The Beautiful Crystal Coast of North Carolina
The Crystal Coast is all of Carteret County, North Carolina. It is North Carolina’s central coast and the southern region of the barrier island system called the Outer Banks. The Crystal Coast includes Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Emerald Isle, Morehead City, Down East villages and the Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The Crystal Coast’s 1064 square miles is nearly half land and half water. It is composed of 531 square miles of land and 533 square miles of water. Crystal Coast beaches face south from the southern point of Core Banks at Cape Lookout to the west end of Bogue Banks. Therefore, the sun rises, sets and tracks along the ocean beaches for the length of each day. The day-long sparkle on the ocean water gives the Crystal Coast its moniker.
- Annual Rainfall in inches 55”
- Annual Average Temperature 64º
- Average Air Temperature-January 45º
- Average Air Temperature-July 80º
- Number of Freeze Free Days 332
- Direction of Prevailing Winds SW
- Average Water Temperature-Jan. 50º
- Average Water Temperature-July 78º
(Census of 2008):
- Atlantic Beach 1,815 people, 971 households
- Beaufort: 4,189 people, 1,780 households
- Bogue 620 people, 254 households
- Cape Carteret 1,214 people, 545 households
- Cedar Point 929 people, 438 households
- Emerald Isle 3,488 people, 1,644 households
- Indian Beach 92
- Morehead City 14,548
- Newport 3,349 people, 1,136 households
- Peletier 521
- Pine Knoll Shores 1,547 people, 776 households
The greatest attraction of the Crystal Coast is its 82 miles of ocean beaches. From the Cape Lookout Lighthouse to the Fort Macon Civil War historic site, Crystal Coast attractions are for family enjoyment. Activities scheduled by each site are for all ages.
Visitors and residents enjoy permanent and changing exhibitions and participate in scheduled activities offered by each site. Attraction sites are the Cape Lookout National Seashore, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum, Beaufort Historic Site, North Carolina Maritime Museum, the History Place and Fort Macon State Park.
State & National Parks
Cape Lookout National Seashore is one of America’s only undeveloped barrier island systems. It is made up of three islands: Shackleford Banks and North and South Core Banks. Access is by private boat or ferry service.
Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, Cedar Island, has areas for hiking, bird watching, boat launching, picnicking and hunting. Waterfowl are abundant in spring, fall and winter.
Croatan National Forest offers hiking trails and camping areas in the western portion of the Crystal Coast. The Cedar Point Tideland Trail and camping site is located in Cedar Point.
Fort Macon State Park of Atlantic Beach, one of North Carolina’s most visited state parks, is enjoyed annually by more than 1 million visitors. It offers self-guided tours of the Civil War historic site, scheduled ranger programs, 354 acres of undeveloped ocean beach to enjoy, picnicking facilities and bathhouse.
Rachel Carson Component of the NC National Estuarine Research Reserve is a series of islands that parallels the Beaufort waterfront for about 3.5 miles. Feral horses live on the reserve. Islands are accessible by private boat or ferry service.
Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, Pine Knoll Shores has a trail through an ancient maritime forest. Birding is interesting here.
Things To Do
Life on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast has always revolved around the water, and the variety of activities you’ll find in, on and around the ocean is almost endless. From boat tours and cruises to kayak and boat rentals, there are endless ways to explore the waters.
For Fishermen and Anglers. The deep-sea and pier fishing is some of the best in the country. And the natural environment is the perfect backdrop for ecology tours.
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament is the largest and most prestigious non-profit tournament on the east coast. The “Big Rock” is actually a location that spans along the shores of Morehead City and Beaufort. Several stair-step features have created a fabulous plummet to the ocean floor that is one of the world’s most active marlin spots. Sportsfishing is big here, so several tournaments draw those who love the thrill, but even surfcasters and casual boaters enjoy the plethora of opportunities to cast a line.
Diving. Divers know the Crystal Coast for the shipwrecks that lie on the ocean floor. “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” is a collection of the remains of freighters, tankers and even a German U-boat waiting for them to explore. And watching over it all is the Lighthouse at the Cape Lookout National Seashore, one of seven famous North Carolina lighthouses. Here, there are miles of beautiful beaches for strolling, shelling and sunning.
Surfing. The Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound provide the perfect setting for surfers of all levels. Surfers are drawn to the breaks and crashing waves at The Crystal Coast. If you can imagine it, the waters of The Crystal Coast can make it happen. Visit any of our surf shops for rentals or information on learning how to surf.
Golfing. A dozen great golf courses within an hour’s drive make the Crystal Coast a superb location for the golfers. About half of those courses are located in and around the beach and mainland communities of Morehead City, Pine Knoll Shores, and Cape Carteret. Former Ryder Cup leader, Curtis Strange calls this area home.
Kayaking. This is one of the best experiences you’ll enjoy while vacationing on the Crystal Coast. When kayaking in Eastern North Carolina there are various pristine waterways, inlets and tidal creeks accessible for your adventure. Whether you love to fish from your kayak, or just enjoy the scenery, there’s something for everyone. Many of soundfront cottages and rentals offer the perfect place to launch from their docks, and our shallow sound is the perfect teaching waters for beginners.
Dining. With world-famous fishing, North Carolina’s Crystal Coast is famous for its seafood. But the sea is only where our cuisine starts. Here you’ll find a variety of restaurants serving up dishes both traditional and creative, from North Carolina barbecue to classic bistro fare. There are family-friendly eateries and romantic gourmet destinations, many with history and stories as delicious as the food.
Nighlife. When the sun goes down, there’s plenty of nightlife on the Crystal Coast, North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks, to enjoy. From local pubs to friendly bars featuring performances by the best local bands, adults are sure to enjoy the nighttime on the Crystal Coast as much as they enjoy the daytime.
Lighthouses. Watching over it all is the Lighthouse at the Cape Lookout National Seashore, one of seven famous North Carolina lighthouses. Here, there are miles of beautiful beaches for strolling, shelling and sunning. Even with so much water and history, there’s plenty to do and discover on land. For golfers, there are a number of courses, some right on the water, to challenge players of any skill level. And families will find as many things to do as there are miles of beach.