This year marks the 300th anniversary of notorious pirate Blackbeard’s death in North Carolina. Spending two years along the coastal waters of the state in an area known as the Crystal Coast as well as the Outer Banks, Blackbeard is at every turn: hotels, restaurants, breweries, attractions and tours are named after him.
To celebrate the tricentennial, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources features a Blackbeard 300 Pirate Portal with numerous attractions and things to do in the state. Follow the QAR (Queen Anne’s Revenge) traveling exhibit across the state or follow in the footsteps of Blackbeard on your own pirate adventure in North Carolina.
Incorporated in 1723, Beaufort is North Carolina’s third-oldest town. Pronounced “Bo-fort,” the small town is located on the Beaufort Inlet, where sailors could arrive from the Atlantic in a safe harbor. It is here where Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was run aground in an effort, they say, to hide out on an unmarked schooner. The ship’s remains rests at the bottom of the inlet.
Things to Do:
- Legends of Lore Tour. Join Hungry Town Tours on a walking or biking tour around Beaufort, where you can learn about the seaport town. You’ll hear about Blackbeard, as well as the little girl buried in a rum barrel, amongst other legendary stories.
- North Carolina Maritime Museum. The Beaufort location of the North Carolina museums is the official repository for artifacts recovered from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s ship that sank off the coast. Researchers at East Carolina University in Greenville have been tirelessly working for years (and will continue for years to come) to recover items from the ship’s wreckage, including cannons, weapons and dinnerware.
- Beaufort Pirate Invasion. Visit during the annual Beaufort Pirate Invasion, which takes place every August. Filled with hundreds of pirate-wearing visitors eager to step back in time, the weekend-long event features a mock trail, pirate hangings, sword fighting, weapons demonstrations and pirate and militia re-enactors taking over the town.
Where to Stay: Beaufort Inn & Suites is located in the historic district overlooking the water. Guests enjoy patios or balconies with water views and comfortable accommodations. Complimentary breakfast, popcorn and hot beverages are available.
Considered a part of the Outer Banks, leave the Crystal Coast behind by ferry, which accepts cars by advanced reservation. The two-hour ferry ride offers just a taste of what sailing in these waters may have been like for Blackbeard. Arrive at the island that to this day has many descendants of William Howard, Blackbeard’s quartermaster, third in command. It is here some say Blackbeard’s treasure is buried, and where islanders claim they have seen his ghost.
Things to Do:
- Ghost & History Tour. Join local historian and Howard descendent Amy Howard as she walks you around the village, telling tales of shipwrecks, the supernatural, and the Howard family.
- Springer’s Point Nature Preserve. This protected maritime forest is where Blackbeard and his crew once held their base of operations. Today, you can walk beneath centuries old live oaks and visit its beach.
- Schooner Windfall. Climb aboard a schooner and sail around Pamlico Sound, as Blackbeard himself once did. You’ll sail to Teach’s Hole, where his final battle took place, on the Silver Lake Tour.
Where to Stay: Blackbeard’s Lodge is the island’s most historic hotel with 38 rooms. The manager’s apartment features three bedrooms, a living room, dining room and full-sized kitchen and is perfect for families.
North Carolina’s first town, established in 1705, is rumored to be Blackbeard’s hometown. While the disputes continue on whether Blackbeard was the son of Captain Beard who lived here or not, he did call Plum Point home for a short spell, as it provided an overlook of the bay and Bonner’s Point. It is also the home to Teach’s Hole, where Blackbeard was beheaded.
Things to Do:
- Bonner’s Point. This park overlooks the bay and Bath Creek, providing a calm area to enjoy fishing or kayaking, or just a picnic overlooking the waters.
- Historic Bath: Stroll the few blocks that make up Historic Bath and see the preserved Bonner House, Palmer-Marsh House and St. Thomas Church, all built in the early 1700s and representing the time when Blackbeard would have roamed. At the church, the oldest existing church in North Carolina, a grave marker notes the remains of a body from pirate-owned land, which some historians claim are actually the remains of Blackbeard’s pirate, Edward Salter.
Where to Stay: The Inn on Bath Creek is located in the heart of the historic district and is steps from Bath Creek and the overlook to Plum Point and the Pamlico River. A quaint B&B, the inn is housed in a member of the Historic Bath Garden Club Homes.
While Greenville is an actual city versus the small towns on the tour, it is also home to East Carolina University, where the QAR Lab has been in operation for years. Only the 10th largest city in the state, Greenville is the largest city in the tidal and coastal plain and the perfect place to return from your 17th century tour.
Things to Do:
- QAR Lab at East Carolina University. During the Blackbeard Tricentennial, you can arrange for a visit to the lab. Here, you’ll see how researchers painstakingly Xray concretions from the wreckage to determine what may be inside before even more painstakingly removing the concretions to uncover the artifacts before they are preserved and sent to the Maritime Museum.
- Brews and ‘Cue Tour. Although the QAR Lab is the only connection to Blackbeard in Greenville, you can drink like a pirate on the city’s Brews and ‘Cue Tour. With four local, craft breweries and six barbecue joints on the tour, eat and drink your way across the city, and get a passport stamped at each stop to prove you’ve made your mark. (Do NOT miss Sam Jones BBQ for the best fall-off-the-bone BBQ in the state.)
Where to Stay: Hilton Hotel Greenville, connected to the Convention Center, is a modern-day hotel with all of the amenities, including fitness center, room service and on-site restaurant and bar you may have visited while staying at the historic properties.
[My story originally appeared on Family Traveller USA.]