The Morehead City waterfront and downtown area go together hand in hand, in fact, with a number of marinas and docking spaces available for travelers who are arriving by boat. Several marinas, including the Morehead City Yacht Basin, the Portside Marina, and the Spooners Creek Marina, call this section of the Inner Banks home, and the town of Morehead City even has its own public docking facilities, newly completed, with deep water slips that are close to Arendell Street, one of the major streets that runs along Morehead City in the heart of the downtown region.
The coastal town of Beaufort has quickly become one of the most popular vacation destinations for Inner Banks travelers and boating enthusiasts of all varieties, and for good reason. The small 2.7 mile town, (surrounded by nearly a mile of water), is a vacationer and maritime lover's dream, with a hearty downtown scene lined with shops, galleries, and acclaimed restaurants, in addition to dozens of maritime supply stores.
The waterfront world of Beaufort, Morehead City, the Shackleford Banks, and everything in between is at a mariner’s fingertips when they launch from the Newport River Pier and Ramp. Located directly on the water in between Morehead City and Beaufort, this sprawling launch site is a popular destination for visiting and local mariners alike.
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of the most distinctive lighthouses along the Outer Banks coastline, due to its black and white diamond-patterned exterior, as well as its remote location along the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Accessible only by boat or a small privately-run ferry, the structure is nonetheless a striking and rewarding site, thanks to its stature and its stunning locale surrounded by miles of desolate beaches.
Hitting the seashore in Atlantic Beach is an easy venture, thanks to a number of local public beach accesses, including the sprawling Picnic Street Park. With a prime locale that straddles the borders of the Fort Macon State Park and the town limits of Atlantic Beach, this expansive parking area, known locally as "The Bathhouse," can accommodate hundreds of summer visitors, and provides a perfectly relaxing and undeveloped stretch of seashore that's easy to enjoy on any summer day.
The Shackleford Banks is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and is a barrier island system that is found just off the coast of Beaufort and Harkers Island, and which is a popular offshore beaching destination for summertime Crystal Coast visitors. Accessible only by a private ferry, water taxi, or personal vessel, the beaches are nevertheless popular with longtime Southern Outer Banks vacationers for their unspoiled beauty, exceptional fishing and shelling, and famed herd of wild ponies, known as the “Banker Horses” or “Banker Ponies.”
Kids will find a world of ways to stay entertained on the Crystal Coast, thanks to an abundance of activities along the coastal beaches, the slightly-inland towns, and everywhere in between. From mini-golf and watersports, to rainy day visits to local museums and movie theaters, here are the “must do” activities that your youngest family members will adore.
Dive into a wealth of coastal artifacts, folklore, and legendary figures with a visit to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Operating as one of three maritime museums along coastal NC, this distinctive site is known for its unique ship-worthy exterior, its vast collection of exhibits that span centuries, and its close ties with the Southern Outer Banks’ most famous resident, Blackbeard the Pirate.
The Crystal Coast's offshore waters are guarded by the US Coast Guard, and Emerald Isle is home to one of their flagship stations, encompassing a large section of the town's western edge, adjacent to the inlet, and marked by an unimposing station house that more closely resembles a classic beach cottage than a military outpost.
An easy walk that is shaded year-round, and can be easily tackled by hikers of all abilities and in virtually any season, the Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail is a great way for newcomers to uncover the more secluded natural landscapes of this otherwise resort town.
One of the most sought-after attractions of the Shackleford Banks are the famed wild horses that call this deserted barrier island terrain home – the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses. Local residents for hundreds of years, these feral horses may be shy and only make occasional appearances when humans are around, but they are nonetheless one of the most unique and popular aspects of the 56-mile long Cape Lookout National Seashore. Every beach visitor hopes for an opportunity to spot one of these feral horses in their natural environment, and often, a chance to see one of these famed island residents is just a short water taxi or ferry ride away.
For families travelling to the beach, or fishermen carrying tackle/coolers, a beach cart can be the best purchase of your vacation. These carts feature extra-wide wheels to move across soft sand, even when loaded. Carts are often built for specific scenarios, so think about the gear you’d be putting on your cart before making a decision.
The Crystal Coast Civic Center serves a variety of needs for coastal North Carolina's visitors and residents. As a popular venue for private conventions, weddings and events, as well as a public "meeting space" for local concerts and shows, the Civic Center, located along the waterfront in Morehead City, is instrumental in bringing this small coastal community together.
The Crystal Coast Tourism Authority has been instrumental in introducing newcomers to this picturesque stretch of barrier island beaches and barely-inland maritime communities, and serves as an essential tool for visitors to discover this remote but accommodating coastal region.
Crystal Coast visitors who want an easy-going day on the seashore can head to one of the most convenient public beach accesses in the region, the Circle at Atlantic Beach. Known as the main “Town Beach” and located in the heart of the busy Atlantic Beach community, The Circle offers a myriad of ways to stay entertained, both on and off the sand.
Downtown Swansboro certainly brings the town's mantra as the "Friendly City by the Sea" to life. Home to a number of acclaimed art galleries, restaurants, shops, and fun events for locals and visitors alike during virtually any time of year, a visit to the community's busiest section of town is sure to be a highlight of any Eastern North Carolina vacation.
The Havelock Tourist & Event Center and Marine Corps Aviation Exhibit, located just off of US 70 and close to the Havelock Chamber of Commerce is a must-stop for travelers who are new to this region of the Inner Banks. Stocked with military history, area information, and ample space to accommodate groups of all sizes, the center is a multi-purpose modern building dedicated to tourism, education, and all things Havelock.
The Cape Lookout National Seashore is a 56-mile long stretch of the Southern Outer Banks barrier island terrain that runs from Ocracoke Inlet to the northeast side of Beaufort Inlet. Comprised of three separate islands – the North Core Banks, the South Core Banks, and the Shackleford Banks – this wonderfully remote destination can only be accessed by a personal vessel, or a privately operated ferry or water taxi. As a result, it’s world-renowned for its miles of undeveloped and scenic beaches, its remarkable fishing, its exceptional shelling, and its abundant wildlife that thrives in the undisturbed and inherently wild environment.
The Bogue Island Fishing Pier is a legendary landmark for long time Emerald Isle vacationers. Built in the late 1950s, and operated by the same family for well over 40 years, the fishing pier is a paradise for anglers who want to take advantage of the fantastic fishing conditions that have lured in fishermen to this small coastal town for decades.
Take a walk on Pine Knoll Shores' wild side with a visit to the pristine, undeveloped Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, an expansive 265 acre nature preserve, conveniently located next to the town's most visited attraction, the North Carolina Aquarium.
Visitors who head to the Crystal Coast for the first time can be inundated and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to do, and can often wonder “Where to start first?” From historical sites to miles of beaches, there’s no shortage of ways to have fun, and newcomers can expect to enjoy a vacation that’s stuffed with all manner of coastal activities.
The small communities of Indian Beach and Salter Path, located in between Emerald Isle and Pine Knoll Shores, are scenic Crystal Coast destinations in their own right. Home to some of the area's favorite attractions, multiple options for weekly stays or long-term escapes, and plenty of gorgeous beaches and docks for travelling mariners, this region of the southern Outer Banks has just about everything a beach vacationer could ask for.
From the isolated Cape Lookout National Seashore to the beach towns in the busy southern Crystal Coast region, every community has its own set of guidelines when it comes to enjoying the sunny local shorelines. So before you head to the seashore, be sure and brush up on the local rules, regulations, and safety tips that will ensure you have a great vacation from start to finish. With so many miles to explore, and accompanying regulations that can change from region to region, a little education can go a long way in enjoying the beaches to the fullest.
Considering that the Crystal Coast has centuries of history as well as one of the most unique environments along the North Carolina coastline, it should come as no surprise that the region is home to an array of fascinating and thoroughly engaging museums. For a fun and educational rainy day activity, (or just a little excuse to get out of the sun), be sure you check out these “must see” museums that are found throughout the Crystal Coast.
The waterfront Cahooque Creek Recreation Site, located at the very corner where the Hancock and Cahoogue rivers meet up with the expansive Neuse River, is a water and boat lover's dream destination. With easy access to all three of these rivers, in addition to the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean just miles away, vessels of all varieties, from kayaks to skiffs, will find ample watery terrain to explore.
Based in the town of Beaufort, and offering departures from both Beaufort and nearby Harkers Island, Island Express Ferry Service serves as the link between the communities of the Crystal Coast and the spectacularly beautiful and isolated barrier islands of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Accommodating passengers who want to explore the miles of pristine beaches, exceptional fishing and shelling, wild horses, and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Island Express Ferry Service serves as the gateway for one of the most unforgettable adventures along the North Carolina coast.
Dive into an exploration of some of the Southern Outer Banks’ most remote shorelines with an excursion that’s led by Island Ferry Adventures. Featuring both transport to the outlying islands as well as guided tours of some of the region’s most wild spots, this tour company has a lot to offer for shell seekers, nature buffs, and everyday adventurers alike.
Kitty Hawk Kites has remodeled and opened its new doors directly on the Beaufort waterfront. This shop offers the leading selection of kites, wind art, toys, t-shirts and apparel, Hobie kayaks, and more. In addition, stop by and make your reservation for one of our new Beaufort adventures:
Visitors of all ages will have a blast at this destination that is designed for great times along the Crystal Coast shoreline. Professor Hacker's Lost Treasure Golf and Raceway is situated in the centrally located beach community of Salter Path, and is a favorite spot for families who want to have a little fun off the sand.
Crystal Coast Lady Cruises features one of the largest fleets of cruise ships along the Crystal Coast, and as a result, can effortlessly provide a number of family-friendly expeditions to vacationers who want to enjoy this delicate chain of barrier islands and coastal territory to its fullest. Based out of Beaufort, and easy to reach for any sightseer exploring the historic downtown area, visitors can enjoy unbeatable perspectives of the region’s vast array of wildlife, shorelines, and on-the-water views.
Casa San Carlo is a traditional Italian cuisine venue, serving the best dishes and drinks from authentic Italian recipes. Located in Morehead City, and a short drive from both Beaufort and Atlantic Beach. Come enjoy an a uthentic Italian meal in the ambience of an Italian bistro. Since 1992 Chef Carlo is proud to be serving fine Italian dishes for more than 25 years!Our universally comforatable atmosphere welcomes everyone inside to enjoy an authentic Italian meal. Family owned and operated owner Chef Carlo Cappiello sees that every patron leaves the restaurant, both full and happy.
There are literally endless ways to enjoy the water along the Crystal Coast, and AB Watersport Adventures has explorers of all varieties covered with a suite of rental equipment and gear to make an on-the-water expedition a day at the beach. Located along the Atlantic Beach Causeway, and easy to reach for folks staying along the barrier island as well as Morehead City, this convenient and accommodating watersports company serves as a launching point for a host of fun-filled days on the Southern Outer Banks.
As a corridor along the famed Intracoastal Waterway, it should come as no surprise that the Crystal Coast is a Mecca for mariners of all varieties. Whether you want to book a cruise that uncovers the hard-to-reach sites found just offshore, or want to sail in for a multi-day stay at a local marina, the Crystal Coast shoreline is designed for miles of maritime enjoyment.
The Bogue Sound is one of the primary enticing backdrops on the Crystal Coast. Bordering all of the coastal beach towns from Emerald Isle to Atlantic Beach, and serving as a popular portion of the Intracoastal Waterway that cruises through this coastal Carolina region, the Bogue Sound is arguably the most popular – and the most visited – sound along the entirety of the Crystal Coast.
Fort Macon State Park, located outside the eastern borders of Atlantic Beach, is one of the most visited and highly acclaimed destinations along the Crystal Coast, and for good reason. The expansive 389 acre park, which features gorgeous inlet views, fantastic beaches, and plenty of history in plain view around every sand dune, always tops the list of Crystal Coast attractions that can't be missed.
Trace the historic roots of Harkers Island and its centuries-long life on the water with a visit to the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center. Located in the heart of Harkers Island along Island Road, (an authentic Crystal Coast community that is a far cry from the bustling beaches), this uniquely surprising museum shines a light on how fascinating and essential this small-town community is to the Southern Outer Banks landscape.