5 Must-see Spots this Spring on the Crystal Coast

There’s nothing quite like the return of sun-filled days accompanied by a refreshing ocean breeze. Spring has arrived on the Crystal Coast! Over the last few months, you’ve likely remembered the cherished memories of your favorite beach getaways. We know you’re ready to make your way to a destination that beckons you to put on your favorite island shirt and swimsuit.

While you’re bound to schedule in time relaxing on the glinting sands of the beach, Emerald Isle and the surrounding communities provide you with plenty of activities and attractions perfect for any springtime family vacation. From the trails of a natural reserve to gazing upon the dolphin-splashing ocean, cue the list for five must-see spots this spring on the Crystal Coast.

Discover the enchantment of Cape Lookout

Cape Lookout National Seashore is a hidden gem that shines brightly on the Crystal Coast. It’s the ideal setting for anyone seeking the freedom to experience complete solitude and an opportunity to discover the cherished coastal wildlife in its natural habitats. Making your way to the state park is an adventure as well. A quick ferry ride grants you access to the pristine beaches and wild horses of Shackleford Banks. While visiting, be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water, but please refrain from feeding any wildlife. The beach is also home to a variety of large unbroken shells, making shelling a fun activity for everyone in the family. The crown jewel of this hideaway is the lighthouse, known affectionately as our Diamond Lady due to the diamond pattern adorning the exterior.

Cape Lookout Beach

Cape Lookout is also a safe retreat for our feathered friends. Birdwatchers, be sure to bring your binoculars. The spring season is the prime time to view shorebirds, hawks and songbirds on the barrier island.

Cape Lookout White House at Night

This coastal dreamscape is even more enchanting at night. The National Park Service and the International Dark Sky Association recently announced Cape Lookout National Seashore has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park. This certification recognizes the exceptional quality of the night skies of the park and the opportunities it provides for astronomy-based experiences for park visitors. Cape Lookout National Seashore is the first Atlantic coastal Dark Sky Place in the NPS to receive this certification.

Walk through history at Fort Macon

North Carolina’s most visited state park calls the Crystal Coast home. Fort Macon State Park is located on Bogue Banks near Atlantic Beach. An attraction for history buffs and adventurers alike, this state park provides visitors with options for guided tours through a 19th-century fort or take a walk on the wild side on the Elliot Coues Trail.

Walkthrough History at Fort Macon

The three-mile loop takes you through dunes, a maritime forest and a marsh. It’s ideal for casual walkers, experienced hikers and even cyclists. The beachside boasts endless views of the ocean and the sound side offers a canopied trail with a boardwalk and nature sightings. There’s also a recreational area with lifeguard-protected swimming, bathrooms and a picnic area perfect for an afternoon lunch.

Fort Macon Beach Area

Spot the wild horses at Rachel Carson Reserve

There’s nothing like experiencing the Crystal Coast in its most natural form. The Rachel Carson Reserve is a collection of five islands that can be found across the historic town of Beaufort’s waterfront. The reserve covers more than 2,000 acres and rests in an estuary where a fresh river and salty ocean waters mix. This unique waterscape provides a diverse array of plants and several coastal animals. This natural area is home to a small herd of feral horses and more than 200 species of birds have been seen at the site. Keep an eye on the water too. Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and numerous species of fish can also be seen enjoying a refreshing swim.

Rachel Carson Reserve

While visiting, be sure to wear some comfortable shoes and take a walk on the Town Marsh Nature Trail. The path begins at the northwest beach on Town Marsh. The natural path highlights the beautiful, diverse habitats found in the reserve. While the tour is offered year-round, the spring weather is perfect for taking on the self-guided walking trail. During the spring, nature tours and a boat cruise along Taylor’s Creek to the Carrot Island boardwalk are available to the public free of charge.

Rachel Carson Reserve Tour Horse Wildlife

Dive into adventure at the North Carolina Aquarium

Have you ever wanted to get up-close to the aquatic life of the Crystal Coast? The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores provides you with the perfect opportunity. With an array of activities, it’s bound to be an attraction you and your family would love to think back on. There is something to please everyone from the colorful array of fish on display and the opportunity to pet a stingray!

North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

The aquarium also has guided tours, allowing visitors to go behind the scenes to see animal holding areas and labs with an opportunity to feed the fish. After being awestruck by the more than 3,000 specimens of aquatic life, be sure to experience the Alice Hoffman Nature Trail or Living Shipwreck. There’s even a playground area outside near the start of the trail with slides, a climbing net, a treehouse platform and swinging bridge that the kids are sure to love!

Pine Knoll Shores Playground

The North Carolina Aquarium offers plenty of fun things to do for kids of all ages. Almost everything at the aquarium is hands-on and at the perfect height for even younger ones to view!

Take in the views from Bogue Inlet Pier

For an elevated view of the Crystal Coast’s endless shoreline, be sure to walk to the end of Bogue Inlet Pier. Many families have captured their vacation photos from atop the observation deck and created memories of learning to fish from this local attraction.

The View from Bogue Inlet Pier

The 1000-foot pier is an excellent spot to catch what may be the biggest fish of your life. North Carolina’s state record Sea Mullet was caught from the Bogue Inlet Pier. Fishing off the Bogue Inlet Pier is the perfect way to bond with family or have some classic fun. The pier house conveniently sells snacks, drinks and any beach necessities you might need. Head to the top of the observation deck at the end of the pier. You can experience breathtaking views of the shoreline that you can’t find anywhere else on the island. Wake up early and catch the sun rising over the island, or stay until sunset and witness Emerald Isle light up as the night sets in. There attraction is free of charge and offers plenty of parking for your convenience.

The View from Bogue Inlet Pier at Night Full Moon

Honorable Mention: Explore coastal culture at Beaufort Historic Site

North Carolina’s coastal culture is on full display in Beaufort, NC. Located in the heart of this town is the Beaufort Historic Site. The two-acre site is open to the public and is exceptionally beautiful during a refreshing spring day. The ancient maritime heritage of the Crystal Coast has been well preserved at Beaufort Historic Site. The popular attraction offers guided tours that highlight ten historic buildings, including a jail, courthouse, apothecary and doctor’s office. While touring, visitors can walk through the historic homes of Josiah Bell, John C. Manson and other prominent figures from the past.

Beaufort Historic Site

Be sure to hop aboard the double-decker bus for a narrated historic district tour. A guided tour of the Beaufort Burying Ground is also available. Hear the tales of the many colorful characters that were laid to rest in the old cemetery. Before you leave, stop at the Old Beaufort Shop to browse for gifts, souvenirs and handmade items from local artisans.

Spring into planning

It’s never hard to fill a list of the best places to go for spring while on the Crystal Coast. For those in search of a bit of the springtime sun, plan your stay with Emerald Isle Realty. From oceanfront vacation homes, luxurious condos and cozy duplexes, these properties are rich with the amenities desired for any getaway with the added privacy you appreciate. With plenty of availability on a wide selection of rentals, we’ll help you find the perfect home for you to create a new generation of memories.


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5 Must-see Spots this Spring on the Crystal Coast

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