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Country Club of the Crystal Coast

152 Oakleaf Dr., Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512, United States

Looking for a place for a business meeting, banquet, or event? Let our professional staff take care of every detail for you. We can accommodate from 4 to 250 guests for any of your banquet needs. We do weddings ceremonies, receptions, rehearsal dinners, after parties, anniversaries or any other special event. We also offer special member pricing on room rentals when you’re a member of The Country Club of the Crystal Coast, so be sure to check out our membership options!

Our amenities include 18 holes of championship golf course, 18 hole soccer golf course and driving range after 3:00 pm daily, 4 Har-Tru® lighted tennis courts, swimming pool and a clubhouse with dining and banquet facilities showcasing magnificent views of the Bogue Sound. With great hotel accommodations and beaches this is the place to host your event!

Country Club of the Crystal Coast

152 Oakleaf Dr., Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512, United States

The Country Club of the Crystal Coast...a multi-faceted recreational facility nestled among one of the few remaining maritime forests on the southern Outer Banks offering spectacular wide angle views of the Bogue Sound and the intracoastal waterway!

Country Club of the Crystal Coast

152 Oakleaf Dr., Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512, United States

Our waterfront location with lush green lawns, gorgeous sunsets, and magnificent panoramic views of the Bogue Sound and Intracoastal Waterway set the stage for an amazing and unique setting for your wedding ceremony and reception. It's truly a one-of-a-kind setting that has to be seen to be believed. We have received a 5-Star Rating from WeddingWire which is the #1 bridal and groom website on the web for the past 3 years. This rating places us in the TOP 5% for wedding venues in the nation for 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Add in a delectable menu by Chef Scott and our professional, experienced, and friendly staff for your wedding and it will be simply unforgettable that will have you and your guests talking for months!

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10 Reasons Why You Should Visit the Crystal Coast in the Spring

Ready to skip out on the cold and enjoy a much-needed trip to the beach? On North Carolina’s stunning Crystal Coast, you can beat the crowds and enjoy an early summer excursion filled with sun and fun.

1. Spring Fling

The Crystal Coast of North Carolina is a great option for a spring getaway.
The Crystal Coast of North Carolina is a great option for a spring getaway. Vance Miller

Start your summer early and chase some waves along the Crystal Coast’s pristine 85 miles of shoreline. In the spring, the days are sunshine-filled and the water is warming up—so catch and wave and lose the winter blues.

2. Feel like a Castaway

A view of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse at Cape Lookout National Seashore.
A view of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse at Cape Lookout National Seashore. Susan Sharpless Smith

Explore the Crystal Coast’s pristine coastal landscape in virtual solitude before the summer visitors hit the sand. Wander the scattered, biodiversity-loaded islands of the Rachel Carson Reserve, with only wild ponies for company. Or head to Cape Lookout National Seashore and climb the protected area’s historic, 163-foot lighthouse before the crowds arrive for an insightful glimpse into the stretches of solitude involved in the life of a lighthouse keeper.

3. Wonderful Wildlife Watching

You'll find a wide variety of both native and migrating birds on the Crystal Coast in the spring.
You'll find a wide variety of both native and migrating birds on the Crystal Coast in the spring. Vance Miller

Track the abundance of birds passing through the Crystal Coast during the seasonal spring migration. Head to Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, an 11,000-acre hub for wildlife, a haven for migratory birds, and a vital winter nesting habitat for an array of waterbirds. Keep your eyes on the skies at the Rachel Carson Reserve, strategically located along Atlantic Flyway, a virtual thoroughfare for northbound birds on their summer return trip. On the water, seek out the Crystal Coast’s local dolphins. Easily observed along the region’s coastline year-round, during the spring, resident dolphins return to the region’s calmer estuaries. This allows wildlife watchers the unique opportunity to watch the dolphin's congregate before the bustle of summer boat traffic begins.

4. Cool Spring Campsites

Enjoy the beach before the summer crowds arrive.
Enjoy the beach before the summer crowds arrive. Susan Sharpless Smith

Usher in the arrival of spring with a night under the stars at one of the Crystal Coast’s stunning campsites. Cape Lookout National Seashore is one of only a few places where visitors still have the option to camp right on the beach. Slightly further inland, just northwest of Morehead City, Oyster Point campground in the Croatan National Forest offers paddling access to the Intracoastal Waterway and serves at the trailhead for the Neusiok Trail, a 21-mile segment of North Carolina’s extensive, nearly 1,000-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

5. Discover New Outdoor Adventures

Test your skill kiteboarding on the Crystal Coast.
Test your skill kiteboarding on the Crystal Coast. C Watts

Still haven’t tried kiteboarding? Always wanted to take a scuba class? Take a hands-on course in the spring and hone your new skills before the summer crowds and boat traffic fill up the waterways—with vastly reduced class sizes, you are bound to have the instructor’s full attention while you learn.

6. Deals, Deals, Deals

Vacation rentals are available for groups of all sizes.
Vacation rentals are available for groups of all sizes. Vance Miller

The price is right along the Crystal Coast in spring—with an abundance of seasonal deals on a range of accommodations. From cozy bed and breakfasts to amenity-rich hotels and big, beachfront homes and condos, your dream vacation may be more affordable than you may think. Check out the Crystal Coast’s deals and specials on their website for an always-up-to-date list of spring offers.

7. Enriching Educational Experiences

Enjoying the sea life at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
Enjoying the sea life at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. bobistraveling

Need to head indoors for a day? The Crystal Coast’s historical sites and museums have plenty to offer at any time of year. Get up close and personal with stingrays, sharks, and sea turtles at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, wander the trails at historic Fort Macon State Park—once the Beaufort Harbor’s last line of defense against ruthless pirates—or explore the Crystal Coast’s fascinating history at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

8. Savory Spring

Beaufort, North Carolina, is a good home base for a trip to the Crystal Coast.
Beaufort, North Carolina, is a good home base for a trip to the Crystal Coast. Susan Sharpless Smith

Savor spring flavors in the Crystal Coast’s inviting waterfront towns. Taste the bounty with fishery-to-fork dining at eateries like Aqua in Beaufort, specializing in artfully crafted tapas and small-plates. Or head to Amos Mosquito’s Restaurant and Bar, a funky sound-side joint in Atlantic Beach. Taste the farm-to-table driven menu at Circa 81 in Morehead City. Even better, plan a trip in late April to coincide with Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend, a must-attend event for foodies. Want to spend the day picking out your own ingredients and cooking up a tailor-made feast instead? Peruse the local-produce and artisanal treats at the Olde Beaufort Farmers Market.

9. Music Festival Fun

Take advantage of several music festivals on the Crystal Coast calendar in the spring. The 4th annual Atlantic Beach Music Festival returns in May. The free festival on the boardwalk will include performances by Coastline, Band of Oz, Fantastic Shakers, and Mighty Saints of Soul. The two-day Beaufort Music Festival takes place downtown and brings in a wide variety of bands to perform. The free festival also includes food trucks and an activity area for kids. The Crystal Coast Music Festival made its debut in 2016, and it will be back in Atlantic Beach this June with a full day of live music, food, and activities.

10. Idyllic Trail Weather

Exploring the Croatan National Forest.
Exploring the Croatan National Forest. bobistraveling

In the spring, not only do you beat the summer tourists to the trails, you also beat the bugs. Take to the Crystal Coast’s abundance of water trails—with options ideal for paddlers of all experience—from easy loops by kayak or SUP on Whitehurst Creek, Nelson Bay, or the North River Estuary. Find more challenging trips on the wilder waters of the Atlantic Ocean, at Cape Lookout National Seashore. Or take to the Crystal Coast’s land-based trails at Croatan State Forest, Fort Macon State Park, Emerald Isle Woods Park, or on the 11-mile, multi-use Emerald Path.

Originally written by RootsRated for Crystal Coast NC.

Featured image provided by Susan Sharpless Smith

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5 Adventurous Ways to Hit the Water on the Crystal Coast

As its name implies, the Crystal Coast is home to some of the most pristine and clear water that can be found along the East Coast. Thousands of visitors tour this North Carolina shoreline every year, taking advantage of all the unique ways to connect with the water. The Gulf Stream’s close proximity to the shore facilitates adventure seekers' ability to interact with the ocean, and you'll find even more ways to enjoy the area as you look inland to the Intracoastal Waterway, rivers, inlets and creeks. If you plan on visiting this special part of North Carolina, here are five ways to make the most of that crystal clear water.

1. Diving

Perhaps the Crystal Coast’s most well-known tourist attractions are the multitude of shipwrecks that lie within its boundaries. The wrecks are the result of centuries of ill-fated journeys, from wooden ships of pirate days wrecked on barrier island rocks to German U-boats targeting merchant ships during WWII, all of which left this area covered in downed vessels accessible to scuba divers today. There are more than 200 underwater dive sites to choose from, and the water clarity offers divers an incredible view of this graveyard of vessels. To see for yourself, visit Olympus Dive Center for more information on how to plan your dive.

2. Surfing

When the waves are right, surfers are drawn to the Crystal Coast.
When the waves are right, surfers are drawn to the Crystal Coast. Calvin Webster

For you East Coast surfers that are reading this, you already know that the Atlantic can be your best friend, but more often than not, your worst enemy. For visitors looking to surf during your trip to the Crystal Coast, make sure you check the surf forecast and look at historical buoy data for the area you want to try to surf prior to committing to any particular spot. Decent swell along the Carolina coast is few and far between, but when the waves turn on, you will have the time of your life. Bring your longboard, or rent one from Atlantic Beach Surf Shop, and try to time your trip when the waves are 3 feet and glassy, and slide away.

3. Kayaking

Paddling the Crystal Coast, North Carolina.
Paddling the Crystal Coast, North Carolina. Donald Lee Pardue

Access to a kayak means the ability to experience all kinds of different water along the Crystal Coast. From touring the marsh behind Emerald Isle, to kayak surfing Atlantic Beach, paddling gives you a different perspective of your surroundings, and grants access to otherwise impenetrable parts of the coastline. For visitors, head to Beaufort Paddle, which offers rentals, instruction, and local tours. Explore the Rachel Carson Reserve, where you'll find wild horses at play in the dunes and dolphins swimming nearby. Down East Kayaks in Straits, N.C, near the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, also offers rentals and tours, where you can explore the salt marshes and tidal creeks. You'll most likely see a wide variety of sea birds, including osprey, great blue heron, ibis, and snowy egret as you travel through Core Sound, Black Sound, and more. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, guided kayak tours are the way to go. A kayak is one of the best ways to explore arguably the most beautiful barrier island system along the East Coast.

4. Kiteboarding

Take to the water, and skies, by kiteboarding.
Take to the water, and skies, by kiteboarding. C Watts

If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, look no further than Blown Kiteboarding for your opportunity to harness the power of the Crystal Coast’s powerful gusts. Kiteboarding is the surfer’s answer to windy, choppy conditions, using the wind to glide across the ocean and the waves to catch even more air than what’s already in your kite. This sport is not for the faint of heart; it’s a pure rush that can be physically demanding, but easier to learn than you’d expect. If you’re less experienced, consider taking lessons. If you’re a seasoned vet, the Crystal Coast has strong wind almost year-round, and is the perfect place to spend a vacation focused on kiteboarding.

5. Paddleboarding

Paddleboarders have a reputation for taking their sport to the next level, and the SUP community along the Crystal Coast is no different. This sport lets you incorporate other activities like fishing and surfing, making a paddleboard the Swiss Army Knife of your outdoor adventure kit. If you want to get the most out of your trip to the Crystal Coast, strap a paddleboard to your roof rack and go explore every tidal inlet, creek, and marsh area you come across. On calm, windless mornings, head out onto the open ocean for some touring. The odds are high that you’ll come across some interesting marine life paddling offshore of the Crystal Coast’s protected beaches.

The Crystal Coast is a paddler’s playground, and the perfect place to explore everything the North Carolina coastline has to offer. It’s safe to say that for visitors looking to plan a trip based on watersports and underwater adventuring, look no further than the Crystal Coast. The vast expanse of pristine coastline and ease of access to so many different types of water will leave you wondering why it took you so long to visit.

Originally written by RootsRated for Crystal Coast NC.

Featured image provided by Jack

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Extend Your Summer with Fall Adventures at The Crystal Coast

Fall Itineraries for The Crystal Coast, North Carolina Break free from the crowds and embrace the beautiful weather with these fall itineraries By Jason Frye   When it comes to visiting the beach, summer may be king, but those in the know make plans to hit the sand in fall. On the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, fall presents itself beautifully with warm days, perfect water and skies as pretty as a postcard. In fall, the fish are running, the waves are ideal and everything slows down to days of the easy, beach-to-yourself type. Crystal Coast Beach Let me show you why fall is the perfect time to visit the Crystal Coast. Check out the three itineraries below and choose the adventure that fits your schedule best. An overnight trip, a weekend getaway or a week at the beach—discover how to extend your summer. Tip: Try to plan your trip around a fall festival, such as during October’s Carolina Kite Fest or Crystal Coast Con. Tow the line through sandy beaches with expert fliers showing off kites from around the world, or participate in a sci-fi and fantasy extravaganza with costumes, prizes and celebrity guests galore. For couples, November is your month as the Beaufort Wine and Food Oyster Roast celebrates the state’s culinary heritage with a bonfire, hay wagon rides and live music.   Itinerary 1: One night on the coast On overnight trips, it’s easy to pack in plenty of what the Crystal Coast does best: a blend of beach time, play time and down time. Fort Macon State Park Plan to arrive before check-in at your hotel and head straight to Fort Macon State Park at the east end of Atlantic Beach. Fort Macon’s nature trails and swimming beach are much newer than the park’s star attraction: a fort and naval gun emplacement built before the Civil War with the engineering help of Robert E. Lee. Sunken into the ground, the sand helps insulate the thick stone and brick walls, creating cool, dry rooms. Walk the ramparts, take in the sweep of land and sea around you, witness cannons firing and reenactments—you have the command of the coast from here. Crystal Coast fort macon Eat shrimpburgers For your post-fort lunch, family friendly restaurants and drive-ins that serve a Crystal Coast favorite, the shrimpburger (fried shrimp, a steamed hamburger bun, ketchup and a smear of tarter sauce) are only a short drive away. Hotel check-in then beach After a late lunch, check in to your hotel or motel. There are a variety of options along the entire coast to fit your budget and style, especially in Morehead City and Atlantic Beach. Crystal Coast’s hotels are especially great for an overnight stay, as they provide convenient amenities and locations at a discounted fall price. Once you get your key, change into something beachy then head to one of the many beach access points, as the days are still long enough to take a nice relaxing nap on the sand. My recommendation: find a spot perched far out on the end of a pier where the breezes will be cool this time of year, the crowds lesser and the views spectacular. Crystal Coast Atlantic Beach Dine out End your day with some freshly caught seafood, which can be found at restaurants all along the Crystal Coast. Look for the Carteret Catch logo on restaurant doors, signs or menus, denoting the restaurants as members of the organization of the same name. Those symbols mean you are sure to find at least one local seafood dish on the menu. Carteret Catch connects local fishermen with area restaurants and seafood houses, guaranteeing the freshest—and most local—seafood around. So, when you eat at a Carteret Catch restaurant, you’ll not only enjoy a delicious meal, but also get a taste of local heritage. Wild horses tour The next morning, pack your bags, check out and hop on a nautical nature tour to see the Banker Ponies on Shackleford Banks or the Rachel Carson Reserve. Both locations consist of low barrier islands made of sand dunes, low maritime forests and marshes, and the Banker Ponies have a storied past. Descendent from shipwrecked Spanish Mustangs, the Shackleford Banks herd consists of 110–130 horses, and you’ll spot them in small groups as you watch from the water. Many nature tours are water-based, so you’ll always maintain a safe distance from the wild horses, but you’ll get close enough for a good photo of these amazing animals. Headed onshore? Be sure to stay roughly a school-bus length away to give these wild animals their due privacy. Shackleford Banks Horses   Itinerary 2: Weekend getaway Build your weekend getaway on the overnight trip itinerary but with two major distinctions: book a room at a bed & breakfast or inn, and with a whole weekend at your disposal, you can do even more. Check-in to a B&B Bed & breakfasts offer cozy accommodations perfect for a weekend retreat. Feel at home while exploring new adventures all along the coast. They’ll even make sure you start your day off right with homemade breakfasts from delightful innkeepers who know the latest scoop on local events, things to do and the best way to plan out your weekend. Beaufort, in particular, has a nice collection of “home sweet homes” to check-in to, and with plenty of things to do nearby, you’re never far from the action. Crystal Coast Bed & Breakfast On the water Spending time outdoors during the fall season is a must! Paddle trails direct you along scenic stretches of marshes, creeks and waterways as you kayak or standup paddleboard. With warm water and bright, sunny days, but little humidity to deal with, fall is the ideal time for a long, quiet paddle (or even a surf lesson if you’re feeling sporty). Taylor’s Creek, Bogue Sound and Down East’s Core Sound offer great paddling this time of year and your Instagram feed—filled with skies as blue as the water you’re paddling—will be the envy of all your friends. Don’t forget to tag #MyCrystalCoast. Fall is also a great time for fishing, which means fishing tournaments. Throughout October and November, you’ll find a school of fishing tournaments with both inshore and offshore trophies. Cast a line for flounder, redfish, speckled trout, king mackerel and more from onshore or at deep sea. And, if you land “a big one,” take home one of many cash prizes. Or, take out the competition and cruise with a fishing guide to the perfect spot for that perfect catch. You can even take a kayak fishing class—kayak, tackle and rods included. Tour historic Beaufort For some inland action, a bike tour of Beaufort, “America’s Favorite Town,” is a beautiful way to get a look at the historic buildings, small-town streets and waterside drives that make this town so lovely. And if you combine it with a food, history or sightseeing tour, you’ll experience Beaufort from two sides. If you feel pressed for time (or if you just don’t want to pedal around), take a double-decker bus tour that gives you a dose of humor along with local history, and it goes right by a building that the pirate Blackbeard once called home. Crystal Coast Tours Dinner by the sea When the sun sets, dine in style at one of many sit-down seafood spots, which range from family-owned seafood joints to white-tablecloth restaurants with chef-driven menus. Since you’re right on the coast, the seafood is fresh and many restaurants use locally grown ingredients, making for dishes rich in taste and local heritage. At the end of the day, relax on the B&B’s porch then snuggle into your high thread count sheets and fall asleep to the sounds of the seaside, waking up to fresh air and coffee the next day.   Itinerary 3: A week at the beach Make the most of your week at the beach by renting a cottage or condo (the bigger the better, bring friends). You can cook fresh seafood at home and take in those incredible ocean views from your deck (because you are renting a beachfront house, after all). On Emerald Isle, vacation rentals range from grand oceanfront villas to condos to humble soundside abodes, and since vacation traffic lessens in fall, that means you get more house for your dollar. You can easily find a place that fits your vacation style and budget. Private dining Once you get that beach house for a steal, you have to splurge a little, so how about living the high life and bringing in a personal chef? Several personal chefs and private caterers on the Crystal Coast will come to your rental and cook a meal to remember, serving plated or family-style feasts (and cleaning up) at costs comparable to a night out. Whether you spring for the private chef or not, a fresh seafood feast is a requirement when vacationing on the Crystal Coast. For the absolute freshest seafood, pay a visit to the fish market, pick up a couple pounds of today’s catch and ask for a few preparation tips—they’ll never steer you wrong and you’ll go home with a new dish up your sleeve. Beach time The crowds are gone, so the beach is yours for the taking from morning till evening. There are morning strolls, hours of studying the high-tide line for the perfect shell and more than a few rounds of wave frolicking. You’ve got the elbowroom to do it all, so dive in. Crystal Coast Emerald Isle History tour Also pay a visit to the historic sites of Beaufort—the Old Jail, the County Courthouse dating back to 1796 and a tour of The Old Burying Ground, a cemetery as storied as it is picturesque. While you’re around the area, stop at the North Carolina Maritime Museum to check out artifacts from Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. Ocean tours Get an idea of what’s swimming just offshore at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, where you’ll find giant tanks filled with everything from sea turtles to otters. Even get a behind-the-scenes tour with staff, or participate in a number of free programs. Still have more time to fill? Kitty Hawk Kites offers tandem hang gliding, towing you up to a mile high and letting you float back to the ground (a bird’s eye view of the Crystal Coast). Boat tours out to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse will take you past the islands with the Banker Ponies and stop at the Cape Lookout National Seashore, an uninhabited stretch of shore where the beachcombing is unparalleled, the fishing is simply awe-inspiring and the views of the black-and-white diamond-patterned lighthouse are jaw dropping. Depending on the weather, Cape Lookout is known to have some great breaks for surfing. And if you’re into fishing, charter a boat to take you inshore or offshore to catch your dinner. Crystal Coast Cape Lookout There’s only one drawback to a week on the Crystal Coast, particularly a week in fall: you won’t want to leave. You’ll get a feel for the people and a taste of the pace of life; you’ll picture yourself at the local markets; you’ll get used to that beach house and you’ll ask yourself, “Couldn’t I just stay? Another week? A month? Maybe forever?” Whichever length of time you choose to stay, all you have to do now is book it. Check out the latest fall deals to get the best Crystal Coast bang for your buck.
Activities,Attractions,Dining,Lodging,Shopping
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How to Have an Adventurous Ladies Weekend on the Crystal Coast (and Why You Should)

Dappled with pristine beaches, charming waterfront towns, and colorful historical sites, North Carolina’s stunning Crystal Coast is laden with outdoor adventure—and the perfect destination for a getaway with your girlfriends. Explore the region’s vast 85 miles of coastline on land or from the water. Wander uninhabited barrier islands still frequented by wild horses. Paddle the fascinating maze of spoil islands, dotted with idyllic picnic-worthy beaches.

You can also immerse yourself in the region’s rich history—a place referred to as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for the bounty of sunken ships just offshore. It was once the stomping ground of one of Atlantic’s most feared marauders, the infamous pirate Blackbeard. On the Crystal Coast, the opportunity for outdoor adventure is boundless. Grab your favorite outdoor-loving ladies and head to North Carolina’s most stunning stretch of shoreline. There’s just one problem: A weekend is hardly enough to take in all of the Crystal Coast’s natural wonders.

Get Caffeinated

First things first, begin with the essentials—namely, coffee. In Emerald Isle, Stir It Up brews organic, fair-trade coffee and teas and serves fresh, locally made baked goods (including gluten-free treats). It also showcases the work of local artists, adding to the coffee shop’s eclectic, inviting vibe. In Morehead City, locally beloved Sweet Beans Coffee and Café features a selection of tasty pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and caffeinated concoctions—from tropical smoothies to eye-opening espressos.

If you want to stretch your coffee stop into a full-fledged cocktail hour, head to the Beaufort Coffee Shop, which doubles as the location for the Cru Wine Bar. Besides the gourmet coffee and extensive wine selection, the coffee shop also serves light fare—like breakfast flatbreads, sandwiches, and pizza—and offers a selection of handcrafted artisan chocolates.

Where to Find Adventure

Walking to Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina.
Walking to Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina. Susan Sharpless Smith

Warm up for outdoor adventure with a restorative yoga session. NC Coastal Life offers yoga classes at a variety of locations in Beaufort and Atlantic Beach, including morning sessions on the beach at Fort Macon State Park and on Saturdays at the Olde Beaufort Farmers Market. In Morehead City, Uptown Yoga offers a variety of studio classes, including specialty SUP yoga sessions.

Ready to hit the water? Ditch the crowds and keep your eyes peeled for the staggering array of birds at the Rachel Carson Reserve, just across Taylor’s Creek from the Beaufort Waterfront.

Launch your SUP from the town’s Taylor's Creek Boat Ramp (along Front Street) to explore the reserve’s collection of islands. If you are feeling ambitious, paddle the entire 8.4-mile loop around the 2,315-acre protected area to seek out the band of feral horses that has been roaming the reserve since the 1940s. If you need to pick up a board, swing by Beaufort Paddle.

Want an even more ambitious trip? Kayak the Crystal Coast’s crown jewels—the smattering of barrier islands making up Cape Lookout National Seashore. For an iconic paddle, begin at the visitor center on Harkers Island and cross Back Sound to the towering Cape Lookout Lighthouse—and be sure to look for famed Banker ponies, the 100-strong herd of wild horses inhabiting Shackleford Banks, the national seashore’s southernmost barrier island.

While the Crystal Coast might be a paddler’s paradise, land-lovers will hardly be disappointed. Explore the network of trails at Fort Macon State Park. Gazing out on Onslow Bay as you wander the 1.5-mile Beach Trail, it is easy to imagine the days the formidable fortress was tasked with protecting the Beaufort Harbor from dangerous pirates. For a backcountry-style outing, head for the 160,000-acre Croatan National Forest, just northwest of Morehead City. Hop on the Neusiok Trail—a 21-mile segment of North Carolina’s nearly 1,000-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail—which winds past cypress swamps, wildlife-rich estuaries, and loblolly pine groves. While you hike, watch for the national forest’s carnivorous plants, including Venus flytraps.

Looking to cycle instead? Take a beach cruise by bike in Emerald Isle on the 11-mile Emerald Path, which runs from the eastern edge of town to the Point, at Bogue Inlet. Tack on local highlights like Emerald Isle Woods Park, a 41-acre sound-side park laced with trails—or cycle your way to an idyllic spot in the sand at the Eastern Regional Beach Access. If you need to rent a pair of wheels, grab a bike from Hwy 58 Bicycles, strategically located directly on the Emerald Path.

Where to Unwind

The Crystal Coast features incredible beaches.
The Crystal Coast features incredible beaches. Photo courtesy of The Crystal Coast

Don’t let the name fool you, the Beaufort Grocery Company is anything but a run-of-the-mill grocery store. The French-bistro-inspired eatery serves elegant fare and features one of the most extensive wine lists on the Crystal Coast. Best of all, the place also offers packed picnic baskets to go.

If you are craving a well-heeled craft brew, peruse the ever-evolving tap list at Tight Lines Pub and Brewing Company in Morehead City. Aside from the vast beer list, the place also features a menu loaded with southern-inspired comfort food, with indulgent small plates, like spinach-crab dip, seafood mac & cheese, and plenty of robust salads.

Recount the day’s adventures over drinks in the sun at the Idle Hour Biergarten in Atlantic Beach. It’s not just beer either; you can also sip wine, cider, or a number of beach-worthy cocktails—like mojitos, margaritas, and mai tais at the chill-inducing outdoor tables.

Where to Get a Good Night’s Rest

You have plenty of rental options for a girls getaway on the Crystal Coast.
You have plenty of rental options for a girls getaway on the Crystal Coast. Photo courtesy of The Crystal Coast

Accommodate a group of any size in a relaxing beachfront cottage or condo, available throughout the Crystal Coast from the abundance of rental companies operating in the region. For more rustic weekend digs, book one of the cabins available at Cape Lookout National Seashore, accessible only by boat. Prefer to pamper yourself? Grab a room at one of the cozy, amenity-loaded bed & breakfasts or inns that line the coast, or try a suite at an area hotel. No matter your vacation lifestyle, there are accommodations for every girl in your group.

Originally written by RootsRated for Crystal Coast NC.

Featured image provided by Photo courtesy of The Crystal Coast

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The Complete Guide to Spring Fishing on the Crystal Coast

Springtime means warmer weather and warmer waters along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, which means more comfortable weather for fishing and plenty of fish to be found!

The Crystal Coast is an 85-mile stretch of pristine coastline along North Carolina’s central coast, just north of Wilmington and at the southernmost tip of the Outer Banks. Aside from being one of the most wildly beautiful barrier island systems on the planet, this particular strip of shoreline is graced with year-round fishing conditions comparable to what you’d find much further south along the Atlantic coast of Florida. This is mostly due to the fact that the Gulf Stream flows closer to shore along the Crystal Coast than it does anywhere else in the Carolinas, bringing crystal clear, warm water and with it an abundant array of marine life. The fishing community here is passionate and welcoming, and with warmer weather in the near future, locals are anxious to hit the water in search of the seasonal bounty spring brings to the area.

Fishing on Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Fishing on Cape Lookout National Seashore. Susan Sharpless Smith

As one would expect with such a thriving fishery, you’ve got options. From deep-sea charters to inshore fly fishing trips, you can spend a week along the Crystal Coast and fish a different way each day. In the spring, inshore redfish trips, like those guided by WaterDog Guide Service, are moved to the top of the list, with perfect conditions for sight casting redfish on tidal flats. If you’re a fly angler and have never experienced the tug of a redfish or black drum on the end of your leader, prepare to fall in love with the sport all over again.

Fishing inshore offers the best of both worlds—you still get to fish saltwater, but the experience is more akin to pheasant hunting or fishing a still lake, believe it or not. There’s nothing like pulling up to a calm grass flat on an incoming flood tide under a fiery sunset over the Atlantic, poling the boat through a field of Spartina grass as quietly as possible, spotting a feeding redfish’s tail sticking out of the water and placing your fly in front of the hungry fish’s face. It’s the perfect marriage of hunting and fishing.

Though inshore fishing is most common in the fall, the Crystal Coast’s proximity to the Gulf Stream offers the best false albacore and bluefin tuna fishing in the Carolinas. There is no shortage of deep sea charters available along the Crystal Coast, all with crews eager to put you on the fish of a lifetime.

Fishing offshore along the Crystal Coast is particularly beneficial to beginners or those that do not spend a lot of time out at sea. You do not have to travel far at all to reach the Gulf Stream, and if you go out on a calm day, you’re less likely to feel sea-sick. For more information about deep sea charters, contact Emerald Isle Adventures.

You'll find some incredible deep sea fishing, and might just catch a marlin, not far off the Crystal Coast.
You'll find some incredible deep sea fishing, and might just catch a marlin, not far off the Crystal Coast. Dominic Sherony

If you’re not interested in chartering a boat but still want to fish, the Crystal Coast has you covered on that spectrum, as well. Head over to Fort Macon State Park with a chair, some tunes and your rod, pull up some prime real estate on the beach, and cast into the surf as the sun goes down over the water.

The area has two major options for pier fishing: You'll find the 1,000-foot long Oceanana Pier at Atlantic Beach. You can rent a rod and reel plus buy bait on the pier. And there's a bar and restaurant where you can relax and tell your fish stories at the end of the day. In Emerald Isle, the Bogue Inlet Pier underwent major renovations this off-season, including a new pier house. You can try to reel in the big fish at the end of the pier (the largest in 2016 was a 128-pound tarpon) or go bottom fishing closer to the shore, catching puppy/red drum, spot, and other smaller fish. It, too, has restaurant and bar, which was renovated this year as well.

Another fun option is to rent a kayak from AB Watersports Adventures and paddle just offshore of the beach, or inshore around Harkers Island. Expect to catch your fill of sea trout, flounder, redfish, and sheepshead on conventional rods and reels, or if you want to brave the open ocean with your heavier rig, you can paddle out to one of the 2,000 shipwrecks along the Crystal Coast and fish for grouper, wreckfish and triggerfish.

Fishing from the beach on Emerald Isle.
Fishing from the beach on Emerald Isle. suttonls

Spring is an incredible time of year along the Crystal Coast. The weather, scenery and lively coastal community come together to create one of the most pleasant places in along the eastern seaboard. If you have the opportunity to visit this part of the Carolinas during the spring, don’t forget your rod.

Originally written by RootsRated for Crystal Coast NC.

Featured image provided by Vance Miller

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America’s Best Small Towns: Discovering North Carolina’s Crystal Coast

A south-facing cloister of coastal treasures, the Crystal Coast of North Carolina is truly one of a kind. Due to its unique geography, it’s the only place in the state—and one of few on the entire Atlantic shore—where visitors can watch both sunrise and sunset over the same clear, blue water. The Crystal Coast is a collection of towns and distinct areas that are known for their romantic scenery, world-class dining and shopping, sites of historical and cultural significance, and rare natural wonders, and each of the area’s destinations has its own personality and set of things to do. Find out more about each of these eleven stops along the crown jewel that is North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. Atlantic Beach The oldest town on Bogue Banks, Atlantic Beach is the site of several centuries' worth of American history. Built on top of an uncompleted 18th-century redoubt, Fort Macon predates the Civil War, and is now the centerpiece of Fort Macon State Park. From its origins as a bulwark against pirate attacks, to its role as a post-Civil War prison, the aged walls house incredible stories. Special events like Civil War reenactments and the NYE Cannon Firing take guests back in time. After exploring, meander through the park grounds to the seashore for sunshine and scenery. Fort0943 The history book continues with a hop over to the nostalgic Oceanana Fishing Pier. Opened in 1959 and marketed as “The Family Playground of the South,” this family-owned and operated pier and resort have been the cornerstone of family vacation traditions for decades, coupled with a variety of other resorts and restaurants that bring Atlantic Beach to life.BSP-0453_HDR Pine Knoll Shores The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is ranked among the best aquariums in the country and is home to adorable otters, sea turtles, sharks, various fish species and more. Interactive exhibits let you get you up close and personal with stingrays and other underwater creatures. Events like Vulture Awareness Day, Cephalopod Awareness Day and holiday celebrations take place regularly at the aquarium, and make sure to say hello to Nimbus, the rare, white sea turtle and local celebrity. Submarine1284 If you’re traveling sans kids, consider reserving tee times at the Country Club of the Crystal Coast. The club offers weekly memberships, giving visitors a chance to enjoy its top-notch facilities for golf, swimming and tennis. Emerald Isle Built long after the Atlantic Beach Causeway connected eastern Bogue Banks to the mainland, the Cameron Langston Bridge grants quick and easy access to Emerald Isle, the westernmost community on Bogue Banks. The town’s unspoiled shoreline and quaint neighborhoods make it a family favorite for a day, week or longer at the beach. Rent bikes at Hwy 58 Bicycles and get some exercise on the scenic greenway, then indulge your sweet tooth with ice cream or other treats at The Sweet Spot. _SP_5298 copy The warm, clear waters of Emerald Isle are perfect for a variety of water sports and activities like surfing, kite boarding, kayaking and paddle boarding, and many shops rent equipment to vacationers. Family owned and operated, Bogue Inlet Pier is a clear favorite for veteran anglers, but with a snack shop and observation deck, even lil’ fisher folk can get caught up in the fun. IMG_9397 Indian Beach The waters around Indian Beach are reminiscent of the Caribbean, their brilliant blue a rarity this far north. Maritime forests, luxury beachfront rentals and miles of soft sand define the resort community of Indian Beach. Once favored by Blackbeard the pirate, the area now draws a different sort of crowd. Workaholics and 24/7 go-getters can relax with a massage or aromatherapy Salt-Glow treatment at The OC Spa and Celebration Center. Naturalists will want to check out the Sea Turtle program, staffed by volunteers working with the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium and Bogue Banks Sea Turtle Program. If you plan your vacation just right, you may be able to watch the loggerhead hatchlings emerge and make their journey into the sea. IQ6A0095 Beaufort Voted America’s Favorite Town and one of America’s Most Romantic Towns, Beaufort has the allure of amore. In addition to charming shops and galleries, a stroll of the boardwalk offers views of one of nature’s most powerful symbols of the indomitable and wild romantic sprit: the wild horse. Although horses are not native to North Carolina’s shores, the horses on nearby Rachel Carson Reserve reverted to a wild state after spending generations living outside of captivity and can often be seen from the Beaufort shoreline. BSP-9767_HDR In the evening, Beaufort’s restaurants fill the air with enticing aromas. Front Street Grill, Beaufort Grocery Company and Queen Anne’s Revenge are just a few of the award-winning restaurants that bring fine dining to your fingertips. If you and your travel partner share a love for the epicurean, plan your Crystal Coast interlude to coincide with the Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend for an indulgent treat. _SP_1004 Morehead City If you’re angling for some time with your rod and line, Morehead City, North Carolina, is awash in maritime activities. A long-time favorite for sport and commercial fishing, Morehead City and the community of The Promised Land based their economies around the fecund water that fed the fishing industry in the region. The Promise Land Festival celebrates the history of this fishing community that began centuries ago. Today’s sport fishing enthusiasts know of Morehead City as home to The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, a highly anticipated annual event spawned from a local fishing competition in 1957. Whether you’re out on the water or waiting for the weigh-ins on land, the event has entertainment for all. 10659270_10153129713039177_12762525773775385_n Prefer a demi-glaze and butter to sunscreen and chum? The North Carolina Seafood Festival gives guests a taste of the coast with fresh seafood and so much more. Three days of rides, concerts and other musical performances, a sailing regatta, pier fishing competitions and boat shows make this one of the largest seafood festivals in the region and a visitor favorite in North Carolina. Down East If you hear North Carolinians talk about Down East, they are likely referring to the collection of communities of the past and present that lie east of Beaufort, North Carolina on the Outer Banks. Many Down East communities are located along Core Sound of the Crystal Coast, including Harkers Island, Marshallburg, Davis and Cedar Island. With rich histories and strong ties to the natural environment and ecosystem, a visit to any of these former or current communities will stir desire to connect to the past and to the sea. BSP-4317 copy Harkers Island The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harkers Island is the center of cultural and environmental preservation of Core Sound and Down East communities. Hike the interpretive trails surrounding Willow Pond where kids can learn about the importance of clean water, conservation and restoration. During the winter Waterfowl Weekend and Decoy Festival, carvers demonstrate their craft and display their wares. The history of the Core Sounders is innately tied to the sea and island environment. Exhibits on shipbuilding, displays of Americana, and the maritime forest trails that lead to the shore will keep your crew busy for hours. Museum1484 The visitor center on Harkers Island is the main gateway to a swath of barrier islands that make up Cape Lookout National Seashore. BSP-0122 Cape Lookout The remote shores of Cape Lookout National Seashore — including Shackleford Banks, North Core, and South Core—hold pristine maritime forests, salt marshes, undeveloped beaches, white sand dunes and hidden stories of the past. The only true maritime forests on the island, the salt-pruned trees that twist from the ground on Shackleford Banks are almost otherworldly, combined with the incredible experience of observing some of the 100+ wild horses that call Shackleford Banks their home. The Diamond Lady lighthouse, with its stark black and white diamond pattern, has a view that is worth the 207-stair climb. Tours of the lighthouse and keeper’s house are seasonal, sometimes even by the light of the moon. untitled-1177 copy Salter Path In the late 1800s, residents of Shackleford Banks’ Diamond City community literally packed up shop and rebuilt on the narrowest part of Bogue Banks. Salter Path, as it came to be called, tells an amazing story of a community’s fight for its land and is part of the Down East Community Tour. Today, people know Salter Path, North Carolina, for its abundant fishing, aquamarine waters and white sands. Make a trip to a local market for shrimp so fresh it’s like they jumped straight out of the sea and on to your grill. Not a culinary master? Visit the Big Oak Drive-In for what they claim is the best shrimpburger on the Crystal Coast. BSP-9934 Western Crystal Coast Western Crystal Coast is comprised of several inviting communities including Cape Carteret, Cedar Point, Stella and Pelletier. If it’s a rainy day, or you just need to play a different way, the giant arcade at Mac Daddy’s Entertainment Center has a mix of games including new favorites and the classics. Grab some wings and hit the lanes for a bit of bowling, or let the kids roam and enjoy some frosty adult refreshment at the bar. Looking for more outside fun? Stop by The Golfin' Dolphin, for the high-speed thrill of a go-kart race or the laid back fun of mini golf. Croatan National Forest is also a treasure of this area with trails for kayaking, biking, hiking and other outdoor sports. IMG_5264
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Things Are Looking Up: The 6 Best Places to Catch a Nighttime Star Show Along the Crystal Coast

In the daylight, the Crystal Coast boasts one of the most stunning—and wildest—stretches of shoreline in North Carolina. By day, the undisturbed swathes of sun-drenched coastline provide revelers a pristine waterfront playground with jaw-dropping ocean vistas. But the Crystal Coast is just as spectacular by starlight, as the remote beaches and wild spaces offering stargazers a nighttime show not obscured by the bright lights of civilization. There are plenty of places to admire the night sky along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, but these are a few of the best spots to catch the celestial show.

Fort Macon State Park

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Gazing out over waters of the Beaufort Inlet, Fort Macon was once tasked with protecting coastal communities from a host of formidable threats, including zealous foreign flotillas and plundering pirates like the infamous Blackbeard. Today, aside from the historic citadel, Fort Macon State Park offers an inviting swimming beach and a handful of hiking trails. The park will also partake in the state’s largest celestial celebration—the North Carolina Statewide Star Party—hosting a ranger-led evening of stargazing, with members of the Crystal Coast Stargazers Club sharing insights and equipment. Look for additional events like this throughout the year, especially around meteor showers and cosmic events.

North River Wetlands Preserve

Located in the eastern corner of Carteret County just outside Otway, the North River Wetlands Preserve is one of the largest ecological restoration initiatives in North Carolina. Vast swaths of agricultural land has successfully been converted back to its original state—a blend of marshes, wetlands, and coastal forests. Besides being an ecological success story, the preserve is also the go-to dark sky location for the Crystal Coast Stargazers, the local astronomy club. The group meets regularly at the preserve to scope out the night sky, and welcomes both new members and visitors.

Cape Lookout National Seashore

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Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Crystal Coast, Cape Lookout National Seashore boasts 56-miles of pristine coastline, spread over four different barrier islands. By daylight, the vast national seashore is loaded with outdoor adventures, with plenty to tempt paddlers, wave riders, wildlife watchers, and surf-casting anglers. A trip to the Cape Lookout National Seashore is also more than just the average day at the beach, with the entire protected area located offshore (other than the Harkers Island Visitor Center). Just getting there is part of the allure. The remoteness also means that after sunset, the unlit barrier islands of the Cape Lookout feel far removed from the lights of the mainland, making the night sky even more vibrant.

On select evenings during the summer—nights near the full moon from May through September—the National Park Services offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the national seashore after dark. The Evening at the Cape Program involves a twilight ferry ride from Harkers Island, a flashlight tour of the 158-year-old Cape Lookout Lighthouse, and plenty of stargazing on the island’s secluded beaches.

For an entire night of sky-watching at Cape Lookout, spend the the night. Primitive camping is allowed throughout most the protected area, and rustic cabins are available for rent in the national seashore on Great Island and Long Point.

On the Water

Being on the water after sunset is almost surreal—especially on a kayak or SUP. On the Crystal Coast, you can channel the mariners who once navigated the waters offshore using just the stars as a guide on a moonlight paddling tour. Stargaze by SUP on a nighttime tour with SUPdude Paddle Tours in Atlantic Beach, or arrange a moonlit kayak tour with Barrier Island Kayaks near Cedar Point. Down East Kayaks, near Harkers Island (on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway), offers sunset kayak tours and overnight camping trips to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Best of all, a guided moonlight paddling trip—with someone else in charge of the navigation—leaves more time gazing at the stunning star show overhead.

Open-Air Eateries

Do you have a reluctant astronomer in tow? Transform a round of sunset libations into a stargazing session at one of the Crystal Coast’s open-air restaurants. Keep an eye on the sky at the Front Street Grill in Beaufort. The eatery that overlooks Taylor Creek specializes in locally sourced fresh seafood. Further down the coast, the waterfront Ruddy Duck Tavern in Morehead City serves up an internationally inspired menu loaded with seafood. In Atlantic Beach, Amos Mosquito’s Restaurant & Bar, which overlooks the Bogue Sound, serves everything from meatloaf to sushi, and it hosts a karaoke night every Thursday.

Originally written by RootsRated for Crystal Coast NC.

Featured image provided by Vance Miller

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