Log in Newsletter

Beaufort is Steeped in Colonial History and Charm

Crossing the bridges from Morehead City to Beaufort is always interesting. First, you are presented with a grand view of the North Carolina State Port, surrounding islands and Beaufort Inlet. Then, you can see all the way to Cape Lookout. It’s an introduction that says Beaufort, one of North Carolina’s oldest towns, has been shaped by the water that surrounds it on three sides. The bridge that takes you into Beaufort is one of North Carolina’s last remaining drawbridges. The ritual of stopping to allow boats to pass is an opportunity for those bound for Beaufort to stop and behold the beauty of the wetlands on the north side and a small parade of work boats and yachts.

This small town, pronounced “bo-furt,” may be best known as a favorite haunt of Blackbeard. The famous pirate frequently roamed the North Carolina coast and wreckage from The Queen Anne’s Revenge was discovered in Beaufort Inlet in 1996. Artifacts from the ship are still being recovered today.

Beaufort’s streets are lined with the town’s Colonial history. Its architecture remembers that Colonial period sea captains at home here brought with them the look of Bahamian homes. Double porches and the unique profile of roofs characterize this architecture. The Beaufort Historic Site is the centerpiece of the town’s 16-square block historic district. Ten of the oldest town buildings are restored on the site that also includes gardens, art gallery, welcome center, and an English double-decker bus for scheduled tours of Beaufort’s historic district. Don’t miss the bus!

To see Beaufort, park your car. It is a town that is small enough to walk through, and you should. Along the streets, notice the beautiful porches that invite conversation of passers-by and gardens that invite admiration. The town residents love your admiration, so don’t hesitate. The Old Burying Ground is one of North Carolina’s oldest cemeteries. Walk in and walk through the earliest history of this town, this state and this country. A guide to the Old Burying Ground is available at the Beaufort Historic Site.

Beaufort’s designated historic district is between Gallant’s Channel, which flows under the drawbridge, and the east side of Pollock Street and between Taylor’s Creek and the south side of Broad Street. The one-block area of the county courthouse is also included in the historic district that includes many structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Each historic house has its own story to tell; but, the house with the most lively history is the Hammock House of 1698, considered to be Beaufort’s oldest standing house. It once stood so close to the water of Taylor’s Creek that visitors could tie a skiff, or flat-bottomed boat, to the front porch. Years of storms and dredging the creek has changed the shoreline. The house now stands one block from the waterfront. Hammock House was once an “ordinary,’ or inn, and the pirate Blackbeard was a regular guest. Legend has it that Blackbeard hanged one of his wives from a live oak in the front yard, and neighbors say they can still hear her screams on moonlit nights. The house was later used as accommodations by the Union Army during the Civil War and is now privately owned.

Located on Beaufort’s beautifully restored waterfront, the North Carolina Maritime Museum interprets North Carolina’s historical alliances with the sea. Its strong volunteer programs are credited for numerous programs that characterize the museum such as watercraft building programs, model building, the Junior Sailing Program and Summer Science School. The Friends of the North Carolina Maritime Museum are hosting Pepsi Americas’ Sail (see page 51), and the project will benefit the Olde Beaufort Seaport that has launched development on Gallants Channel north of the drawbridge. The museum is open year round and designs its programs and activities for the interests of all ages. Visit: www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/sections/maritime/

Fort Macon offers public access to the surf, sun and sand of the Crystal Coast – as well as a historic landmark. Located at the eastern end of Bogue Banks, one of a series of barrier islands along the North Carolina coast, the park is surrounded on three sides by water – the Atlantic Ocean, Beaufort Inlet and Bogue Sound. This area of undisturbed natural beauty is the perfect place to explore salt marches and estuaries vital to the coastal ecosystem. The park is also home to a Civil War fort with a history as intricate and unique as the waterways of the sound. Visit Fort Macon to enjoy the land’s natural beauty and soak up some history. Park hours: vary according to season; closed state holidays and Christmas Day. Visit: http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/foma/home.html

The Shackleford Banks wild horses are a unique historic and cultural legacy of the Crystal Coast region. They are descended from a core group of Spanish mustangs of the earliest explorers of Colonial America. The herd numbers 100-125 horses that are the only inhabitants of this southernmost of the Outer Banks barrier island chain. Shackleford Banks is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Visit: www.shacklefordhorses.org

For vacation information on Beaufort and all of the Crystal Coast area, visit the destination Web site, www.crystalcoastnc.org, or call for information by mail, 1-800-786-6962. n