In the days of small sailing ships, North Carolina inlets and sounds attracted seafarers seeking safe haven. Beaufort was one of the first harbors to be designed as a port of entry during colonial times. Along with this distinction came danger. There was ever-present threat of raids from the sea by hostile nations and pirates such as the infamous Blackbeard.
The need for defense was clearly illustrated when, in 1747, Spanish raiders attacked English colonists at Beaufort, captured the town and held it for several days. British raiders also captured and occupied Beaufort in 1782.
To defend this vulnerable coastal region against future attacks from the sea, plans were developed for the construction of four defensive forts along the eastern seaboard, one of which was to be built at Old Topsail (now Beaufort) Inlet. Construction began in 1756; the fort (Fort Dobbs) was never completed, and the harbor remained defenseless until 1808 when Fort Hampton was built on the tip of Bogue Banks.
Situated about 300 yards east of the present site of Fort Macon, the small brick-masonry fort protected the harbor for more than a decade. It was later deserted and, in 1825, was washed into the inlet by a hurricane.
The 1800s: Construction and Civil War
Construction of the fort that now stands began in 1826. The fort was garrisoned in 1834 and named after U.S. Senator Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, who procured the funds to build the fort.
A system of stone jetties was constructed in the 1840s to control erosion. This project was initially engineered by Robert E. Lee, who later became a general of the Confederate States Army.
At the start of the Civil War, North Carolina seized Fort Macon. The Confederate force was later attacked in 1862, and the fort fell into Union hands once again. For the duration of the war, the harbor served as a coaling station for Union Navy ships.
Fort Macon was a federal prison from 1867 until 1876, garrisoned during the Spanish-American War and closed in 1903.
The 1900s to present
Congress offered the sale of Fort Macon Military Reservation as surplus federal property in 1923. Establishing a system of state parks, North Carolina purchased Fort Macon for one dollar, making it the second state park in 1924.
Restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 to 1935, the fort was garrisoned for the last time during World War II.
Situated at the eastern end of the 424-acre park, portions of the fort have been restored to appear as they did during the Civil War.
2303 East Fort Macon Road
Atlantic Beach, NC 28512
GPS: 34.697952, -76.678340
Fort Macon: 9am - 5:30pm daily.
Coastal Education and Visitor Center: 9am - 5pm daily.
Bookstore: 9am - 5pm Phone 252-247-3100
November - February:
8am - 5:30pm
March & October 8am - 7pm
April, May and September: 8am - 8pm
June - August: 8am - 9pm
Fort Parking Area:
October - March: 8am - 6pm
April, May and September: 8am - 7pm
June - August: 8am - 8pm
Closed Christmas Day
10am - 5:45pm Memorial Day until Labor Day, if staffing permits
8am - 1pm, 2pm - 5pm Monday - Friday
Closed state holidays