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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.

Charter boats in downtown Morehead City

Charter Boats

Local Charter Boats

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With miles of water in every direction, it should come as no surprise that charter boat fishing is one of the biggest industries for local mariners along the Crystal Coast, and visitors who want to take a fishing trip will quickly discover that there are dozens of charter boat businesses to choose from.

Anglers who want to head to the Gulf Stream and ocean waters 10 miles or more off the coastline will want to book an offshore charter fishing trip. These trips generally last all day, and target the offshore waters for the biggest varieties of trophy fish and game fish, including wahoo, tuna, mahi, sailfish, blue marlin and white marlin.

Anglers who’d prefer to stick closer to shore can reserve an inshore or nearshore fishing trip. Generally less expensive with ½ day, ¾ day or full day fishing trip options, these charter boats target the local sound waters and ocean waters that are 5 miles out or less in search of tasty local species like Spanish and king mackerel, cobia, red drum, flounder, bluefish, and more.

Either type of fishing charter trip is a great way to explore the waters, and cover a lot of fishing grounds in the process. Most businesses have individual websites and even online booking, which makes finding a charter trip as easy as commencing a Google search.

The majority of fishing boats depart from Harkers Island, Beaufort, Morehead City and Atlantic Beach, although all of these destinations are easy to reach for visitors staying throughout the Crystal Coast shoreline.

Morehead City Charter Boats docked downtown

Crystal Coast Marinas

Not surprisingly, the small waterfront communities along the Crystal Coast are home to dozens of marinas that can serve both long-term and short-term mariners alike. Stocked with a wide variety of amenities, in addition to a great location just a shell’s throw away from the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), a stay at a local marina is a great way to explore the heart of this coastal region.

Most marinas have a wealth of amenities for transient or visiting mariners that can include on-site gas and fuel, on-site repair service, and available Wi-Fi, cable, power, and water so guests can stay comfortably for days at a time.

In addition, some marinas may have community amenities including private pools, on-site restaurants or lounges, and even motel-style or condo accommodations. Each marina’s facilities are different, but considering that the majority of marinas are located along the waterfront docks of Downtown Morehead City, Downtown Beaufort, or Atlantic Beach, mariners will be walking-distance close to a range of restaurants, shops, and attractions.

Here’s a sample of marinas that are found in the heart of the Crustal Coast.

Morehead City Marinas

70 West Marina
4401 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC

Coral Bay Marina
4531 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC

Dockside Marina
301 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC

Morehead City Docks
9th and Shepard Street
Morehead City, NC

Morehead City Yacht Basin
208 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC

Portside Marina
209 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC

Beaufort Marinas

Old Towne Yacht Club
100 Olde Towne Yacht Club Road
Beaufort, NC

Radio Island Marina
156 Radio Island Road
Beaufort, NC

Town Creek Marina
232 W Beaufort Road
Beaufort, NC

Beaufort Docks
500 Front Street
Beaufort, NC

Boathouse At Front Street Village
2400 Lennoxville Road
Beaufort, NC

Atlantic Beach Marinas

Anchorage Marina
517 E Fort Macon Road
Atlantic Beach, NC

Sea Water Marina
400 Morehead Ave
Atlantic Beach, NC

Fort Macon Marina
417 E Fort Macon Road
Atlantic Beach, NC


Boat Ramps

Mariners who are bringing along their boat on vacation will also find ample spots to launch into the Back Sound, the Bogue Sound, the Core Sound, or even the ocean waters via the inlets that buffer the barrier island shoreline.

The majority of boat ramps along the Crystal Coast are free to the public, and include longer-than-usual parking spaces to accommodate boats with trailers. Boat ramps may also have public restrooms facilities and / or port-a-potties, depending on the locale as well as the season.

From the Town of Emerald Isle to the outskirts of Cedar Island, there are plenty of options for vessels of varying sizes. For a good starting place, check out these local launch spots that can accommodate varying vessels, and which are wide open to the public.

Cedar Point boat ramp

Cedar Point

144 Cedar Point Boulevard
Accesses the Intracoastal Waterway
Features 37 boat trailer spaces, 7 single vehicle spaces, canoe / kayak access, a fishing pier, and public restrooms.

Emerald Isle boat ramp

Emerald Isle

6800 Emerald Drive
Accesses the Bogue Sound
Features 112 boat trailer spaces, 19 single vehicle spaces, canoe / kayak access and public restrooms

Morehead City boat ramp

Morehead City

3407 Arendell St.
Accesses the Intracoastal Waterway
Features 33 boat trailer s 298 W Beaufort Road paces

Beaufort NC West ramp

Western Beaufort

298 W Beaufort Road
Accesses the Newport River
Features 48 boat trailer spaces and public restrooms

Downtown Beaufort NC boat ramp

Downtown Beaufort

2370 Lennoxville Road
Accesses Taylors Creek
Features 31 boat trailer spaces and public restrooms

Harkers Island boat ramp

Harkers Island

1648 Harkers Island Road
Accesses the North River
Features 39 boat trailer spaces

Cedar Island boat ramp

Cedar Island

115 Driftwood Drive
Accesses the Pamlico Sound
Features 15 boat trailer spaces

Overnight and part-time docking

In addition to the marinas and boat ramps that are found throughout the Crystal Coast, the area also has town-sponsored community docks for vessels that want to pause during a trip along the ICW and take a look around.

The Beaufort Town Docks are conveniently located alongside Taylors Creek and are within walking distance of all of the top Downtown Beaufort attractions. These docks are leased directly by the town, and are available to transient mariners for a small fee. Space is limited, and is generally available at a first come, first serve basis.

The Morehead City Town Docks are a newly completed set of public docks that are found along Arendell Street. This sheltered, deep-water basin has 8-10 foot minimum depths at dockside, and the docks are easy to access via the ICW. There are currently 10 slips available for the public, and the docks are within walking distance of shops, the Post Office, churches, and a number of exceptional restaurants.

Beaufort Waterfront Tour Boat

Tour Boats and Boat Rentals

Water lovers who don’t have a vessel in tow will also find a number of options for exploring the water via a wide variety of tour boats and boat rental businesses.

For boat rentals, visitors will find a myriad of options in Beaufort, Atlantic Beach, and Emerald Isle. The watersports businesses that are congregated in these areas specialize in renting kayaks and canoes, skiffs and smaller fishing boats or “John boats,” and even pontoon boats, which are all ideal for exploring the quieter Bogue Sound and Back Sound waters. Rentals are generally available on an hourly basis, but half day, full day, or even multi-day rentals may be available as well.

Island Express ferry to Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout

For tours and cruises, visitors will want to head to the docks that border Downtown Beaufort and Downtown Morehead City to explore their options. A wide range of cruises are available, including sunset cruises, nature or eco-tours that explore the wild horses of the Shackleford Banks, headboat fishing cruises, and even “themed” cruises like a local pirates’ cruise. Tours and cruises can last for anywhere from an hour to a full day of exploring, and can generally be signed up for on-site, right along the local docks.

In addition, visitors who want to explore the Shackleford Banks and the Cape Lookout National Seashore can peruse the local water taxis, which make quick trips from Beaufort to these isolated barrier islands. Running throughout the summer season and making treks throughout the day at regular 15 or 30 minute intervals, a water taxi is the fastest and most effective way to explore the offshore shorelines.

There are hundreds of new boats for sale in the area

Boat Sales and Service

Because of its locale along the Intracoastal Waterways, the Crystal Coast is home to a myriad of marinas and local businesses that specialize in boat sales and services.

A good place to start for buying a new boat or repairing an existing vessel is the town of Morehead City. There are a number of established marinas, shops or repair centers in this coastal town, including the Morehead City Yacht Basin, the Jarrett Bay Boatworks, the 70 West Marina, and Grand Slam Yacht & Boat Sales, just to name a few.

Beaufort is also a good place to look, thanks to established marinas or shops which include Beaufort Yacht Sales, Town Creek Marina, and Radio Island Marina. Feel free to explore, and be sure and ask about accompanying dry slips or wet slips for safe storage in between uses. With so many options, it’s no wonder that a large number of North Carolina residents flock to Morehead City and the Crystal Coast to purchase a new or used vessel.


Mariners who prefer a laid-back sailing lifestyle will find a myriad of options along the Crystal Coast as well for tours, sales, and even instruction.

Several sailing cruises depart from the Downtown Beaufort waterfront, including Lookout Cruises Sail Boats and Good Fortune Sail Charters, allowing visitors to explore the adjacent waters via a sailing adventure.

Visitors who want to learn how to sail can head to the town of Oriental, which is located about an hour or so away from the Crystal Coast. Here, visitors will find the renowned Oriental's School of Sailing, as well as private instructors who are happy to literally show new mariners the ropes.

Boating is a favorite pastime along the Crystal Coast, and it’s easy to see why. With direct access to the Intracoastal Waterway, a network of sounds, rivers, and ocean waters, and famed beaches that are only accessible by a vessel, the area was seemingly designed with mariners in mind.

So discover your inner saltiness, and sign up for a tour, a fishing charter, a boat rental, or any other fun excursion that can easily be integrated into a Crystal Coast vacation. With plenty of boat ramps, marinas, and other businesses to go around, enjoying a boat trip to the Southern Outer Banks is a breeze.

Kitty Hawk Kites
Island Express Ferry Service
Mac Daddy's
AB Watersport Adventures
Lookout Cruises