First ask yourself this question: Do I want to wake up to ocean waves or slow ripples in a peaceful inlet? The Inlet Inn sits right down on Beaufort's Front Street. From the balcony of your waterfront room (starting at $155), you can watch the boats roll in at the end of the day. For more of a sandy experience, reserve an oceanfront room at the Sheraton Atlantic Beach (starting at $149). The rooms are a bit cramped with low ceilings, but you'll be pleased with the nice indoor and outdoor pools and back-door beach access. For a more affordable chain stay, try the AmeriSuites Atlantic Beach (starting at $89). It sits across the street from the beach, but it's only a short walk to public-access points.
Off to the Beach
Unpack your gear, and park yourself at the beach near the bathhouse at Fort Macon State Park. This public beach, located on the eastern edge of Atlantic Beach, features clean bathrooms. Editor's tip: Join the crew from the local kite shop, Kites Unlimited and Bird Stuff, out here around 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings for their community fun flies.
Several outfitters, such as the Outer Banks Ferry Service and Island Ferry Adventures, carry visitors from Beaufort harbor out to Shackleford Banks for less than $15 per person. This island, on the southern tip of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, features excellent shelling and a herd of about 120 free-roaming, wild horses whose ancestors are believed to have inhabited the island since the 16th century.
left: Hop a ferry for an excursion to Shackleford Banks, home to wild horses and wonderful shelling.