For the last 6 years, Pirate Adventures of the Outer Banks ($23; $12 aged 2 and under) has helped turn thousands of seemingly sweet children into first-class swashbucklers. The company, based in Manteo on Roanoke Island, offers hours of activities best suited for those ages 3 to 10—while allowing their adult caregivers to take much-needed breaks. (Some adults fully embrace the experience as well, or at least make sure to document the event with photos.)
The older pirates—many of them college students interested in education—take advantage of their young guests’ imaginations. This isn’t a static tour, where customers sit and watch a show. The crew first teaches its new members proper lingo, marks them with seaworthy tattoos and offers some appropriate garb. Then the young buccaneers follow their guides through the town, avoiding capture at every turn.
Once aboard the “Sea Gypsy,” the crew sets sail on Blackbeard’s waters, encountering rival pirates after the same treasure. These enemies are quickly dispatched with the help of water cannons. (Young pirates often cite knocking bad pirates off their boat with streams of water as one of the best parts of the adventure.) The crew then finds the chest, pulls it aboard and divides the booty—mostly plastic toys—among themselves.
Blackbeard’s not the only role model for young buccaneers. Anne Bonney and Mary Reed, two well-known female pirates, also prowled these inlets. The wreckage of Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, was found in 1996, about 20 feet off Atlantic Beach. The infamous captain was caught and beheaded here by the British Navy.
Those in the know recommend keeping a look out for his ghost, which can be seen swimming the waters in search of his missing head.
Pirate Adventures of the Outer Banks, 408 Queen Elizabeth Ave., Manteo, N.C. 27954. 215-473-2007.
Freelance writer Natalie Pompilio is the proud aunt of three Outer Banks pirates-in-training. She looks forward to another week in Duck, North Carolina, with this gang and hopes she doesn't have to walk the plank.
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