Begin with the double-decker bus tour aboard the 1948 English vintage bus (direct from London) to get an overview of the town’s history. Be prepared for a southern view of the Civil War (i.e. the War of Northern Aggression), and tight bus turns! With more than 100 beautifully restored historic homes from the 18th and 19th century, you will be amazed to find that Beaufort looks very much as it did in the past. Because the town was taken over and used as headquarters for opposing troops in both the Revolutionary and Civil War, there was virtually no damage to the town during those wars.
Beaufort Historic Site includes 11 historic buildings. You may also want to walk through the Old Burying Ground, one of the oldest cemeteries in North Carolina.
North Carolina Maritime Museum
Beaufort has always been an important seaport for whalers, fisherman, merchants, shipbuilders and even pirates such as Blackbeard. Originally names Fish Towne, Beaufort’s history is indelibly tied to the sea. Don’t miss the with its many exhibits on North Carolina’s boating history, and its crown jewel–artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the believed wreckage of Blackbeard’s prized flagship, which was discovered more than ten years ago in Beaufort Inlet. Directly across the street from the museum is the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center which houses a working boat shop where visitors can watch the restoration and construction of wooden boats.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Beaufort’s close proximity to the Cape Lookout National Seashore with its 56-mile stretch of shoreline spanning from Ocracoke Inlet to Beaufort Inlet is another great reason to visit. Three pristine barrier islands make up the national seashore—North Core Banks, South Core Banks, and Shackleford Banks. Several different ferry lines run from Beaufort’s waterfront or from nearby Morehead City, so pack a picnic lunch, plenty of sunscreen and bug spray and head to North or South Core Banks for wonderful shelling, clamming and surf fishing. You will also want to visit the 169-foot black and white diamond Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters, which were built in the mid-1800s.
Be sure to stop by to view the famous Shackleford Horses (also known as Banker ponies) which are the only permanent residents of this nine-mile long island. These Spanish Mustangs most likely swam ashore from a 16th century shipwrecked Spanish galleon and have continued to roam freely on the island for 300 years.
Rachel Carson Reserve
If you’re a sports enthusiast, you’ve come to the perfect spot for deep sea fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling, parasailing, jet skiing, and kayaking. For the nature enthusiast there is the 2,650-acre located on Carrot Island, complete with salt marshes, tidal flats, salt flats, etc. where more than 200 species of birds have been sighted.
North Carolina Aquarium
Nearby in Pine Knoll Shores, featuring exhibits built on the theme “From the Mountain to the Sea,” is North Carolina’s largest aquarium.
Fort Macon National Park
This park encompasses 385 acres of pristine beach, dunes and maritime forest and is also home to Fort Macon, the five-sided Civil War fortress.