Beaufort, NC

If you enjoy browsing interesting shops, admiring historic homes, strolling a picturesque waterfront boardwalk, then take Hwy 70 E. from Morehead City over two bridges to Beaufort-by-the-Sea (pronounced Bow-fort), NC’s third oldest town and the seat of Carteret County.

Incorporated in 1722, Beaufort was named for Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort. Streets like Ann, Queen, and Orange are named for historical figures who were important to the town?s establishment. Its heritage is preserved in the homes of the Historic District and in the restoration work of the Beaufort Historical Association at the Beaufort Historic Site on Turner Street.

Six of the historic buildings make an interesting tour including an old jail, apothecary shop and homes of typical citizens of the 1700s. The Safrit Historical Center is on site to welcome and orient visitors as well as a seasonal art gallery, herb cottage and the Old Beaufort Shop. The local “warped weavers” demonstrate their work on authentic antique looms Monday and Wednesday mornings. Publick Day in April, the Old Homes Tour the last weekend in June, Harvest Time in October, a Community Thanksgiving Feast in November and the Coastal Carolina Christmas Celebration in December are annual highlights.

Interesting tours are regularly conducted year ’round from the Historic Site. See the Old Burying Ground on Ann Street, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the repository of many local legends. Don’t miss a town tour on the red English double-decker bus. Architectural Walking tours of the historic district also are offered. Check at the Historic Site visitor’s center for times, dates, and fees.

Other annual town events include the Beaufort Music Festival the last weekend in April, the Historic Beaufort Road Race in July and the Carteret County Arts & Craft Coalition Shows on Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Down on Front Street, stroll the waterfront boardwalk along boat-lined docks. Observe the picturesque wild Banks ponies across Taylor’s Creek on Carrot Island, now part of the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve. The reserve, a tidal complex in the state estuary system established to protect the fragile ecology of the area, is also home to 160 species of birds.

NC Maritime Museum at 315 Front Street schedules excursions to the nearby tidal island complex, among its varied marine-related programs. Open daily with no admission fee, the museum has exhibits on maritime and coastal natural history, a world shell collection, art, aquaria, fish and boat models, a book shop and library. Across the street is the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, the museum’s working boat shop and ship model building center, open for public viewing daily. Annual events include the Traditional Wooden Boat Show the first weekend in May.

Looking west over the drawbridge on the ocean side is Piver’s Island, home of several scientific facilities: Duke University Marine Lab with its big green research vessel R/V Cape Hatteras and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration operated by the National Marine Fisheries Service, including the Fisheries and Ecology research divisions.