Eastern Home & Travel May/June 2017 - Page 46

of the horses, which number more than 100. We watch as a pair of horses swim from a narrow spit of land back to Shackleford Island, their heads held high, nostrils snorting. It’s a sight you’re unlikely to see anywhere else. On another small island, a new foal hides behind her mother and Carolyn adds the youngster to her list. “They’re one of the biggest tourist attractions,” Carolyn says later as we enjoy a picnic near the lighthouse. Boats ferry folks over from the mainland to view the horses en route to Cape Lookout National Seashore, where you can spend an afternoon hiking, swimming and bird watching. The National Park Service gives tours of the stunning lighthouse, its 207 steps not for the faint of heart. The view from the top includes the sparkling Atlantic, the horses of Shackleford Banks and the remote windswept beaches, which makes the climb worthwhile. H I S TO R I C V I L L A G E The Crystal Coast offers lots of options for outdoor lovers. One day I take a bike ride along a paved trail on Emerald Isle, startling a killdeer whose piercing cry startles me in return. Another afternoon I sign up for a tour with Barrier Island Kayaks. For two hours, our group paddles languidly around the sound, finally ending up at Fossil Beach, known for its abundance of fossilized shark teeth. Like excited schoolchildren, the other kayakers and I begin our treasure hunt. Soon I find one, then another, then another—shiny black teeth, barely a centimeter across, purportedly 6 million years old, according to our guide. They are amazing souvenirs I will treasure always. Families will love the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, which takes visitors on a journey from the mountains to the sea. Exhibits focus on fish and mammals indigenous to both the fresh and saltwater ecosystems of 46 EASTERN HOME & TRAVEL North Carolina, including river otters, alligators and tropical fish. My favorite exhibit, “Living Shipwreck,” features a three-quarters size replica of a German U-Boat sunk off the North Carolina coast by a Coast Guard cutter in 1942. Three viewing windows provide plenty of opportunities for watching the variety of species that swim around the shipwreck in this 306,000-gallon exhibit. Piped-in music lends a peaceful vibe to this meditative spot. As you may expect, the Crystal Coast’s strategic location also invited attacks over the years. Blackbeard pirated these waters, and his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, ran aground in Beaufort Inlet. You’ll find an exhibit featuring artifacts recovered from the shipwreck in the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Plan to spend some time in this historic village, named to several best-of lists by Travel + Leisure magazine. First take a trolley tour and learn about the city’s storied past, then drop in at Front Street Grill at Stillwater, to sip a cocktail on the waterfront patio and enjoy an order of signature baked oysters. Civil War buffs