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.
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.
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 Neuse River Recreation Area is an inviting rustic vacation destination for seasoned campers and newcomers alike, with an equally alluring location that's just steps away from the miles-wide Neuse River, and just a few miles away from New Bern, Morehead City, and the beaches of the Crystal Coast. Ideal for visitors who want to get back to nature while enjoying a day on the shore, this recreation area can please beach-goers, swimmers, nature fans, birders, anglers, and virtually every outdoor lover in between.
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.
The Jarvis Mansion is a small and hard-to-find bed and breakfast located along a quiet portion of New Bern's main Pollock Street, just a block or so away from the scenic waterfront. The historic two-story white home, built around the turn of the 20th century, is part of a series of historic residences that line this street, many of which are converted B&Bs and other lodgings for visitors with a love of historic, romantic, and all-together relaxing accommodations.
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.)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.