The best things in life are free. The same can be said about the various sights and adventures waiting for you in Emerald Isle. From the beach to the free local concerts that are lined up for the summer, there are plenty of activities and events planned that are either free or nearly free.
After checking out our top 10 free or nearly free things to do, be sure to secure your vacation rental for the upcoming summer season. Whether it be an oceanfront cottage, a third-row family home or a luxury condo, there is something for everyone.
1. The Beach
This is one is self-explanatory and is probably already at the top of your list, but it can’t be said enough. Emerald Isle has some of the most scenic stretches of beautiful beaches in the United States and regularly makes Top 10 lists in magazines and publications for the best beaches to visit.
All you need is yourself, a good chair and maybe a beach towel if you’re planning on taking a dip. It’s one of the best ways to spend a day on the Crystal Coast and one of the best activities to partake in during your Emerald Isle vacation. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
2. Shelling Sand Dollars and Shark Teeth
Keepsakes from souvenir shops are always fun to shop for, and while they’re memorable, they don’t have the same appeal or flair of something you found on your own. Sand dollars and shark teeth can be found by walking up and the down the shore and is great for vacation-goers of all ages to participate in. We view this as modern-day treasure hunting fun for the whole family.
Be sure to bring a jar or plastic bag to collect your finds and afterward, you can craft them into jewelry or pieces that will remind you of your time in Emerald Isle. If you’re looking for some inspiration, try out our fun beach scavenger hunt and turn the search into a friendly competition!
3. Horses of Shackleford Banks
A magical sight to see, the horses of Shackleford Banks are one of the Crystal Coasts best-kept secrets. Just a short ferry ride to the banks, untouched stretches of beach are home to wild horses that are believed to have been in the area since the days of settler and Spanish colonizers.
The horses are completely self-sufficient and live off the seagrasses and other vegetation in the area and will drink from ponds or dig for their own fresh water sources during dewy mornings or rainy days.
These horses are federally protected wildlife, so your interaction with them should only be visual, so be sure to bring a camera and binoculars to see and capture a photo of these majestic animals.
4. Visit the Diamond Lady at Cape Lookout National Seashore
Lighthouses along the Outer Banks have deep roots in history for guiding ships during settler times and aiding sailors during tough conditions. Called the “Diamond Lady” the Cape Lookout lighthouse is a 163 feet tall and has been in operation since 1859.
The lighthouse got its nickname from the black and white diamond pattern which serves a bigger purpose than an interesting paint job. The center of the black diamonds point north and south, while the center of the white diamonds point east and west.
For a small admission fee, you can climb all the way to the top to get a better view of the coast, but in general, the Diamond Lady and its surrounding beach are a sight to see on their own.
5. Photos of Bogue Inlet Pier
The Bogue Inlet Pier is one of Emerald Isle’s most scenic photo hot spots. The pier stretches about 1,000 feet into the Atlantic and is great for walks that will give you views of the large stretches of beach from either side of the pier.
If your group is looking for an impromptu photo shoot session though, the underside of the pier provides impressive backgrounds and great lighting for some unforgettable shots.
6. EmeraldFest Outdoor Concert Series
Who doesn’t love free music?
This free outdoor concert series is held every Thursday throughout the summer, starting in June and wrapping up around mid-August. Be sure to check out a list of musicians and bands that are in the lineup that features genres of all kinds. Bring your blanket or lawn chairs and enjoy the great music by the sea!
7. Fort Macon State Park
For history buffs, Fort Macon State Park is a must-see during your Emerald Isle vacation.
The park has a broad history that harkens back to the Civil War and today sits on the Crystal Coast as a museum and spot for fishing and great beach access.
While the fort itself is a great place to visit, the park will also host several live music events starting at the tail-end of May and following every Friday this summer until the beginning of August. The lineup for these concerts also includes genres of all types and will happen rain or shine.
8. The Trails of Emerald Isle
If you’re into hiking and taking in the sights on foot or bike, you’ll want to check out some of the scenic trails in the area.
In Beaufort, the Rachel Carson Reserve is a great area that provides trails great for hikers of all experience levels. These preserved trails feature lush natural vegetation, native local birds, and other wildlife to gaze upon during your excursion.
More local to Emerald Isle, the Emerald Woods have some well-established trails and walking paths that are close to town. These trails provide great scenic beauty that will allow you to relax and enjoy the nature that surrounds our charming town.
9. Beaufort Music Festival
A weekend filled with free music is a weekend that shouldn’t be missed! The Beaufort Music Festival takes place May 17-18 and is perfect for anyone you’re bringing along during your vacation. Country, rock and alternative music will be the highlight of the festival and there will be local food trucks serving up eats and treats on the grounds like Carolina BBQ and fried shrimp.
This festival is great for all ages and will run from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on May 17 and 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on May 18. Bonus: free shuttle parking is also provided to make getting there, even easier.
10. Emerald Isle 4th of July Fireworks Show
Nothing says summer quite like a stunning 4tht of July firework show! This Independence Day, fireworks will be on display from the Bogue Inlet Pier giving way to great views up and down the beach. Bring some chairs or blankets to set up a spot on the beach and be prepared to be blown away.
Bonus: pack some of your favorite 4th of July snacks for that added touch of summer as you gaze upon the firework-lit sky.
With so much to do and see around the area, it might be hard to squeeze everything in, but you are sure to make some quality memories with just a handful of these free or nearly free things to do. Come experience everything the Crystal Coast has to offer and book your summer retreat today!