Now that the new year is here, many of us are likely thinking about and planning where we’ll go in the coming months. Although there are many popular destinations, there are even more hidden gems that deserve to be given the proper spotlight. I’d like to suggest one of the best hidden gem destinations in the United States – Beaufort, North Carolina.

Beaufort is a gorgeous coastal town filled with beaches, local shops, and even diving experiences. With so much to explore in Beaufort, this coastal gem is packed with an interesting history and some amazing activities.

Beaufort is the fourth oldest town in North Carolina being established in 1713, but has been ranked as one of the “Coolest Small Towns,” by numerous magazines. It was originally a fishing town that was known to have one of the safest harbors in North Carolina. Unfortunately, it was also the furthest inland port, making it take too long for sailors to arrive at Beaufort. Their fishing industry began to dwindle and they had to evolve. Over time, the town has turned to tourism due to its beautiful sceneries and laidback atmosphere.

Grayden Paul Drawbridge in Beaufort, North Carolina, in 2011.jpg" by suttonls is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Grayden Paul Drawbridge in Beaufort, North Carolina by suttonls is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Summer in Beaufort can get a little hectic as many North Carolinians know about the beautiful town of Beaufort. However, Beaufort is just as amazing in Spring and Fall and has much less visitors. Being in the South the warm weather can be enjoyed for a long time, so its best to discover this hidden gem when its both hot and without a ton of tourists.

There are many great adventures to have during a trip to Beaufort. Whether you are a beach lover or not, there is something to be enjoyed while in this beautiful small town.

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NC Maritime Museum

The town of Beaufort may be small, but it is rich in history. At the NC Maritime Museum, you can explore studies in marine sciences, learn about the seafood industry, and see incredible artifacts – all for free! Some of the artifacts at the museum include Blackbeard’s wrecked ship and Queen Anne’s Revenge. It is a great experience for visitors of all ages.

Carrot Island

Beaufort is heaven for nature lovers, and there is no better place to explore the landscape than by visiting Carrot Island. Despite its name, there aren’t actually carrots here. What you will find though is a wonderful trail that goes through a multitude of environments. Surrounding you on the trail are mudflats, salt marshes, and uplands. You’ll get to see a bit of everything while here (except carrots)!

"Wild horses on Carrot Island - Christmas Day 2012" by 3.26 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Wild horses on Carrot Island ” by 3.26 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

While you walk along the trail, try to look out for the 200 plus species of birds, fish, and even horses that live on Carrot Island. Get away from the hustle and bustle of life and reconnect with nature at Carrot Island. If visiting Carrot Island, it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Also make sure to bring bug spray – with all those species of animals, there are just as many bugs!

Radio Island Beach

Going to a coastal town without going to the beach just doesn’t seem right. Only a few minutes away from Beaufort you can find this incredibly peaceful beach. The sands are soft, and the waters are calming and relaxing. The waves are mild and shallow, so they are great for a swim or for water sports. Many locals enjoy stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking while visiting Radio Island Beach.

Whether you want to just lie down on the sand, or go for a ride on a jet ski, Radio Island Beach is a great spot to visit in Beaufort. Summer lasts quite long in North Carolina, so you can enjoy the beach in early Fall without all the summer tourists.

"Radio Island" by pmuellr is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Radio Island” by pmuellr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Local Shopping

When traveling, it is important to try and shop local and support local businesses. In Beaufort, shopping locally is easy and enjoyable. There is a lot of parking and sidewalks to make shopping around town simple. The most popular shop in Beaufort is likely the General Store. It is a family-owned store that has been around for about forty years! The store has most of the common beach needs, but they are most famous for their fudge and fresh ice cream. There’s nothing better than cold ice cream on a hot summer day.

Another local favorite is the store, Scuttlebutt. It is filled with local books, beach-themed gifts, local art, and souvenirs for your friends and family back home. One of the unique goods you can find at Scuttlebutt are their handmade baskets. These decorative baskets are made with scented sea grass and hand-dyed rattan to make gorgeous, one-of-a-kind baskets for your home. They are completely functional, so go check out these beautiful local goods.

Graveyard of the Atlantic

Over two dozen shipwrecks have been found off the coast of Beaufort, giving the area the title of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” For the adventurous spirit, visitors can take a dive into these waters and explore everything from wrecked sailing ships to U-Boats. The main two diving companies to use are Discovery Diving and Olympus Diving. Depending on how long you want to dive the prices do change, so please check their website for more information.

"Sunken ship from the Submarine" by abhinaba is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Sunken ship” by abhinaba is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Both of these companies provide full certification classes for those that want to learn how to become professional divers. If you are already a pro-diver, both stores also sell diving equipment. It is a great experience for both professional and novice divers.

There are so many amazing small towns in the United States that are well worth visiting, but for some reason remain under the radar. It is time for us to take the chance and visit these incredible small towns across America. We can find out more about our local communities and support the local economy.

Experience learning about Beaufort’s history, explore mud flats, try diving, or just relax and shop.  Start your adventures this new year in Beaufort, North Carolina to have some fun in the sun!

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