TRAVEL: Bright Lights in Beaufort
Our latest 'Excursion' story
The Pecan Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast.
Photo courtesy of Patricia Suggs
Historic homes adorned with red velvet bows, forest green garland wrapped around iconic Southern porches, and lights twinkling through windows are hallmarks of small-town holiday charm. Beaufort, named one of North Carolina’s most notable small towns by Southern Living and Travel + Leisure, knows how to dress up for the holidays. It also offers a dose of North Carolina’s pirate history, since Queen Anne’s Revenge — the famed ship belonging to the state’s most famous pirate, Edward Teach, aka “Blackbeard” — ran aground just offshore from Beaufort in 1718.
If you find yourself longing for the ocean year-round, take your family to Beaufort. With a population of a little more than 4,000, this inlet town draws crowds from near and far during the holiday season. In addition to classic seasonal events ranging from a tree lighting to a parade and art walk, we’ve mapped a few other festive events in Beaufort to get your family in the holiday spirit.
Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla
Head out to the Front Street boardwalk Dec. 7 for the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla to watch an entourage of water vessels — from stand-up paddleboards to 40-feet shrimp boats decked out top to bottom with holiday lights — as they illuminate Beaufort Inlet and cruise from the Morehead City waterfront, starting at 5:30 p.m., to the Beaufort waterfront, arriving around 6:15 p.m. The boats will be met with cheering crowds, judges and a viewing party at the end of the parade. Learn more at crystalcoastnc.org/event/crystal-coast-christmas-flotilla-2019.
Historic Beaufort Candlelight Homes Tour
On Dec. 14, 5-8 p.m., experience the Historic Beaufort Candlelight Homes Tour, which costs $20 per person and kicks off with the Beaufort Art Walk. Following your stroll around town, tour the interiors of early 1800s historic homes. You can also hop on a double-decker bus, where you can listen to carolers from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and enjoy a free ride to your destination.
“The fun thing about the candlelight tour is that it’s not tons of people, so you are making friends all around the town, the restaurants are open and it’s a nice communal event,” says Patricia Suggs, executive director of the Beaufort Historical Association. For more information, visit beauforthistoricsite.org.
Photo courtesy of Mike Caraway
The Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla.
New Year’s Pirate Drop
Stick around or make a post-Christmas trip to Beaufort for a family-friendly, pirate-hosted New Year’s celebration in Beaufort’s John Newton Park, 5-7 p.m., on Dec. 31. Sip hot cocoa and devour s’mores while kids befriend pirates who tell tales of what life was like back in the day. They will also get to watch a pirate walk the plank and see another (mannequin) being dropped into the water. Learn more at beaufortnc.org/events/page/annual-events.
Have little kids in tow? Book your stay at the Inlet Inn, which offers views of Carrot Island, muffins and coffee each morning. Grab a pizza from Black Sheep, tapas from Aqua and ice cream from The General Store. Dine while enjoying island views at Moonrakers.
Your trip won’t be complete without a visit to the North Carolina Maritime Museum, which offers free admission. While there, take part in a scavenger hunt and acquaint yourself with 300-year-old artifacts from Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Be sure to take a ride on the Island Ferry Express to Shackleford Banks, where you can scour the shore for conch shells and catch a glimpse of a rare, stately herd of wild Banker horses believed to be direct descendants of Spanish mustangs.
Ann O’Neal, a Raleigh native who splits her time between Raleigh and Beaufort, loves the calm and remoteness of Beaufort, yet appreciates that it still has a Piggly Wiggly grocery store and is close to places like the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve and Cape Lookout National Seashore.
“It’s interesting, because you have the locals, and then people who have discovered Beaufort from all over the world — some who have made Beaufort their permanent residence,” she says.
Addie Ladner lives in Raleigh with her husband, two young children and beagle mix.