10 great places to swashbuckle down

Avast, ye mateys! Saturday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day (talklikeapirate.com), the perfect time to roam like a rebel. Colin Woodard, author of The Republic of Pirates, shares with Sarah Sekula for USA TODAY his favorite spots to don an eye patch and yell 'Arrr!'

Colonial WilliamsburgWilliamsburg, Va. This reconstruction of the 18th-century town features horse-drawn carriages, local militia drills and the lavish palace of Gov. Alexander Spotswood. "It's just one of the scores of buildings you can tour, many of them manned by period re-enactors," Woodard says. "Blackbeard's men were tried in the genteel Capitol and incarcerated in the jail, which is still standing after three centuries." If you have energy left, nearby recreational opportunities run the gamut from lawn bowling to croquet. 800-447-8679; history.org

Blackbeard Pirate FestivalHampton, Va. Plan ahead for this raucous annual festival (the next one is July 9-11, 2010, Hampton's 400th anniversary) where you'll land smack-dab in the middle of "re-enactments, swordfights, music, and lots of arrr — all taking place in the actual city where some of Blackbeard's men were captured and later hanged," Woodard says. Next, stroll downtown Hampton's outdoor art gallery and step into the Cousteau Society for underwater photography and relics from Cousteau expeditions, including a shark cage, mini sub and a rhinoceros-dented jeep. blackbeardpiratefestival.com

White Point GardensCharleston, S.C. "Stede Bonnet (sometimes called the gentleman pirate) met his end on the gallows at White Point, and you can see the foundations of the building where he spent his final days under the old battery," Woodard says. Beyond the history, the meticulous gardens are the kind of place where string quartets aren't uncommon and during high season jasmine and honeysuckle scents are as inviting as the local Southern charm. 843-853-8000; charlestoncvb.com

Pirates of NassauNassau, Bahamas Step back into the Golden Age of Piracy in what was once a popular pirate paradise. For kids: The interactive Pirates of Nassau attraction offers a dungeon tour and room to romp aboard a pirate ship-replica. For adults: A nearby pub serves up pirate punch and happy-hour deals to boot. Before leaving, test your bartering skills at the Straw Market and stock up on rum cakes at Bay Street's duty-free shops. pirates-of-nassau.com/museum.htm

Pyrate InvasionBeaufort, N.C. Come August, 70 pirate actors will bombard this quaint town during the Pyrate Invasion (which uses the Old English spelling of the word). If you're lucky, you may spot a Capt. Jack Sparrow look-alike. For a more relaxing route, Woodard recommends picnicking by the water and strolling through the North Carolina Maritime Museum, full of cannons and gild guineas recovered from the Queen Anne's Revenge. beaufortpyrateinvasion.com

Llandoger Trow PubBristol, England As the backdrop for much of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Bristol is said to be the birthplace of Blackbeard, one of the era's most feared pirates. It also marks the spot of Llandoger Trow, a 17th-century pub with ceilings so low, you almost stoop — possible proof that pirates were short, Woodard says. Join "Pirate Pete" for the guided tour of the historic harborside, where you'll find a secret tunnel or two. Equally fascinating: "the home of pirate hunter Woodes Rogers and cathedrals where pirates and pirate hunters once rubbed shoulders," he says. visitbristol.co.uk

Pirates WeekCayman Islands From chowing down to dancing until the wee hours, pirates sure knew how to live it up. Escape to the islands Nov. 12-22 for an adventurous agenda filled with fireworks, dart tournaments and underwater treasure hunts. Adding to the mayhem is the cardboard boat regatta at George Town harbor. Afterward, hop over to the Trial of the Pirates for a street dance finale. www.piratesweekfestival.com

City That SankPort Royal, Jamaica "Once known as the 'wickedest city on Earth,' Port Royal was the primary base of the late 17th-century buccaneers," Woodard says. That is, until half the town slid into the sea in a violent 1692 earthquake. Today, the warm Caribbean waters are a diver's haven. With special permission, you can scuba near the submerged city's barnacle-covered wrecks, churches and forts. Or grab snorkel gear and nestle up to nurse sharks at nearby reefs. visitjamaica.com

Castillo de San MarcosSt. Augustine, Fla. This is hands-down one of the best spots in the USA to capture a glimpse of the pirate era, Woodard says. Here you'll see "the 17th-century fortress from which Spanish officials tried to confront the Bahamian pirates. Amazingly, it's still intact," he says. Back at street level is nearby Taberna del Gallo, a 1736 watering hole with no electricity, just flickering candles. Stick around: It is also the starting point for the city's nightly ghost tour. 800-653-2489; visitoldcity.com

Expedition Whydah Sea-Lab and Learning Center Provincetown, Mass. Off the peaceful Cape Cod coast and near the shipwrecked Whydah — a pirate vessel that sank in a storm in 1717 — is a small lab/museum displaying a mother lode of centuries-old loot, ranging from heaps of Spanish gold to pewter tableware to a surprisingly small man's boot. "Treasure hunters searched for the gold-laden wreck for centuries before it was found in the 1980s, yielding the greatest treasure-trove of pirate artifacts in the world," Woodard says. Another jewel: the area's undeveloped beaches, perfect for whale-watching. 508-487-8899; whydah.com