The Rachel Carson Coastal 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.
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.
Though not too many Eastern NC visitors will encounter Swansboro unless they are en route to the Emerald Isle shoreline, this small coastal town is most certainly worth a second look. One of the oldest towns along the Crystal Coast, and easily one of the most diverse, Swansboro is a surprising paradise for any visitor who loves shopping, dining, kayaking, beaching, and ample waterfront views around virtually every city block. Gradually growing a reputation as one of Coastal Carolina's best long weekend destinations, new visitors to Emerald Island or the Crystal Coast should definitely pull up anchor in historic Swansboro for a day or two, and see for themselves what all the fuss is about.
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 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 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.
Visitors to the Crystal Coast are often surprised to discover the wealth of local museums, landmarks, and ancient sites that pay homage to the region’s centuries of history. Home to some of the oldest communities in the state, most famous (or infamous) North Carolina residents, and a wealth of historical events that helped shape the area, the region is teeming with fascinating stories and legacies that linger throughout the years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Crystal Coast has more than 85 miles of coastline, which includes 56 miles of protected and unspoiled beaches that make up the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Because of this, folks will find plenty of stretches of sand where they can use their 4WD vehicle to cruise, explore, and find a remote beach spot to call their own.
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.
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.
The New Bern Fire Department began as a fraternal organization and was originally called the "Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company," and was the first chartered fire department in the state of North Carolina. This original company became inactive during the Civil War when many of its volunteers were fighting for the Confederate Army, and noting a need for local firefighters, invading Union forces who had infiltrated and then settled in New Bern during the latter portion of the war, set up a rival company in 1865, the "New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1." The two companies remained in service well after the Civil War ended, but the initial rivalry between north and south originating companies never dissipated. Both companies would try to "out-do" each other with station equipment upgrades, and both companies regularly competed against each other in state-wide firefighting competitions. (Incidentally, both performed exceedingly well, perhaps due in no small part in an effort to out-do the other rival.)
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Crystal Coast Lady Cruises is a custom-made 49 passenger catamaran that 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, the Crystal Coast Lady is specifically built for the purpose of sightseeing and dolphin watching. Visitors can enjoy exploring the beautiful downtown beaufort are, plus unbeatable perspectives of the region’s vast array of wildlife, shorelines, and on-the-water views. The Crystal Coast Lady is equipped with a restroom onboard.
Visitors can enjoy the Crystal Coast’s most coveted and hard-to-reach shorelines, or just embark on a breezy cruise of the open waters in search of dolphins and sunsets, with a trip that’s guided by Lookout Cruises. This local tour company that calls the central town of Beaufort its home port offers a far-reaching range of adventures that will have coastal fans of all ages soaking up the sun and enjoying the best of the Southern Outer Banks.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Billfish is a southern coastal restaurant and bar in Indian Beach focused on providing unique eats, signature cocktails and a relaxed atmosphere for families, locals and visitors alike! Our menu puts an exciting, modern twist on classic seafood dishes and beachside cocktails. We are a sustainable, from-scratch kitchen that uses top quality steaks and fresh seafood.
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.