Beaufort is probably the nicest of North Carolina's coastal towns. A good base for visiting the nearby beaches, it has an attractive waterfront that's particularly lively at night.
North Carolina's third-oldest town, Beaufort also has an appealing twelve-block historical district, centering on Turner Street, off the waterfront. Here you'll find handsome old houses, an apothecary, and the city jail; the town welcome center, 130 Turner St (daily: March– Nov 9.30am–5pm; Dec– Feb 10am–4pm; Tel:252/728-5225, Web: www.historicbeaufort.com ), offers a number of tours.
Ferries to Shackleford Banks are run by Island Ferry Adventures (mid-March to mid-Oct; round-trip $15; minimum two adults, Tel:252/728-7555, Web: www.islandferryadventures.com ), Mystery Tours (from $16; Tel:252/728-7827, Web: www.mysteryboattours.com ), and Outer Banks Ferry Service (Tel:252/728-3576), which are all on the waterfront. You can also get there from Morehead City, a couple of miles down the coast (Waterfront Ferry Service Tel:252/726-7678). Beaufort Inlet Watersports, next to the Outer Banks Ferry Service at 328 Front St (Tel:252/728-7607), offers parasailing for around $50 single, $90 tandem.
Among the many historic B&Bs on the residential streets off Turner, Langdon House, 135 Craven St (Tel:252/728-5499, Web: www.langdonhouse.com ; Price: $101-130), is friendly and relaxed; the Cedars Inn, 305 Front St (Tel:252/728-7036, Web: www.cedarsinn.com ; Price: $131-160), is rather plush. The Inlet Inn, on the waterfront at 601 Front St (Tel:252/728-3600 or 1-800/554-5466, Web: www.inlet-inn.com ; Price: $101-130), has huge rooms and serves continental breakfast in your room. Morehead City and the Bogue Banks boast plenty of motels.
As for eating and nightlife, Beaufort's waterfront is vibrant at night, with locals and vacationers drinking, listening to live music at the Dock House (Tel:252/728-4506), and simply strolling. Decent bars and restaurants line the wooden boardwalk, with other good options a block or so inland. The Beaufort Grocery Co, 117 Queen St (closed Tues; Tel:252/728-3899), prides itself on inventive dishes made from superbly fresh ingredients, while the buzzy Aqua, 114 Middle Lane (Tel:252/728-7777; dinner only, closed Sun & Mon), offers Carolina-style tapas and big desserts.