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.
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 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.
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.
Glenburnie Park is a scenic public park that’s located just northeast of the heart of Downtown New Bern. Tucked along the Neuse River in a primarily residential section of town, the park is a popular destination for visitors and locals alike who want to enjoy a wild and natural day by the water.
Vacationers who want to experience a slice of authentic “Down East” culture will want to visit picturesque Harker’s Island. Located just east of the town of Beaufort and the Crystal Coast beaches, this small coastal community has retained its small-town charm throughout the centuries, and is a popular destination for fishermen, mariners, and anyone who appreciates a slower pace of life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 original New Bern Artworks, recently renamed and now known as the "Fine Art at Baxters Gallery," is a favorite downtown shopping spot for frequent visitors and first-time vacationers alike. Located in the former Baxters Jewelry Store in the heart of downtown on Pollock Street, the gallery features an eclectic collection which includes original paintings, glass works, ceramics, pottery, sculpture, photography, and jewelry.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.