It’s Barefoot Wade rather than Beyoncé. It’s sundresses and sandals rather than short skirts and high heels. It’s a stroll along the boardwalk, with warm, summer breezes blowing in the sounds of acoustic guitars and gulls.
It’s Beaufort by the Sea, and if you’re looking for a thumping, dance club nightlife, look elsewhere. That’s not Beaufort.
It’s a sunset cruise on the Crystal Coast Lady, a dinner of jerk tuna and scallops at the Queen Anne’s Revenge. It’s a cold beer upstairs at The Dock House, where Barefoot Wade and other musicians entertain a casually-dressed crowd that seems to enjoy the simpler things in life.
“It’s for couples and families,” said Lee Whitley, who was strolling along the boardwalk with his wife Dawn on a recent Friday night in Beaufort. “I think that’s the way they want it.”
The couple lives in Charlotte but also has a place in Beaufort.
“It’s our home away from home,” Dawn Whitely said. “The sunsets are magnificent. I love the people. I’ve never met an unfriendly person.”
Beaufort offers an alternative to the busy beach scene. Front Street was made for walking. During the day, shops such as Art and Soul, Island Outfitters, Top Deck and Scuttlebutt beckon the curious shopper.
But as the afternoon turns to evening, diners can enjoy a late lunch or early dinner. From a burger – shrimp or cheese – at the Royal James Café to the more exquisite menu at the Beaufort Grocery Co. on Queen Street.
Of course, there’s waterfront dining at Finz, the Dockhouse and Queen Anne’s Revenge, among others, all offering a unique take on some traditional seafood and sandwiches. The restaurants look out over Taylor’s Creek, where pleasure boats slowly pass some of the larger yachts tied up at the dock.
After dinner, some ice cream at the General Store is a popular treat for families, or a sunset cruise aboard the Crystal Coast Lady may be an option.
“We’ve been on a lot of sunset cruises over the last 15 years, and this was one of the best,” John Stephens said as he got off the boat with his wife Julia.
The couple is from Pelzer, S.C., but Julia lived in nearby Harkers Island as a child.
“We come up at least a couple of times a year,” John Stephens said.
At the Queen Anne’s Revenge, you just might run into folks Killin’ Time, a two-person acoustic duo that was performing on a recent Friday night.
“It’s awesome,” Dale Nelson said of playing in Beaufort with guitarist Mark Pittman. “The people are real responsive. People get to hang out and enjoy our style of music on the coast.
“We meet a lot of people, people from all over the country. Where else can you do that but in Beaufort.”
Nelson said he started coming to Beaufort as a child 25 years ago with his father, a fellow musician who also used to play in Beaufort.
“It’s a tradition,” he said of playing the waterfront.
He said what makes Beaufort is its diversity, from the Backstreet Pub on Middle Lane behind Clawson’s restaurant to the Cru Wine Bar and Store on Turner Street.
“It’s eclectic,” he said. “You have four or five different things you can listen to, and all of it is within walking distance. You can go door-to-door and stop and listen and then go down the block to the next place. You can listen to something different all night.”
For more information on Beaufort, go online to www.crystalcoastnc.org, www.ncoastalchamber.com or beaufort.insiderinfo.us.