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.
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.
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 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.
Latham Whitehurst Nature Park is one of the newest parks in Craven County, and was first opened to visitors and locals alike in 2011. Located in a quiet eastern section of the town of New Bern, the park is a popular destination for wildlife fans of all varieties, including hikers, kayakers, birdwatchers, fishermen, and everyone in between.
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.
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 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 long barrier island that borders central North Carolina is known by a wide range of nicknames, including the "Crystal Coast," "Bogue Banks," and "Emerald Isle." This last moniker, which is probably most of the most frequent terms for the stretch of coastline from Atlantic Beach to the western edge of the island, just happens to share its name with the island's westernmost town, Emerald Isle.
Visitors who want to take in a fantastically performed local show while admiring one of New Bern's many historical gems should make a date to attend a production staged by the New Bern Civic Theatre. With a role of a lifetime as one of Craven County's most distinctive artistic resources, the nearly 50-year-old theater group is overwhelmingly enjoyed by local performers, artists, and patrons alike.
Visitors who are heading to the Crystal Coast will find a scattering of hotels and motels throughout the shoreline and inland communities, but will soon discover that the primary type of accommodations available are vacation rentals. Located all along the Crystal Coast beaches from Atlantic Beach to the town of Emerald Isle, a vacation rental is the generally preferred accommodations option for vacationers thanks to ample space, exceptional locales close to the water, and plenty of homes and condos to choose from.
Nothing beats an ice-cold beverage while relaxing on the beach. Nothing is worse than reaching for an icy drink and finding your cans swimming. Coolers are essential for family days on the sand. A good modern cooler will keep food and drinks fresh for days. In addition to beverages, fishermen rely coolers to keep bait fresh, and hopefully the catch of the day. Walk onto any beach or pier in North or South Carolina and you’ll see a plethora of cooler models and sizes. Cooler technology has advanced rapidly in modern years. Top-end hard-sided coolers can keep ice frozen for a week. Soft coolers are easier for one person to carry onto a beach, but can still keep food cool for days. Cooler materials and price points vary wildly, so we put together this guide with our recommendations for your coastal vacation.
Resembling a cross between a train depot and a mariner's port, The History Place is certainly an excellent first stop for anyone who wants to learn a little more about the fascinating inland and barrier island history that is found in abundance along the Crystal Coast.
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.
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.
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 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.
Once you have your coastal recreational fishing license in hand, it’s time to start thinking about gear. Anglers will find tons of options when it comes to equipment for casting into the surf, from custom designed rods and reels at local tackle shops, to name brand varieties that are designed for multiple areas along the coastline. Here are just a few of the most popular gear options for surf fishermen. Keep in mind that there are endless options available, and your local bait and tackle store staff will be happy to point you in the right direction if you have any questions about what you’ll need for successful surf fishing in any given area along the North Carolina coastline.
Atlantic Beach, arguably one of the most visited beach towns along the Crystal Coast, is a longstanding favorite destination for coastal fun in the sun. A perfect little representation of the North Carolina beach scene, this oceanfront town is an easy locale for a day-trip, a long weekend, of a full week's vacation, with loads of amenities, entertainment, and of course, those famous Emerald Isle beaches.
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.
The Crystal Coast is a dream destination for campers, road warriors, and anyone who appreciates the great outdoors. Comprising of miles of desolate beaches, hopping waterfront communities, and everything in between, campers will soon discover that their getaway can be as laid-back or as action packed as they desire, with a myriad of camping options to choose from.
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 oceanside community of Pine Knoll Shores is a shining example of the Crystal Coast beach scene. Filled with charming vacation rentals, natural preserves, an acclaimed country club, and little else to draw attention away from the postcard perfect beaches, Pine Knoll Shores is a perfect beach lover's retreat. Located in between the western beaches of Emerald Isle and bustling Atlantic Beach, this beach town is just a five minute drive away from the Atlantic Beach Causeway, (the bridge which connects the mainland with the Bogue Banks), and yet feels miles away from everyday mainland life.
Crystal Coast Axe Throwing is the newest entertainment spot on the Crystal Coast. Whether you want to channel your inner lumberjack or just try out a fun and competitive hobby, axe throwing is a fun and unique sport that is taking North America by storm! Axe throwing is easy to learn and designed with your fun and safety in mind. It is a perfect way to celebrate a special occasion, organize a team building event or simply have a great time with family and friends!
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.
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.
Located on the southern end of Emerald Isle, and easy to reach for visitors staying throughout the Crystal Coast, Mac Daddy’s is the destination of choice for countless fun-seeking vacationers of all ages who want a big dose of entertainment off the sand. Featuring a bowling alley, sports bar, arcade, and a sister miniature golf course – (the Golfin’ Dolphin) - visitors can expect plenty of good times when they make an outing to this all-around fun amusement center.
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.
Featuring two locations along the Crystal Coast, and serving the region for nearly 50 years, J R Dunn Jewelers is a time-tested resource for a wealth of special occasions, gifts, and “just because” treasures for vacationers and Carteret County locals alike. With a fine selection of everything from men’s timepieces to wedding and engagement rings, shoppers can find just the delicate piece of jewelry they are looking for with a visit to this exquisite and elegant shop.
Snapperz Grill & Steam Bar is a solid destination for a little Crystal Coast vacation atmosphere – an environment which perfectly complements a varied menu chock-full of seasonal and local seafood specialties. The restaurant is decked out in beachy décor and furnishings, which includes a new “Boat Bar” that looks like a long dinghy and is called, affectionately, the Harper Grace. In addition, the bar area doubles as a spot for the night owl crowd, with seasonal live acoustic music to accompany dinner, or a little weekend karaoke with a cold beer or cocktail.
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.
The Inn at Pine Knoll Shoresoffers oceanfront rooms, direct access to the beach, sun, sand, surf and breathtaking views of the Atlantic ocean. Always just a few steps from the ocean. Whether you are here for business, pleasure or simply want to decompress, the oceanfront rooms at the The Inn offer all the comforts of home. Featuring free WiFi, a restaurant, and an outdoor pool, The Inn offers accommodations in Pine Knoll Shores. Free private parking is available on site. Every room at this hotel is air-conditioned and has a flat-screen TV. You will find a coffee machine in the room. All rooms have a private bathroom. Extras include free toiletries and a hairdryer. There is a 24-hour front desk at the property. You can play pool at the hotel. Havelock is 13 miles from Clamdigger Inn, and New Bern is 31 miles away. The nearest airport is Albert J. Ellis Airport, 45 miles from the property. This property also has one of the top-rated locations in Pine Knoll Shores! Guests are happier about it compared to other properties in the area.
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:
Island Express Ferry Service LLC is the only authorized concessionaire to drop off at Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Shackleford Banks! 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.