Outer Banks Points of Interest
Beaufort Historic SiteThis two-acre site depicts late-18th and early-to-mid 19th century life in Beaufort. It includes nine buildings, six authentically restored. Buildings and gardens include the 1796 Carteret County Courthouse, the oldest wood-framed courthouse in NC; the 1829 Jail, with 28-inch thick walls; the 1859 Apothecary, with a priceless collection of original artifacts; and four historic homes. Living history demonstrations and guided tours describe the lifestyles, customs and architecture unique to the area.
Stop by the Visitor’s Center for more information on tours, including the Old Burying Ground. Open to the public year round, tours are available Monday through Saturday; $8 for adults and $4 for children. The English Red Bus tour begins here. Check the website for special events such as the annual June “Old Homes Tour.”
North Carolina Maritime Museum & Watercraft Center
Check the website for the many ongoing and annual events, like the annual Wooden Boat Show in May. The Friends of the Museum have many fun events; check our 2014 Annual Beaufort & Area Events calendar.
Old Burying GroundFirst used in 1724, the burying ground is shaded throughout by many gnarled old live oaks trees, 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, whose grave is topped with a canon from his privateer Snap Dragon.
There are some 200 stones from the pre-Civil War era, approximately 45 from the war period, about 150 from 1865-1900, and a few 20th-century markers. Many of the older graves have simple vertical cypress slabs, each with weathered, lichen-spotted texture.
A few notable graves include: Vienna Dill, child who died of yellow fever and buried in a glass top case; Pierre Henry, African American who taught emancipated slaves at Washburn Academy; Jechonias Willis, killed during 1862 siege of Ft. Macon; British Officer, buried standing up; Crissie Wright Common Grave, three sailors who froze to death in the shipwreck; and the daughter of Capt. Sloo, buried in a rum barrel.
The Beaufort Historical Association provides guided tours. Self-guided tour brochures are available at the Welcome Center at the Beaufort Historic Site on Turner Street.
Rachel Carson ReserveThe Rachel Carson Reserve is directly across from the Beaufort waterfront. The site is a complex of islands: Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, and Horse Island. These islands are more than three miles long and less than a mile wide, covering 2,315 acres.
The Rachel Carson Reserve is open to the public. Fishing, boating, sailing, kayaking and shelling are 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.
Town Marsh has a marked self-guided trail. Carrot Island Boardwalk is located on the east end of Front Street, across Taylor's Creek from the boat ramp on Lennoxville Road. The platform at the end of the boardwalk is a great place for birding and viewing Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Visiting the Carrot Island Boardwalk is a great way to learn about the estuarine environment; interpretive signs provide a self-guided tour.
Dogs must be leashed; they tend to chase colonial nesting birds, disrupting feeding, breeding and nesting. When leaving the reserve, please respect this special reserve and its wildlife by taking your litter with you.
Cape Lookout LighthouseSee our “Boat Tours” guide for available transportation.
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. The lighthouse is painted in a black and white diamond pattern; white diamonds face east and west, black diamonds face north and south.
During the Civil War, 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 lighthouse was almost completely destroyed and the blast severely damaged the new 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 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.
Fort MaconBuilt in 1826-1834 on the east end of Bogue Banks, today Fort Macon looks much the same as when built. The pentagon-shaped fortress is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. General Robert E. Lee was stationed at Fort Macon as a young Army officer. The scene of a significant Civil War Battle while occupied by Confederate troops, the fort was under a Union artillery siege from March 23 - April 26, 1862. Its fall into Union hands gave the Northern forces complete control of the entire North Carolina coast. It was re-garrisoned during the Spanish-American War and again during World War II.
Fort Macon is now a 398-acre state park, one of the most popular in the United States. Swimming, fishing, nature programs and trails, guided tours of the fort, a museum with numerous exhibits and audio-visual displays are some of the activities available.
Fort Macon State Park is located on the eastern end of Bogue Banks. From US 70 to Morehead City, cross the bridge to Atlantic Beach. Turn left on NC 58 (Fort Macon Road). The fort is located at the tip of the island. Daily Tours: April through October - 11am, 12noon, 2pm & 3pm.
Core Sound Waterfowl MuseumNestled at "the end of the road" on Harker’s Island, the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center was established in 1992. 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. With exhibits and programs year round, the museum houses the area's finest collection of carvings and waterfowl art.
From the tower, visitors can view the spectacular expanse of Core Sound; the panorama includes Shell Point, Shackelford and Core Banks, Core and Back Sounds, 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.
About 25 minutes from Beaufort. From Beaufort, take US 70E to State Rd 1332/Harkers Island Road to Island Road, which will take you to the museum at the eastern end of the island.
North Carolina AquariumPine 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. This is one of the most popular attractions on the Crystal Coast.
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.