North Carolina's Crystal Coast brings visitors from all over who love the white sandy beaches, exciting activities and some of the most beautiful sunsets along the North Carolina coast. These beaches are in the center of the North Carolina coast, and as such the region commonly referred to as the Crystal Coast encompasses the whole area along the Bogue Banks, a barrier island that stretches nearly twenty five and a half miles long. Native Americans originally called the Bogue Banks home until, in the late 1800s, settlers came to the North Carolina coast. The coast remained largely a community for fishermen and sailors until developers began planning to turn the area into a resort community. Unlike other resort beaches of the time, the original developers wanted to maintain the quaint charm of the neighborhood and market it toward families. Even today, the many beaches along the Crystal Coast are known for their family-oriented atmosphere enjoyed by all types of visitors. Whether you are looking for a family vacation or a romantic weekend getaway, you will find everything you need at the Crystal Coast.
Though the pristine beaches and blue waters command attention, the Crystal Coast is also rich in history. Many different sites offer a glimpse of the nation from the Revolutionary War and Civil War while others showcase the maritime heritage. Fort Macon was the site of a major battle in the Civil War as the union soldiers fought to capture the fort. Today it stands as a reminder of our nation's early roots and as a tourist attraction for visitors. Many outdoor concerts are held here during the sultry summer evenings. At the southernmost tip of the Banks lies the Cape Lookout National Seashore, home to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Construction to the lighthouse was completed in 1812, and at 163 feet tall it still provides guidance to ships on the Atlantic Ocean as well as entertainment for visitors. Travelers and historians come to see this black and white diamond striped structure and visit the keeper's quarters. The unspoiled islands of the Cape Lookout National Seashore are only accessible by ferry from Atlantic Beach, Harkers Island, Beaufort, Davis and Morehead City.
Nature lovers will enjoy the many different parks and museums in the area. Many travel to Hammocks Beach State Park to walk the scores of nature trails with either a picnic basket for lunch or binoculars for bird watching. And no matter what age, everyone enjoys watching the nesting loggerhead turtles and hatchings. Atlantic Beach's Fort Macon State Park offers numerous educational and fun activities for friends and families to partake, from fishing and hiking to tours and exhibits. Visit the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve to see the Wild Horses of Carrot Island. Take the Beaufort ferry to the reserve to walk along undeveloped beaches and discover unspoiled nature at its finest. Travel to the Pamlico Sound and visit the White Sands Trail Rides to take a waterfront ride day or night. Another nature lover's dream is to take a day to explore the ocean and all of the sea creatures who call it home at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. With over one million animals in the enormous building, a touch tank, auditorium two nature trails and gift shop, you can spend an entire day just exploring the wonders of the coast at this amazing aquarium.
Some of the best fishing and scuba diving can be found in the Crystal Coast, around Atlantic Beach and Morehead City. Named one of the ten best diving locations in North America by several popular dive magazines, scuba diving is one of the most popular water sports in the area. Many dive to explore the beautiful ocean life year round thanks to the warm waters of the nearby Gulf Stream. Because of the historic maritime heritage there are tons of shipwrecks off the coast, and many divers are going on wreck tours to explore the remains of these storied tragedies. Fishing proves both a huge source of commerce for the area and an enjoyable activity and competitive sport. There are numerous fishing tournaments in the Crystal Coast. Each September, Atlantic Beach hosts one of the nation's biggest king mackerel fishing tournaments, the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament. Fishermen come to the area in spring for the King Mackerel - Bluewater Fishing Tournament, hosted by the Swansboro Rotary Club every May. Yet there are many different types of fishing enjoyed off the waters of the Atlantic. In fact, many different organizations boast that Carteret County offers some of the best saltwater fly fishing in the world and the Crystal Coast offers a myriad of charter fishing boats for visitors to experience.
A year-round vacation spot, the Crystal Coast has events for every season. Festivals play a large part in area activities and provide a fun filled day of food, arts and crafts and various other activities. The North Carolina Seafood Festival, held in early October each year is a must for everyone. The event's surrounding the 20th anniversary of the festival include a golf tournament, fishing tournament and boat show. That being said, everyone comes for the food. Oysters, clam chowder, shrimp burgers are always among the favorites, but for the more adventurous you can try charcoal mullet, sea urchin on a stick and marinated eel. There is music, performance groups and lots of art vendors; make sure to plan a beach getaway in the fall to enjoy this one of a kind festival. Beaufort's Music festival and the Crystal Coast Jubilee Christmas show offer visitors great food and music during the fall and holiday season. Salter Path, a small coastal town whose main commerce is fishing, holds an annual Clam and Scallop Festival the first Saturday in May. With "Salter Path Clam Chowder," shrimp burgers and scallop fritters, it's a seafood lover's delight.
From the northern beaches of Cedar Island, Harkers Island and Beaufort to the southern Emerald Isle, Cape Carteret, Cedar Point and Swansboro, there is always something new to discover at the Crystal Coast. Whether you are looking for the perfect beach for you and your family or are looking to spend time traveling beach by beach to explore what each unique spot has to offer, your memories will last a lifetime. Discover the different beaches in the area and explore what fun awaits you, or use our trip planner to choose your vacation home. Uncover the different restaurants in this area and find out about the many events and activities surrounding the Crystal Coast to plan your vacation of a lifetime!