While the Atlantic Ocean and the local saltwater sounds tend to receive the bulk of attention from Crystal Coast vacationers, mariners and explorers who head slightly inland will find another unique body of water when they encounter the Newport River.
A relatively small river that connects the Croatan National Forest with the Bogue Sound, this unique river surrounds Beaufort and Morehead City, and adds an extra dose of natural scenery and beauty to the already stunning Crystal Coast.
About the Newport River
The Newport River is one of the smaller rivers in coastal North Carolina, and runs just 12 miles or so from the heart of the town of Newport to the Bogue Sound. Starting just 5 miles inland, give or take, where it’s narrow enough to resemble a moderately sized creek, the river veers east and doesn’t widen until it connects with the northern edges of Morehead City and the borders of the Croatan National Forest. At this juncture, it extends for up to 2 miles wide as it integrates with Harlowe Creek, the Bogue Sound, and a number of other narrow waterways and small marshy islands.
As a result of this geography, the Newport River can be accessed from several of the main port towns within the Crystal Coast – namely Beaufort and Morehead City – and is therefore a popular body of water for all varieties of mariners. Travelers use it to access the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), fishermen access it to travel to offshore or inshore waters, and commercial vessels use it as an easy route to Morehead City and other slightly inland destinations.
Because of its varying widths and landscapes, which run from dense inland forests to miles-wide waters in the heart of the action, the Newport River is enticing to all sorts of visitors including kayakers, recreational mariners, commercial fishermen, and everyone in between.
Accessing the Newport River
Visitors will find a number of ways to catch a glimpse of the Newport River, from the vantage point of a vehicle, on foot, or from a local vessel that is cruising through the Crystal Coast region.
While small docks and public parks or parking areas are located throughout the Croatan National Forest, the town of Newport, and the town of Morehead City, the best way to enjoy the Newport River is via a paddle or a cruise.
Luckily, mariners and paddlers will quickly discover that when it comes to exploring the Newport River area, there are plenty of options.
333 East Chatham St. Newport, NC
This boat ramp is easy to find for visitors to Newport, and is located on the borders of the Newport River Park. It is situated just a few miles from the junction of NC 24 and US 70 in Morehead City, and features a modest 10 parking spaces. Accessing a narrow section of the river, this launching point is a prime spot for kayakers and canoers who want to explore.
298 W Beaufort Road, Beaufort
From this launching point that’s just north of Downtown Beaufort, visitors will find ample waterways to explore in veritably every direction, including the Shackleford Banks and Rachel Carson Coastal Estuarine Reserve to the south, Harlowe Creek to the north, and the Bogue Sound to the east. The site is located just off the eastern end of the Drawbridge in Morehead City along US 70, and features 48 parking spaces as well as public restrooms.
Newport River Pier and Ramp, 301 Highway 70, Morehead City
This public site is also a popular launch point for vessels of all sizes who want to access the Cape Lookout National Seashore, the Bogue Sound, the Newport River, and even the Atlantic Ocean. The site features 56 parking spaces for vehicles with trailers, as well as public restrooms and a 418’ ft. long fishing pier for anglers.
Ways to Enjoy the Newport River
Once a mariner or visitor has connected with the Newport River, they’ll soon discover that there are a world of activities to enjoy in the open water.
Kayaking – The Newport River – and particularly the western / inland region of the Newport River – is a popular albeit somewhat secretive destination for kayakers, thanks to easy-to-traverse and slow moving waters, and a fantastic locale that’s in the heart of the Croatan National Forest. Kayakers who are new to the area will want to launch their adventure in the heart of Newport to access the wildest and yet most serene regions of this unique body of water. There are several local kayak providers, such as Newport River Adventures which is found in the heart of Newport, where visitors can rent a ride for an hour, half day, or even a full day, and / or can sign up for guided expeditions of the terrain.
Boating – Mariners of all varieties can use the Newport River as a launching point for a host of explorations that range from the inland creeks and channels that cut through Morehead City, to the endless waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Several boat ramps in the heart of Beaufort and / or Morehead City offer easy access into the widest sections of the river, as well as ample parking, public restrooms, and wide concrete ramps that can accommodate vessels of virtually all sizes. In addition, several marinas are located on the borders of the river, making it easy for long-term explorers to rest, refuel, or easily launch.
Fishing – The Newport River has exceptional and varied fishing, thanks to waters that range from the nearly freshwater to the almost entirely saltwater. Anglers can cast a line from the fishing pier off the Radio Island boat ramp, or can head to the smaller public park located in the heart of Newport, (the Newport River Park), to cast out or to launch a kayak fishing expedition. In addition, several inshore charter businesses offer tours of the Newport River to target a wide range of species including puppy drum, flounder, speckled trout, gray trout, bass, and other seasonal catches.
Birdwatching – The wilder regions of the Newport River are perfect for birdwatchers, thanks to mainly wooded terrain and a locale that’s close enough to the coastline to attract a wide variety of water birds. Take a kayak through the waters for great vantage points, or bring a pair of binoculars to the Newport River Park off of Chatham Street in Newport for an opportunity to enjoy some exceptional and yet lesser-known birdwatching perspectives.
Sunsets and Sightseeing – Visitors who want a unique perspective of the local on-the-water terrain can head to veritably any dock, boat ramp, or parking area that borders the Newport River for panoramic perspectives of miles of open water. Stop by the boat ramps on the water’s edge in Morehead City or Beaufort to catch a sunset or a unique look at local communities from an on-the-water perspective.
The Newport River may not be the most famous river in the state of North Carolina, but it’s certainly well known in local Crystal Coast maritime circles due to its proximity to and / or connection with veritably every major body of water in the area.
Easy to enjoy by avid mariners and paddlers alike, an exploration of the Newport River can be as wildly natural, or as streamlined and productive, as a visiting mariner requires. As a result, the Newport River reigns supreme as one of the most unique bodies of water along the Crystal Coast.