Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Crystal Coast of North Carolina

The “Crystal Coast” is the general term given to towns located in the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. We won’t name all of the towns because there is a dozen, but some of the larger ones are Beaufort, Newport, Emerald Isle, Morehead City, and Harker’s Island. The Crystal Coast is no different that any coastal town in that life revolves around the water. The oceans’ bounty is displayed on restaurant menus, there are maritime museums, a nearby lighthouse, and daily activities that either include something related to the ocean. There are an endless array of activities that include visiting historic structures, shopping in quaint historic districts, diving a shipwreck, trying your hand at landing “the big one,” or simply sitting in a beach chair watching the surf role in. Each little town presents its own distinct feel and personality. We did our best to visit all of them during our 5-day stay in Newport.

Downtown historic Beaufort, NC.
The town of Beaufort was established as a seaport in 1722. The town is pronounced “Bo-furt” which is not to be confused with Beaufort, South Carolina (pronounced “Byew-fort” – apparently there are some deep seeded issues here between the two cities). The downtown is the hub of all activity. The streets are lined with unique shops and interspersed with restaurants and visitor attractions. While in Beaufort, we visited the Historic Beaufort Site. The Beaufort Historic Site depicts 18th and 19th century living in coastal North Carolina. Living history demonstrations, guided tours, and special events vividly describe the lifestyles, customs and architecture unique to this coastal area. Located on the two acres are nine beautifully restored buildings including homes, businesses, jail and courthouse which are open for touring and interpretation. While we were there, they were having the annual “Publick Day” - a flea-market type event where individuals bring food, arts, and crafts to sell. The history of this event dates back to Colonial Day when the arrival and business of the circuit court judge would draw a crowd including merchants who found the gathering to be good for business.
"Publik Day" at the Historic Beaufort Site.

Locked up at the Historic Beaufort Site jail.

A “don’t miss” in Beaufort is the North Carolina Maritime Museum - one of three such free museums along the coast. This little gem is a bundle of information providing a look inside coastal maritime history and culture. Featured exhibits interpret the state’s rich seafood industry, life-saving stations and lighthouses, and sailboats and motorboats. The Museum is the official repository for artifacts from Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground near Beaufort in 1718. For 270 years, the ship was lost at the bottom of the sea, covered by sand, and forgotten by time until a private company discovered its whereabouts in 1996. Opening in June 2011 is a new exhibit featuring more artifacts and history of the legendary pirate’s flagship.
Across the street from the museum is the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center. This facility preserves the craft of traditional boatbuilding and comes alive with the hum of saws and clangs of hammers. Visitors are encouraged to watch as boats are being crafted or take a more active role by participating in a boatbuilding class.
On the outskirts of the “Crystal Coast” lies a sleepy little town called Swansboro. While Swansboro has the historic homes, shops, and docks to indicate that it was once a bustling seaport, the main attraction is Yana’s Ye Olde Drug Store and Restaurant. With Elvis greeting you at the door, you enter to find Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Betty Boob, and more memorabilia adorning the walls. While we did not have time to eat there, the moans and groans from happy patrons made us wish we had. Their breakfast and lunch menu features the usual fare of eggs, pancakes and sandwiches, but it is the old fashion floats and fritters that get the real raves.
Downtown Swansboro.

A trip to this area would not be complete without a drive out to Fort Macon State Park. This park is so much more than just the site of a Civil War-era fort. Public access leads beachgoers to the sun and surf, while land-lovers will find secluded sites to picnic and hike. Construction on the fort began in 1826 and was used on and off until 1946, when it was deemed surplus by the U.S. Government and given to the state of North Carolina. The fort itself is surrounded by a large visitor center, gift shop, and environmental learning center. Inside the fort are excellent exhibits illustrating what life was like in the fort throughout its 80-year existence. The visitor center shows a wonderful free movie that illustrates the fort’s colorful history and uses throughout the years. As with any government project, the fort was constructed, barely used, refurbished, barely used, refurbished, given to the state, retaken from the state, refurbished, barely used, and given back to the state. By far, this is the best fort we have ever visited. Thank goodness the state has it now, because there is no other fort we have visited that has such great exhibits that keep all ages entertained and informed. Definitely, don’t miss Fort Macon if you are in the area!
A mobile bookstore in Historic Beaufort.

Dowtown homes in Historic Beaufort.

The waterfront in Historic Beaufort.  The boardwalk is lined with shops, restaurants, and boats.

Historic Beaufort waterfront.

One of the exhibits in the Maritime Museum illustrating a mechanics shop.

A life saving boat being constructed in the Watercraft Center.

Wooden skiffs under construction.

The environmental learning center in Fort Macon State Park.

Fort Macon State Park.

Inside the old fort are exhibits displaying what life was like for the soldiers. 
Above is the kitchen and dining area.

The entrance to Fort Macon, constructed in 1826.

Shop in downtown Swansboro.


  1. nice post and a great writeup of the area and sites, great pictures also - it's going on my list of places to stop!

  2. Boy you backed your fun up with some great photo's - the jail one lol.... Does your back hurt now? Wonderful, exciting made us want to be there with you kind of article!!



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