Stroll: At Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach, tour the grounds of this Civil War fortification where young Robert E. Lee showed his stuff as an engineer long before becoming a general and accepting command of Confederate forces. After touring the fort (use the “Find a park” window at www.ncparks.gov), head to Oceanana Pier and make the 1,000-foot trek out over the ocean to The Barnacle, a tiny bar where you can watch the sun set and reward yourself with a cold one for all that walking. Details: at www.facebook.com, search for “The Barnacle”).
Shop: Stop in at the oldest surf shop in North Carolina, AB Surf Shop (www.absurfshop.com). Owner Tommy Morrow opened the doors in 1964 (when he was just 15) selling boards and fins; today, AB Surf Shop carries the surfboards and surfwear you’d expect – but also standup paddleboards, wetsuits and a selection of stylish Southern duds. If you don’t surf, don’t worry, AB has the cure: board rentals if you left yours at home or lessons if you’re a bit rusty.
Hike: Just a short boat ride from Beaufort are several unspoiled islands where the only residents are shorebirds and wild horses. Shackleford Banks, the southernmost island in Cape Lookout National Seashore, is home to around 110 Banker ponies. These wild horses are descended from shipwrecked Spanish mustangs and roam free today. Hop aboard a boat with Island Express Ferry Service (www.islandexpressferryservices.com) and make your way to Shackleford Banks and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Horses frequent the marshes and scrubby woods of Shackleford, and from a boat you can get close enough for photos without disturbing these beauties. Once you’ve spied a horse or two, climb to the top of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse for one of the best selfie opportunities you’ll find anywhere, then spend a little while patrolling the shore and looking for shells. Details: www.nps.gov/calo/learn/nature/horses.htm.
Bike: Beaufort’s oak-shaded streets and breezy waterfront were made for cycling, and Hungry Town Bike Tours (www.hungrytowntours.com) can supply the rides and the routes. Their combo cycling-and-dining tours – including an oyster tour, shrimp tour and visit to some of Beaufort’s culinary highlights – are only part of the offerings. On A Ride To Remember, Hungry Town visits the spots in Beaufort that inspired Nicholas Sparks; the Early Morning Risers Tour puts you pedaling through the streets as the town begins to awaken; and the Legends & Lore Tour fills you with tales of Blackbeard, a girl buried in a rum barrel and more odd tales that scratch the town’s history. Jason Frye
At The Circle on Atlantic Beach, two new eateries have popped up: Idle Hour Biergarten (www.idlehourbiergarten.com) and Pescara Wood Oven Kitchen (search for it at www.facebook.com). At Idle Hour, a mix of bratwursts, schnitzel sandwiches and Mother Earth’s Kolsch join crabcake sandwiches, fried oysters and Big Boss’ Hell’s Belle to make a coastal N.C. beer garden. Next door, Pescara Wood Oven Kitchen (search for it at www.facebook.com) serves coastal Italian – think clam carbonara with homemade pasta, and seafood spaghetti with shrimp and charred octopus – in a cozy cedar-shake house.
Trust the bartenders at Morehead City’s Arendell Room (www.arendellroom.com) to deliver the perfect cocktail every time. Their approach to classic cocktails updates these drinks with fresh mixers, syrups, herbs, bitters and shrubs, but for a real treat, ask for a “bartender’s choice,” sit through a few cocktail questions and watch as your new favorite drink is made.