A Beginner’s Guide to the Crystal Coast Beach Communities

Our name may be “Emerald Isle Realty”, but as many of you know, we have vacation rentals and homes for sale in many different areas of the Crystal Coast. In fact, our communities make up quite a large portion of the 85 miles of coastline on the southernmost part of the Outer Banks. So if you’re interested in the area but don’t know the best city to vacation in, let us help you by explaining a little about what makes each community unique and one-of-a-kind.

Atlantic Beach

atlantic beach

Atlantic Beach is located on the eastern part of Bogue Banks. As the name suggests, it’s known for its sparkling water and sandy beaches. But it’s also full of history and culture! Thousands of visitors each year flock to this coast community to explore the past. One of the main attractions is the Civil War era state park Fort Macon. If you’re a fishing fanatic, try your hand, or your pole, at an off-shore fishing excursion aboard the Captain Stacy.

This town really comes alive with 3 local events taking place in October, such as the Carolina Kite Fest and the Tuna Run 200-mile Relay. If this all sounds like your cup of tea, search for a vacation rental near Atlantic Beach.




Located about 20 miles from Emerald Isle, there’s much to say about the town of Beaufort. It’s been named one of America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2012 by Budget Travel voters and was voted #1 Favorite Small Town in 2014 by Travel + Leisure readers! It’s one of the most popular towns on the Crystal Coast and also the third-oldest town in the state, which means it’s full of rich history. From the famous underwater pirate ship of Blackbeard to the North Carolina Maritime Museum, Beaufort’s extensive maritime history dates back more than 300 years.

Every visitor to Beaufort will also enjoy fantastic waterfront views and great fishing. For nature lovers, check out the Rachel Carson Reserve, just south of the town. You’ll find trails and boardwalks, wild horses, more than 200 species of birds, bottlenose dolphins, and sea turtles. Book a vacation rental during the late spring or early summer when the town is hopping with festivals, boat shows, and the Home and Garden Tour.


Emerald Isle

emerald isle

Our namesake is a 13-mile stretch of island on the lower Outer Banks. Just a ½ mile wide, it portrays a relaxing, family atmosphere, with the most comfortable and luxurious vacation rentals and the most amazing beaches. Play outdoors doing activities such as kayakingpaddle boardingfishingbirdingscuba divinggolf and more or stay out of the sun and go shopping at the most adorable specialty boutiques. The kids will love visiting the numerous attractions and amusement parks. And don’t forget to check out the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier to fish or to simply take in a sunset.

The town is especially lively during the busy season, starting with the annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival and the 4th of July Fireworks show being one of the most popular local events in the area. Choose from hundreds of vacation rentals in Emerald Isle or search homes for sale in Emerald Isle to call home!


Harker’s Island


Harker’s Island is located just 30 miles away from Emerald Isle. It’s located in a marshy region in Carteret County, known as “Down East”, totaling only 3.8 square miles, with more than 1/3 of that being water! The town is made for tourists who love adventures.

One of the most popular draws to this region are the Shackleford Banks, part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, where you can see wild horses, go shelling, fishing, or kayaking. You cannot miss the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, standing nearly 12 stories high. Bring your good shoes and climb the 207 steps all the way to the top. The Island also offers the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center where you’ll find carvings, waterfowl art, music, storytelling, boat building and more. Make sure you take a day trip to this beautiful community and experience all it has to offer.


Indian Beach

This small, upscaindian beachle town sits in the middle of the Bogue Banks near the end of the Crystal Coast. Taking up a total area of 2-square miles, the town was just recently officially established in 1973.  You’ll find lush coastal forests and beautiful emerald green waters.

The most popular place to vacation in Indian Beach is the Grande Villas, an 86-unit luxurious beachfront condominium property overlooking a 22-acre nature preserve. It can accommodate families big and small and offers resort like amenities such as private beach and multiple pools, oceanside fire pit, and state of the art fitness facility and game/rec room. The island is very private and serene, with delicious restaurants and outdoor activities taking place in the nearby towns. Whether it’s a condo or a cottage, find your next vacation rental in the lovely town of Indian Beach.


Morehead City


Morehead City is a fisherman’s dream, widely known as one of the best fishing spots on the coast. People come from far and wide to attend and participate in the “Super Bowl of Fishing”, aka the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament each October. Year round, Pelican Charters is one of many fishing charters in the area that takes anglers out for half and full day trips.

Because of all the great fishing, you’ll find dining options that can’t be beat, plus there’s the famous NC Seafood Festival every fall. The downtown streets are lined beautifully with trees and benches making boutique shopping so enjoyable. Rent out a great vacation rental available throughout the year, or make Morehead City your home with one of our real estate properties for sale!


Pine Knoll Shores

pksPine Knoll Shores is located in the center of the Crystal Coast and offers miles of pristine beaches and many homes for rent or sale nestled on the ocean and sound side. The small coastal town is home to one of the area’s most popular attractions, the North Carolina Aquarium. It’s home to such creatures as otters, sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and more. Surrounding the aquarium is the untouched reserve known as the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, where the whole family can enjoy a hike along this scenic nature trail, exploring the area’s natural wildlife and beauty.

Pine Knoll Shores is known for its beautiful and luxurious homes, ranging from oceanfront cottages to duplexes and condos. Pine Knoll Shores vacation rentals feature the best amenities and their beach location can’t be beat.


Salter Path

spSalter Path is located on the Bogue Banks next to Indian Beach and is just minutes from Emerald Isle. While staying in one of our vacation rentals in Salter Path, enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the pristine beaches. It’s also a perfect area to go surfing, fishing, kayaking, and more. And with it so close to other nearby communities, enjoy the best of those towns as well.

Salter Path has a great history and is still known as a fishing village, with its heritage still visible in the single-story cottages that pepper the landscape. During your next visit, be sure and chat with the locals, who still carry the pride of the area and that unique Baroque accent.



swansboroThe town known as the “Friendly City by the Sea” is located just 5 miles from Emerald Isle and sits along the Water Oak River and Intracoastal Waterway. Visitors enjoy picturesque shopping, dining, beaches, kayaking, and water views as far as the eye can sea. Many tourists flock to the area because of its historic downtown district and antique shops, such as the Swansboro Antique Center and Pier 58 Outlet.

The town also hosts several annual festivals and events, offering family fun and entertainment for locals and visitors. Each calendar year ends with Swansboro by Candlelight, the area’s kickoff to the holiday season with the downtown streets decorated in whimsical scenes and storefronts adorned with beautiful ribbons and bows. Find your perfect vacation rental and time of year to visit the charming town of Swansboro.


You are now fully educated on the communities that make up the Crystal Coast, and you can start planning your inaugural trip to one of these distinctive communities described above. Or if you’ve visited the Southern Outer Banks before, try out a new town for your next vacation rental. You’re sure to have a new and unforgettable experience with each and every trip.


A special thank you to the Uprooted Photographer for providing some of the great photos for this week’s blog.