The towns of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast have a charm all their own, and something to offer everyone. The pristine beaches, array of boating and fishing opportunities, and delicious restaurants and fresh local seafood help make this beautiful area the perfect place for a beach vacation.
Fort Macon State Park. Located at the eastern end of Bogue Banks, just past Atlantic Beach, construction began on this fort in 1826 in response to fears among the colonists of an invasion by a hostile nation. The fort would later be traded back and forth between Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War before it became a federal prison in 1867, closed entirely in 1903 and then was purchased by North Carolina for $1 in 1924 to become the second state park. Featuring a beautiful beach and interactive programs about the fort, Ft. Macon State Park is a great place to soak up some history or just soak up the sun.
Core Sound Waterfowl Museum. The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum is an amazing facility located at the East end of Harker's Island. The museum celebrates the rich heritage of Carteret County’s Down East region. Spend time on the porch with decoy carvers and learn more about the hunting and fishing traditions of days gone by. Visit the gift shop and gallery for a delightful selection of books, mementos and art. Quite a treat for the entire family! For more information about this innovative museum, visit www.coresound.com or call (252) 728.1500.
NC Maritime Museum. This museum, situated on historic and charming Front Street in Beaufort, features exhibits that reveal maritime history from boats to seashells to pirates. The facility also offers a variety of wonderful programs, which could last an afternoon or span over a couple of weeks. Curator-led field trips to nearby barrier islands or coastal forests, the “Build a Boat in a Day” workshop at the Watercraft center across the street from the main museum, or one of the daily programs such as “Whales in North Carolina” are all great ways for parents to spend quality time learning alongside their children.
For more independent kids, the museum’s Summer Science School includes hands-on activities and field trips relating to such topics as seashore life, surfing, and maritime archaeology. Finally, the Maritime Museum sponsors a Junior Sailing Program open to children ages 8 and older and offering eight two-week sessions during the summer. For more information and class schedules, go here or call (252) 728-7317.
Historic Beaufort. The charms of historic Beaufort are hard to resist, with its wonderful shops, delicious restaurants and buildings brimming with local history. As the third-oldest town in North Carolina, Beaufort’s Historical Society has a strong presence in this little community, offering historic walks, maps for a history-filled bike ride, guided exploration of the Old Burying Ground, tours on a double-decker bus and a two-acre Historic Site complete with guides decked out in period dress. For more information visit www.historicbeaufort.com or call (800) 575-7483.
NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Located 5 miles west of Atlantic Beach off Highway 58, the aquarium offers daily programs, films and live animal exhibits ranging from the tiny sea horse to the giant alligators and sharks. The Close Encounters touch tank and the turtle nursery where baby loggerheads are cared for are sure to be family favorites. Surrounded by the 300-acre Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, the aquarium also has a boardwalk, two nature trails and offers programs, which include snorkeling and canoeing. For a family activity or an adventure for just the kids, contact the aquarium to learn about their classes and workshops with such topics as “Breakfast with the Animals” or “Feeding Time”. For more information go here or call (252) 247-4003.
The NC Ferry System. The many boats that make up the ferry system travel through 5 different bodies of water along the NC coast. The ferries provide a great way to explore various parts of our coastline while adding an extra element of adventure for any family. The trips from Ocracoke to Hatteras or Cherry Branch to Minnesott Beach are the most accessible from Carteret County. Many of the ferry rides are free. For more information go to www.ncferry.org or call (252) 726-6446.
Other ferry companies include:
- Island Ferry Adventures on the Beaufort Waterfront (252) 728-7555 or www.islandferryadventures.com.
- Capt. Andy’s water tours on the Morehead City Waterfront, 600 Evans St., (252)728-3988.
Atlantic Beach Fishing and private boat charters. Inshore fishing for speckled trout, drum, flounder, Spanish mackerel and blue fish among many others is a popular sport in the area. With the Gulf Stream only approximately 40 miles away, deep sea fishing for species including tuna, dolphin, wahoo, king mackerel, marlin and grouper is a favorite activity and topic of conversation. If you’d like to try your hand at catching the big one, sportfishing charter boats are available out of Atlantic Beach, Beaufort/Harkers Island, Cape Carteret/Emerald Isle, and Morehead City. Go to www.crystalcoastnc.org
Another great option is to walk along the waterfront in Morehead, Beaufort of Atlantic Beach where all of the fishing boats are lined up, choose the one you like best and call the number advertised in front of it to book your trip.
Other attractions include:
- The History Place in downtown Morehead City (252)247-7533
- Olympus Dive Center in Morehead City (800) 992-1258
- MacDaddy's Bowling adjacent to The Golfin' Dolphin in Cape Carteret (252) 393-656
- The Golfin’ Dolphin family fun park in Cape Carteret: (252) 393-8131
Start Planning Your Atlantic Beach Vacation
Planning a vacation to Atlantic Beach? There is plenty to do on the Crystal Coast! Browse our Atlantic Beach vacation rentals and then check out our recommended list of things to do in Atlantic Beach during your vacation.