10 Must See Places to Visit Along NC’s Crystal Coast

AquariumWondering what there is to see along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast? There’s so much to see and do here. Here are 10 places you won’t want to miss as you travel along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.

  1. Beaufort Historic Site - Located in the heart of the Beaufort’s Historic District is the Beaufort Historic Site, which depicts 18th and 19th century coastal Carolina. The Site houses nine historic buildings as well as the Welcome Center on almost two acres.
  2. Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Center - A boat ride three miles off-shore brings you to the barrier islands of Cape Lookout National Seashore.  Horse watching, shelling, fishing, birding, camping, lighthouse climbing, and touring historic villages–there’s something for everyone at Cape Lookout.  Be sure to bring all the food, water, and supplies you need (and carry your trash out of the park) when visiting these remote beaches.
  3. Cedar island National Wildlife Refuge - Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in Carteret County, North Carolina is on the end of a peninsula marking the southern end of Pamlico Sound. The refuge lies five miles West of the Atlantic ocean and about 40 miles northeast of Beaufort, North Carolina. Established in 1964, the refuge consists of approximately 11,000 acres of irregularly-flooded, brackish marsh and 3,480 acres of pocosin and woodland habitat. The dominant marsh plants include black needlerush, saltmarsh cordgrass, saltmeadow hay, and saltgrass. The woodland areas are dominated by loblolly, longleaf and pond pine. Live oak is also abundant on some upland sites. The marsh and surrounding waters provide wintering habitat for thousands of ducks and nesting habitat for colonial waterbirds.
  4. Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center - Throughout the year, Core Sound offers programs that bring together communities of people to celebrate and share the stories of Down East Carteret County with one another and friends from near and far to make sure the traditions continue.
  5. Croatan National Forest - The Croatan National Forest is one of four National Forests in North Carolina and the only true coastal forest in the East.  The Croatan National Forest’s 160,000 acres have pine forests, saltwater estuaries, bogs and raised swamps called pocosins.  Bordered on three sides by tidal rivers and the Bogue Sound, the forest is defined by water.
  6. Fort Macon State Park – Fort Macon offers public access to the surf, sun and sand of the Crystal Coast–as well as a historic landmark. Located at the eastern end of Bogue Banks, one of a series of barrier islands along the North Carolina coast, the park is surrounded on three sides by water–the Atlantic Ocean, Beaufort Inlet and Bogue Sound. This area of undisturbed natural beauty is the perfect place to explore salt marshes and estuaries vital to the coastal ecosystem. The park is also home to a Civil War fort with a history as intricate and unique as the waterways of the sound. Visit Fort Macon to enjoy the land’s natural beauty and soak up some history.
  7. North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores - Feel the spray of a mountain waterfall. Watch river otters play. Touch a stingray. Look a shark in the eye. Explore shipwrecks – without getting wet. See a rare white sea turtle and let your spirits soar as raptors and waterbirds fly overhead. Thousands of aquatic animals take you on a journey from the state’s grand peaks to the open Atlantic, much as a raindrop makes its way to the ocean.
  8. North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort - Blackbeard and more! Visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort for a taste of coastal cultures and maritime history.  Exhibits feature the state’s rich seafood industry, life-saving stations and lighthouses, and sailboats and motorboats. The Museum is the official repository for artifacts from Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground near Beaufort in 1718.
  9. The History Place – Discover our coastal heritage, enjoy our programs, browse the museum store and have a cup of tea in the Infusion Cafe.
  10. Rachel Carson Natural Estuarine Research Reserve -  The North Carolina Coastal Reserve (NCCR) & National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NCNERR) is a network of ten protected sites established for long-term research, educationon and stewardship. Learn more about the Reserve’s organizational structure. Four of the Reserve components are designated as NCNERR sites: Currituck BanksRachel Carson,Masonboro Island, and Zeke’s Island. The state supported sites in the NCCR are Kitty Hawk WoodsEmily and Richardson Preyer Buckridge,Buxton WoodsPermuda IslandBald Head Woods, and Bird Island