Then Beaufort did something really smart. They declared their entire downtown business district a historic area, and were able to minutely control what sort of construction went forward. The result is a community today whose large historic district has been enhanced rather than destroyed by all the development that has taken place here over the last two decades.
Not to be outdone, Morehead City, lying on the opposite side of the Newport River/Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from its neighbor, rebuilt its waterfront during the late 1980's. Since that project's completion, a host of new businesses, retail shops and some very nice restaurants have sprung into being.
Courtesy of the "Outer Banks" there are only three "all weather" inlets along the entire North Carolina coastline. Arguably the best of these for cruising purposes is, you guessed it, Beaufort Inlet. This seaward cut leads almost directly from the briny blue, into the Morehead City Turning Basin. When you consider the double accessibility of these waters, courtesy of the both the AICW and Beaufort Inlet, it's easy to see why pleasure craft and large ocean going commercial freighters funneled into the twin towns. We strongly suggest that you too heed the siren's call of Beaufort and Morehead City. Your treasure chest of cruising experiences will be ever so much richer for the effort.
Facilities and Anchorages:
Many cruisers choose to coil their lines at the Beaufort City Docks (252-728-2503) on Taylor Creek. The slip space here has expanded greatly over the past decade with 100 slips accommodating boats up to 250 feet (offering gas and diesel fuel). Located right on the boardwalk in downtown Beaufort, the marina is convenient to restaurants and lodging, and it offers a courtesy car to use for supply runs.
Cruisers visiting Morehead could do no better than to coil their lines at Morehead City Yacht Basin (MCYB). This marina is accessed off the AICW channel as the Waterway approaches the high-rise bridge between Morehead and Radio Island. Morehead City Yacht Basin is one of the most impressive facilities I have ever reviewed in almost thirty years as a cruising guide author. All the local restaurants and shops are within easy walking distance, though you will have to cross busy Highway 70 to reach the main downtown waterfront. (252-726-6862)
Northbound AICW cruisers, or those coming in from the briny blue by way of Beaufort Inlet, can take advantage of a charted and well-marked channel that runs directly from the inlet to Taylor Creek and the Beaufort waterfront. This passage twists and turns a bit, and you must pay close attention to all markers, but otherwise most mariners can find their way safely to Taylor Creek via this route. Southbound AICW mariners are not so lucky. For time out of mind, captains could turn into the Gallant Channel at marker #35, and follow this passage through the Grayden Paul Bridge to Taylor Creek. Some years ago, the northwestern part of Gallant Channel shoaled, and a canoe might well find the bottom now if the operator took a turn to the southeast at #35. Southbound skippers piloting vessels drawing 4 Â½ feet or less might choose to follow a more complicated passage by way of charted Russell Slue Channel, which leads in turn to the deeper portion of the Gallants Channel.
Those piloting deeper draft vessels, or those who just want to play it safe, might choose to continue tracking their way along the AICW under the high-rise Newport River Bridge. You can then swing into the seaward track of Beaufort Inlet, and soon cut off the inlet channel into the marked track to Taylor Creek, as discussed above.
Mariners bound for Morehead City can simply continue following the well-defined track of the AICW. Just north of the high-rise Newport River Bridge, you might choose to turn west and visit impressive Morehead City Yacht Basin (MCYB) (see below). Or, you can cruise under the bridge, follow the Waterway's turn to the west through the Turning Basin, and cut north into a marked channel that parallels the downtown Morehead City waterfront.
If you don't do anything else ashore in Beaufort, take a stroll along Ann Street, one block from the waterfront. The historic homes here are dreamlike, and some of the backyard gardens have to be seen to be believed. Don't miss the North Carolina Maritime Museum (315 Front St), and their across-the-street wooden boat building center. This is a superb attraction that demands the attention of every visiting cruiser. Also on Ann Street is the "Old Burying Ground." The cemetery dates back to the 1700's. The old oak trees, shaped by the winds over many years, impart an air of somber mystery as they lean over the seemingly ancient headstones. You can also take a town tour on a double decker bus, thoughtfully provided by the Beaufort Historical Association. There is perhaps no quicker way to get in touch with this historic community's past!
When it comes time to slake a healthy appetite, Beaufort is ready for you. Among a host of fine choices, be SURE to check out the Spouter Inn (218 Front St.,252-728 5190) and Beaufort Grocery Company (117 Queen St.,252-728-3899). This latter dining attraction is often noisy and serves its delectable cuisine in a high energy atmosphere. Spouter Inn offers both inside and dockside dining. In the evenings, the Scallop Parmigiana has to be experienced to understand just how fabulous seafood can be!
Once you have strolled around and dined in Beaufort, it will no longer by a mystery why this town is often considered to be the #1 success story of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
Seafood is king in Morehead City. There must be a good dozen restaurants along the waterfront where you can try out fish or shellfish in more ways than this writer could possibly enumerate. Floyds 1921 (252-727-1921) restaurant, housed in an old Morehead home place, is one of this writer's favorite. It resides just next door to Morehead City Yacht Harbor.