Visitors can enjoy the Crystal Coast’s most coveted and hard-to-reach shorelines, or just embark on a breezy cruise of the open waters in search of dolphins and sunsets, with a trip that’s guided by Lookout Cruises. This local tour company that calls the central town of Beaufort its home port offers a far-reaching range of adventures that will have coastal fans of all ages soaking up the sun and enjoying the best of the Southern Outer Banks.
There’s much more than meets the eye in Morehead City. Though the town is known in most beach-going circles as the place to shop and dine before hitting the sand, Morehead City also has a treasure trove of attractions and activities that will make visitors want to linger and explore.
From exciting live theater shows to secretive deserted islands that are hidden in plain sight, visitors will want to make sure they check out these “must see” attractions and things to do that put Morehead City on the vacationer’s map.
Take a stroll through Downtown
For fantastic photos, a cool breeze, and plenty of scenery, there’s no place along the Crystal Coast like Downtown Morehead City. Head directly to the waterfront along Evans Street in the heart of the Downtown Region to start your stroll. From this starting point, visitors will encounter vessels of all sizes cruising through the harbor channel, local charter fishing businesses, boat tour companies and dive shops, chic waterfront restaurants and bars, and even a few “surprises” – like the statue of King Neptune himself. For a nice spot to relax and enjoy the scene, pause at Jaycee Park in the heart of the action, which is a small park with benches, local landmarks and historical markers, and a stunning waterfront view. No matter which direction you go, the downtown scene is a vibrant community where Morehead City’s historical maritime roots and current coastal culture are seamlessly combined.
Take a Ferry Tour
Morehead City sits adjacent to miles of beautiful waterways and shoreline. Morehead City Ferry Service (252-504-2488) offers various tour opportunities. The Sand Dollar Island (a very large sandbar during low tide) tour allows visitors to wade through wonderful tidal pools in search of natural treasure. Sunset dolphin watch tours offer a chance to relax, listen to a fully narrated tour of Sugarloaf Island, Morehead City State Port, Fort Macon, Radio Island and the Historic Beaufort Waterfront. Catch a glimpse of dolphins playing in the coastal waters, and horses grazing on the Rachel Carson Reserve. Want to see it all? Try the sand dollar and dolphin watch tour. These trips are a great way to see and learn about the things that make our area special.
Stop by the History Museum of Carteret County
The History Museum of Carteret County, (which is also known as The History Place), is home to a treasure trove of artifacts and materials that outlines the history of this centuries-old coastal region. With an on-site research library, a conference room, an auditorium, and a museum gift store, this destination attracts a wide array of visitors – from school field trips to historians and writers – but is also an enticing destination for members of the general public as well. Visitors who stop by can admire a series of exhibits from centuries past that includes period clothing, military memorabilia, artwork, photographs, textiles, glassware, and more which highlights unique chapters in the story of Carteret County. With more than 10,000 publications and materials in the library, and a series of year-round programs that range from lectures to kids’ activities, the History Museum of Carteret County is truly an all-encompassing destination to learn all there is to know about Morehead City and the surrounding Crystal Coast area.
Go Antique Shopping
When it comes to shopping, Morehead City reigns supreme as one of the best destinations along the Crystal Coast, thanks to a collection of big box stores, shopping plazas, cool downtown shops, and everything in between. With that being said, the town really stands out on the local shopping scene for its far-reaching collection of antique and thrift stores that can’t be found anywhere else in Carteret County. Roughly a half dozen antique shops or more call Morehead City home, and in these cool destinations, treasure hunters can find a wide array of one-of-a-kind goods, including furnishings and décor, artworks, glassware, porcelain, military artifacts, toys, and so much more. Best of all, considering the source of these treasures, visitors can expect a nautical theme throughout which perfectly captures the local maritime culture. To start a treasure hunt, take a cruise along Arendell Street – the main route through town – and explore a number of unique vintage, thrift, and antique shops that boast amazing finds that simply can’t be acquired anywhere else.
Feast on fresh seafood
Locals and longtime Crystal Coast visitors both attest that it’s hard to beat the dining scene in Morehead City. The town has a centuries-old backbone in the fishing industry, and as a result, hungry visitors can feast on fresh delicacies that were pulled from the water just hours before they landed on the plate. The town is home to one of the oldest seafood restaurants in the Carteret County region, as well as several dozen eateries where fresh fish, shrimp, clams, oysters and more sea-worthy fare is always in the menu. Have fun exploring the different restaurants that specialize in showcasing the local seafood, or plan a trip to coincide with one of the town’s many seafood-friendly events, like the acclaimed North Carolina Seafood Festival which is held in the fall. From attending the huge festivals that represent dozens of different takes on local cuisine, to an evening out at one of the filling and fun waterfront restaurants, visitors will soon find that seafood is always celebrated in Morehead City.
Take a Paddle to Sugarloaf Island
Morehead City visitors don’t have to travel very far to explore a deserted wild island, thanks to the picturesque Sugarloaf Island, which is located directly across from the downtown Morehead City waterfront. Easily accessible by a kayak, canoe, or a small vessel, this roughly 22 acre island serves as a beautiful natural park with a floating dock, on-site restrooms, and a nature walk trail that covers the island landscape. While exploring, visitors will have a chance to catch incredible views of the downtown area from a waterfront perspective, and can also engage in a number of wild activities, including fishing, birdwatching, hiking, or just soaking up the scene. (Water taxi service may also be available to the site for visitors without a kayak or boat handy.) Seldom explored and beautifully undeveloped, this hidden gem destination in Morehead City is the perfect place to discover the wilder side of the Carteret County waterfront.
Have a Beach Day
Morehead City visitors who crave a trip to the ocean will be delighted to discover that the waves are not too far away. From Morehead City, the picturesque shorelines of the Crystal Coast can be reached with just a 5-10 minute drive across the Atlantic Beach Causeway, making it easy to squeeze in a beach day or two into a Morehead City vacation. Once in the town of Atlantic Beach, visitors can head to The Circle – which is one of the most popular public beaches in the Crystal Coast region, and which is located almost directly across from the Causeway in the heart of town. For a slightly less crowded beach-going experience, head east past the Atlantic Beach town limits, and spend a morning or afternoon at the Fort Macon State Park, which is a natural park and historic site with no commercial development, and miles of shoreline to go around. With ample parking areas throughout Atlantic Beach and beyond, as well as seasonal lifeguards, on-site restrooms, neighboring beach gear shops, and more, enjoying a beach trip is an easy and breezy adventure for Morehead City vacationers.
Explore Downtown Beaufort
Morehead City visitors who can’t get enough of the chic downtown scene will find another, equally enticing downtown region to explore in the neighboring town of Beaufort. Renowned as the third oldest town in North Carolina, this cool coastal community has a waterfront downtown region that boasts a wealth of nautical shops, restaurants, and beautiful views of Taylor’s Creek, the Back Sound, and the Rachel Carson Reserve. Once in the area, visitors will want to make sure they check out two of the Crystal Coast region’s favorite attractions – the NC Maritime Museum and the Beaufort Historic Site – which are both easy to explore via a downtown stroll. From gorgeous views of the open water to an entirely unique collection of shops and eateries, a tour of Beaufort is a must for any visitor who wants to fully experience the maritime culture of the Crystal Coast region from the inside out.
Fishing is one of the top activities for Morehead City locals and visitors alike, and new vacationers can easily join in the fun, regardless of whether they want to drop a line from a nearby pier, or take a charter boat miles offshore to land the big one. The ample docks along the downtown Morehead City waterfront are home to more than a dozen local charter boats which can take anglers out to the inshore / nearshore waters of the Bogue Sound, Back Sound, and Newport River, or to the offshore waters of the Gulf Stream where giant game and sport species can be found. In addition, the town is home to an array of local docks and piers where it’s easy to drop a line, which includes small parks along the waterfront, as well as huge fishing and launching areas like the Radio Island boat ramps. For easy pier fishing, head to the Radio Island site which features 6 boat launches and a 575’ ft. long fishing pier that extends into the Newport River. Anglers can also make regular trips to the nearby ocean shoreline via the Atlantic Beach Causeway to check out the surf fishing on the beach, or the great catches off the Oceanana Fishing Pier. With dozens of options that range from small fishing piers to full-day offshore adventures, there’s plenty of great fishing opportunities to go around in Morehead City.
Take in a Show
Morehead City is one of the most entertaining towns along the Crystal Coast in more ways than one, and visitors in the mood for a fun afternoon or evening out may find plenty of cool and surprising options in store. The town is the home of the Carteret Community Theater – a cool theater on Arendell Street that hosts a wide array of shows year-round which can range from famed visiting performers to productions that are regularly put on by the Carteret Community Theater Players. Upcoming shows and special events are regularly posted online at http://www.carteretcommunitytheatre.com/, and visitors can almost always find an enticing show to coincide with a vacation. In addition to the local theater, Morehead City is renowned for its community spirit, which includes regular live music events, including a weekly summer concert series which is held every Saturday evening for free at the Jaycee Park in the heart of the downtown area. Visitors will also find ample live music options at the local restaurants, bars, taverns, and other cool local destinations, ensuring that no matter what type of “show” or entertainment a vacationer craves, chances are that it’s happening in the heart of Morehead City.