Ghosts of the Coast Alive in Historic Crystal Coast

Dangling like a delicate strand of pearls off the coast of North Carolina, the southern Outer Banks are a favored Atlantic beach destination of generations. Also called the Crystal Coast, they represent one of the only remaining natural barrier island systems in the world. The islands boast 85 miles of silken coastline, 56 miles of which are in the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore. Miles of shimmering water reflect countless tiny suns during the day and shatter the moon into a thousand pieces at night.

This fall, the Crystal Coast provides a glimpse into its mysterious past and with its "Ghosts of the Coast" feature. The Crystal Coast's romantic history is wrought with swashbuckling pirate tales, intriguing mysteries, a rich maritime heritage and wartime triumphs and tragedies, lending substance to a slew of ghost stories.

The Crystal Coast invites guests to experience the haunted sites of Beaufort, which was founded in 1709 and celebrates its 300th birthday this year. The historic town was the setting for Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember and is dotted with Victorian mansions from the 1700s. Most notably, the haunted Hammock House is home to a variety of ghostly activity, some courtesy of the notorious pirate, Blackbeard. It is said that the ghost of a young woman, hung by Blackbeard from a live oak tree, has been seen there, along with the spirits of three soldiers found buried under the porch and a mistress who was pushed down the stairs.

The Old Burying Grounds are shrouded by ancient live oaks stretching their arms over weathered tombstones, some dating back to 1731. This famously haunted cemetery is the final resting place of Revolutionary War soldiers, famous privateers and even a young girl buried in a keg of rum. Visitors to Fort Macon, a five-sided fort that served during the Civil War and World War II, search for soldiers haunting its grounds. Perhaps you might also find Blackbeard's crew from the legendary Queen Anne's Revenge, sunken and abandoned in the perilous waters off the shore of the Crystal Coast, now known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" where more than 2,000 ships have perished, witnessed by the 150-year-old Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Visit Shackleford Banks, a nine-mile long island where mysterious wild Spanish Mustangs are the only permanent residents and the assumed descendants of horses that survived the shipwrecks of Spanish galleons more than 300 years ago.

A variety of lodging options on the Crystal Coast suit every lifestyle and budget from seaside cottages and massive beach mansions to oceanfront hotel accomodations and coastal bed and breakfast inns. A sampling of accomodation rates for the fall include the Inlet Inn: $85/night and Pecan Tree Inn Bed & Breakfast: $110/night both in Beaufort, Holiday Inn Morehead City: $105/night, Sheraton Atlantic Beach: $154/night and Bluewater MAC's eight-bedroom oceanfront rental, Sand Dollar: $3,595.

For more information, visit the Crystal Coast website.


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