Beaufort is a tourist town and unapologetically so. Don't read that as a turnoff. This little village in a quiet corner of coastal North Carolina invites. It's a mix of colonial history and America's maritime culture, framed by a picturesque waterfront. In other words, a gem of a diversion.
From Charlotte, Beaufort is 280 miles (5 1/2 hours), one way.
To see and do
Beaufort is a place to stroll, slowly.
There are little things to enjoy, and big ones. A few of the little things include a well-developed waterfront and several blocks of small shops. The shops offer antiques, art, pottery, hand-woven rugs, books and the inevitable gaudy beach trinkets.
Both draw vacationers from nearby Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle seeking amusement on a cloudy day.
Beaufort (pronounced BOW-fert) has a history older than the nation's independence.
Incorporated in 1722, it served as a port and commercial and governmental center, which explains the substantial homes that have been well preserved throughout town. For a time, Beaufort was a summer retreat for the wealthy. After the Civil War, commercial fishing became the primary trade, and Beaufort became home port for a large fishing fleet.
The two big things in Beaufort are the popular North Carolina Maritime Museum (and its boatbuilding center across Front Street) and the historic district. This year the museum is awash in everything Blackbeard, because state officials assert that a sunken ship discovered in recent years in nearby Beaufort Sound is Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of the notorious pirate.
Beaufort's 12-block historic district includes homes and public buildings built by craftsmen in the Bahamian and West Indian styles. More than 100 have been restored.
In the heart of the district is the Beaufort Historic Site, which depicts 18th- and 19th-century coastal Carolina. Living-history demonstrations, guided tours and special events detail the lifestyles, customs and architecture unique to the area.
Historic buildings include the Carteret County Courthouse of 1796, the Carteret County Jail (circa 1829) and the Apothecary Shop and Doctors Office (circa 1859).
Beaufort in summer can be packed with tourists. Spring and fall are as pleasant, but not nearly as full.