Sea Worthy Salt Water Activities on The Crystal Coast
Mother Nature must have spent a little more time on The Crystal Coast, giving the frothy blue waters that caress its shores an indescribable crystalline quality often compared to the waters of the Caribbean. Also attributed to Mother Nature’s kindness, or perhaps, unbelievable luck, The Crystal Coast – located along the state’s southernmost outer reach – is one of two places on the Eastern seaboard where the Gulf Stream current flanks the coastline, resulting in clear, warm waters and the perfect place for active salt-water adventures.
Anglers find themselves with the freedom to fish at just about anytime of year on The Crystal Coast with at least one species abundant year-round. Visitors during the fall months find a bountiful source of false albacore and red drum. The false albacore during this time can reach anywhere from six to 15 pounds while red drum in recent years have reached 70 pounds. Seatrout angling is also very popular in the fall especially off the shores of Cape Lookout National Seashore and at Fort Macon State Park. The refreshing weather brought on by winter’s wind ushers in with it some very big striped bass, lots of bluefish and plenty of large flounder. Shackleford Banks is a prime spot in the spring to catch cobia ranging in weight from 40 to 80 pounds. The summer heat lures fishing enthusiasts 40 to 45 miles offshore to the warm shimmering waters of the Gulf Stream where white marlin, blue marlin, sailfish, dolphin and wahoo are plentiful.
The methods of catching a “big one” are easier on The Crystal Coast with several fishing piers conveniently situated near Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, public beach access at Fort Macon State park and a plethora of charter fishing boats pleasantly bobbing in Bogue Sound.
Along with the cornucopia of colors brought by fall, enterprising anglers can partake in the Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament, one of the fastest growing tournaments in North Carolina.
A fishing tournament with a storied past, the Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament is a sought after, world-renowned fishing experience. Since the first big catch of marlin in 1957, the annual competition hooks hundreds of professional and amateur fishermen, providing an unparalleled fishing experience and impressive payout, including millions of dollars in cash and prizes awarded. During 2019’s 61-year anniversary of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, team “Top Dog” angled in a tournament-breaking 914-pound blue marlin.
In addition to adventures above the water, diving enthusiasts have another realm of exploration beneath the brilliantly luminous waters of The Crystal Coast. A trifecta of diving perfection with rich wreck diving, coupled with warm waters reaching an average of 80° F and approximately 75 feet of sparklingly clear visibility make for a diving experience unlike anything else in the world.
The waters of The Crystal Coast possess a hidden graveyard of more than 2,000 vessels that have made their unlikely final resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic. Many ships were sunk by crew members desperately trying to avoid capture and some were submerged in order to promote coral reef development. During WWII, German U-boats frequently targeted and sunk merchant vessels carrying oil, sulfur and other natural resources to northern states. This has sparked an unprecedented surge in diving enthusiasts seeking to experience the alluring mysteries the graveyard of the Atlantic has to offer.
In addition to the hauntingly beautiful shipwrecks off the shores of The Crystal Coast, divers find the waters are teeming with aquatic life. The usual suspects such as stingrays, cobia, grouper, lobster, small tropical fish and several varieties of coral are abundant. The lionfish, a stunning but poisonous species with sharp spiny fins and brick red bands covering its body, make occasional appearances as well. Previously known only to inhabit the tropical and subtropical waters of the South Pacific, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, the lionfish has mysteriously appeared in North Carolina waters in recent years.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts have the freedom to journey through the intricately laced inlets and waterways winding throughout The Crystal Coast. Explorers visiting the area find paddling adventures that are suited to every interest and schedule. Paddling excursions range from convenient two to four-hour guided tours through the waters surrounding Beaufort, Morehead City or Cape Lookout to full-blown eight-day paddling expeditions taking explorers up and down the coast of North Carolina. Paddlers interested in hitting the open sea find adventurous paths from popular western Crystal Coast locales, Hammocks Beach and Bear Island.
Sea Breezy Sailing
With the natural abundance of spectacularly shimmering waters, it is no coincidence that boating plays a vital role in vacations to The Crystal Coast. Seafarers visiting the area charter boats to voyage to all areas of The Crystal Coast, even the islands only accessible by boat. From Shackleford Banks and Portsmouth Island to the smaller but equally captivating locales, Carrot Island and Hammock’s Beach, the barrier islands of The Crystal Coast are literally a boat ride away.
Adventurous souls, with a little more time on their hands, take charge of their very own vessel and learn how to sail themselves. Instructors go over all the points of sailing including tacking, jibing, anchoring and docking on 22 to 30-foot boats. Personalized sailing courses are available geared towards sailors of all skill levels.
There are even instructional courses designed to give children their first glimpse into the world of sailing. The North Carolina Maritime Museum features a Junior Sailing Program held throughout the summer months. The two-week program is designed to teach children the fun of sailing, the thrill of competition, navigational skills and seamanship.
Popular in the summer, The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores plays host to a variety of outdoor programs in which curious visitors experience the thrill of wrangling marine life while aquarium experts identify each creature and explain how they affect the delicate North Carolina eco-system. Once the explorers learn all they can about The Crystal Coast marine life, the creatures are set free in the ocean. Additionally, the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center in Beaufort carries on the rich boat-building heritage of the North Carolina coast, year-round with its “Introduction to Wooden Boat Building” and “Build a Boat-in-a-Day” courses.
Additional visitor information about these and other area attractions is available by calling The Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority and Visitor Center at (252) 726-8148 or by visiting www.crystalcoastnc.org
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