Visitors are often surprised at the number and variety of weekly vacation rentals throughout the area.. Vacation rentals are, in fact, an increasingly popular accommodation available to vacationers, and visitors will find that the sheer number of rentals available allows them to find an ideal retreat to fit their crew, from quiet condo complexes to brightly colored oceanfront sand castles.
One of the most sought-after attractions of the Shackleford Banks are the famed wild horses that call this deserted barrier island terrain home – the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses. Local residents for hundreds of years, these feral horses may be shy and only make occasional appearances when humans are around, but they are nonetheless one of the most unique and popular aspects of the 56-mile long Cape Lookout National Seashore. Every beach visitor hopes for an opportunity to spot one of these feral horses in their natural environment, and often, a chance to see one of these famed island residents is just a short water taxi or ferry ride away.
The Cape Lookout National Seashore is a 56-mile long stretch of the Southern Outer Banks barrier island terrain that runs from Ocracoke Inlet to the northeast side of Beaufort Inlet. Comprised of three separate islands – the North Core Banks, the South Core Banks, and the Shackleford Banks – this wonderfully remote destination can only be accessed by a personal vessel, or a privately operated ferry or water taxi. As a result, it’s world-renowned for its miles of undeveloped and scenic beaches, its remarkable fishing, its exceptional shelling, and its abundant wildlife that thrives in the undisturbed and inherently wild environment.
The waterfront world of Beaufort, Morehead City, the Shackleford Banks, and everything in between is at a mariner’s fingertips when they launch from the Newport River Pier and Ramp. Located directly on the water in between Morehead City and Beaufort, this sprawling launch site is a popular destination for visiting and local mariners alike.
The original New Bern Artworks, recently renamed and now known as the "Fine Art at Baxters Gallery," is a favorite downtown shopping spot for frequent visitors and first-time vacationers alike. Located in the former Baxters Jewelry Store in the heart of downtown on Pollock Street, the gallery features an eclectic collection which includes original paintings, glass works, ceramics, pottery, sculpture, photography, and jewelry.
The Crystal Coast's offshore waters are guarded by the US Coast Guard, and Emerald Isle is home to one of their flagship stations, encompassing a large section of the town's western edge, adjacent to the inlet, and marked by an unimposing station house that more closely resembles a classic beach cottage than a military outpost.
There’s a lot for kids to see and explore in Morehead City, which is known as the center of - or gateway to - the Crystal Coast region. From hands-on museums to an eclectic collection of shops and eateries, the area’s youngest visitors can expect to enjoy miles of fun in every direction when Morehead City serves as a central launching point for a kid-friendly adventure.
Creekside Park is the largest park in the town of New Bern, and it’s situated close to the local airport, just off of US Highway 70. The park extends for 11 acres and since opening in 1997, is one of the most popular destinations for a myriad of both youth and adult sporting events.
Visitors to the central Crystal Coast region who want to embark on a wild island adventure without venturing too far away from the mainland can enjoy a relatively easy trek with a visit to Sugarloaf Island. Veritably hidden in plain sight, this unique little island is located just a shell’s throw away from Morehead City, and yet feels like it’s worlds away from the busy downtown area.
From the rustic barrier islands that are located offshore, to the mainland parks that resemble full scale resorts, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to camping in the Morehead City region. Best of all, because this coastal town is wonderfully close to local beaches, National Forests or National Refuges, hopping coastal towns, and everything in between, it’s easy to craft the camping adventure of a lifetime with a trip to this central Crystal Coast region.
Many of the Inner Banks and Crystal Coast communities, like Beaufort and New Bern, are known for their scenic waterfronts, and downtown Morehead City is certainly no exception. Not to be outdone, in the 1980s, the town underwent an expansive renovation that turned its waterfront docks and downtown brick buildings just a block or so away into a revitalized area that is scenic, diverse, and can offer visitors a boatload of entertainment, both on and off the water.
The Neuse River Recreation Area is an inviting rustic vacation destination for seasoned campers and newcomers alike, with an equally alluring location that's just steps away from the miles-wide Neuse River, and just a few miles away from New Bern, Morehead City, and the beaches of the Crystal Coast. Ideal for visitors who want to get back to nature while enjoying a day on the shore, this recreation area can please beach-goers, swimmers, nature fans, birders, anglers, and virtually every outdoor lover in between.
The Crystal Coast has more than 85 miles of coastline, which includes 56 miles of protected and unspoiled beaches that make up the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Because of this, folks will find plenty of stretches of sand where they can use their 4WD vehicle to cruise, explore, and find a remote beach spot to call their own.
While the beach towns of the Crystal Coast may get the lion’s share of attention from vacationers, Morehead City is a treasure trove of unique attractions in its own right, thanks to a vibrant scene where local history, arts, culture, and a love of the water all combine. From stunning views of the heart of the on-the-water action to historical sites or museums where centuries of artifacts are housed, there is truly a little something for every visitor in this unique coastal community.
Fort Macon State Park, located outside the eastern borders of Atlantic Beach, is one of the most visited and highly acclaimed destinations along the Crystal Coast, and for good reason. The expansive 389 acre park, which features gorgeous inlet views, fantastic beaches, and plenty of history in plain view around every sand dune, always tops the list of Crystal Coast attractions that can't be missed.
Visitors of all ages will have a blast at this destination that is designed for great times along the Crystal Coast shoreline. Professor Hacker's Lost Treasure Golf and Raceway is situated in the centrally located beach community of Salter Path, and is a favorite spot for families who want to have a little fun off the sand.
Snapperz Grill & Steam Bar is a solid destination for a little Crystal Coast vacation atmosphere – an environment which perfectly complements a varied menu chock-full of seasonal and local seafood specialties. The restaurant is decked out in beachy décor and furnishings, which includes a new “Boat Bar” that looks like a long dinghy and is called, affectionately, the Harper Grace. In addition, the bar area doubles as a spot for the night owl crowd, with seasonal live acoustic music to accompany dinner, or a little weekend karaoke with a cold beer or cocktail.
Dive into an exploration of some of the Southern Outer Banks’ most remote shorelines with an excursion that’s led by Island Ferry Adventures. Featuring both transport to the outlying islands as well as guided tours of some of the region’s most wild spots, this tour company has a lot to offer for shell seekers, nature buffs, and everyday adventurers alike.
Island Express Ferry Service LLC is the only authorized concessionaire to drop off at Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Shackleford Banks! Offering departures from both Beaufort and nearby Harkers Island, Island Express Ferry Service serves as the link between the communities of the Crystal Coast and the spectacularly beautiful and isolated barrier islands of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Accommodating passengers who want to explore the miles of pristine beaches, exceptional fishing and shelling, wild horses, and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Island Express Ferry Service serves as the gateway for one of the most unforgettable adventures along the North Carolina coast.
Located on the southern end of Emerald Isle, and easy to reach for visitors staying throughout the Crystal Coast, Mac Daddy’s is the destination of choice for countless fun-seeking vacationers of all ages who want a big dose of entertainment off the sand. Featuring a bowling alley, sports bar, arcade, and a sister miniature golf course – (the Golfin’ Dolphin) - visitors can expect plenty of good times when they make an outing to this all-around fun amusement center.
The Morehead City waterfront and downtown area go together hand in hand, in fact, with a number of marinas and docking spaces available for travelers who are arriving by boat. Several marinas, including the Morehead City Yacht Basin, the Portside Marina, and the Spooners Creek Marina, call this section of the Inner Banks home, and the town of Morehead City even has its own public docking facilities, newly completed, with deep water slips that are close to Arendell Street, one of the major streets that runs along Morehead City in the heart of the downtown region.
The mainland and waterfront boat slips are separated by a long boardwalk edging the water, which is ideal for a sunset or morning stroll. Visitors can work up an appetite as they admire the miles-wide views of the Bogue Sound and Money Island Bay, and can relax on strategically placed benches and wooden "deck swings" overlooking the scene. Other amenities include shaded gazebos and information kiosks that outline the history of the waterfront, and indicate local points of interest. New visitors should also be on the lookout for the giant and colorful statue of King Neptune, who stands guard over the local marinas and docks, and is located close to the hub of the downtown region.
Visitors to the waterfront will also be rewarded with a wide selection of galleries, boutiques, and acclaimed local restaurants, including the legendary Sanitary Fish Market and Restaurant, (located on the very edges of downtown), Jack's Waterfront Bar, Capt. Bill's Waterfront Restaurant and Mythos Waterfront Grill, an upscale Greek restaurant with local seafood specialties. As all of the names would suggest, these establishments, plus the half dozen or so additional eateries scattered throughout downtown, have phenomenal views of the open water, and are perfect destinations for a romantic dinner with a sunset-over-the-water backdrop.
In addition to the restaurants, shopping and boardwalks, vacationers will find ample avenues for having fun on the open water along Morehead City's waterfront. A dive center is located adjacent to the docks, as well as several charter fishing boats and tour services. Essentially, from the waterfront, visitors can embark on any number of adventures, including half day charter fishing trips for inshore sound species, full day charter fishing adventures in the Gulf Stream, island-hopping excursions to neighboring Sugarloaf Island or one of the many other nearby beaches, or a scenic tour along the busy and beautiful Bogue Sound.
Summer visitors can rent kayaks and canoes off the downtown docks as well for their own, self-guided adventures, and anglers are advised to look into the local charter fishing services available. Home to the annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, Morehead City is renowned for its charter fishing fleet, and fishermen who book a half-day or full-day trip will enjoy some of the best fishing on the East Coast, guided by some of eastern North Carolina's most experienced local captains and mates.
There are several hotels and inns located within walking distance of the downtown area, and most all of the local marinas offer exceptional, first-class services and amenities for travelers visiting by water. Electric hook-ups, wireless internet access, showers, restrooms, laundry facilities and small supply stores are all common attributes, with countless restaurants, shops and local attractions located just steps off the docks.
The waterfront is also home to the popular Jaycee Park, which is the venue of choice for a number of popular annual events, including Morehead City's Summer Concert Series, Double Decker bus tours, and community-wide parades and holiday celebrations.
Visitors to the Crystal Coast or the Inner Banks should reserve an afternoon or evening to explore everything that the scenic Morehead City waterfront has to offer. From ample docking space and marinas for travelers passing through along the Intracoastal Waterway, to an exceptional collection of restaurants that specialize in the best of North Carolina's seafood industry, everyone who visits this region will surely be charmed and fully entertained. Schedule a diving adventure, a full day of hard Gulf Stream fishing, or a lazy tour along the waterfront, and see first-hand why Morehead City is a rising star of the Coastal Carolina vacation scene.