Press Kit: At-a-Glance
"Where Imagination Runs Free"
The authentic “coastal experience” features waters of crystalline purity bordering sandy, sparkling beaches.
An eccentric history steeped in legendary tales of swashbuckling pirate adventures and ghostly encounters. Exotic wild horses roaming the same shores for centuries and generations reflecting southern tradition.
The Crystal Coast is one of the rare places on Earth where it is still possible to not see or hear another soul on the beach. The freedom to experience complete solitude with only the gentle lull of the waters of the Atlantic or the sounds of twittering Piping Plovers to disrupt thoughts lost in the sounds of nature.
To understand the real coastal experience is to feel the tranquil sea breezes gently blowing across glassy waters, to stroll the historical streets of a quaint maritime village saturated with memories of the past and to dine on “fresh from the docks” seafood at a waterfront bistro.
It is both a place and a state of mind representing a departure from the ordinary and arrival at the extraordinary.
Dangling like a delicate strand of pearls off the coast of North Carolina, the favored Atlantic beach destination of generations represents one of the only remaining natural barrier island systems in the World. The Islands are strung together with 85 miles of silken coastline along the southern Outer Banks -- 56 miles of which are in the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Miles of shimmering water reflecting countless tiny suns during the day and shattering the moon into a thousand pieces at night. Lush maritime forests edging the silken coast like emerald jewels studding a royal crown. The barrier islands take a curious southward curve, blessing the Crystal Coast with beaches that course east and west making it possible to admire the dazzlingly bright sun rise to greet the day and then slip into the shimmering translucent blue waters in the evening during a spectacular North Carolina sunset.
The “gems” of the Crystal Coast include Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Emerald Isle, Harker’s Island and Morehead City, each one as distinct and precious as the next.
A haven of sunbathers, Atlantic Beach is home to wide pearlescent beaches and plenty of sunshine. Part of the Bogue Banks, Atlantic Beach is the oldest of five resort towns. Visitors have the liberty to choose from a range of accommodations for all budgets and lifestyles, from a seven bedroom Victorian mansion to a “no frills” beach bungalow. Fort Macon State Park, the site of an historic Civil War skirmish, and not just a few tales of ghostly encounters with uniformed soldiers, is located at the tip of the island and is one of the links in the monumental Civil War Trails. Fort Macon is ideal for active vacationers who like to experience it all, from shore fishing and hiking to swimming and picnicking.
Stepping onto the oak lined streets of historic Beaufort is like stepping into a time long forgotten. The air is saturated with the same ancient salty-sweet ocean scents that have caressed the coast for centuries. It is not uncommon while dining at a waterfront café to see wild horses running freely on Carrot Island, just across the glassy waters of Taylor’s Creek. The intimate bed and breakfasts are the perfect way to compliment any romantic vacation with elegant Victorian suites and charming home-cooked meals. Beaufort is the third oldest town in the state and serves as the county seat of the Crystal Coast. The wreckage of legendary pirate Blackbeard’s infamous ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, rests in its watery grave just three miles off its sandy shores.
Once owned by America’s own royal family, the descendents of Theodore Roosevelt, Pine Knoll Shores is known as a peaceful residential community with an eco-friendly focus. The area was designed with minimal disturbance to the native maritime forest and sand dunes and is one of the state’s most ecologically sensitive towns.
Emerald Isle is known as the most prominent of the banks on the Crystal Coast. Named for the lush greenery that covers much of the area, Emerald Isle is located at the western end of the Bogue Banks. Accommodations dotting the coastline range from quaint beach cottages and condominiums to mammoth beach houses known locally as “sand castles.” Visitors have the freedom to spend their days exploring un-crowded coastline, dining at casually elegant restaurants, shopping at fanciful boutiques filled with coastal treasures or setting sail on private chartered fishing excursions.
A blessed location along sparklingly clear water with rows of charter fishing boats gently bobbing like fishing lures waiting to usher passengers to their first “big catch,” Morehead City is known for the most diverse fishing on the coast. From its quaint shopping district comprised of art galleries intermixed with antique stores filled with generations of treasured relics, to the colorful, Branson-style musical extravaganza known as The Morehead Center for the Performing Arts, boredom is simply not a factor for visitors to the area.
eminiscent of times past where wild horses roam freely on deserted beaches, the Cape Lookout National Seashore, with its famed lighthouse, offers escapists a 56-mile stretch of undeveloped shimmering beaches accessible only by boat. Sea oat laced sand dunes and miles of large unbroken conch shells seem like they have been resting there for centuries. In harmony with the natural scenery are fishermen patiently waiting and watching, like shore birds, looking for their next meal to spring out of the frothy blue waters.
An eccentric history steeped in swashbuckling pirate tales, romantic mysteries, deep-rooted maritime heritage and wartime triumphs and tragedies, the sea breezes wafting in from the ocean are still alive with the memories of the past. From ghostly excursions through the Old Burying Grounds and leisurely strolls among the painstakingly preserved buildings at Beaufort Historic Site, to a gentle ferry ride to the seashore to view historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse and a firsthand look at the treasures excavated from Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, slipping into a historical frame of mind is easier on the Crystal Coast.
Unlike its overdeveloped and sometimes pretentious neighbors, the natural beauty of the Crystal Coast lends itself to some awe-inspiring ecological escapes. Fifty-six miles of unspoiled shoreline on the National Seashore surround Cape Lookout Lighthouse, an island with no development, no traffic, no pollution and no worries.
There is a variety of rare and endangered species including the Loggerhead, a marine turtle that lays its fragile eggs in the sand, and the Piping Plover, a tiny shorebird found hopping daintily along the shore.
Those with an independent spirit navigate the intricately laced inlets and waterways zig-zagging through the Crystal Coast with guided kayaking and canoeing excursions available for every interest and schedule. There are paddling trails from Morehead City to Beaufort and ending in Harker’s Island, as well as a paddle trail from White Oak River in western Carteret County to Bear Island. Guided tours are available for explorers wishing to fish, kayak, bird watch, wreck dive as well as a multitude of other eco-interests. For the bird watching enthusiast, the spring is an excellent time to view shorebirds from the majestic Tundra Swans to egrets and White and Glossy Ibises, while the fall is the peak time for viewing Sharp-shinned Hawks and Peregrine Falcons.
One of the two spots in North America where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream caress the coast creating what divers that flock to the Crystal Coast call a “wreck diver’s dream” with near-perfect conditions for an experience unlike anywhere else in the world. Known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” there are more than 2,000 vessels that have made their watery graves along the North Carolina coast. During WWII, German U-boats frequently targeted merchant vessels sending them to their final resting places 100 feet beneath the sea, viewable by divers thanks to the stunningly clear, warm waters with average temperatures around 80? F and more than 75 feet of visibility.
A new mystery discovered on the Crystal Coast, the Lionfish, is a stunning but poisonous species with sharp spiny fins and brick red bands covering its body. The Lionfish also fascinates and mystifies divers, as they were previously thought to only inhabit the tropical and subtropical waters of the South Pacific, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Other diving activities include underwater photography clinics as well as shark and spear fishing dives.
The Gulf Stream current graciously provides the Crystal Coast with the same warm translucent blue waters that have for so long blessed the Caribbean. These warm waters provide the Crystal Coast with the longest fishing season on the Atlantic coast. Forming a rainbow of colors in the sapphire blue water, the fish caught along the Crystal Coast include bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and big red drum. They “grow ‘em big” on the Crystal Coast with record setting marlin and bluefin tuna weighing in between 300 and 1000 lbs.
False albacore, red drum and sea trout angling are popular in the fall months; striped bass and bluefin tuna in the winter; cobia in the spring and white and blue marlin, sailfish, dolphin and wahoo are intensely abundant in the summer.
There is a range of options for those wishing to try their hand at catching a “big one” including private chartered fishing excursions or the more affordable, family friendly, headboat fishing trips that can take up to 100 people. For those wanting to take more “booty” home than just the fish, there are several fishing tournaments on the Crystal Coast with cash prizes.
Coastline shadowed not by chain hotels but by nothing more than what Mother Nature intended. Vacationers to the Crystal Coast find a variety of accommodations to suit every lifestyle and budget. There are several realty agencies offering seaside cottages and massive beach mansions for rent that are the perfect place for family reunions, both small and large. Hotel accommodations include the Sheraton Atlantic Beach, the largest full service hotel on the coast of North Carolina.
After a hard day’s wreck diving or surf fishing, visitors to the Crystal Coast tend to work up a hearty appetite. With more than 100 restaurants to choose from, finding the right taste to tame any appetite is an easy task. Generations of restaurateurs have put their life’s passion into their cooking. It is not uncommon to find that the present owner of a Crystal Coast restaurant is the great-great grandchild of the original owner, keeping treasured crab cake or coconut pie recipes handed down through the family on the menu to introduce to new generations of restaurant goers.
From elegant candlelit beachside dinners with she crab soup and casual bistros with light gourmet sandwiches, to drive-in cheeseburger stands and down home yet delicious seafood shacks offering menu items as simple as merely “flounder” or “oysters” with all the fixin’s (including the inevitable basket of fried heaven known as the hushpuppy), visitors leave their diets at home and enjoy all the tastes that the Crystal Coast has to offer.
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From the northern Outer Banks, NC 12 to the
Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry. Ferry to Cedar Island where NC 12 joins US 70 W.
From the west, I-40 to US 70 E to Morehead City/Atlantic Beach/Beaufort. I-40 to NC 24 leads to Emerald Isle via Jacksonville.
From north or south, I-95 to US 70 E.
At Kinston, US 70 E to Morehead City/Atlantic Beach/Beaufort, or NC 58 to go to Emerald Isle.
The Crystal Coast is served by US Airways commuter services to New Bern (EWN) and Jacksonville (OAJ). Private and chartered services are offered at Michael J. Smith Airport, Beaufort.
Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority and Visitor Centers
3409 Arendell Street
Morehead City, North Carolina 28557
Cape Carteret, NC
(just before crossing the bridge to Emerald Isle, NC)
Phone: (800) 786-6962