Travel by Car: The Crystal Coast
The Crystal Coast stretches from Emerald Isle to Beaufort and Cape Lookout. Pristine beaches, laid-back towns and a welcoming atmosphere make this stretch of beach a favorite summer destination for families. Due to countless shipwrecks along the shore, including a World War II German U-boat sunk by the Coast Guard in 1942, the region has garnered the nickname "The Graveyard of the Atlantic."
See wild horses and go shelling with Port City Tour Company. After a 15-minute ferry ride to Shackleford Banks on the Cape Lookout National Seashore, visitors are guided to see wild horses, then given an opportunity to go shelling on one of North Carolina's best shelling beaches.
Located on Bogue Banks, Fort Macon is home to a pentagon-shaped Civil War fort.
Surrounded on three sides by water - the Atlantic Ocean, Beaufort Inlet and Bogue Sound - Fort Macon is free and offers nature trails, opportunities for surf fishing and a protected swim area.
Climb to the top of the 150-year-old Cape Lookout Lighthouse to enjoy the endless ocean views. Nicknamed The Diamond Lady, it's one of North Carolina's most iconic lighthouses.
The infamous pirate Blackbeard lost his flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, when it ran aground in Beaufort Inlet. View artifacts from the ship and experience interactive exhibits to learn about Blackbeard at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort.
Get up close with marine life at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. While you're there, check out the 300,000-gallon tank featuring a replica of a sunken World War II German U-boat and a variety of sea life.
No seaside vacation is complete without getting out onto the water. Experience a variety of sailing and fishing excursions available throughout the area for aqua adventures, such as dolphin cruises, sunset sails, moonlight cruises and sport-fishing daytrips.
For more ideas, go to crystalcoastnc.org.
Road trip bonus: The Crystal Coast is for those who love fewer crowds and more natural beauty of North Carolina beaches. Whirligigs Park, a public sculpture garden featuring works from famed folk artist Vollis Simpson whose whimsical windmills have been featured in museums across the country, makes for an interesting stop along the way; or stop in Raleigh for a visit to the N.C. Museum of Natural Science or Marbles Kids Museum.