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Top Water Sports to Try on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast

North Carolina’s Crystal Coast is the only place in the state—and one of only a few places along the entire Atlantic shore—where you can view both sunrises and sunsets over the same clear, blue waters because of its unique, south-facing beach. A collection of towns and communities known for their romantic scenery combine with wonderful restaurants and shopping, as well as historical and cultural sites to make up this area’s compelling getaway appeal. It’s also home to the 2,300-acre Rachel Carson Reserve, a complex of four islands including Carrot Island with its wild horses that travel across an unspoiled white sand beach. Eighty-five miles of gorgeous coastline and water along the Crystal Coast create a paradise for water sports, too, whether you choose to surf, stand-up paddleboard, kiteboard or kayak. “The Crystal Coast water sports scene is unique in its diversity,” says Michael Schrems, owner of Blown Kiteboarding. “We have many bodies of water and islands everywhere, [which] seem endless when you start exploring. We have surf, we have wind, and we have flat water bliss.” So the next time you find yourself along the Crystal Coast, be adventurous and try one of these water activities on for size. Down East Paddle Trails Located near the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, Down East communities reflecting the past and present lie north east of Beaufort, North Carolina, with strong ties to the natural environment and ecosystem. Communities along Core Sound include Harkers Island, Marshallberg, Davis, Stacy and Cedar Island, to name a few. Shallow waters, shoals and sloughs at Core and Shackleford Banks, plus creeks and salt marshes, characterize this Down East area of Carteret County. Plenty of kayak and paddle trails can be found here, particularly along the Byway. Sixteen routes, from 2.3 miles to 13.7 miles, provide varying degrees of difficulty and opportunities for daylong or multi-day trips. There are so many options available, whether you travel along Core Sound and Core Banks, traverse Whitehurst Creek and the North River or paddle past Cape Lookout Lighthouse. You’ll find a number of paddle companies that can help you explore a full range of wildlife and highly varied plant life. One of those companies is Beaufort Paddle, which offers SUP (stand up paddleboarding) rentals, lessons, tours and fun on the waters surrounding the Rachel Carson Reserve, according to owner/operator Rod Hoell. “Our home and business are located adjacent to 2,300 acres of the most pristine coastal estuary and maritime forest that exist in America. It’s simply beautiful,” he adds. “We [assist] adventurous, intrepid souls who want to exit the crowds for backwater tranquility,” he says. Both seasoned water people and or first-time paddlers are welcome. “If you can stand, we can teach you SUP,” he adds. “There is nothing more rewarding to us than the wide-eyed amazement on first time visitors’ faces when they witness majestic wild horses on Carrot Island as we drift silently past on emerald waters.” [caption id="attachment_8633" align="aligncenter" width="750"]paddle trails Paddling Rachel Carson Reserve.[/caption]   Water Sports in Bogue Sound Bogue Sound is a haven for kiteboarding newbies, due to extensive shallow waters and good wind. Blown Kiteboarding is a visitor favorite.We always operate in the Bogue Sound, which is just off of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway,” says owner Schrems. “We have a great location for beginners of kiteboarding, paddleboarding, and kayaking.” “Our kiteboarding lessons start by loading up on a pontoon and heading out as a group for a journey into the awesomeness of kiteboarding. We land on a small island where we conduct all of our lessons. It is completely unique and well worth the adventure,” he adds. “Paddleboarding and kayaking are done on site, with kiteboarding in Broad Creek. [It] allows you to experience serenity in nature without too much current, boat traffic, or other distractions that could inhibit your experience.” He describes the experience as a “nature safari,” which takes you though a winding twisting waterway and marsh grass where you get to see fiddler crabs, ospreys and eagles. The oldest town on Bogue Banks, Atlantic Beach showcases several centuries of American history. Inside Fort Macon State Park, you’ll find beautiful seashore, sunshine and scenic views. In the westernmost area of Bogue Banks, Emerald Isle features an unspoiled shoreline, quaint neighborhoods and a lively pier that draws a range of visitors, especially families. The warm, clear waters are perfect for surfing, kiteboarding, kayaking and paddle boarding; and many shops rent equipment. Waters that resemble the Caribbean characterize the resort town of Indian Beach. Located in the middle of Bogue Banks between Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, this area features maritime forests and miles of soft sand. [caption id="attachment_8635" align="aligncenter" width="750"]kiteboarding crystal coast Kiteboarding on the Crystal Coast.[/caption]   Seasonal Fun Along the Crystal Coast A number of events and seasonal happenings are always occurring on the Crystal Coast. Each fall, the area's warm waters bring visitors to the seashore, with dozens of events each week ranging from historical tours and eco-adventures to special athletic events like the Tuna Run 200. Ready for a seafood celebration? Don't miss the North Carolina Seafood Festival the first weekend of October in Morehead City, with activities, live music and delicious seafood for the whole family. [caption id="attachment_8636" align="aligncenter" width="750"]Crystal Kai SUP Cup winners 2016 2016 Crystal Kai SUP Cup Winners[/caption]   In the spring, kiteboarding enthusiasts hitch themselves to massive, brilliant-hued kites during the annual Bogue Banks Kiteboarding Festival. Wind currents pull them through rolling swells amid sparkling blue water during this lively event. Also in the spring, the Crystal Kai SUP Cup fills the Coast with standup paddleboard competitions and prizes that total up to $10,000! Additional programs and celebrations take place regularly at The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Ranked among the nation’s best aquariums, it houses adorable otters, sea turtles, sharks, various fish, stingrays and more. Remote and pristine forests, salt marshes, and undeveloped beaches with bright white sand dunes characterize Cape Lookout National Seashore, which includes the North Core and South Core as well as Shackleford Banks, where salt-pruned trees amid maritime forests seem otherworldly. “You have only to fly over our beautiful Crystal Coast to realize the vast amount of quiet backwaters, waiting to be explored,” Hoell says. “What better way to visit these tranquil scenes than to glide in, quietly, by kayak or SUP.”   Ready to book your Crystal Coast adventure? Check out our Deals & Specials for big fall savings throughout the area.

Top 10 Reasons to Visit the Crystal Coast This Spring

With events and activities for every season, visitors can enjoy different aspects of the Crystal Coast throughout the year. But why wait for summer? Here are our top reasons to come see us this spring:   1. Find A Beach & A Bargain With more than 85 miles of coastline, there are Crystal Coast beaches for one and all. Enjoy a prime spot on the sand, plenty of parking and incredible deals on some of our area's top properties. Always wondered what it would be like to stay in that colorful beach house? How about a penthouse view? Now's your chance! Check out all our spring specials. North Carolina rental homes 2. Irish Eyes Are Smiling Emerald Isle celebrates its name with their annual St. Patrick's Festival in March. Grab a pint, enjoy the live music and hop on one of the many carnival rides. You may even see some leprechauns! Emerald Isle St. Patrick's Festival 3. Foodie Finds The Crystal Coast's culinary scene is booming and spring is full of special events to sample delicious cuisine, award-winning wine and craft beer. Grab your tickets early for Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend in April, "bite through the night" at the fourth annual Bites & Blues Event in Morehead City and get a taste of Down East seafood at the Core Sound Shrimp Off. Prefer to dine on your own time? Try some of our area's top restaurants without the summertime wait. Beaufort Wine & Food 4. Paddle Time! Spring brings warmer weather, warmer waters and lots to do along our coastal waterways. Try your hand at standup paddleboarding in Taylor's Creek or White Oak River while boat traffic is minimal. Glide by wild horses in a kayak through Rachel Carson Reserve's estuary trails or the sheltered coast of Shackleford Banks with fewer beachgoers on the sand. This is the perfect time to enjoy the nature and wildlife of the Coast and challenge yourself to try something new! Always wanted to kiteboard, but weren't sure where to start? Bogue Sound and Core Sound are both playgrounds and perfect for beginners to the sport. Beaufort Paddle 5. Family Fun Want to vacation with your little ones before school lets out? Family attractions like the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort offer programs and activities for kids of all ages, with special events just for tots. Take your stroller along a nature trail or one of our waterfronts and you may find yourself playing peek-a-boo with a dolphin! 6. Run, Run, Run! Mild weather and less traffic make spring the perfect time for road races at the Crystal Coast. Take in the amazing scenery while you break a sweat in one of our many athletic events like the second annual Core Sound Run, the third annual Emerald Isle Marathon, Half-Marathon & 5K and the 27th annual Lookout Rotary Spring Road Race in Morehead City. Whether you're looking for a challenge or just a reason to get moving outside, there's a race for you. Prefer to race on wheels? We also have cycling events, like our second annual Bike the BanksFind all our events here. [caption id="attachment_8001" align="alignnone" width="750"]Rotary Road Race Morehead City Photo courtesy Lookout Rotary Spring Run.[/caption] 7. Gone Fishin' It's always a good time to fish at the Crystal Coast and spring brings even more opportunities to the table. Try your luck with cobia in the Chasin' Tails Cobia Challenge or the second annual CCA Cobia Tournament, help raise money at the Reelin' for Research Tournament April 29 & 30, chase some tails with the Sheepshead Jackpot Challenge, spearfish a winner at the If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em tourney or get your redfish on with Point Click Fish. Of course, we round out our spring tournaments with the renowned Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament June 10-18. Whether you're fishing or enjoying the excitement on land, this is an event you won't want to miss. 8. Dive Into History Home to North Carolina's third-oldest town and one of its top state parks, the Crystal Coast is a paradise for history buffs. Established for use during the Civil War, Fort Macon State Park has gone through many evolutions over the past century or two, now offering public beach access, nature trails and an educational, restoration exhibit experience for visitors to explore first-hand. Plan your visit around some of the park's exciting re-enactment events and you could learn the history from the soldiers, themselves! The saga continues in Beaufort with year-round events at Beaufort Historic Site and North Carolina Maritime Museum, the latter of which is home to artifacts from Blackbeard's infamous Queen Anne's Revenge. Fort Macon State Park 9. Arts Abound Spring brings several art and music events to the Crystal Coast, with the International Film Series at Carteret Community College, top-notch performances and concerts at Carteret Community Theatre and several music festivals throughout our communities. Join us in May for tons of fun at the 28th annual Beaufort Music Festival in downtown Beaufort and the third annual Atlantic Beach Music Festival at the Circle in Atlantic Beach. Both events are FREE to attend and bring great local and regional acts to the area for you to enjoy. [caption id="attachment_8022" align="alignnone" width="751"]Beaufort Music Festival Photo courtesy Beaufort Music Festival.[/caption] 10. All About Boats The Crystal Coast's centuries-old maritime heritage continues today with activities and events for all to enjoy. Things start small, so to speak, with the Carolina Maritime Model Society Meetings in March and April and grow even bigger in May with the 42nd annual Wooden Boat Show in Beaufort. Boatbuilders, maritime enthusiasts and families come together for this longtime fan favorite weekend. Then, the fun continues in in Morehead City with the 9th annual Crystal Coast Boat Show, featuring in-water and on-shore boats, vendors and more. Whether you're looking to purchase a new boat or just appreciate the craft of a wooden skiff, spring is a great time to take it all in. General - Boat in Marshes   Ready to plan your spring getaway? Download our Vacation Guide for more info, check out our lodging partners to book your stay or contact us for personalized recommendations. See you at the Coast!

Summer Concert Series @ Crystal Coast Brewing Company

219 West Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina 28512

We are super excited to announce our Music On Tap Summer Concert Series! We will be welcoming some of the best musical talent from the area as well as from across the country. All shows are free so stop by, grab a pint, and celebrate the summer with us! Live Music Schedule: May 11th - 7-10pm: Ryan Cain at Crystal Coast Brewing May 26th - 7-10pm: The Dust Parade Trio at Crystal Coast Brewing June 8th - 8-11pm: Sully at Crystal Coast Brewing June 22nd - 2-5pm: Ryan Rubich at Crystal Coast Brewing July 5th - 7-10pm: Live Music - Brooke McBride at Crystal Coast Brewing July 20th - 8-11pm: Steel Shot at Crystal Coast Brewing August 3rd - 8-11pm: Brian Burke at Crystal Coast Brewing August 17th - 7-10-pm: Scott Shelby at Crystal Coast Brewing August 30th - 7-10pm: Ryan Cain at Crystal Coast Brewing

Young or Young at Heart: Fall in Love with the Crystal Coast singled out activities and eateries to suit your travel style to a T. Photo 1 The Crystal Coast is a nautical stretch of North Carolina dotted with lighthouses and sailboats, but it doesn’t have to be the peak of summer to visit this coastal treasure. Whether you’re looking for a getaway with toddler-friendly activities or refined cultural attractions, the Crystal Coast features all kinds of year-round entertainment to match your vacation style. Check out our North Carolina travel suggestions, hand-picked for different travel types, but don’t be afraid to mix and match! Photo 2 Millennials We’re hesitant to use the word hipster, but you know your way around a pair of skinny jeans and your social media image is on point. Sure enough, the Crystal Coast will have you whipping out your phone, bragging about your travels on Twitter and creating Instagram masterpieces using the area’s top tag, #MyCrystalCoast. Start off at Crystal Coast Ecotours, where you can choose your own adventure. This tour company offers customized activities; double up or devote the entire day to one excursion. The birding tour showcases some of the 400 winged species known to flock through the barrier islands, while the crabbing jaunt will teach you how to catch the native crustaceans. Between learning the “dig and feel” clamming technique and spotting the majestic wild horses on Shackleford Banks, these tours show you the region’s au natural side. Try not to overload Snapchat. It’s five o’clock somewhere, which means it’s time to order cocktails and crab cakes at Front Street Grill at Stillwater. Overlooking the historic Beaufort Waterfront, this seafood joint includes Rhum Bar, an outdoor patio, dishing up drinks, apps and small plates. An order of conch fritters and coconut shrimp with a view of the water will have you feeling like you’re vacationing in the tropics. Photo 3 Families with Young Kids Your kids aren’t quiet school-age yet, which means you don’t have to wait for a holiday to take a family vacation. Relish in the freedom of traveling outside of school schedules and treat your youngsters to some child-friendly activities at the Crystal Coast. Round up the troops and venture over to North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, where your kiddos can come eye to eye with toothy sharks, slippery sting rays and glowing jelly fish. Browse through the underwater exhibits, get a behind the scenes look at the labs and holding areas and don’t miss feeding time! Then load your little ones into the stroller and take a hike along the Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail. Songbirds, turtles and butterflies call this peaceful estuarine ecosystem home, where your crew can explore along the wooden planks that loop through the marshland. Once your pack has worked up an appetite, head to Amos Mosquito’s Restaurant and Bar. The “li’l skeeters” grub menu includes slime pie (cheese pizza) and snake skins (buttered noodles) to entice your rug rats, while the mixed seafood grill and Jamaican jerk chicken plates appease adult palates. Photo 4 Water Sport Enthusiasts Regardless of where you are in life, one thing is certain, you can’t get enough of the water. Whether you’re traveling solo or visiting with a baby on each hip, make a splash on your next Crystal Coast romp.

With more than 2,000 shipwrecks scattered along the coast, North Carolina’s seashore is referred to as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Slap on some flippers and book a charter with the Olympus Dive Center to explore the dark depths of the sea at destinations such as Hutton or Titan. Prefer to stay on the water’s surface? Sign up for kiteboarding lessons with Blown Kiteboarding to catch some air, or do a balancing act on a standup paddle board along Bogue Sound.

Keep with the oceanic theme and chow down at Crab Shack. The menu is swimming with seafood, from clam strips and flounder to scallops and shrimp. Start off with oyster cocktail or crabmeat soup, and then dive right into the fresh seafood plates. Photo 5 Seasoned Duos You just sent your final kid through college, or perhaps you’re soaking up retirement bliss; whatever it is, you and your partner are in the mood for a sophisticated getaway. From historic attractions to cultural performances, you’ll find just what you had in mind during your stay along the Crystal Coast. Make your way over to Fort Macon State Park to learn about the region’s naval history, from 18th-century pirate attacks to the Civil War-era fort. The state park even has more recent stories that date back to World War II. After sauntering around the park, catch a performance at the Carteret Community Theater. Musical acts, theater productions and comedy shows bring down the house throughout the year. If it’s a Friday or Saturday night, Bistro-by-the-Sea Restaurant is the place to be. Every weekend the piano bar serenades guests as they sip on cocktails and nosh on baked oysters and prime rib. The classy restaurant serves made-to-order dishes with an “old school slow-cooking style,” ensuring that your cuisine is made to perfection. On your next visit to Crystal Coast, stick to your travel persona or break the rules and try a little bit of everything! Written by Chloe Mulliner

How to Have an Adventurous 3-Day Vacation on the Pristine Waters of the Crystal Coast

Aptly named for the clarity of its stunning water, North Carolina’s Crystal Coast serves up one of the most spectacular stretches of shoreline on the Atlantic. Featuring 85 miles of coastline, fringed with an eclectic smattering of barrier islands just offshore, the Crystal Coast offers paddlers a buffet of adventures on the water. Even better, on dry land the Crystal Coast offers charming towns, waterfront eateries, and plenty of local lore—once dubbed the Graveyard of the Atlantic, the area was once a regular haunt of the pirate Blackbeard. Adventures are ample all along the Crystal Coast, but here’s one way to spend 72 hours during a long weekend getaway.

Day One

Where to Get Caffeinated: Begin in Beaufort, one of the state’s oldest colonial towns. Kick off the day with an invigorating dose of caffeine at the Beaufort Coffee Shop, serving up freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee, breakfast pastries, and artisan-crafted chocolates.

Hit the Water: Then, spend the morning exploring the crown jewel of the Crystal Coast, Cape Lookout National Seashore, one of the wildest stretches of shoreline on the East Coast. If you need a kayak or SUP, plan a detour to Beaufort Paddle or Down East Kayaks (both also offer multi-day rentals). Next, head for the Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Center on Harkers Island, accessible via the Outer Banks Scenic Byway. For an ambitious paddling tour, make the 4.9-mile trip across Back Sound to the iconic Cape Lookout Lighthouse, first lit in November 1859. Along the way, plan a pit stop on the eastern edge of Shackleford Banks. If you linger long enough, you might just catch sight of the roving bands of wild horses occupying the windswept barrier island, descendants of animals washed ashore from shipwrecked Spanish vessels.

If the jaunt to the lighthouse is a little too lofty a goal, opt for a tamer paddling trip by launching from the Straits Landing Boat Ramp, near the Harkers Island Bridge. Explore the avifauna-rich North River Estuary or continue to the shallow waters of Goose Bay for a longer excursion.

Where to Unwind: Not quite ready to leave the water yet? Opt for sundowners overlooking Taylor Creek at at the Front Street Grill in Beaufort. The venue has both an indoor restaurant and a waterfront bar that offers a menu featuring everything from surf-and-turf to southern-style comfort food. Ready for some time indoors instead? The Beaufort Grocery is not actually a purveyor of dry goods, but an elegant bistro with sophisticated menu serving everything from locally inspired Carolina crab cakes to a New York strip steak prepared Korean barbecue style.

Day Two

Where to Fuel Up: Fuel up for the day in Morehead City, just west of Beaufort. Sweet Beans Coffee and Cafe provides a quick caffeine fix and the extensive to-go menu, with everything from breakfast sandwiches to protein shakes. For heartier fare, The Banks Grille is an excellent spot featuring a full breakfast menu, including homemade jam on fresh biscuits. Other favorites include omelettes, breakfast burritos and its take on eggs benedict, the Lighthouse Benedict, which features deviled crab cakes.

Hit the Water: After breakfast, head for the sliver of land known as Bogue Banks, just across the water from Morehead City. If you need to grab a kayak or SUP, swing by the Hot Wax Surf Shop in Emerald Isle. For a leisurely paddle, launch from the dock in Emerald Isle Woods Park or the Cedar Street Park and warm up with a stint on the Intracoastal Waterway. For a longer excursion and the opportunity to explore some of the Crystal Coast’s interior waterways, head for the Cedar Point Recreation Area and hop on the 100-mile Saltwater Adventure Trail. From Cedar Point, you can delve into the wildlife-rich waters of the White Oak River on the 17.2-mile White Oak River Paddle Trail. For more information on paddling the White Oak River, check out the White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance.

Spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach at Fort Macon State Park. Before spreading a towel on the sand, take some time to explore the 183-year-old stronghold once charged with defending Beaufort from roving pirates and hostile foreign fleets.

Where to Unwind: After a day of paddling, head back to Morehead City for some well-deserved R&R. If you’re after artful cocktails with a trendy backdrop, head for the Arendell Room. Just want a nice, cold beer? Head for Morehead City’s brewery, Tight Lines Pub and Brewing Company, and sample from the joint’s lengthy tap list.

Need some fresh seafood to complete your time at the coast? Morehead City has plenty of options. Savor fresh, locally sourced seafood at the Bistro-by-the-Sea, or head for the hidden gem La Perla, which features Spanish/Latin inspired cuisine with southern influences. The restaurant, located off-the-beaten-path in a residential neighborhood of Morehead City, offers a seasonal menu with fish specials dependent on the day’s catch.

Day Three

Where to Fuel Up: Prepare to seize the day at Stir it Up in Emerald Isle, serving up organic, fair-trade coffee and an eclectic spread of breakfast goodies, including vegan and vegetarian options.

Hit the Water: Ready to ride some waves? Bogue Banks features plenty of public beach access and you can scour the shore for perfect surf spot. Grab a board or brush up with surf lessons at the Hot Wax Surf Shop in Emerald Isle or the Atlantic Beach Surf Shop in Atlantic Beach. Rather catch some wind instead? Blown Kiteboarding in Newport and Carolina Kitesurfing in Emerald Isle offer both kiteboarding lessons and local excursions.

Where to Unwind: After a day in the sun, stick around Bogue Banks. Unwind at one of the area’s more unique relaxation destinations, Harrika’s Brew Haus in Cedar Point, a purveyor of both craft beer and tea, featuring a revolving draft beer menu, an open-air biergarten, and a garage bar. Or grab a beer and a buttery Bavarian pretzel at the Idle Hour Biergarten in Atlantic Beach.

Originally written by RootsRated for Crystal Coast NC.

Featured image provided by Susan Sharpless Smith


Crystal Coast Paddle Trails

Are you ready to paddle The Coast? Immerse yourself in The Crystal Coast’s beautiful, natural landscape. The numerous water trails along The Coast cater to paddlers of all experience levels. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon of standup paddleboarding or a fast-paced kayaking adventure, paddle trails at The Coast won’t disappoint. Check out beginner, intermediate and advanced paddle trails along The Coast. paddle trails

Beginner Paddle Trails

Beginner paddle trails offer paddlers some protection from the elements, while featuring wildlife and scenic views. Beginners will be happy with this set of paddle trails that offer protected water and shorter trips, while novice paddlers can gain more experience on open water and with wind. BSP-1446 Whitehurst Creek Paddle - 2.3 miles This journey is a birder’s paradise. Beginning at Straits Boat Landing, this paddle trail will take you along the shoreline of Whitehurst Creek. You can anticipate sea gulls, pelicans, herons, egrets, shorebirds, osprey, oystercatchers, terns, and cormorants, as well as a variety of geese and ducks in the during the winter months. North River Estuary Paddle - 4.0 miles Launch at Straits Landing Boat Ramp and head towards Goose Bay to being this quiet trip. As you float down this waterway, feel free to explore the marshes along the west side, that have been known to contain pieces of prehistoric pottery. These marshes are also notable for their height, which adds the illusion of of becoming part of the estuary. Neslon Bay Paddle - 5.2 miles Experience the relaxing stillness and natural beauty of Nelson Bay. Beginning at Salters Creek Ramp, paddlers can travel along the calm shoreline to view local wildlife and get an up close encounter with nature. Rachel Carson Reserve Paddle - 8.4 miles Located along the Beaufort Waterfront, the Rachel Carson Reserve Paddle is only a short paddle across Taylor’s Creek, here paddlers can rest and return or complete the loop around the reserve before completing the 8.4 mile paddle. The Rachel Carson Reserve is unique due to its strong influence of river and inlet dynamics making it home to various species of birds, and a relaxing place for paddlers. There is also a herd of feral horses that inhabits the area.

Intermediate Paddle Trails

Moderate paddle skills are needed to complete these intermediate paddle trails, which include open water, wind and currents and farther distances. Paddlers in good physical condition and some paddling skills in winds, tides and currents will be pleased with these medium level options. IMG_2818 copy Thorofare and Styron Bay Paddle - 9.4 miles If you wish to explore the nature of The Coast in solitude, this paddle trail is ideal. One of The Crystal Coast’s most scenic paddle trails begins at Monroe Gaskill Bridge and ends at the Driftwood Campground. As you wind along the waters of the Thorofare area your sights will be overcome with the abundant wildlife and stunning variety of plant life. Davis to Sea Level - 9 miles Begin this journey by paddling north of the access point at Horseshoe Road, heading towards Salters Lump Island. This sandy bay provides opportunities for seashell collection and exploration. The next leg of the route takes you up the coast to Fluchers and Willis Creek, across the mouth of Nelson Bay, through Mill Point, and up Styron Creek. The end of the trail will deposit you at Steep Point, where views to the Atlantic Ocean will be visible as you pass numerous fish houses and the ferry to Portsmouth Island. Harkers Island Bridge to Smyrna - 8 miles This route will take you past the beautiful homes along Whitehurst and Sleepy Creeks, down Great Marsh Creek, and past Bells Island. Belles Island features several sandy areas ideal for a quick lunch break with calming views. From there you will head down to Tusk Creek, where you can view oyster shells in their natural habitat at low tide. As Tusk Creek drops you off at Middens Point, located in Middens Creek, you’ll prepare for a 1/2-mile paddle across open waters to Davis Island. Cedar Island Bay Paddle- 7.9 miles To start this calm and serene adventure, your launch for Cedar Island Bay Paddle can be at either Driftwood Campground or Lola Boat Ramp. Along the route you can expect to see various species of birds, sea life, marshland, and maritime forests along the small islands. You might also be surprised to view semi-feral cattle grazing along the shorelines. North River Paddle Extended- 6.5 miles This is the extended version of Goose Bay Paddle (above). North River Paddle Extended includes a return trip back to Straits Landing Boat Ramp or takes you to Wards Creek Bridge. Along this extended route you can view secret estuaries hidden to boats and vehicles. Atlantic to Thorofare* - 6 miles Beginning at the beach in Little Port Brook, this route will take you along Hall point, and will give you the opportunity to admire a beautiful maritime forest grove that leans away from the prevailing winds. From Hall point you will go across Barry Bay to Green Point, out to Thorofare Bay, and finish your ride at the Monroe Gaskill Memorial Bridge. *Note: This trail is designated as intermediate/advanced. Whale Creek Paddle - 5.8 miles This paddle trail will take you from Harkers Island Bridge, around Harkers Island point, to Shackleford Banks, across Back Sound, and into the middle of Shackleford. Upon reaching Shackleford the real magic beings. The site of a 19th century Whaling community, you may now set your sights on wild horses grazing salt grasses and shrubs. You may also camp on this Island, check park rules for details. Goose Bay Paddle - 5.8 miles Another great paddle for bird watching enthusiasts! This water trail is also a great choice for sea-life viewing, as well as artifact collectors. Beginning at Straits Landing Boat Ramp, you will travel through marsh that is home to several nests of birds and a somewhat protected bay that is a popular place for crab pots. On low tide, you may even be able to step on to the sandy bottom and explore the shoreline to see periwinkles, minnows, fiddler crabs, and prehistoric pottery shards. Browns Island Paddle - 4.1 miles Wild horses, cattle, and even eagles and call this uninhabited island home.The journey to view these wild animals in their natural habitat starts at the NPS Visitor Center at Shell Point on Harkers Island. Browns Island, and its feral inhabits, can be viewed as you round the Core Sound. Please be advised that due to wild hogs and biting insects that live in the woods in the island, paddlers should avoid exploring the island on foot. Oyster Creek to Great Island Ferry Dock - 3.6 miles Launching off the Oyster Creek Boat Ramp in Davis, this short water trail gives you plenty of opportunities to travel Core Sound and Core Banks, an uninhabited part of Cape Lookout National Seashore. On these banks you can explore the soundside shoreline, walk across to the Atlantic Ocean, or simply relax and take in the beautiful scenery.

Advanced Paddle Trails

Excellent paddling experience and physical condition are suggested to complete these paddle trails, which often feature open water, high and low tides, strong winds, and currents. Paddlers should be comfortable in strong winds and currents in open water as well as conditioned for greater distances. BSP-1470 White Oak River Paddle Trail - 17.22 miles With five trail landings, the White Oak River Paddle Trail can be broken up into four stints or you can just do one. The trail begins at White Oak Campground and culminates at Boondocks Landing, just inside Carteret County. The breakdown is as follows:
  • White Oak Campground to Dixon Field Landing - 4.73 miles
  • Dixon Field Landing to Haywood Landing - 5.75 miles
  • Haywood landing to Long Point Landing - 3.04 miles
  • Long Point Landing to Boondocks Landing - 4.83 miles
With deep, rapid or no water, to portages, stumps, downed trees and beaver dams, the White Oak River Paddle Trail is one of the most lively options along The Coast. Core Banks Paddle - 13.7 miles This lengthy paddle is for the experienced individual and will take you through Core Sound, northwards to along Core Banks, and to Drum Inlet. A popular destination, Old Drum Inlet Creek, is located on the soundside of Portsmouth Island. Cedar Island National Refuge Paddle - 13 miles The refuge, which contains 11,000 acres of marshland and almost 3,500 acres of pocosin and woodlands, was created to protect and provide a wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl. Paddling this outstanding trail begins a Monroe Gaskill Bridge and ends at the Memorial Bridge or at Lola Road Boat Ramp. A note paddlers-  the best time to view the waterfowl is during the winter months. Thorofare to John Day Ditch - 11 miles Spend your day on this beautiful 11 mile journey, starting at Monroe Gaskill Memorial Bridge and traveling through the waters of West Thorofare Bay, Merkle Point Bay, and Tump point. Along the way you will experience views from MCAS Cherry Point Bombing Range, Bear Hammock in the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, and several sandy beaches. Conclude your adventure along the West Bay shoreline and John Day Ditch. Lola Road to Cedar Island Ferry - 6 miles This journey to Cedar Island Campgrounds begins at Lewis Creek by the Wildlife Refuge Office, and winds through Core Sound, Green Point, and Cedar Inlet. Throughout the trail you can expect to find beautiful maritime forests and sandy beaches, as well as many native and migratory bird species. Upon arrival at Cedar Island Campgrounds you may enjoy basic camping facilities, a restaurant, and small islands that offer opportunities for exploration and adventure. Atlantic to Thorofare* - 6 miles Beginning at the beach in Little Port Brook, this route will take you along Hall point, and will give you the opportunity to admire a beautiful maritime forest grove that leans away from the prevailing winds. From Hall point you will go across Barry Bay to Green Point, out to Thorofare Bay, and finish your ride at the Monroe Gaskill Memorial Bridge. *Note: This trail is designated as intermediate/advanced. Cape Lookout Lighthouse Paddle - 4.9 miles One of the most exciting and beautiful adventures on the Down East Trails, this route will allow you to view large numbers of pelicans, ibis, egrets, and other waterfowl. In the surrounding waters along this trail you may also see dolphins, stingrays, and sea turtles, as well as wild horses grazing on Shackleford banks. Codds Creek Paddle - 4.8 miles This trail will take you to a popular local site at Codds Creek. Start this route at the NPS Visitor Center at Shell Point and wind your way along Core Sound, continuing north to Core Banks, where you will come across a dock at Codds Creek that is an easy walk to the Atlantic Ocean. Beaufort to Shackleford Banks Paddle - 2.7 miles The paddle from Beaufort to Shackleford banks provides an opportunity to see wild horses on Rachel Carson Reserve and on Shackleford Banks (more on our wild horses here). The best place to launch is from the boat ramp on east end of Front Street in Beaufort. Head due east out of Taylor’s Creek, paddle south along several marsh islands to Shackleford Banks. An easy walk from the western end of Shackleford Banks brings you to the Atlantic Ocean.

Ready for an adventure?

Ready to go off the map and explore your own trails? Check out Newport River and Bogue Sound where you can work with local paddle companies to create your own paddle experience. No matter which paddle trail you choose (or make!), you’re sure to have a one-of-a kind experience paddling The Coast. Find our paddle partners here. (Sources: Crystal Coast Canoe & Kayak Club, North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, White Oak River Paddle Trail, Cape Lookout National Seashore, Town of Beaufort, Friends of Cape Lookout National Seashore, Crossroads of Carteret County)

Fall at the Crystal Coast | October Events

October Events at the Crystal Coast


October is one of the best months to visit the Crystal Coast – not only for the amazing weather, but for all of the fun and family-friendly activities planned around the coast. Come spend some time on the Crystal Coast and enjoy great fall and Halloween events all month long! Here is a short list of events to help plan your trip:

Come out to the Howling Hayride at Fort Macon on October 14. This event is free, but donations for the ongoing trail improvements are welcome.

Join us again on October 25 at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for the Preschool Pumpkin Patch. This fun-filled event is for youngsters 5 years old and younger. Your kids can enjoy games, stories, crafts, costumed characters and photo ops!

The North Carolina Aquarium is also hosting their annual Trick-or-Treat Under the Sea on October 26 and 27. This event brings a splash of Halloween fun to the aquarium with trick-ortreat booths and other specially decorated exhibits. There will also be a costume contest as well as underwater pumpkin carving demonstrations.

Head down to Emerald Isle on October 27 for their Halloween Carnival. Fun for the whole family includes creating a glow-in-the-dark mural, photo booth, cake walk, trunk-or-treat and more. The admission fee to the carnival is two bags of candy per child. This event is sponsored by Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation department. For more details, please call 252-354-6350.

Like flying kites? This free activity put on by Kites Unlimited is just for you. Join us for the 30th Annual Carolina Kite Fest on October 28 and 29 at Sands Villa Resort (1400 E. Fort Macon Road) The night fly will be held on Saturday evening at 6 p.m.

The final Halloween event at the Crystal Coast is the Town of Emerald Isle Trick-or-Treat on October 31 from 6-8:30 p.m.

Here is a quick list of the events we mentioned above – for updates on Crystal Coast events, please like the Crystal Coast on Facebook.

  • Howling Hayride at Fort Macon – October 14
    • 6:30-8 p.m.
  • North Carolina Aquarium Preschool Pumpkin Patch 2017 – October 25
    • 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • North Carolina Aquarium Trick-or-Treat Under the Sea – October 26 and 27
    • 4:30-8 p.m.
  • Emerald Isle Halloween Carnival – October 27
    • 6-8 p.m.
  • Kites Unlimited 30th Annual Carolina Kite Fest – October 28 and 29th
    • October 28 – 29: 10 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
    • October 29: Night fly at 6 p.m.
  • Town of Emerald Isle Trick-or-Treat – October 31
    • 6-8:30 p.m.

5 On-Land Outdoor Adventures to Have at the Crystal Coast

Taking a vacation to a beach town and spending the majority of your time on land? It sounds like a crazy concept, but the Crystal Coast of North Carolina has enough to do away from the beach that it just might happen. Whether you’re a cyclist or bird watcher, there are trails, waterways, and parks for everyone on this pristine section of North Carolina coastline, so much so that you’d forget your proximity to the ocean if not for the vast expanses of marsh and tidal creeks that surround this island community. Of course, you can still spend time at the beach, but consider these five activities off the sand on your trip to the Crystal Coast.

1. Cruise the Emerald Isle Bike Path

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The Emerald Isle Bike Path offers an easy, laid back and downright awesome 11 miles of paved and boarded pathways that stretch from the point at Bogue Sound to Indian Beach. This path is for all skill levels and winds through open grassland, maritime forests and even the heart of downtown Emerald Isle. Grab a hearty breakfast at The Trading Post, saddle up that beach cruiser and enjoy a slow ride through one of the most scenic areas on the Crystal Coast.

2. Venture Into Croatan National Forest

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The only true coastal forest east of the Mississippi, Croatan National Forest features more than 160,000 acres of trails, waterways, and campgrounds ripe for hiking, trail running, paddling, and camping. The forest is bordered by tidal creeks to the east and west, and stretches south all the way to Bogue Sound. Visitors to Croatan National Forest will not want to miss catching the sunrise at Cedar Point Campground, canoeing through the winding creeks fed by Bogue Sound, taking advantage of the 21 mile Neusiok Trail system, and mountain biking the 13 mile long Black Swamp OHV Trail.

3. Day Tripping at Emerald Isle Woods Park

Emerald Isle Woods Park is a 41-acre community park located on Emerald Isle that has everything you need for a day outside with friends—including birding trails, boardwalks, restrooms, and outdoor grills. Grab your picnic essentials from The Village Market and prepare to spend the rest of your day hanging out in the sun and winding through trails that span over ancient dunes and offer fantastic views of the marsh.

4. Hike the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Trail / Visit the NC Aquarium

The family of Teddy Roosevelt, our nation’s 26th president, graciously entrusted more than 290 acres of wildly pristine maritime forest to the state of North Carolina back in 1971. Today the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores calls this parcel of land home, and there is an accompanying 1.5-mile interpretive trail adjacent to the aquarium that leads visitors straight to Bogue Sound. The trail is well maintained and follows a dune ridge through the forest to the ocean. This is a great way to spend a half day checking out a massive amount of wildlife local to the Crystal Coast—and the scenery is breathtaking.

5. Outdoor Yoga

OK, this may take place on the beach, but it isn’t your typical beach activity. Local yoga studio Uptown Yoga is one of several studios on the Crystal Coast that offers outdoor yoga events and workshops, including the Coastal Yoga Festival in May. This year’s festival covers everything from an early morning Sunrise Flow class on Atlantic Beach to an extremely fun community drum circle that closes out the festival. Even if you’re not around during the festival, classes are available from Uptown Yoga or Momentum Yoga and Wellness, both of which are in Morehead City, all year round.

Originally written by RootsRated for Crystal Coast NC.

Featured image provided by Patrick Mueller


Fourth of July Weekend at The Crystal Coast

The Crystal Coast offers a fun-filled Fourth of July weekend packed with family friendly, active and romantic events. Fireworks, live musket demonstrations, sunset cruises, parades and races – this weekend’s events at the Crystal Coast offer something for every visitor! Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 5.49.19 PM Snapping photos of all your fun? Tag your 4th of July pictures with #MyCrystalCoast and you could be featured on our social channels! (Instagram photos featured above.) Here's what's in store: Friday, July 1, 2016 Saturday, July 2, 2016 Sunday, July 3, 2016 Monday, July 4, 2016 Whether you’re just visiting for the long weekend or staying for the whole week, you can check out all there is to do at the Crystal Coast on our Events page. Now you just have to decide whether to wear red, white or blue!

Holidays at the Crystal Coast

December is a magical time at the Crystal Coast. Whether experiencing the holidays through a child's eyes, enjoying a romantic getaway or celebrating with a group of friends, the many communities of the Coast welcome you for "the most wonderful time of the year." Events abound with parades kicking off as early as November, followed by weekend after weekend of art walks, ice skating, tree lightings and much more. Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus on the Morehead City Waterfront, "Light Up the Night" at the Atlantic Beach Christmas Parade, and don't forget the famed Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla traveling from Morehead City to Beaufort for judging. Beaufort, NC, has been ranked by Travel + Leisure as one of the Top Towns for the Holidays, with all our Crystal Coast communities offering up something to enjoy. Plus, join us after Christmas for a full schedule of New Year's festivities as part of the Crystal Coast Countdown. See our events calendar for more information on upcoming activities and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for photos of all the fun! Wishing you happy holidays from the Crystal Coast.   [embed][/embed]

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