Maritime / Pirate History sites?
March 27, 2007 7:43 PM   Subscribe

What are the best maritime / pirate history sites on the east coast and within a 6 hour drive of the DC area?

I'm planning a camping trip for my 13 year old son and myself this spring or summer. Last year we did Civil War stuff - that was easy. This year he wants to do maritime history and pirates. I've scoped out several interesting looking maritime history museums in VA Beach and NC, and it looks like the NC Maritime Museum has some of the stuff they have pulled up from Blackbeard's flag ship. Does anybody have insider knowledge of really cool options that I haven't found?

Note - I know about the Blackbeard festival in VA Beach, unfortunately we have a conflict and can't make it.
posted by COD to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you stop for a day or two in Manteo, NC, you can visit the Elizabeth II -- actually walk around on it, look through portholes, it's a fabulous tour. There are actors dressed in period costume who walk around and talk to you. There's a model early colonial village. I think it would be heaven for a 13-year-old.

Google images has more photos.

Also, you could see the outdoor drama "The Lost Colony" - they kind of gloss over the whole sea voyage, but it really gives an amazing and moving account of what the colonists faced. It's horrendously popular, it's been going successfully for years, and it takes place at night after the more touristy stuff will be closed.

And, if you have time, the largest (I think) hang-gliding school in the world is about 10 minutes away on the barrier island - Kitty Hawk Kites runs this school, which has 2-3 hour lessons that take place on the dunes (not too high). So cool and fun.

Kitty Hawk Kites also rents parasails and the like (canoeing in the sound, etc.) if you're into that sort of thing.

In another NC coastal place, Wilmington (further south), you can tour an actual US Navy battleship.
also pretty cool.
posted by amtho at 8:16 PM on March 27, 2007

I like the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, VA. They have had some awesome pirate exhibits in the past. Right now, their big thing is having the USS Monitor's turret on display.
posted by 4ster at 8:39 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I seem to remember the Outer Banks having some pirate history. Not sure if your other NC references refer to that.
posted by kookoobirdz at 8:50 PM on March 27, 2007

Mystic Seaport in Connecticut is one of the best maritime history places ("living history") in the US. It would be around 6 h, maybe a bit less if you're lucky with traffic. I'm not sure what they have about pirates, but they always have new stuff coming in.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:24 PM on March 27, 2007

Check out the Outerbanks - It's loaded with amazing maritime history - Read Torpedo Junction by Homer Hickam as a guide- it's about WWII & the U-Boat war off the East Coast.
posted by ranchgirl7 at 10:34 PM on March 27, 2007

I'll second Manteo, it's a lovely town. There is an aquarium there that can kill a couple of hours, and one of the exhibits is a "graveyard of the Atlantic" that has a replica of the USS Monitor.

Also in the Outer Banks, and if you're serious about camping, you could make the trip down to Ocracoke. They're big on Blackbeard lore down there, and we visited there with my teen brother recently. You have to ferry your car over, which can be fun. There is also a British Cemetary that has a wonderful sense of history.

During our trip we visited several ship wreck sites, some that you would need to dive, others right on the beach. YEARS ago we took a flight tour over the islands, and the water was so clear that the pilot could point out wrecks offshore to us. I think that was a perfect set of circumstances and we were lucky, but if that is something that interests you, we used the tour next to the Wright Brothers memorial.
posted by librarianamy at 5:23 AM on March 28, 2007

My parents used to go to the maritime museum in VA on dates when they were first married and my dad was stationed at the naval base! Woo!

We went there twice, when I was 13 and then again when I was 15, and I thought it was a nice museum and had some excellent displays.

As an added bonus, you might consider going to Williamsburg, VA, which is not strictly maritime or pirate-y, but it definitely 18th century, and is only 33 miles away or so. I had a ton of fun there, and it might put him in the right frame of mind to think about 18th century pirate ships and sailors, etc.
posted by santojulieta at 6:11 AM on March 28, 2007

It may not have any pirate stuff, but you might enjoy The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels MD. It's in a charming little town and I suspect there might be good camping nearby.

If he's still interested in boats (or airplanes) in two years, then take him to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in NYC. Unfortunately, right now the aircraft carrier Intrepid is away being refurbished for the next two years. In addition to the carrier, they also have a submarine, destroyer and some other ships there.
posted by 14580 at 9:19 AM on March 28, 2007

Charleston, South Carolina is probably a bit more than 6 hours away from DC but it would be an ideal spot for a maritime/pirate themed trip. Charleston is a lovely town with a lot of history.

At Patriots Point you can tour the USS Yorktown. There is also a submarine, a destroyer, and a Coast Guard cutter. All of those ships are from World War II.

You can walk around the Battery and take a boat ride through the Harbor. There are plenty of pirate themed tours as well. Can't vouch for the quality of any of them though.

A fort on an island might be a bit of stretch, but Fort Sumter is worth a visit. Fort Moultrie is another Civil War era fort you can visit.

Oh, and take a look at this. There is also a Charleston Maritime Festival in May featuring tall ships from around the world. I might head up for that myself.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 10:26 AM on March 28, 2007

Oh, I also wanted to second Mystic Seaport and mention that you can tour America's first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, in Groton.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 10:35 AM on March 28, 2007

Great answers, thanks for the help. I posed the same question on a pirate enthusiast bulletin board and got exactly zero responses.
posted by COD at 4:38 PM on March 28, 2007

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