufort
This launch site on the western edge of Beaufort connects with the Newport River, and features 48 parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailers, as well as public restrooms.
Harkers Island - 1648 Harkers Island Road, Harkers Island
This launching site that’s found roughly a 20 minute drive away from Downtown Beaufort connects with the North River and features 39 parking spaces for boats with trailers.
Newport River Boat Ramps & Pier (Radio Island) - 301 Highway 70, Morehead City
This site that straddles the borders of Morehead City and Beaufort features 6 boat launches, a 575’ ft. long fishing pier, parking for 56 vehicles with boat trailers, as well as public restrooms. The boat launch connects with the adjacent Newport River.
Conchs Point – 608 Bay Street, Morehead City
This small inland launching site features a gazebo and floating dock that is suitable for smaller vessels. The launch site connects with Calico Bay and the Newport River, and mariners should note that street side parking is limited.
South 10th Street Water Access & Boat Ramp – 1001 Shepard Street, Morehead City
This site that’s on the western edge of the Downtown Area connects with the Bogue Sound and features parking, a fishing pier, and a boat launch that’s suitable for vessels that are 16’ ft. or less.
South 11th Street Water Access – South 11th & Shepard Street
This site that straddles the Downtown Morehead City area and which connects with the Bogue Sound features parking as well as hand launching capabilities for canoes, kayaks, and catamarans.
Western Morehead City - 3407 Arendell St. Morehead City
This site in the neighboring town of Morehead City connects with the Intracoastal Waterway and has 33 extra-long parking spaces for vehicles with trailers.
Cedar Point –144 Cedar Point Boulevard
This site that’s found roughly 30 miles away from Beaufort features 37 parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailer, 7 single vehicle spaces, a separate canoe / kayak launching spot, and public restrooms. The launch site accesses the Intracoastal Waterway.
Charter Fishing Boats
One of the best ways for anglers to scope out the local fishing scene is to book a charter fishing boat, and newcomers to Beaufort will discover soon after their arrival that the town has a wide collection of charter fishing vessels to choose from.
The majority of charter fishing boats and businesses are clustered along Front Street in the heart of the downtown area, although prospective anglers will also find a myriad of options in the neighboring towns of Morehead City, Harkers Island, and Atlantic Beach.
The majority of charter fishing businesses have websites and / or online booking features so fishermen can peruse their options before their stay, or can simply take a walk down the waterfront Front Street once they arrive. Most businesses have marquis or signs posted along the docks, or fliers at seasonal information stands, so it’s easy to see the array of fishing trips available once you’ve landed in Beaufort.
With that in mind, however, there are generally two different types of charter fishing trips to choose from.
Inshore / Nearshore / Sound Fishing Trips
An inshore, nearshore, or sound fishing trip frequents the waters that are found roughly 8-10 miles outside of Beaufort at the most, which can include the local sounds, inlets, rivers, and ocean waters that are relatively close to shore.
These fishing trips target a wide range of species that are found in salty and generally calmers waters, including seasonal red drum, black drum, and puppy drum, cobia, Spanish and king mackerel, gray and speckled trout, croaker, bluefish, flounder, and a wide array of other species.
Inshore and nearshore trips are typically less expensive than offshore charters, and are available for smaller parties of roughly 4-6 fishermen. They can last for two-hour, half day, or even full day increments, and often cruise past some of the most scenic natural destinations off of Beaufort – including the Rachel Carson Reserve and the Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Offshore Fishing Trips
Offshore Fishing Trips transport anglers 15-20 miles offshore into the Atlantic Ocean to target the big species that frequent the Gulf Stream Waters. The Gulf Stream, a Trans-Atlantic current with waters that easily span several hundred feet deep, attracts a wide range of large catches including billfish – namely white marlin, blue marlin, and sailfish – as well as tasty game fish, such as wahoo, dolphin, amberjack, blackfin and yellowfin tuna, snapper, and more.
Offshore fishing vessels can usually accommodate about 6 passengers, and are typically offered at ¾ day or full day increments, to allow plenty of time to make the 1-2 hour cruise out into the open ocean waters. These trips are designed for anglers who want to come home with a whopping fish story, and are great adventures for guaranteeing the biggest and best catches in the region.
Charter fishermen should note that all supplies – including bait, tackle, rods, and even a fishing license – are supplied on a charter fishing trip, ensuring that all an angler has to do is enjoy the ride and have fun fishing.
Tour Boats and Rentals
Visitors who want to take a water tour, a cruise, embark on an area-wide adventure, or plot their own course will find plenty of options in Beaufort. The Downtown Docks along Front Street are a hotbed of activity for local tour and boating services, and visitors can find just about every type of tour under the sun simply by paying a visit to the community’s waterfront downtown.
Newcomers who aren’t sure where to start can consider booking one of these tours or cruises, which are all readily available from Beaufort’s docks.
Boat Rentals – There are several independent boat rental companies and / or established cruise companies that offer boats for part-time mariners. Available vessels to rent can include kayaks and cones, 19’ or 21’ ft. Carolina Skiffs, and even 23’ Sweetwater Pontoon boats. Carolina Skiffs are ideal for area-wide explorations and self-guided fishing trips, while pontoon boats are perfect for leisurely family expeditions and cruises along the calmer waters. Vessels are generally available on a half day or full day basis, and guides may also be available for an extra fee to lead the way.
Sunset Cruises – There’s nothing more scenic than a sunset in Beaufort, and a sunset cruise will take visitors to some of the best on-the-water destinations in the region to catch a sunset with a myriad of natural or town-wide landscapes in the background. Sunset cruises are available on traditional boats or via a kayak tour, and often last just a couple hours – long enough to coincide with the setting sun, and reach the best spots before the show begins.
Dinner / Lunch Cruises – At least one expansive local vessel, the Crystal Coast Lady, features regular lunch and dinner cruises that depart from the heart of Beaufort and which encircle some of the prettiest regions of the adjacent sounds and / or rivers. This vessel features ample room, indoor and outdoor seating, and plenty of glass-lined walls so passengers can enjoy a sea-worthy meal while also enjoying miles of panoramic views.
Eco-Tours – An eco-tour is an all-encompassing way to explore the numerous wild islands and terrain that is found just off the coast of Beaufort, including the Rachel Carson Reserve, the Shackleford Banks, and / or Cape Lookout. On an eco-tour, passengers will enjoy a myriad of activities – including birdwatching, wild horse spotting, and dolphin watching – and may have an opportunity to step out of the vessel to explore the shallow waters, go crabbing / clamming, stroll along one of the local beaches, and just enjoy the scene.
Dolphin Watching – A dolphin watching cruise is a kid-friendly tour that heads to the Back and Bogue Sound waters, as well as the Beaufort Inlet and / or inshore ocean waters, to search for local friendly dolphins who are always curious about new visitors. Lasting roughly a couple of hours or so, dolphin watching is a fine adventure for young kids to enjoy Beaufort boating while garnering a local marine life education.
Wild Horse Tours – One of the most popular tours for Beaufort visitors are the wild horse tours / cruises that depart from the Front Street docks and head out to the Rachel Carson Reserve and the Shackleford Banks for exceptional views of the herds of wild horses that freely roam the barrier island terrain. These tours are crowd pleasers, and generally last just a couple hours, although they can be combined with other on-the-water adventures like dolphin watching, clamming, or shelling.
Pirate Tours – At least one company in Beaufort offers a very kid-friendly and pirate-themed cruise that features costumed pirates, (safe) swords and pirate gear, and an on-the-deck battle complete with water cannons, invading pirates, and cannon booms that reverberate throughout the downtown area. These tours are easily the most action packed out of all the Beaufort tours, and are best suited for the region’s youngest visitors (as well as the young at heart.)
Shelling Tours – The Cape Lookout National Seashore is renowned for its seashells, as a wealth of pristine and often hard-to-find species regularly wash up on the roughly 56-mile long stretch of undeveloped shoreline. A shelling tour will transport visitors to the best stretches of beaches to acquire treasures, and will also have helpful captains who can assist with identifying certain finds. Lasting roughly several hours or more, (depending on the destinations), a shelling tour is a great option for beachcombers who want to ensure they reach the best spots.
Rachel Carson Reserve Water Taxi / Ferry Service – There are several water taxi services that can transport passengers across Taylor’s Creek and drop them off at the edge of the Rachel Carson Reserve – all in a 5-10 minute cruise across the water. From here, visitors can check out the nature trails, enjoy great birdwatching and wildlife watching, and essentially explore an undeveloped and barely offshore island at its natural best.
Shackleford Banks Water Taxi / Ferry Service – Water taxis depart from Beaufort regularly to the Shackleford Banks, where exceptional shelling, fishing, and beaching can all be enjoyed. After an easy and roughly 20 minute cruise, visitors will be deposited at a pretty soundside beach, and from there, can explore this desolate barrier island that has no development, but miles of shoreline to go around. Ferries or water taxis departs roughly every 15-30 minutes in the peak summer months, so it’s easy to catch a ride and enjoy a beach trip within minutes.
Cape Lookout National Seashore Water Taxi / Ferry Service – Beaufort visitors can tour the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, and enjoy access to miles of isolated shorelines where the fishing and shelling is fantastic, by hopping aboard a passenger ferry that departs from the Front Street Docks. The trek to reach Cape Lookout, aka the South Core Banks, takes about 45 minutes, but the ensuing cruise is scenic, and passes by herds of feral horses both on the Cape Lookout shoreline and along the Rachel Carson Reserve while en route. The trek can fill up quickly in the summer months, so advance reservations are recommended. (A shorter, 20-minute passenger ferry also departs regularly from the neighboring town of Harkers Island.)
Boat Sales and Service
Beaufort has a prime locale on the ICW, and as such, mariners in need of repairs or an entirely new vessel will find a myriad of options to choose from when they dock in and around the town.
The downtown area is home to several marine supply stores that offer everything from navigational systems to ship worthy apparel, and the downtown region is a good first stop to pick up the basics, such as gas, canned goods and food, and basic (or slightly upscale) maritime supplies.
For more industrial or all-encompassing needs, mariners will want to head to greater Beaufort as well as Morehead City. The two neighboring communities are home to a number of businesses that cater to mariners in need of a new vessel, parts, or repairs, which includes Beaufort Yacht Sales, Town Creek Marina, Radio Island Marina, Morehead City Yacht Basin, Jarrett Bay Boatworks, the 70 West Marina, and Grand Slam Yacht & Boat Sales – just to name a few.
Mariners should take a drive along Highway 70 to explore their options, as the majority of boat sales businesses are located either close to the water or along the main highway that cuts through town.
In addition, many of the aforementioned establishments also offer dry slip or wet slip services, ensuring that if a Beaufort vacationer buys a new vessel, they’ll have a [rime spot to keep it in anticipation of their next Beaufort vacation.
Beaufort has several sailing cruises that depart, naturally, from the Front Street docks. Lookout Cruises Sail Boats and Good Fortune Sail Charters allows visitors to explore the waters at their own leisurely place, as well as learn the ropes of sailing from expert captains. (It may even be possible to “take the wheel” and see what it’s like to cruise along the Back or Bogue Sound.)
In addition, the Downtown Beaufort area has several maritime shops that are dedicated to sailors, and which carries all the equipment that visiting mariners could require to continue a journey along the Intracoastal Waterway, such as navigational systems or area maps, apparel, guide books, and other essentials. With multiple boat slips available for transient mariners, and a full roster of shops that cater to the sailing crowd, Beaufort is arguably one of the best “pit stops” for sailing ICW travelers to pick up supplies, as well as meet and greet with their fellow sailors.
For an in-depth sailing education, however, visitors will want to head north to the town of Oriental, NC. Arguably North Carolina’s sailing capital, this small coastal town has an acclaimed local sailing school - Oriental's School of Sailing – which has multiple class options for students who want to learn how to sail on their own steam.
From breezy waterfront tours to marinas that feel like home, mariners of all varieties are always welcome in Beaufort – a community where the local maritime culture is a way of life. Bring your boat along on your next vacation, or plot out an agenda filled with cruises to discover why this small town is beloved by maritime visitors of all varieties.