• 49°
  • 43°
  • 55°
  • 60°
  • 42°


Nature is an amazing part of what makes the Crystal Coast great. From birds and butterflies, to crustaceans and gorgeous flora, all ages are sure to be astounded by nature's majesty on the shores, in wetlands and marshes, along riverbanks and on the land. One of the area's most prized natural reserves is the Rachel Carson Reserve named for the famed naturalist.

Tours of natural areas are offered by many tour groups and organizations. Take advantage of all Mother Nature has to offer.

Beaufort Inlet Watersports

Experience the wildlife and habitats of the NC Rachel Carson Reserve from a kayak or stand up paddle board. Offering Eco trips, paddle lessons & skills courses.

View Website 600 Front Street
Beaufort, NC 28516
(252) 728-7607

Cape Lookout Studies Program

Located at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

View Website 315 Front St.
Beaufort, NC 28516
(252) 728-7317

Carteret County Parks & Recreation Department

Carteret County manages 14 parks and 3 County school ball fields, ranging in size from 1 to 31 acres, located from Sea Level to Cedar Point, totaling approximately 200 acres.

View Website 801 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC 28557
(252) 808-3301

Crystal Coast Ecotours

Discover hidden natural treasures on personalized tours of the Crystal Coast with Captain Jess Hawkins, 30 years experience as a professional marine biologist in North Carolina(B.S and M.S. degrees). We provide full or half-day adventures exploring barrier islands, shelling, dolphin watching, clamming, wild horse watching, birding, snorkling, seining, crabbing, and fishing.

View Website 112 Hodges Street
Morehead City, NC 28557
(252) 808-3354
or (252) 241-6909

Emerald Isle Parks & Recreation

The Emerald Isle Parks & Recreation Department offers a wide variety of activities, programs and services for both residents & visitors alike. Folks of all ages are certain to find an activity for their enjoyment.

View Website 7500 Emerald Drive
Emerald Isle, NC 28594
(252) 354-6350

Morehead City Parks & Recreation

It is our department’s desire to provide a recreation experience designed to meet constructive and worthwhile goals of the individual participant, groups, and the community at large.

View Website 1600 Fisher Street
Morehead City, NC 28557
(252) 726-5083

North Carolina Coastal Federation

Our Mission: To provide citizens and groups with the assistance they need to take an active role in the stewardship of North Carolina’s coastal water quality and natural resources.

View Website 3609 Highway 24
Newport, NC 28570
(800) 232-6210
or (252) 393-8185

Rachel Carson Reserve

The Rachel Carson component is located near the mouth of the Newport River in southern Carteret County, directly across Taylor's Creek from the historic town of Beaufort. This site is a complex of islands: Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, and Horse Island. These islands are more than three miles long and less than a mile wide, covering 2,025 acres. Middle Marsh, separated from the rest of the site by the North River Channel, is almost two miles long and less than a mile wide, covering nearly 650 acres. The islands and estuarine waters at the Rachel Carson site are strongly influenced by river and inlet dynamics and the twice-daily tides. Habitats found within the site include tidal flats, flooded salt marshes, ocean beach, subtidal soft bottoms, hard surfaces, dredge spoil areas, sand dunes, shrub thicket, and maritime forest. More than 200 species of birds have been observed at the site, which is located within the Atlantic Flyway. Twenty-three species are considered rare or decreasing in number. The site is an important feeding area for Wilson's plovers in the summer and piping plovers in the winter. The shrub thicket of Middle Marsh supports an egret and heron rookery. In addition to feral horses, the river otter, gray fox, raccoon, and marsh rabbit inhabit the islands. The American bottlenose dolphin swims in the deeper waters around the islands, along with 52 species of fish. Forty-seven invertebrate species common to the site include mollusks and worms. The Rachel Carson site is only accessible by boat. Visitors may use their own boat or contact the private fee ferry services located in Beaufort. The state Wildlife Resources Commission operates a public boat ramp and parking lot along Taylor's Creek, at the East end of Front Street. Visitors usually land on the sandy beach at the west end of Town Marsh and cross over to Bird Shoals on foot. For information about group or school programs and field trips, contact us at 252-838-0883.

View Website Po Box 1040
Beaufort, NC 28516
(252) 838-0883

Visitor Guides

Visitorl’s Guide