Stay up-to-date on specials and learn about fun
events happening on The Crystal Coast!
219 West Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina 28512
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. 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
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.
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.
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.
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
Beginner Paddle TrailsBeginner 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. 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 TrailsModerate 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. 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 TrailsExcellent 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. 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:
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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