Beaufort, N.C., was founded in 1709. It is the third-oldest town in North Carolina, after the towns of Bath and New Bern. Beaufort, pronounced [BO-furt], not [BYOO-furt] as it is in South Carolina, was originally called Fishtown. It is a fishing port located on the mainland facing one of those famous inlets that let water and boats pass through the N.C. barrier islands.
When you drive from Morehead City east to Beaufort, you pass over a long causeway and then a drawbridge. As you can see, the bridge was up when I drove over to Beaufort this afternoon. There are plans to replace the old drawbridge with a high-rise bridge in the near future, but the residents of Beaufort and town, county, and state authorities do not so far seem to be able to agree on exactly where the new bridge should be built.
There are a lot of old houses in Beaufort, which has a population of about 4,000. Every year there is an old homes tour. People work very hard to preserve the look of old Beaufort, and a lot of new homes being built on the outskirts of the old town are built in the old style.
The oldest houses still standing in Beaufort date back to the 1720s. In all, about 100 Beaufort houses are "plaqued" as being of historical interest.
Beaufort is a choice stopping-off point for pleasure boats cruising down the U.S. East Coast from New England and New York toward Florida on the Intracoastal Waterway. It is home to the Duke University Marine Laboratory and the North Carolina Maritime Museum.
Near Beaufort is the Cape Lookout National Seashore, which is made up of a long string of barrier islands that are reachable only by boat. The park is centered on the Cape Lookout lighthouse. Until about 1900, the whaling and fishing village of Diamond City was located near Cape Lookout, but destructive storms finally forced its 500 or so residents to abandon the site and move to more protected islands or to the N.C. mainland.