Once we arrived in Beaufort, after the rather harrowing journey (see previous post), we had a wonderful time. I feel very blessed that all three of my children remain friends and enjoy spending time with each other. Since they’re widely dispersed geographically, the opportunities to gather aren’t as frequent as any of us would like, but perhaps they’re all the more special for that.
On our first full day there, it was still raining, windy, and chilly, but we decided to go ahead with some of the things we wanted to do that were mostly (or at least partly) indoors. That meant two museums which were high on the interest list: Fort Macon State Park and the Beaufort Maritime Museum.
Fort Macon is a restored pre-Civil war fort built on the tip of a coastal island overlooking the inlet from the Atlantic. The main part of the fort is below ground-level and built roughly in the shape of a diamond surrounding an open field. The cells of the building, once used as barracks, kitchens, and storage areas now all feature museum-type displays that show in (sometimes dismaying) detail what life was like for the men who served there. Each area displays a different time, starting from the pre-Civil war era when it was built, up to World War II, which was the last time it was used for military purposes.
The fort is surrounded by raised cannon emplacements. The State Park also include a very nice visitor’s center and displays. Weather prevented us taking advantage of some of the features like hiking trails and beach access, but we did spend most of the morning inside the fort and visitor’s center.
After lunch at a local Beaufort restaurant, we walked over to the N.C. Maritime Museum in downtown Beaufort. The museum actually has two parts, a shipbuilding museum and the broader one. We skipped the shipbuilding, though we’ll probably go back for a closer look at a later date. The main museum has a number of exhibits that interested us particularly.
Perhaps most spectacularly, the museum is the storage and display space for most of the artifacts retrieved in the undersea archaeological effort on the presumed site of Blackbeard’s main ship, the Queeen Anne’s Revenge.
I can highly recommend both places. They’re well-kept and well-run. Both had impressive displays that highlight unique moments in history. Fort Macon obviously leans heavily on military history, though it also highlights interesting facets of life at the time, including some of the gritty realities. (Bedbugs, anyone? Nineteenth century soldiers had to take apart their beds at least once a week and clean everything thoroughly to control pests. They also slept two to a cot in a frame the size of a regular single bed.)
The Maritime Museum also includes some fascinating information about and displays of marine flora and fauna. The display of a whale’s heart intrigued the children.
I can also report, from personal experience, that both have nice gift shops, well stocked with things that will tempt to children to nag their parents. And grandparents will find plenty of items that can be supplied with the justification that they’re educational.
We concluded the day with a trip to Downeast Marine, the boat repair and sales place my daughter and her husband own. That was quite educational, too, though the children mostly wanted to see the 20-foot-tall statue of Blackbeard Liz and Alan acquired along with the shop.
Sunday morning was Easter, which meant baskets and Easter Egg Hunts in the morning. In the afternoon, we headed for Atlantic Beach, for a stroll on the sand. It was still chillly, but the rain had stopped and the sun actually appeared in the course of the afternoon. Joe and family live in Hythe, Kent, on a hill overlooking the English Channel. They found the cool, breezy weather pretty normal, though I found it chilly. They reported the water was warmer than the Channel water and the children took their shoes off to go paddling in the shallow surf.