10 Family Activities in Emerald Isle for Your Summer Vacation

Emerald Isle, a charming beach town along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, is an ideal destination for a summer family vacation. With sun-kissed beaches, warm ocean breezes and an array of fun attractions, the summer vibe is everywhere. From sandy shores perfect for sunbathing and shelling to exciting family-friendly activities, there’s no shortage of memorable experiences for every family member. Here are 10 family activities to make your summer getaway unforgettable.

1. Play Mini Golf

Photo Credit: Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf

Emerald Isle offers a variety of mini golf courses, each providing a unique and fun outing for all ages. Kick off your vacation with a round at one of the local favorites! Emerald Forest Mini-Golf features an 18-hole course perfect for some friendly family competition, with creatively designed holes and beautiful surroundings that make it a great spot for photos. Black Pearl Mini Golf, an 18-hole pirate-themed course, offers a treasure trove of fun, with candy, refreshments, and ice cream to make your visit even sweeter.

Nearby in Salter Path, Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf and Raceway provides an adventurous experience with palm trees, waterfalls, and hills, offering two challenging 18-hole courses and a mining train to take you to the first holes.

2. Ride Go-Karts

Photo Credit: The Golfin’ Dolphin

For anyone chasing a thrill head over to The Golfin’ Dolphin. This entertainment complex features 24 fast go-karts that promise an exciting experience. The track is long and twisty, complete with a large bridge, providing a thrilling racing adventure for both younger kids and more experienced drivers. Once the light turns green, drivers have five minutes to navigate the winding turns and race to victory.

In addition to the go-karts, The Golfin’ Dolphin also offers a new SkyTrail attraction. This aerial adventure course challenges participants with a series of suspended bridges and obstacles, providing an exciting way to test your balance and bravery. The complex also includes other activities like bumper boats and an arcade, ensuring a fun-filled afternoon for the whole family!

3. Go Shelling

Photo Credit: Denise Little Ruffin

Emerald Isle’s beaches are a paradise for shell collectors. Early mornings or evenings, when the tides are low, are the best times to search for unique shells like sand dollars and conch shells. Take a leisurely walk along the shore and see who can find the most beautiful or rarest shell. This peaceful activity is a great way for families to connect with nature and enjoy the serene coastal environment.

4. Visit Fort Macon State Park

Photo Credit: Fort Macon State Park

Experience the rich history and natural beauty of Fort Macon State Park, just a short drive from Emerald Isle. Step back in time as you explore the restored pre-Civil War fort that once guarded the coast, offering insight into the region’s military past. Surrounded by scenic coastal landscapes, including a beautiful beach perfect for swimming and relaxation, the park provides ample opportunities for family-friendly activities such as hiking, biking, paddling and fishing. While there, don’t miss out on the daily tours! Keep an eye on the events page for exciting happenings like cannon firings, small arms demonstrations and the spectacular annual Fourth of July fireworks display.

5. Ride the Ferry to Cape Lookout

Photo Credit: Cape Lookout National Seashore

Embark on a scenic ferry ride to Cape Lookout National Seashore, a memorable family outing to make the most of a summer day. As you glide across the sparkling waters, take in the coastal beauty and keep an eye out for wild horses that roam the shores. Upon arrival, marvel at the iconic Cape Lookout Lighthouse, capturing stunning photos against its backdrop. Then, explore the pristine beaches, perfect for fishing, swimming and leisurely strolls along the shoreline. Be sure to pack a picnic and plenty of water, as facilities are limited on the island, ensuring a day connected to the raw splendor of nature.

6. Tour Beaufort Historic Site

Photo Credit: Beaufort Pirate’s Revenge

Just a short hop from the sun-soaked shores of Emerald Isle, Beaufort Historic Site invites exploration with its timeless charm and rich heritage. Step into the past as you wander through the cobblestone streets lined with meticulously restored buildings, each bearing witness to the town’s storied history. From quaint historic homes to the stately courthouse and the intriguing apothecary shop, every corner holds a trove of stories waiting to be discovered.

Kids will love the pirate tales shared during guided tours, as knowledgeable locals bring the town’s history to life with captivating stories and fascinating insights. Explore the town’s maritime legacy, from the adventurous exploits of pirates to the heroic deeds of past sea captains. And don’t miss the chance to stroll along the waterfront with your family, where the salty breeze carries whispers of bygone eras, adding to the allure of this coastal gem.

7. Visit the Aquarium

Photo Credit: NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium

When you’re ready for a refreshing break from the summer sun, dive into an oceanic paradise at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Perfect for families seeking both entertainment and education, this aquarium promises an engaging experience filled with memorable moments. Explore interactive exhibits that bring the wonders of the ocean to life, where children can marvel at touch tanks filled with diverse marine creatures, including sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles. History buffs will love The Living Shipwreck exhibit! This attraction is a replica of a German U-boat sunk during World War II! The exhibit hosts an amazing variety of aquatic species and covers 306,000 gallons of saltwater, making it the largest manmade ocean habitat in North Carolina.

8. Stop for Ice Cream

Photo Credit: The Sweet Spot

No summer vacation is complete without getting some delicious ice cream. Emerald Isle boasts several charming ice cream parlors, like The Sweet Spot, where you can treat yourself to an array of flavors. With over 50 different options to choose from, including classic favorites like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and unique options like Strawberry Cheesecake and Magical Unicorn, there’s something to please every palate. After a fun-filled day at the beach, an ice cream treat is sure to hit the spot and put a smile on everyone’s faces.

9. See a Movie

Photo Credit: Emerald Plantation Cinema

Cap off a joyful day with a movie night at Emerald Plantation Cinema. This cozy local theater provides a retreat from the summer sun, offering a relaxed atmosphere where you can unwind with the family. Whether you’re in the mood for a comedy, adventure or heartwarming family flick, the latest releases ensure there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Sit back, relax and let the magic of the big screen add an extra dose of joy to your summer getaway.

10. Attend a Fun Family Festival

Photo Credit: Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

Throughout the summer, Emerald Isle and the surrounding Crystal Coast area host a variety of festivals and events that cater to all interests. From the exciting Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament to vibrant arts festivals, there’s always something happening to add excitement to your family vacation. Jam out at the EmeraldFest Summer Concert Series, where the shores come alive with free concerts every Thursday evening. Bring your blanket or lawn chairs, soak in the sea breeze, and groove to the rhythm of live music. Check out the events page to stay up to date on all the happenings!

Emerald Isle is a goldmine of family-friendly activities, offering a mix of adventure, relaxation and fun. Whether you’re racing go-karts, exploring historic sites, or simply enjoying a sunset on the beach, every moment spent here is bound to create lasting memories. Pack your bags, gather your loved ones, and start planning a summer vacation your family will cherish in Emerald Isle.

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