Beaufort is about 150 miles southeast of Raleigh, is probably the nicest of North Carolina's coastal towns: a relaxing place to hang out, or just sit around on the waterfront, which heats up at night. The Maritime Museum has good displays on local ecology and shipping history (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 2-5pm; free; tel 252/728-7317). In the restored area on Turner Street, off the waterfront, you'll find handsome old houses, an apothecary and the city jail. Across from the museum, you can take a more active excursion with The Watercraft Center (tel 252/728-6330), who have guided kayak eco-tours of the surrounding waterways including the Shackleford Banks (tours start at $40, kayak rentals $10 per hour, $30 per half-day, $55 per day). The main house serves as the town welcome center (Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; tel 252/728-5225 or 1-800/575-SITE).
Beaufort Historic Site, in the 100 block of Turner Street, includes the 1767 Joseph Bell House; the 1825 Josiah Bell House; the 1796 Carteret County Courthouse; the 1829 county jail; the 1859 apothecary shop and doctor's office; and the 1778 Samuel Leffers House, home of the town's first schoolmaster. Tours are given Monday to Saturday at 10am, 11:30am, 1pm, and 3pm. Adults pay $6 for the tour; children older than 5 are charged $4. Not included on the tour is the 1732 Rustell House, an art gallery; entry is free of charge.
A block away is the Old Burying Ground, dating from 1709 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Narrated tours aboard a British double-decker bus are offered on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 2:30pm year-round, for $6 per person. You can also purchase a self-guided tour brochure for $1. Call tel. 252/728-5225 for more information.
From modest beginnings, the North Carolina Maritime Museum, 315 Front St. (tel. 252/728-7317) Admission is free. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from 1 to 5pm; it's closed on major holidays.
Discovery Diving Co., 414 Orange St. (tel. 252/728-2265) The company offers charter diving tours for prices ranging from $50 to $110 per person, plus use of the company's equipment. Tanks rent for $12 to $18, with regulators going for $6 and weights for $2. Masks and fins are priced at $3 each. Call ahead for equipment reservations.