Unlike many places in the country where history is merely illustrated through museum exhibits and stories, the historical significance of the Southeast coast is a tangible part of daily life in Eastern North Carolina. Not only can you see the displays of military uniforms of days gone by, but you can feel the coolness of the stone as you trace your hand down the wall of Fort Macon State Park. You can feel the weight of the door of the Courthouse of 1796 and taste the flavor of an original Pepsi-Cola at its birthplace in New Bern. Step back in time with Eastern North Carolina through some of these popular historic sites and relive history in ways you never thought were possible.
CAPE LOOKOUT NATIONAL SEASHORE –The 56-mile of Cape Lookout National Seashore is some of the most natural undeveloped stretches of beach to be found in the United States. The three barrier islands that make up the park are only accessible by private boat or water ferry, so getting there may require a little planning as well as reservations during the busy summer months. But once there, this pristine sliver of land is a haven for shelling, fishing, camping and more. Hard to imagine a place where you can spend a day on the beach without encountering another guest? You’ll find it at Cape Lookout. The southern end of the island is home to one of the state’s most recognizable lighthouses, now more than 150 years old. The lighthouse, which is open Thursday-Saturday during the summer months, is maintained by the National Park Service and its headquarters is located at the end of Island Road, Harkers Island. Details: 252-728-2250, www.nps.gov/calo.
BEAUFORT HISTORIC SITE – Located in the 100 block of Turner Street in the heart of Beaufort, the Beaufort Historic Site takes you back to the early days through its collection of restored buildings, most of which were moved to the site. Living History programs and a full calendar of annual events, including June’s popular Old Homes and Garden Tour, keep visitors coming back again and again. See what life was like 300 years ago by browsing the Courthouse of 1796, peeking in to the apothecary shop and strolling through the Old Burying Ground. Guided and self-guided tours are available as well as double-decker bus tours of town. Don’t miss the Mattie King Davis Art Gallery full of work by regional artists. Check www.beauforthistoricsite.org for a calendar of major events organized by the Beaufort Historical Association. Details: 800-575-SITE.
FORT MACON STATE PARK – With a new visitor’s center and a schedule of daily programs, the state’s second most visited park continues to draw visitors to the northern peak of Bogue Banks. Fort Macon State Park encompasses 385 acres of beach, dunes and maritime forest, but it’s the pentagonal brick Civil War fortress garrisoned for the Spanish-American War that brings the visitors in droves. While some casements have been transformed into museum exhibits, others have been left untouched (except for a few safety precautions) so guests can truly experience what life in the fort was like. Hike the nature trail, fish from rock jetties or stop by the bathhouse area for the public swimming beach, boardwalk, picnic area and educational programs. Details: 252-726-3775, www.ncparks.gov.
TRYON PALACE – The reconstructed Tryon Palace, originally built in 1770 for British Colonial governor William Tryon, served as North Carolina’s colonial capital. The Georgian-style mansion fell into disrepair and was greatly damaged by fire, however reconstruction began in the 1950s and continues to welcome visitors today. In 2010, the site opened the NC History Center, a state-of-the-art museum, theater and meeting space. A full calendar of ongoing educational programming and grand holiday events makes Tryon Palace an integral part of the New Bern landscape. Details: 252-514-4900, www.tryonpalace.org.
CROATAN NATIONAL FOREST – Ready for a hike? Get back to nature with the Croatan National Forest, with its collection of hiking trails, boat launches, campgrounds and day-use areas. The Croatan is home to a large number of carnivorous plants native to the area, including the Venus flytrap. Civil War buffs will want to visit the site where the Battle of New Bern was fought, now a portion of the national forest. Headquarters is located at 141 East Fisher Ave., just outside of New Bern. Details: 252-638-5628, www.fs.usda.gov.
BIRTHPLACE OF PEPSI – When Caleb Davis Braham dropped out of medical school he was sure he could develop a niche for himself as a pharmacist. What he started, however, was one of the most popular soft drinks in the country. Pepsi-Cola was born in the back room of Bradham’s Drug Co., 256 Middle St., New Bern. What began as Brad’s Drink, a blend of carbonated water, sugar, pepsin, kola nut extract, vanilla and what he termed “rare oils” is honored today at the old-fashioned soda fountain where it all began. Stop in for themed merchandise or a ice cold Pepsi from the fountain. Details: 252-636-5898 or www.pepsistore.com.
POPLAR GROVE PLANTATION – Poplar Grove Plantation, between Hampstead and Wilmington, offers a snapshot of life on a peanut plantation. Costumed guides lead visitors through the restored mansion, recount its colorful history and demonstrate skills important to daily 19th Century life. Poplar Grove Plantation hosts a number of annual events including an Herb and Garden Fair and a Christmas Open House. Details: 910-686-9518, www.poplargrove.com.
MOORE’S CREEK NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD – Moore’s Creek is the site of the February 1776 American Revolution battle in which North Carolina Revolutionaries defeated a force of North Carolina loyalists, in part thwarting a British invasion of the Southern colonies. Visitors can follow a 1-mile trail with exhibits leading through the battlefield and across Moore’s Creek. The site is a popular spot for fishing, nature walks and wildlife viewing. Details: 910-283-5591.