Agenda: NC’s Crystal Coast and Beaufort

The Crystal Coast on North Carolina’s Southern Coast includes Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Morehead City, and the small southern town of Beaufort.  This area has so much cool stuff to do: Plethoras of history, an awesome aquarium, lighthouse tours, yacht watching, quiet beaches, and  fantastic restaurants (two of which made my list of favorite dining spots). Here’s how to make this a great getaway for families or couples.

Day 1

Morning… Hammocks Beach State Park

Start your visit with a jaunt over to visit the beautiful unspoiled beaches of Hammocks Beach State Park on Bear Island.

Accessible only by passenger ferry (kids will love the ride!), kayak, or private boat, this island is one of the few places left in existence where you can walk along a beach with no buildings, cars, or people to interrupt your view of the coastline, sand dunes, birds and sky.  Spend a few hours with a light picnic lunch (you have to carry everything you bring on a half mile walk to the picnic area) followed by a hike along the isolated beach.  You’ll find unusual and fascinating items to collect along the way.  Just about the only signs of modern life you’ll see is a nice picnic facility, restrooms and a snack bar (in season).

Unspoiled Bear Island Beaches


Check in at your vacation rental down the coast at Indian Beach. Condos are the most prevalent and affordable options along the Crystal Coast, particularly for oceanfront accommodations.  Ocean Club in Indian Beach is a great home base.  It is not  far from the sites in Atlantic Beach and Beaufort, with peaceful beaches, restaurants, and a small grocery store with most everything you’ll need.  A great choice is Ocean Club A201.  If an ocean view is important (um… duh!) make sure you get a condo higher than first level, which tend to have views of the very tall shrubs on the dunes lining the Crystal Coast beaches.

Ocean Club at Indian Beach

Ocean Club Deck


Dinner at Island Grille  is absolutely worth the 15 min drive to Atlantic Beach.  This place makes my list of tiny, casual, and delicious dining spots. I knew it was a not-to-be missed place as soon as I saw the beer and wine list and the chalk board menu.  No problem at all coming in your  shorts and flip flops, but do make a reservation first.  Not only is Island Grill tiny, but also very popular. They were turning unhappy folks away as we were leaving.  Don’t be that person.

Island Grille Atlantic Beach

If you just can’t bear to drive that far after such a long day,  grab a famous shrimp burger around the corner at Big Oak Drive-in. and eat on your oceanfront balcony.  Whatever you do, don’t forget to order a milkshake while you are there.

Day 2:  Day in Beaufort, NC

Morning… After a lazy light breakfast and coffee on your oceanfront deck, head out for a morning swim in the pool or a walk along on the beach.

Afternoon… Lunch at the colorful waterfront Rhum Bar at the Front Street Grill will truly make you feel like you are on vacation.  And speaking of vacation, plan on ordering a midday adult beverage.  Trust me, its the perfect place for this, as you watch the boats go by…

Lunch on the patio of Rhum Bar

Spectator Boating from the Front Street Grill’s Rhum Bar

and while munching on a delicious meal…

Fish Taco Special

Beautiful Soft Shell Crab Salad


Afternoon…  NC Maritime Museum

After lunch, walk across the street to the NC Maritime Museum, one of three maritime museums across the state’s coast.  The museum is small, but with fascinating exhibits on the coastal lifesaving stations and a brand new exhibit, “Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.” The wreck was discovered in 1996 in the Beaufort Inlet.  A very well done children’s scavenger hunt was a big hit.

NC Maritime Museum at Beaufort

About this time, you’ll have worked up an appetite for ice cream, so head on over to the General Store, grab a scoop and browse around.  If you are wise enough to stick around for an early dinner at Beaufort Grocery, you can visit Beaufort Historic Site, cruise the waterfront on a guided boat tour with Island Ferry Adventures.  A harbor walk is a pleasant way to pass the time while you wait to be hungry again.  Ogle the giant yachts and antebellum homes before settling in for some pre-dinner cocktails at one of the other lovely waterfront spots.

Day 3:  Atlantic Beach and Pine Knoll Shores

Morning…   Tour Fort Macon State Park

If you are in the area, do not miss Fort Macon State Park.  The fort was renovated in 2010 with a new visitor center and interactive exhibits within the actual fort that bring to life what it was like to live and work there during different periods of operation.  Participating in a short informative and entertaining guided tour will help you interpret what you are seeing and understand its historical significance.  There are very few forts along the Southeastern United States Coast that I haven’t visited, and can honestly say this is one of the best.  My 8 year old named it her favorite activity of our weekend.

Gunfire demonstration at Fort Macon

Tour Fort Macon


Afternoon…  Lunch and North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

The Channel Marker is a delightful place for a bite, a cold beverage, and a chance to rest up after the morning’s adventures.

If it is not too windy, take a seat out on the waterfront patio where you can watch more boats go by, some way too fast for the “Wake Free Zone” leaving Atlantic Beach’s marina.  Great selection of beer and wine and delicious food here.

Cool off at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, one of three fun and impressive coastal aquariums run by the State of North Carolina before heading back for some evening beach time along the beautiful Crystal Coast.

For more great articles on the area visit:

Crystal Coast North Carolina with “Why Beaufort is a Great Place to Visit”

Budget Travel with “America’s Coolest Small Towns 2012”

A Helicopter Mom with “Travel to Crystal Coast”  great column on what to do and other places to stay.

NC Weekend Adventures with lots of great pictures of the fort and also loves Island Grille…






  1. Hi Donna,
    My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Indian Beach to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you soon!

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