Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Activities and Things to Do in Emerald Isle

North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks are rich in natural beauty and offer and abundance of outdoor activities for young and old alike. Whether you’re looking for things to do outdoors on a long weekend getaway or entertaining the whole family for a week-long vacation, you’re sure to find something for everyone.

Discover more ways to get outdoors in North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks with these fun things to do!

Cape Lookout Lighthouse - Outdoor Adventure Activities for Adults on the North Carolina Coast

Outdoor Adventure Activities for Adults on the North Carolina Coast

Looking for thrills and excitement on your next vacation? From sailing excursions to sport fishing trips to guided bike tours, you’ll find an endless number of outdoor adventure activities for adults on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.

  1. Bike down Coast Guard Road to the Pointe in Emerald Isle. The Pointe offers one of the best sunset views anywhere on the Crystal Coast.
  2. Play a round of golf at Star Hill Golf Club. This 27-hole championship course in Cape Carteret offers players the choice to play at one of 3 beautiful nines.
  3. Climb to the top of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. A brisk climb up the 207 steps that lead to the galley of the lighthouse are rewarded with one of the most spectacular views of the Southern Outer Banks.
  4. Go shelling at Hammocks Beach State Park. The park is located on Bear Island, a 4-mile long undeveloped barrier island off the coast of Swansboro. The island is only accessible via passenger ferry, private boat, or by paddling a canoe or kayak.
  5. Enjoy cool breezes and breathtaking scenery on a sailing cruise. Lookout Cruises offers daily excursions that depart from historic Beaufort on a 45-foot catamaran with seating for up to 40 passengers.
  6. Go on a sport fishing trip to catch Wahoo, Mahi Mahi or Tuna. Energizer Sportfishing offers full-day Gulf Stream fishing charters on a 45-foot custom charter boat with air conditioning, restrooms, tackle and licenses provided.
  7. Play a round of disc golf at the Emerald Woods Disc Golf Course. Experience 9 holes through the tranquil woods along Bogue sound.
  8. Pedal your way through 300 years of Beaufort’s history on guided bike tour with Hungry Town Tours. View Beaufort’s old-world southern charm steeped in North Carolina maritime history.


Boating - Best Outdoor Water Activities on the North Carolina Coast

Best Outdoor Water Activities on the North Carolina Coast

Whether you prefer to sail the skies high above the water on a parasailing adventure or dive to the depths of the sea exploring one of the coast’s many shipwrecks, outdoor water activities on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast offer a great hands-on experience.

  1. Go surfing on the beaches in Emerald Isle. The southwest winds that typically prevail during summer months make it possible to enjoy riding on any one of the area beaches.
  2. Dive shipwrecks in the ‘graveyard of the Atlantic.’ Learn about maritime history and see a variety of fish and coral life as you experience some of the best shipwreck diving around. Olympus Dive Center offers a variety of dive experiences to choose from.
  3. Get a birds-eye-view of the Crystal Coast on a parasailing adventure. Enjoy breathtaking vistas as you sail the skies and take in the beauty of the Crystal Coast. Make sure to bring your camera!
  4. Go kayaking in the soundside marshes of Emerald Isle and enjoy the coastal bird life and marine life that surround you. Hot Wax Surf Action Sports Rentals offers kayak rentals and can advise you on where to launch and how to enjoy your experience to the fullest.
  5. Go windsurfing near Cape Lookout National Seashore or Shackleford Banks, both of which are only a short ferry ride away. The emerald waters, sandy beaches and marine life all add to your windsurfing experience on the Southern Outer Banks.
  6. Take a relaxing guided paddle boarding tour through the marshes and estuaries of Bogue Sound. Emerald Isle Paddle Tours offers paddle board rentals and tours every day of the week.
  7. Go kiteboarding on Bogue Sound. Race across the open flat waters of the sounds on a kiteboard. The shores from Atlantic Beach to Emerald Isle are also a great place for kiteboarding during the summer months.


Dolphin Watching - Fun Nature Things to Do on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks

Fun Nature Things to Do on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks

If exploring nature is more your thing, we’ve got that covered too. North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks is a coastal paradise for nature lovers. In addition to its natural beauty, the coast is also home to hundreds of bird species, wild banker horses, dolphins, sea turtles and many more types of marine and wildlife.

  1. Take the ferry to Shackleford Banks to see the wild horses. Around 110 Shackleford horses are known to roam the island. Spend the day exploring the 9 miles of beaches and maritime forest, then head back to the shoreline for a quick dip in the water to cool off.
  2. Enjoy scenic views of the marshes and Shackleford Banks from Carrot Island Boardwalk, located on the Rachel Carson Reserve. Located in an estuary, this natural area is home to a small herd of horses and more than 200 species of birds.
  3. Get up close and personal with nature at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Learn about local wildlife and marine life and touch a stingray, sea turtle horseshoe crab and other critters.
  4. Stroll down the quiet trails that wind through maritime forest at Emerald Isle Woods Park. Here you’ll have the chance to do some birdwatching, as well as spot a variety of other wildlife, in addition to just soaking up the beautiful natural surroundings.
  5. Plan a dolphin watching cruise. From shelling and crabbing to dolphin watching and even dinner cruises, you’ll find plenty of ways to set sail and explore the coastal waters of North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.
  6. Get a close-up view of the sea turtle nesting process during nesting season. From May to November, the North Carolina coast catches a major wave of sea turtles that travel there to lay their eggs on the same beach they originally hatched from.
  7. Spend a day at Cape Lookout National Seashore. These beautiful remote beaches are perfect for relaxing and taking in the natural beauty of the coast. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day swimming, shelling, fishing or birding.
  8. Discover the hidden natural treasures of the Crystal Coast on an ecotour. Crystal Coast Ecotours offers full or half day personalized boat tours of secluded barrier islands, wild sea grass meadows, backwater sounds, marshes and more.


Family Beach Day in Emerald Isle, North CarolinaBest Things to Do Outdoors with Kids in NC’s Southern Outer Banks

Keep the family entertained for days with this list of some of the best things to do outdoors with kids in North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks. Explore historic buildings, race down waterslides or just enjoy the pristine beaches and emerald waters that the Crystal Coast is so well-known for.

  1. Build a sandcastle at any one of the Southern Outer Banks beautiful beaches. The beaches are known for their soft, golden sands and breathtaking emerald waters, and many of our vacation rentals offer direct beach access so you can spend as much time as you like.
  2. Challenge the kids to 18 holes of putt-putt through waterfalls, windmills and more at Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf and Raceway. It’s a great place to bring the whole family with two mini-golf courses, go-karts, bumper boats and kiddie rides.
  3. Zoom around the track on a furiously fast go-kart at Golfin’ Dolphin in Cape Carteret. The course is long and windy and includes a bridge. You can also play mini-golf or have water wars, where you shoot water balloons at each other with a giant launcher.
  4. Skate the bowl or grind the rails at Atlantic Beach Skate Park. The town park also features a splashpad which is perfect for letting the kids cool off on those hot summer days. And the mini golf course offers even more fun things to do for the entire family.
  5. Race down the waterslides at Salty Pirate Water Park. The water park is a great place for kids to enjoy an afternoon filled with water slides, wading pools and tubes. And, with an arcade and snack bar, there’s plenty to do for kids of all ages.
  6. Go on an outdoor excursion at the North Carolina Aquarium. From stand-up paddle boarding to kayaking to sea turtle treks, the aquarium offers a variety of outdoor adventures during the summer
  7. Get a history lesson on a guided walking tour of Beaufort Historic Site. Explore historic buildings including restored homes, the courthouse, county jail and more. You can also see the historic site from atop a double-decker bus on a narrated tour.
  8. Watch the cannons fire at Fort Macon State Park. Take a guided tour of the restored fort and make sure to catch the Civil War reenactment
  9. Play in the pool at your vacation rental. Emerald Isle Realty offers a great selection of vacation rentals with pools in Emerald Isle, NC, perfect for swimming or enjoying time with family and friends.
  10. Fish off Bogue Inlet Pier. The 1,000-foot lighted wooden fishing pier in Emerald Isle offers anglers the chance to hook and reel in a great catch.


Outdoor Events and Festivals on North Carolina’s Crystal CoastOutdoor Events and Festivals on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast

One of the best ways to spend some time outdoors on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast is at one of the many outdoor events and festivals that take place throughout the year. From food and live music to parades and fireworks, getting outdoors has never been so much fun!

  1. St. Patrick’s Day Festival. From amusement rides and face painting to arts and crafts vendors and a variety of food, this all-day event offers fun for the whole family.
  2. Emerald Isle Marathon. Annual marathon featuring a 26-mile marathon course, half-marathon and 5K that gives back to the community and local charities.
  3. Beaufort Wine & Food Festival. Treat your taste buds at this annual celebration with celebrity chefs and some of the best wines from around the world.
  4. AB Beach Music Festival. Head down to the Boardwalk at the Circle in Atlantic Beach for an afternoon of soaking up the sun and listening to live bands.
  5. Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. More than 100 vessels and crews compete for cash prizes in this non-profit fishing tournament.
  6. 4th of July Fireworks. Celebrate the 4th of July on the Crystal Coast with an amazing firework display off Bogue Inlet Pier.
  7. Beaufort Pirate Invasion. Come and watch as Beaufort comes to life with the sounds of pirates overrunning the town during this annual two-day festival.
  8. Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival. A day of music, food and fun awaits you at this annual fall beach music festival.
  9. NC Seafood Festival. The second-largest festival in North Carolina featuring local seafood, live entertainment, arts and crafts, games, rides and exhibits.
  10. Swansboro Mullet Festival. This annual event features a parade, food, live entertainment, street dance, arts and crafts, vendors and more.
  11. Carolina Kite Festival. Enjoy two days of high-flying fun as more than 100 kites dot the skies above Atlantic Beach.


Visitors of all ages return to the Crystal Coast year and year to enjoy the beaches and a wide variety of outdoor activities and things to do. North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks is the perfect location for the ultimate family beach vacation or last-minute getaway!

With so many outdoor activities and things to do on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks, you may not know where to start. So, let Emerald Isle Realty help you create the ideal vacation. Just let us know what you’d like to do, and we’ll help with all the arrangements.


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