I. OVERVIEW OF BEACHES NEAR NEW BERN NC
North Carolina Crystal Coast Beaches, especially those close to New Bern, NC, are a wonderful part of our lifestyle in New Bern. Popularly called North Carolina's "Inner Banks", or North Carolina's "Southern Outer Banks", the Crystal Coast is no longer a secret. But its beautiful, not over-developed, dune-protected white sand beaches provide the vacationer and local citizen with plenty of fun in the sun.
Crystal Coast Travel Guides: Click on any of these links for travel guides to the beaches of the Crystal Coast:
NEW BERN IS CLOSE TO BEACHES YET FAR FROM HURRICANES: Only 40 to 45 minutes away from New Bern by car, the beach is a key part of summer life for New Bern residents and visitors. And our relatively high ground and distance puts New Bern away from the Zone 1 for hurricane impact. In fact, beach residents evacuate TO New Bern from the coast. Thus we are close to the beach, but fortunately not too close to suffer from hurricanes, bugs and the other regular day-to-day weather damage that beach properties tend to undergo.
SPEND A DAY AT THE BEACH and THE NIGHT IN NEW BERN: With New Bern only a 40-45 minute drive away, an expensive and often uncomfortable overnight stay at the beach not necessary. You may want to headquarter your stay in New Bern, which is considerably cheaper during the high summer season at the beach. Adults will definitely appreciate New Bern's lodging choices including bed-and-breakfasts and the many fine New Bern restaurants here more than Mickey D's fare and the minimal fine dining at some of the Crystal Coast beaches.
WILD, OPEN SPACES: Visitors can still see regularly see pelicans, dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles and open spaces along the beaches on the Crystal Coast.
Thus Crystal Coast beaches are perfect for nature lovers, families, and those wanting to get away from the high-rise buildings dominating many over-developed beachfront areas along the East Coast like Myrtle Beach or Wilmington. The Crystal Coast is still primarily residential. While bigger single family residences and duplexes are being built, to be sure, high-rise condos are still fortunately few and far between.
Lately, though, the secret is out, and the Crystal Coast has been discovered by developers. You'll find the big "McMansions" just starting to be built on Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach and Topsail Island now, but more common are the second row wonderful little cottages. Many year-round beach residents lend stability and a family-friendly environment.
SAFE AND KID-FRIENDLY: The shelf for waders is generous, not as generous as Myrtle, but certainly less crowded.
These beaches are definitely kid and retiree-friendly, with less of the frantic craziness of college-focused beach towns.
While at the beach, be sure to visit the newly expanded NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores to see wonderful examples of eastern NC sea life in a beautiful setting.
Their stunning multi-story sea tank is a must-see! Kids love the touch tanks, and the breakfast with the sharks and fishes that are regularly held there.
Call (252) 247-4003 or visit their web site at www.ncaquariums.com/pks/pksindex.htm.
II. NC's INNER BANKS: Crystal Coast Beaches
A. Atlantic Beach
Atlantic Beach in Morehead City is the closest beach to New Bern.
Atlantic Beach hops with adequate beach businesses to keep the kids happy, and has lots of opposite sex action!
B. Fort Macon
Fort Macon is about the same distance from New Bern as Atlantic Beach, but has better parking facilities.
There are several public access beaches, Fort Macon is the most famous. It has the added distinction of being the Civil War fortification for that part of the coast, and is wonderfully preserved. There is a self-guided recorded tour and at times, costumed actors at Fort Macon. Their Civil War book store is top notch, by the way. All Civil War buffs MUST stop there.
The bad thing about the Ft. Macon beach, the only bad thing actually, is the undertow. Don't swim in these waters. Wade and sun bathe and bird watch (and boat watch) to your heart's content. There are lifeguards at the main beach.
You might see the dive ship just off the coast in the channel where they are bringing up the artifacts from Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard's flagship of 1711.
C. Emerald Isle
The long strip of land called Emerald Isle is immensely popular with North Carolinians.
All Emerald Isle beaches are quieter, swim-able, family-fun oriented and drop dead gorgeous. Take your pick among many...
Many visitors gather to do the beach scene by day and dance the night away doing the "Carolina Shag", that laid -back Carolina version of the jitterbug danced to Carolina Beach Music. They host the annual Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival.
D. Topsail Island
Further down the coast, Topsail Island is busy! Having received two direct strikes from hurricanes in the 90's, it is undergoing a lot of reconstruction. Gorgeous and known as a "retreat at the beach", people return here for generations.
III. NC's OUTER BANKS: Ocracoke & Hatteras
OBX...you'll see this sticker everywhere in Eastern Carolina. (A status sticker for "Outer Banks" which is directly east off our coast). Charming Ocracoke Island, just below the famed Hatteras Lighthouse is a 2 hour ferry ride. Just drive east on US 70 and follow the signs to the ferry station on Cedar Island.
Outer Banks access for New Bernians is simple, the North Carolina Ferry system makes the trip pleasant and interesting.
The Cedar Island-Ocracoke Ferry is our best bet. You can drive to Cape Hatteras from New Bern, but it's quite a haul (over 4 hours), and the ferry is too convenient.
Check for cost and schedules at the NCDOT Ferry Website. To reserve your spot in season on the ferry, call (252) 225-3551. In Ocracoke call (252) 928-3841. Crossing time is about 2 hours.
Alternatively, you can take a day trip by catamaran from Beaufort over to Hatteras with a nice catered lunch.