N.C. town’s food and wine event a delightful draw… April 26-30, 2017

Beaufort Wine & Food Festival is a splendid excuse to take in the pleasures of this historic town, established in 1709 and the crown jewel of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. While the culinary festival allows you to spend nights sipping wine and peeking into some of the most gracious homes lining the streets of this rustic, lost-in-time seaside community, days are best spent soaking up the natural beauty of the Southern Outer Banks. An 8-hour drive from Atlanta (or a 1 ½-hour flight to nearby New Bern), Beaufort (pronounced “BO-fort”) has no shortage of comfortable hotels and cozy bed and breakfasts, though families may want to consider renting a beach home on Emerald Isle, about 30 minutes west.

Begin your stay with a crab-cake sandwich and a cup of gumbo at Beaufort Grocery Co. Don’t miss the saganaki appetizer (Kasseri cheese flamed in brandy and scooped up with bread) or the classic dive bar in back of the joint. The saganaki will warm your bones for a brisk ferry ride around Shackleford Banks, famous for the 100 or so wild horses that roam the pristine barrier island. Next stop: Harkers Island, home of the picture-perfect Cape Lookout Lighthouse. For crystalline views of the Crystal Coast, it’s well worth climbing every step.

Nature lovers with a spare morning or afternoon can explore the salt-water-soaked Croatan National Forest. A terrific, slow-paced way to see the flora and fauna is via kayak or stand-up paddle board, which can be rented at Hot Wax Surf Shop.

By now you have probably worked up a whale of an appetite. The Wine & Food weekend offers two primo evening events to cap a strenuous day.

The Friday night Wine Walkabout lets you wander the historic district, stopping by private homes to enjoy wine pairings and bites from regional chefs. (A highlight of the 2016 tour was a visit to the impeccably decorated, light-filled home of novelist Kristy Woodson Harvey.)

The festival culminates in the swanky Grand Reserve Tasting & Auction, where you can hobnob with the well-heeled, do some serious grazing at chef stations and bid big money on pricey bottles. To get to the auction, hop a Water Bug from downtown Beaufort. These cute little canopied boats are a breezy way to survey the landscape from Taylor’s Creek and to drink in the magic of a memorable stay.

DETAILS:

Beaufort Wine & Food Festival
beaufortwineandfood.org
Tickets start at $50

Emerald Isle Realty
emeraldislerealty.com
Rental homes start at about $700 a week from May to September; or $1,500 a week during summer peak.

Beaufort Grocery Co.
beaufortgrocery.com

Hot Wax Surf Shop
hotwaxsurfshop.com

Water Bug Tours
waterbugtours.com

STORY: Wendell Brock