I often get requests for information about the Crystal Coast. Just tonight I answered an email from a couple from Great Britain who will be vacationing in the area this June. They were looking for my choices on places to eat some fresh fish. I gave them personal favorite fish restaurant, but as a year round resident with my feet firmly planted in the sand, I have no hesitation saying that the best fish you can get comes from my grill or frying pan. I love to catch my own fish and cook them within hours of being caught. When I cannot do that I will find something fresh off the boat at one of the local seafood markets. Of course eating fresh is not the only neat thing that you can do here on your visit to the Crystal Coast.Coming from a larger city, we worried about finding enough to occupy us here in Carteret County. We were not very far into our first six months, and it was unanimous that the Crystal Coast has plenty of things to keep us busy. Over the last few years I have developed some favorite things which I never tire of doing.
The first is going for a beach walk. The biggest challenge is deciding which beach. Do we go to the windswept Point or to my favorite fishing beach, Third Street? Sometimes we just go to the beach access off Islander Drive. It is only ten minutes from our house. Often I walk with a camera, and my wife looks for unique tiny shells. As the fish start moving along the beach, you might see me with a fishing rod over my shoulder watching for some bluefish attacking schools of bait fish near the shore.
In the spring we also enjoy going for walks on the Tideland Trails at the Croatan National Forest access in Cedar Point. We often get to meet some friendly dogs, and after hiking into the protected area, we enjoy sitting on a bench and watching one of the isolated inlets.
When the winds and weather are right, I really enjoy both kayaking and boating. It is really hard to appreciate the Crystal Coast, Bogue Inlet, Bogue Sound, and the Intracoastal Waterway without getting in a boat. We are lucky in that all I have to do is slide my kayak into the water in my backyard and I can be in the middle of the White Oak River in ten to fifteen minutes depending on the wind. Where we live in Bluewater Cove, the White Oak is somewhere between one and two miles wide. It is filled with interesting oyster beds and lots of marine life.
Going for kayak ride in the Swansboro area is a really good way to sample the area waters. But if you have access to a skiff like I do, then you have truly found your way to paradise. From the early morning mists on the river and sound to the gorgeous sunsets, it is hard to beat this area's waters for fun. If you happen to love to fish, then you will probably want to move here after a trip or two out on the water. There is nothing that I enjoy more than pressing the down button on the key fob which controls the lift for my boat. Ten minutes from sliding off the lift, we will be in the Intracoastal at Swansboro.
When we have visitors, we almost always take them to Beaufort. Walking the docks and seeing the fantastic boats tied up there is always a treat. We rarely leave Beaufort without visiting the the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Museums are not high on the list of things to do for my son who turned thirty-one this year, but he loves the Maritime Museum. I have never taken anyone there who did not enjoy their visit. After the Museum we will often take a drive down Front Street and enjoy the full effect of all the beautifully restored historic homes.
Sometimes if we manage to get to Beaufort early enough, we will head on up to Harker's Island to experience a little of Down East as the area east of Beaufort is known. One of the best things that I have ever done is to catch a ferry from Harker's Island over to Cape Lookout and then catch a 4WD taxi to the point at Cape Lookout. The last time I did it the whole trip only cost twenty dollars for a magical afternoon enjoying the beach the way it used to be.
When we head back to the Cape Carteret area we often go home by the beach. Sometimes Fort Macon is just too hard to resist. While there, I especially like to watch the Hatteras style boats coming in from the fishing grounds when one of the area's tournaments is in progress. On our way home from Atlantic Beach, we usually make a stop at the Iron Steamer access point, and if the spirit moves us, we will walk out the boardwalk at the Roosevelt Natural Area in Salter Path to enjoy another view of the beach.
My choice after that is to cross the bridge from Emerald Isle just as the sun is setting into Bogue Sound. Sometimes I might skip the sunset for a sunset walk on Bogue Inlet Pier.
The biggest challenge on the Crystal Coast is getting everything into twenty four hours. That is why so many former visitors decide to make the area their permanent residence. It is the only way to really enjoy all the wonderful places and things to do along North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.
The Crystal Coast is even more special because if for some strange reason you become tired of the beach, you can be in the mountains of North Carolina or Virginia in a few hours. How many places can you swim in warm saltwater in the morning, and after a few hours driving inland watch the sun setting over the mountains? This is a magical spot, and we are blessed to be living here along the coast.