This blog post was updated on December 18, 2019.
Avast ye land lovers! Pirate history is a mix of myth and reality. But the tall tales are based on authentic accounts about people who actually lived, events that actually happened and places that you actually can go to today and determine for yourself what was real and what was make-believe.
Second, only to the Caribbean, America’s southeastern coast is rich with destinations thick with tales of piratical plunder and maritime misdeeds. So, we thought it would be fun to share our bounty of knowledge about some of the most fascinating pirate-related destinations along the Atlantic that you can visit. Get ready for your timbers to be shivered!
With the longest coastline in the lower 48, Florida stretches from the Atlantic almost to the Caribbean and then around to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way are yarns just as lengthy about pirates landing on Florida’s shores. A perfect port of call for anyone keen to learn about the state’s pirate history is St. Augustine, home to the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum (not to mention some of Florida’s finest Atlantic Coast beaches). The museum is reckoned to be the largest collection of pirate artifacts. Exhibits include Blackbeard’s original blunderbuss, one of only three known remaining Jolly Roger flags in the world, and the only known authentic pirate treasure chest in the world. Of course, for pirate raids of the milder and more air-conditioned variety, there’s always the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World.
Georgia’s coastline might be short but it is one the most storied with respect to pirate activity. There’s even Blackbeard Island off the state’s coast where the notorious “pirate’s booty” is said to remain buried to this day. In Savannah, you’ll find one of the state’s most historic restaurants, the Pirate’s House. The oldest standing building in Georgia, its construction was started in 1734. Originally a home for a gardener and then a tavern for seamen, its modern iteration is a restaurant. The city is mentioned a number of times in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island and the Pirate House is where locals believe the book’s Captain Flint died.
Louisiana’s most infamous pirate was the smuggler Jean Lafitte, who redeemed his reputation (and received a full pardon from President Jackson) for helping the U.S. Navy defeat the British in the War of 1812. Lafitte’s haunts were the swampy backwaters of Barataria near New Orleans, known today as the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. In NOLA’s French Quarter is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, built in the 1720s. It’s said to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the U.S. Not always a drinking establishment (though the legend has it there was plenty of imbibing here from the get-go), it was originally a blacksmith and purportedly the base of operations for Lafitte.
2018 marks the 300th anniversary of the death of Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard), who met his fate on the North Carolina coast. His ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground off the Carolina coast is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Towns like Beaufort, Ocracoke, Bath, and Greenville with spots all along the Outer Banks are steeped in tales about this vilest of pirates. Opportunities to discover local kitsch, craft, commerce, and genuine historic artifacts are many. Top attractions include the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit and Pirate Specialty Shop in Ocracoke, and the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Laboratory in Greenville.
Coastal South Carolina is similarly awash in local lore about seadogs and scallywags. Of particular interest is Charleston, where Blackbeard blockaded the city back in 1718 until he received medical supplies for his crew. Charleston is also where the “Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonnet was hanged the same year.
Our list could continue, but we hope that we’ve whet your appetite to continue your own search for vacation treasure.
What’s your favorite southeast beach or historical destination? Let us know in the comments.