In the wintertime, the North Carolina beach towns that make up the Crystal Coast take on a new aesthetic that complement their history and natural coastal beauty. From Swansboro and Emerald Isle to Atlantic Beach, Beaufort and Morehead City, each charming community offers a wonderful variety of activities and things to do during the winter months that shouldn’t be missed while you’re on vacation.
Discover why these North Carolina beach towns should be at the top of your winter getaway list.
The third oldest town in North Carolina and recognized as “America’s Favorite Town” by Travel + Leisure, is Beaufort, North Carolina. Beaufort’s beautiful waterfront in the downtown area is a favorite of visitors and locals alike, offering everything from historic landmarks and museums to fine dining restaurants to antique and specialty shops. A stroll down the Beaufort boardwalk to watch the sunset is a perfect way to end your day.
Get to know this historical town better on one of the many walking or biking tours offered by Hungry Town Tours. Choose from a variety of themed packages that range from exploring the area’s historical sites and architecture to a tour of the locations that inspired some of the New York Times best-selling author, Nicholas Sparks. If you are looking to give your taste buds a treat, some of Hungry Town’s tours incorporate sampling local cuisine and drinks at some of the area’s best eateries and pubs.
Plan a visit to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort for a peek into the town’s vast maritime history. The museum houses relics from the Civil War and from Blackbeard’s historic flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, in addition to offering a number of unique programs and classes throughout the year. Beaufort Historic Site is another great attraction to visit during the wintertime and learn more about the area. Tour the historic homes and sites that tell the story of this coastal region as it was during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Located just a mile-and-a-half from Beaufort is Shackleford Banks, home to wild Banker horses that roam the barrier island. Take a boat or ferry from Beaufort for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the magnificent wild horses or to visit the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and National Seashore. Climb the 200 steps to the top of the lighthouse for some of the most amazing panoramic views of the Crystal Coast or spend some time exploring the island. The national seashore is one of the best spots for shelling on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.
Emerald Isle, North Carolina lies at the western end of Bogue Banks, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Bogue Sound on the other. During the winter months, the beaches in Emerald Isle are much quieter, with fewer crowds, than during the summer months. From early morning walks on the beach to afternoons spent surf fishing, you may just feel like you have the beaches to yourself!
There are plenty of parks and activities to take advantage of during a winter visit to Emerald Isle. Take a leisurely stroll or bike ride down one of the paths at Emerald Woods Park or try your hand at a round of disc golf. The disc golf course winds through the natural maritime forest that leads to the Bogue Sound shoreline, providing excellent scenery and amazing views throughout your game. A fun spot to take the kids is the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park, which has a playground that the kids will love. Located across from the Emerald Isle public boat ramp, the park offers the perfect spot to wind down after a day out on the water.
An abundance of opportunities for shelling and beachcombing are available during the winter as well. Seashells make great vacation keepsakes and can even be used to add some flare to your holiday décor. If bird watching is more your thing, the area is home to a variety of species during the winter months. And with the stunning beauty that surrounds the Crystal Coast, bird enthusiasts are always in for a treat.
Emerald Isle also boasts one of the largest selections of vacation rentals anywhere on the Crystal Coast. Emerald Isle Realty offers more than 700 vacation rental properties to choose from that range from charming beach cottages to luxury Sandcastle homes to cozy condos, all of which are packed full of amenities. Emerald Isle’s central location makes it the perfect North Carolina beach town to visit this winter!
One of the smaller communities on the Crystal Coast, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound, is Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. The Atlantic Beach Boardwalk is a great place to take a stroll any time of day for fantastic ocean views. Stop at one of the eateries that line the boardwalk while the kids have fun at one of the playgrounds.
Atlantic Beach is home to not only beautiful beaches but it’s also the home of one of the most visited national parks, Fort Macon State Park. The park is filled with history dating back to the 18th century and regularly hosts tours and demonstrations throughout the winter to entertain both locals and visitors alike.
You will also find plenty of other attractions in Atlantic Beach that are not only winter friendly but also kid-friendly, such as the Atlantic Beach Skate Park. It is the region’s only skatepark and one of the biggest skateparks in Eastern North Carolina. Take a leisurely stroll down Oceanana Pier and enjoy a day of fishing or just take in the amazing ocean views while sipping a specialty cocktail from the bar that sits nearly a thousand feet offshore. You will also find several local fishing charters available for a fun-filled day of fishing on the beautiful waters of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.
The largest North Carolina beach town on the Crystal Coast is Morehead City. The waterfront in downtown Morehead City offers beautiful views of the water and large boats that cruise the harbor channel, in addition to countless local charter and tour boats.
The dining scene in Morehead City is hard to beat any time of year, and the winter months are no different. The town has a long history in the fishing industry, which means fresh local seafood can be found in abundance. Plan your trip to coincide with the annual North Carolina Seafood Festival, held each fall, for some of the best seafood you’ve ever tasted, along with world-class entertainment and lots of family fun activities.
Explore the area’s maritime history on display at the History Museum of Carteret County, also known as the History Place. Admire a treasure trove of artifacts and series of exhibits from centuries past. The History Place also doubles as a research library with more than 10,000 books and publications that detail the Crystal Coast’s rich history.
Morehead City is one of the best destinations along the Crystal Coast to do a little shopping. With everything from antique and thrift shops to big box stores and shopping plazas, it’s the perfect place to find something to take home for everyone in the family.
Nestled between the waters of the White Oak River and the Intracoastal Waterway is the waterfront community of Swansboro, known by its motto, “The Friendly City by the Sea.” Experience the southern charm and hospitality of this coastal community as you stroll the historic Swansboro waterfront, one of the town’s most visited attractions. Enjoy spectacular views of the Intracoastal as you watch the fisherman and boaters come and go. Or take in some of the area’s history at homes and buildings that have been well preserved and designated as historic landmarks.
Swansboro’s waterfront is lined with a number of quaint boutique stores, art galleries and antique shops that feature souvenirs, clothes, and other maritime treasures. You are sure to find the perfect souvenirs for friends and family and even a little something for yourself to remember your vacation by.
If you are looking for a unique dining experience, then turn your attention to Swansboro. From fine dining to family restaurants, tempt your tastebuds at any one of the amazing restaurants in the area, many of which are located along the waterfront. From steaks to fresh local seafood to just about everything in between, you’ll find whatever you crave at Swansboro restaurants.
Swansboro is also home to the beloved Hammocks Beach State Park, which has 290 acres of land to explore. The area is largely undisturbed and consumed mostly by Bear Island, a 4-mile long stretch of undeveloped barrier island accessible only by the park’s passenger ferry, private ferry or by paddling your own kayak or canoe. Explore paddling trails that lead to marshes, Bear Island or Huggins Island, that have been conserved with natural wildlife and vegetation set within beautiful maritime forest – it is truly a sight to behold.
Plan Your Winter Getaway Today
With so many fun activities and family attractions, there are countless reasons why North Carolina’s Crystal Coast is the perfect spot for your next getaway. Make plans to visit these amazing North Carolina beach towns this winter! Need help planning your stay? From the perfect place to stay to the best things to do, Emerald Isle Realty is here to assist! Just give us a call at (855) 891-1962.
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