An Insider’s Guide to Beaufort

Kristy Woodson Harvey shares her favorite spots in the waterside town that inspired her latest novel.
by Addie Ladner

Best-selling author Kristy Woodson Harvey never planned on making Beaufort her forever home. She first visited the inlet town with her family as a teenager and remembers loving the view driving over the Grayden Paul Drawbridge. Years later, she and her husband bought a white clapboard Queen Anne-style house built in 1903 on Front Street. They spent two years restoring the house while living in Kinston. “We loved coming here in the summers and working on it over time,” Harvey says. When their son entered preschool, they thought it would be fun for them to experience one year at the beach. “That’s all we thought — that it would just be one year — but we loved it so much that we figured out a way to stay forever,” Harvey says. 

Her latest novel, A Happier Life, is set in Beaufort and name-checks some of the places she’s come to love. “A Happier Life is completely set in and inspired by Beaufort and our house,” the author says. “The story is fiction but the setting is very real.”

A Happier Life comes out this summer, but WALTER will be hosting Harvey at City Club Raleigh on April 24 to launch her book tour and get a sneak preview of the story. Here, Harvey shares some of her favorite spots in Beaufort. 

What are your favorite things about living in Beaufort? 

There’s something about Beaufort that feels like going back in time. It’s a historic town, but it’s also very friendly. There’s no tangible reason, it just feels like this is where we’re supposed to be. When I started writing, I was able to get up every morning and look at the horses across the water, it’s a very inspiring place. We love to be outside and on the water. Our son loves to fish and be on the boat. It is just a good fit.

Any least favorite things? 

Sometimes in the summer, it’s hard to park and pretty busy. You just have to find different things to do. We do a lot of beach time.

Which beach specifically?  

Atlantic Beach or we take the boat to a nearby island like the Rachel Carson Reserve or Cape Lookout.

Let’s talk about what would be your quintessential Beaufort weekend. You arrive Friday afternoon…

Walk around downtown to stretch your legs then go to the NC Maritime Museum and Beaufort Historic Site, where you can hop on the double-decker bus for a great open-air riding tour of the town. Then grab pizzas at Black Sheep, which is right on the water, for low-key, great food. 

Then on Saturday…  

Grab a to-go breakfast at Cru Bar then get lunch to-go from Turner Street Market  (Harvey recommends The Bluefort sandwich) before catching a ferry ride to the Rachel Carson Reserve or Cape Lookout. Just hang out and do nothing, leave your cell phone behind, hunt for shells, and swim. It’s really easy to be untethered there. When you get back, shower and hit up dinner at Blue Moon Bistro and have a walk down the dock, where there’s usually some kind of music to hear. You can see the stars and all the lights from the sailboat masts and just relax. Backstreet Pub would be a good spot, it’s in one of the oldest buildings in town, and it’s cool.

And on Sunday…

I’d get Beaufort Grocery for lunch to-go, then head over to Atlantic Beach.

Any hidden gems for food, drink or coffee?

Aqua has great martinis. Front Street Grill at Stillwater is super laid-back and feels very islandy.

What about must-do shops? 

You can’t miss Beaufort Linen Co., Island Proper and Island Traders. 

What are your favorite places for recreation like hiking, kayaking, etc?

Atlantic Beach and the trails at Fort Macon.

Say someone was there for longer than a weekend — any day trips or things outside of Beaufort you recommend?

Shopping in Morehead City is a good outing. There are so many great home decor shops like Dee Gee’s, Dorsea and Oyster Belle. Definitely eat at Parrots on 11th. Bahia Beach House & Surf Bar at Atlantic Beach is also wonderful. And no trip there is complete without karaoke at the Tackle Box Tavern and a visit to the Beach Tavern.

Any insidery things only locals know about Beaufort?

Royal James Café is a must. Friday nights at Aqua are 33% Off Wine Night, it’s always full of locals and so fun. We also have a pretty big Mardi Gras celebration here, believe it or not!

Suggestions for overnight stays?

For a bigger hotel option, try the Beaufort Hotel. It’s on the water and the food is really good. And of course, Pecan Tree Inn if you want a classic Beaufort experience right in town.

This article was originally published on Thursday April 4, 2024 on