The Rachel Carson Reserve is a stunning stretch of barely-barrier island shoreline that’s found just off the coast of historic Downtown Beaufort. Covering 2,205 acres, this collection of three islands that are found along Taylor’s Creek at the mouth of the Newport River can be easily and scenically admired from veritably any waterfront vantage point from the heart of town, and are a stunning and undeveloped addition to the vast wildlife scene of the Crystal Coast.
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.
The Carolina Creations gallery is a downtown New Bern legend, and an instrumental contribution to the town's thriving art scene. Founded in 1989 by owners and artists Janet & Michael Francoeur, the gallery features their personalized "Celebration Pottery" works in addition to thousands of inspired and unexpected pieces, contributed by artists from around the state.
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 Crystal Coast is a well-known paradise for anglers, thanks to miles of water in every direction, and a famed distinction as the locale for some of the biggest fishing tournaments along the East Coast. From heading miles offshore to target the summertime billfish to checking out the two local oceanfront piers, there’s ample ways for fishermen to get their lines wet.
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.
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.
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.
Lawson Creek Park is an active destination that's suitable for nature lovers and outdoors fans of all genres. Encompassing a massive 140 acre site surrounded by the waters of Lawson Creek and Trent River, this park is a perfectly scenic locale that feels worlds away from the rest of Eastern North Carolina, but still has ample amenities to keep its more active visitors hard at play.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point located in Havelock is a local institution that was founded in July of 1941, just months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and which celebrates an honorable tradition as a marine training facility and eastern North Carolina base, as well as the permanent home to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
One of the biggest attractions for Crystal Coast visitors is naturally the beaches, and new vacationers will soon discover that there’s a lot of shoreline to go around. From the hopping summertime beaches in Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach, to the more secluded Cape Lookout National Seashore, enjoying the local beaches is a breeze in this corner of the Southern Outer Banks.
Located on the edge of North Carolina and serving as a midway point between the Outer Banks and the Crystal Coast, Cedar Island is a relatively undiscovered gem that feels miles away from the rest of the world. Close to historic and natural attractions, miles of barrier island shoreline, and the state-run ferry to Ocracoke Island, a Cedar Island vacation can be as relaxed or adventurous as a family wants, with ample opportunities to explore costal North Carolina’s great outdoors.
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.
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 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.
The Southern Outer Banks are gaining popularity as a surfing destination, for newcomers to the sport and advanced borders alike. With mainly south or southeast facing beaches, and seasonal swells that are enhanced by passing tropical systems or nor’easters, surfers can catch the ride of a lifetime on the Crystal Coast if the timing and conditions are just right.
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.
Creekside Park is the largest park in the town of New Bern, and it’s situated close to the local airport, just off of US Highway 70. The park extends for 11 acres and since opening in 1997, is one of the most popular destinations for a myriad of both youth and adult sporting events.
Discover a treasure or two to serve as a timeless reminder of your getaway to the Crystal Coast with a visit to one of the most unique jewelry stores in the Carteret County region, J Chalk Designs. Specializing in fine pieces that are truly one of a kind, this unique jewelry destination features a glittering assortment of pieces that will thrill and delight shoppers of all tastes.
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.
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.
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.
Take a quick and scenic ferry ride with your experienced guide over to the pristine Outer Banks Island of Shackleford Banks, which is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. There, you are introduced to the wild horses of Shackleford Banks. After the tour, you are directed to one of the best shelling beaches in all of North Carolina, where you can spend some time shelling your way down the beach with Cape Lookout Lighthouse off in the distance. Shackleford is well known as one of the best shelling destinations on the East Coast.
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.
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.
There are literally endless ways to enjoy the water along the Crystal Coast, and AB Watersport Adventures has you covered. Evplore the beautiful waters of the intercoatal waterways on one of our Jet Skis. For a more educational adventure we offer a jet ski tour to the Capeloout Lighthouse. We also offer rental boats so your family can enjoy one of the Crystal Coat's beautiful barrier islands. 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.
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:
Jump aboard the pirate ship "REVENGE" at 600 Front Street in Beaufort, North Carolina. Our interactive voyages offer fun and adventure for families and swashbucklers of all ages. Come join our crew, take part in a pirate adventure, and enjoy festive music guaranteed to unleash your inner pirate. But be warned; we may need to enlist your expertise to man the water cannons and help defend our ship!
Bird Shoal, Carrot Island, Sand Dollar Island & more! 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.
The Crystal Coast is best explored from the water, and Morehead City Ferry Service will take explorers to some of the most remote and beautiful corners of this long stretch of Southern Outer Banks shoreline. Launching from the heart of Downtown Morehead City along Evans Street, patrons who utilize Morehead City Ferry Service for a cruise or a taxi ride to the outlying barrier islands will be treated to full afternoons of sun and fun along the pristine sand.
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.
Visitors to the central Crystal Coast region who want to embark on a wild island adventure without venturing too far away from the mainland can enjoy a relatively easy trek with a visit to Sugarloaf Island. Veritably hidden in plain sight, this unique little island is located just a shell’s throw away from Morehead City, and yet feels like it’s worlds away from the busy downtown area.