Beaufort, North Carolina. I knew I would love it before I arrived. Don’t ask me how I knew about this place – probably something to do with a Nicholas Sparks novel/movie, since that’s how most people know about small towns in North Carolina, right? But either way, I knew of it. I had it all pictured in my mind – small, quaint, typically Southern. I was expecting white houses with wraparound porches, swinging chairs, people jogging with their dogs, sweet tea and ice chinking in pitchers on tables while the boats swayed in the dock water. All sparkling in bright summer sunshine.
I was right.
We spent the better part of a day in Beaufort. It was a fifteen minute or so drive from the house where I was staying, and even the drive was enjoyable: picturesque roads, high bridges, perfect views. We arrived early – well, 10:00am, which for me is more like midday but for my holiday roomie is like the crack of dawn – so that we could catch a ferry. We were aiming for Shackleford, but that wasn’t available (we were a few days early for the start of the season). Instead, we headed to Bird Shoal. We were hoping for wild horses and shells.
The boat trip was fast – fifteen minutes or less – which, for someone who is not a fan of water travel, was a good thing. There was only us and one other quiet family. We got our first wish from a distance: wild horses on the shore. But on the shore of another island where we weren’t heading. The boat got us as close as possible, and I was able to snap a lovely photograph of the magnificent creatures.
When we got to the island it was more than I expected. It really was a deserted island. We spotted a handful of other people, but that was it. It was quieter and more peaceful than anywhere I have ever been. We walked for a few hours, my toes in the cool water. The sun was high and hot and the breeze just right. We searched for wild horses but found none. We searched for shells and found plenty. We enjoyed the quiet.
By the time the ferry came back around to pick us up I didn’t want to leave. But, ever the practical sort, I needed the bathroom and that’s one thing the deserted island didn’t offer.
We spent the rest of the day in Beaufort. My holiday roomie likes to shop. I mean, really likes to shop. We went in every single store. I didn’t come away empty handed, of course – birthday present for mum, new shirt, ideas for what to do with my shell haul. The streets of Beaufort themselves are perfect: absolutely what you imagine a small Southern town at the coast to look like. I walked away from the main streets and wandered the azalea-lined avenues just to look.
We ended up at the local cemetery. Not as morbid as it sounds, I promise you. It had a certain charm about it: the trees hanging low, the unique graves to explore, the perfect white church. There was lots to see, like the grave of a little girl buried in a barrel of rum, now adorned with gifts and trinkets left by visitors over the years. Or the British soldier buried standing up in salute.
We ended the day in the full heat of the sun, eating ice cream outside the general store. The ice cream was delicious, the sun burned my toes, and again, I wished I didn’t have to leave.