A quaint coastal town, Beaufort is steeped in southern charm and surrounded by water in nearly every direction. The picturesque community, situated on North Carolina’s southern coast, is a true mariner’s paradise.
“The town of Beaufort,” explains Jim Browder, executive director of the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority, “is located along Taylors Creek, a gateway to Beaufort Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean. Beaufort is home to luxury yachts, tour vessels and shrimp boats, hosting a wide variety boating activity. The town is easily accessible from the Intracoastal Waterway providing overnight docking from visitors all over the world.”
Boats of all shapes and sizes dot the landscape. Nature lovers might spot great egrets, dolphins, or wild horses along the pristine Crystal Coast, which stretches for 85 breathtaking miles. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse — featuring a distinctive black and white diamond pattern — rises prominently from Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Beaufort’s history and culture are deeply tied to the ocean. In fact, Blackbeard roamed this area more than 300 years ago. The North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort — pronounced Boh-fert and not to be confused with Beaufort, South Carolina, about 375 miles down the road — serves as a repository for artifacts from Blackbeard’s wrecked pirate ship, including cannons, grenades and beads. The museum, which Browder classifies as a must-see attraction, also hosts an impressive display of seashells from around the world with 5,000 specimens from more than 100 countries. Admission to the museum is free.
There is a bounty of water activities for visitors to enjoy: scuba, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding and parasailing to name a few. Beaufort County (Beaufort serves as the county seat), teems with some 65 islands. It’s a luscious realm where freshwater converges with salt, where creeks, marshes and rivers run rampant.
Located in the Inner Banks region, this often-overlooked area isn’t as well known as the Outer Banks located further north on North Carolina’s coast. While there is something magical about a land brimming with sunken ships, majestic lighthouses and exotic wildlife, Beaufort still retains its small-town charm. Only about 4,000 residents permanently reside in the ocean oasis. Southern hospitality is on full display: newcomers are greeted with friendly smiles and hellos.
“The local citizens take great pride in their community and work very hard to maintain Beaufort’s ‘sense of place,’” Browder said. “They understand that the quaint, friendly nature of their community is the very reason that it is so appealing to visitors.”
Beaufort, the third oldest town in the state, flawlessly entertains with exquisite dining, boutique shopping and cozy lodging nestled amid historic neighborhoods. Festivals celebrating music, food and wine are held throughout the year.
“Beaufort is a small town that knows how to have fun. The town maintains its quality of life for residents, but manages to offer so much to do for visitors,” said Browder. “Then, you add hundreds of unique festivals year-round. It’s a very special place where your first visit will be treasured for many years to come.”