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 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 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.
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.
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of the most distinctive lighthouses along the Outer Banks coastline, due to its black and white diamond-patterned exterior, as well as its remote location along the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Accessible only by boat or a small privately-run ferry, the structure is nonetheless a striking and rewarding site, thanks to its stature and its stunning locale surrounded by miles of desolate beaches.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Soak up the centuries-old history of beautiful Beaufort with a visit to the Beaufort Historic Site. Renowned as the third oldest town in North Carolina, there’s a lot of history to explore in this quiet Southern Outer Banks community, and visitors can dive right in by touring a collection of 10 historic homes and structures that are located within the downtown region.
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.
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 Shackleford Banks is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and is a barrier island system that is found just off the coast of Beaufort and Harkers Island, and which is a popular offshore beaching destination for summertime Crystal Coast visitors. Accessible only by a private ferry, water taxi, or personal vessel, the beaches are nevertheless popular with longtime Southern Outer Banks vacationers for their unspoiled beauty, exceptional fishing and shelling, and famed herd of wild ponies, known as the “Banker Horses” or “Banker Ponies.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Based in the town of Beaufort, and 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.
Crystal Coast Lady Cruises features one of the largest fleets of cruise ships along the Crystal Coast, and as a result, 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, and easy to reach for any sightseer exploring the historic downtown area, visitors can enjoy unbeatable perspectives of the region’s vast array of wildlife, shorelines, and on-the-water views.
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 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.
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.
The Crystal Coast shoreline has no shortage of notable attractions. From famed wildlife reserves to top-rated museums, the centuries of history and maritime culture truly come to life in this incredible waterfront destination. Visitors who want to make the most out of their vacation, and ensure that they see all the top sites that the Crystal Coast has to offer, will want to start their upcoming adventure by making sure these acclaimed destinations and attractions are at the top of their vacation bucket list.