North Carolina Maritime Museum

Visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort for a taste of coastal cultures and maritime history. Exhibits feature the state’s rich seafood industry, sailboats, motorboats, life-saving stations, lighthouses and more. The Museum is the official repository for artifacts from Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground near Beaufort in 1718.

The "Friends of the Museum" work with the museum by underwriting new projects, purchasing equipment, funding educational and public awareness programs and acquiring land and facilities needed for expansion.Their combined effort offers programs such as "Build a Boat in a Day," Sailing Programs, Beaufort Oars, Junior Sailing, Sea Scouts, Summer Science School and much more, including the annual Wooden Boat Show.  

In January 2004, the museum staff, including Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster, responded quickly to the news of a beached whale; they buried the dead creature on the beach. Four years later, when the bones were exhumed, the team found a whale-skeleton puzzle of more than 200 bones, bone fragments and teeth.

After the bones traveled to N.C. State University for "de-greasing"—a process to keep the skeleton from dripping oil and creating bad odors—the team set up an off-site work facility. A dedicated team spent four more years cleaning and reassembling the skeleton. The skeleton is now suspended above the main exhibit hall in the North Carolina Maritime Museum on Front Street.
As part of the whaling exhibit, visitors are able to use interactive touch screens to learn more. Whaling tools, equipment and images also help tell the story of those who braved the sea off the Outer Banks of North Carolina in pursuit of these huge creatures.  
The earliest history goes back to 1666 when New England sailing vessels cruised North Carolina waters in pursuit of sperm and right whales. A lease in 1723 allowed Governor Burrington, Christopher Gale and John Lovick to take whales along the coast between Cape Fear and Currituck Inlet for a term of seven years. A whaling license was issued to Samuel Chadwick
in 1726. Chadwick and three other residents of Carteret Precinct were permitted to whale with three boats.

Fort Macon

During the 18th and 19th centuries the area around Beaufort and Beaufort Inlet was vulnerable to attack. In 1756, during the French and Indian Wars, the construction of Fort Dobbs was begun, but when the war ended the fort was never completed. Early in the 1800s, a small masonry fort was built that guarded the inlet during the War of 1812. By 1825, shoreline erosion and a hurricane had swept Fort Hampton into Beaufort Inlet. 

After the War of 1812 demonstrated the weakness of existing coastal defenses, the United States government began construction on an improved chain of coastal fortifications. This undertaking involved the construction of 38 new, permanent coastal forts known as the Third System. As part of this system, pentagon-shaped 26-casemate Fort Macon, with a ditch separating its covertway and inner citadel, was designed by Brigadier General Simon Bernard and built by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The fort was named for native North Carolinian Nathaniel Macon (1758–1837), who served in the Revolutionary War and as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, until he returned to his home state and served in the state senate. Construction began in 1826. Using brick made in the area and masons from Beaufort and other parts of the country, the US Army Corps of Engineers completed the fort in December, 1834. Total cost of the fort was $463,790. 

Fort Macon ALBUM of 1862 Drawings and Etchings

Rachel Carson Reserve

The Rachel Carson Reserve, part of the Carolina Estuarine Reserve Foundation, 
 is located near the mouth of the Newport River in southern Carteret County, directly across Taylor's Creek from the historic town of Beaufort. 

The site is a complex of islands and marshes: Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, Carrot Island, Horse Island and Middle Marshes. The islands are more than three miles long and less than a mile wide, covering 2,315 acres.

Town Marsh, the island across from downtown Beaufort, 
has a marked self-guided trail.

The Rachel Carson Reserve is open to the public for enjoyment. Fishing, boating, sailing and kayaking are all common activities on and around the site. Town Marsh, Carrot Island and Bird Shoal receive the most use because of their easy access by boat or kayak.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor, nature and waterVisiting the "Carrot Island Boardwalk" on the east end of Front Street, (across Taylor's Creek from the boat ramp on Lennoxville Road) is a great way to learn about the estuarine environment and the plants and animals found at the reserve. Interpretive signs provide a self-guided tour. The platform at the end of the boardwalk is a great place for birding and view Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Rachel Carson Reserve are both home to wild horses. 

The horses do not swim back and forth between Shackelford Banks and RCR, but they do swim between marsh islands on their respective reserves.

If you get too close to a wild horse, you could be charged, kicked or bitten. 

Watch from at least 50 feet. If horses come toward you, move away or, if you can't, stay very still while they pass. Horses have the right-of-way. If a horse stops what it's doing to stare at you, stop or back up.

The wild horses are protected by law.

Feeding, touching, teasing or intentionally disturbing wildlife, including horses, is dangerous and illegal.  

The best way to enjoy observing the wild horses is to use binoculars and watch them from afar.   

The reserve is not a place for trash.  When visiting, please take your litter with you when you leave.  

Unleashed dogs are also a constant problem on the reserve. Dogs tend to chase colonial nesting birds - disrupting feeding, breeding and nesting.

Rachel Carson Photo Album
86 Images with Informational Captions

Old Burying Ground

      In June 1724, the trustees of the town of Beaufort deeded to the “wardens of the Parish of St. Johns and the rest of the Vestrymen,” Old Town Lot 91. This acquisition of land is the earliest date indicating the use of the present burying ground.  Although the earliest legible date of death is 1756, many of the older markers have no dates or inscriptions are illegible.
     The burying ground was enlarged in 1731, when Nathaniel Taylor gave Old Town Lot 81 to the inhabitants of the town for that purpose. The cemetery was enlarged again when the Baptists acquired part of Lot 72 in 1851, and in 1853 when the Methodists bought part of Lot 71 for a new church. 

Surrounded by a concrete wall, with recessed panels between posts topped by simple spheres, the burying ground is shaded throughout by many gnarled old trees, notably live oaks whose branches are covered by resurrection ferns, which revive after each rain. It is crowded with markers of various designs, including table stones, obelisks and official military markers. The best known is that of Otway Burns, a naval hero in the War of 1812. His grave is marked by a large box-like stone; the top is embedded with a canon said to be from his privateer Snap Dragon.

      Many of the older graves have simple vertical cypress slabs—of some 17 designs in all, each with weathered, lichen-spotted texture. 
     Another common grave treatment is the construction, in front of a stone marker, of a grave cover of brick, usually about two feet in height, which protects the grave from being washed out in the sandy soil. Some are rounded and some are of a gabled configuration, but all run the length of the coffin. These occur singly, but more frequently are lined up in family groups. 
     Many of the family plots are surrounded by handsome wrought and cast-iron fences. Varying from simple stones to elaborate monuments with urns, figures and crosses, many are signed, providing a museum of the stonecutter’s art during the 18th and 19th centuries. Stones come from such places as Boston, Charleston, Brooklyn and Baltimore. From North Carolina only the port city of Wilmington is represented. 
     There are some 200 stones from the pre-Civil War era, approximately 45 from the war period, about 150 from 1865 to 1900, and a few 20th-century markers. (National Register of Historic Places)

The Beaufort Historical Association provides a self-guided brochure, which highlights several of the notable grave sites within the Old Burying Ground.  

Resident Pirate


Captain Horatio Sinbad - Pirate in Residence
Captain Sinbad, a real merchant adventurer, has lived continuously aboard Meka II for over four decades making Beaufort, NC his home port. If you are in Beaufort, look for Meka II anchored in Town Creek, seen to your left as you cross the bridge into town. He does, occasionally, take the adventurous aboard ship for "Two Hours Before the Mast". But, then again, you might not find him in port - another adventure always awaits just over the horizon...

Beaufort Restoration Grounds & other Area Attractions

In 1960 a few citizens formed the Beaufort Historical Association, to initiate plans to preserve a few aging, but historically important structures in town. After property was purchased, historic buildings were acquired and moved to the site. 

Today the site is comprised of ten buildings, six of which have been authentically restored, nestled on two acres in the heart of the quaint downtown area of Beaufort. The buildings include: the 1796 Carteret County Courthouse, the 1829 Carteret County Jail; the 1859 Apothecary Shop and Doctors Office and the 1732 Rustull House that houses the Mattie King Davis Art Gallery. Living history demonstrations, guided tours and special events vividly describe the lifestyles, customs and architecture unique to this coastal area. Volunteers in period dress provide tours for three of the buildings on the site. The BHA's red English bus also provides tours of the historic district.

 Beaufort Historic Site
Facebook Page 


Other Area Attractions

Cape Lookout Lighthouse  
The present Cape Lookout lighthouse was completed in 1859 at a cost of $45,000. The lighthouse stands 163 feet above sea level and was equipped with a 1st-order Fresnel lens. The powerful beacon could be seen from at least 19 miles away. After its construction, Cape Lookout became a model for all tower lighthouses constructed on the Eastern U.S. coast from that point on. When the remaining four North Carolina lighthouses were finished (Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras, Bodie, and Currituck), the Lighthouse Board painted each different designs to easily distinguish one from another. Cape Lookout was painted in a black and white diamond pattern. Three full white diamonds facing east and west. The north and south-facing sides have two full black diamonds and have a half of black diamond at the top and bottom of the tower.
During the Civil War, the lighthouse became very important. The area surrounding the new Cape Lookout Lighthouse served as a military stronghold. When the Confederates were forced to retreat in 1861, they attempted to blow up both beacons so they would be inoperable for arriving Union soldiers. The original Cape Lookout was almost completely destroyed and the blast severely damaged the new lens. The following year, the Lighthouse Board re-lit the lighthouse with a 3rd order Fresnel lens. Currently, the Coast Guard owns and operates the lighthouse, and the National Park Service owns the surrounding area.

The visitor center in the keepers' quarters adjacent to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is open from 9AM to 5PM from April to November. The tower is open for climbing from mid-May to mid-September. Tickets may be reserved for climbing by calling (252) 728-0708 between 9:30AM to 4PM Monday through Friday. Reservations can only be made for dates the same week and must be made at least one day in advance.

1785 Island Rd.
Harkers Island, NC
(252) 728-1500
     Nestled at "the end of the road" on Harkers Island, the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center was established in 1992 and is a true grassroots partnership. For more than a decade the Waterfowl Museum has been a clearinghouse for heritage, traditions and history of the Down East communities of Carteret County—a hub for heritage tourism. Exhibits and programs focusing on local heritage are offered year round, and the museum houses the area's finest collection of carvings and waterfowl art. The museum archives oral histories and artifacts from the Down East communities. Museum staff offers programs for school groups, bus tours, church trips and others.

     From the tower, visitors can view the spectacular expanse of Core Sound in a manner and from a visual perspective that has never before been possible, even for long-time residents. The panorama includes Shell Point, Shackelford and Core Banks, Core and Back Sounds, and Cape Lookout Lighthouse, and many Down East communities.
     Call to schedule a tour and plan for a real "Down East" experience with local carvers, boat builders, storytellers and musicians.

252-247-4003 or 800-832-3474
1 Roosevelt Blvd - Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Feel the spray of a mountain waterfall. Watch river otters play. Touch a stingray. Look a shark in the eye. Explore shipwrecks without getting wet. See a rare white sea turtle. Thousands of aquatic animals take you on a journey from the state’s grand peaks to the open Atlantic. See “Plan Your Visit” for more on these activities and other family fun at one of the coast’s most popular attractions.
Hours: 9AM to 5PM - Daily except Christmas
DIRECTIONS: 5 miles west of Atlantic Beach. From NC 58, turn onto Pine Knoll Blvd at the stoplight, Milepost 7; turn left onto Roosevelt Blvd.