A lot of things come to mind upon hearing the words "beach trip." Sure, all of the usual activities like reading on the beach, playing in the waves, and building sandcastles are fun, but if you’re fortunate enough to vacation along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, you’re going to want to step up your itinerary a bit. We could go on and on discussing the multitude of ways to hit the water, but the suggestions below are a great starting point. After a day on the beach—or in the water—the area is filled with relaxing places to grab a craft beer or a glass of wine and recount the day’s adventures. Here are five adventurous ways to spend a day on the Crystal Coast, along with the best places to kick back when the day is done.
1. Scuba Diving The Boat Graveyard
The waters off the Crystal Coast are crystal clear (hence the name), teeming with wildlife and surprisingly containing more than 2,000 sunken sea vessels. In other words, this area is a diver’s dream turned reality. Over the decades this portion of coastline has seen ships go down from German U-boats, hurricanes, pirates, and Coral Reef growing campaigns, and all of these boats are now chilling beneath 75 feet of the clearest water on the East Coast. Combine that with the Crystal Coast’s close proximity to the Gulf Stream—a marine life super highway—and you’ve got yourself a diver’s wonderland. Be sure to stop in at Discovery Diving, the Olympus Dive Center or any of the other local outfitters to inquire about a dive trip. It will be one of the most amazing trips of your life.
Where to Unwind: Carteret County's first brewery, Mill Whistle Brewing is a one-barrel brewery that’s focused on creating unique craft beers. Each batch that Mill Whistle creates is just 31 gallons, allowing it to produce a wide variety of styles. Located in Beaufort, Mill Whistle is housed in the 100-year-old Safrit Lumber Mill, and each time you go there you’ll find something fresh and different to sample.
2. Stand Up Paddleboarding
If diving beneath the water isn’t your thing, standing on top of it will probably sound more appealing. The waters of the Crystal Coast offer the type of high visibility you’d expect to see off of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Head out to sea for a little off-shore paddling to see for yourself just how clear the water can be—if the swell is clean and large enough, you may even be able to ride a wave or two as well. Fishing from a stand-up paddleboard is also becoming very popular in the region. Beaufort Paddle can provide all the gear you need to make it happen, and it also offers guided SUP tours, which will take you to the most scenic spots around and teach you a bit of the area’s history.
Where to Unwind: Located in a historic building in Morehead City, the Tight Lines Pub and Brewing Company offers more than 30 craft beers on tap, in addition to a full lunch and dinner menu. On the food side, it’s known for its southern cuisine and fresh seafood. In addition to its own beer, it also features a wide variety of beers from all over North Carolina. Enjoy the outdoor beer garden from April to October, with live music the third Saturday of each month.
You’ve seen it on Red Bull commercials, now it’s your turn to try flying through the air by kite. In the late spring/early summer this portion of coastline experiences stronger winds than the rest of the year, perfect for a kiteboarding lesson. The wind chops up the incoming and outgoing tides, producing small messy waves that are perfect for surfing via kiteboard and, if the wind is strong enough, fully launching into the stratosphere. Setting aside an entire day for this activity—it’s going to take some time to get the hang of the sport if you’re new to it. If you’re experienced, you’ll want to stay out all day. Blown Kiteboarding offers gear rentals and lessons, so be sure to drop by if you’re in the mood to earn your wings.
Where to Unwind: Harrika’s Brew Haus is a place that takes the word "brewing" seriously. Not only will you find an 800-bottle selection of beers, but you can also find 60-plus varieties of tea and its own private label coffee named “Hair of the Dog.” Located in Cedar Point, Harrika’s Brew Haus also features beer on tap for you to sample a pint or fill up a growler.
The Croatan National Forest is the only true coastal forest in the eastern United States, and the 160,000-acre preserve features pine forests, saltwater estuaries, bogs and raised swamps called pocosins. It’s bordered on three sides by tidal rivers and the Bogue Sound, making it an excellent place to explore by boat. It’s just one of the coastal destinations on the Crystal Coast that are perfect for a kayak trip. Outfitters like Paddle NC and Bearfoot Kayaks offer guided tours of the area via both kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
Where to Unwind: Do you have some wine lovers in your group? The Carolina Wine Mixer in Emerald Isle is your spot for both wine and craft beer. In fact, you’ll find 108 different vineyards represented there, in addition to 60 breweries. Wine and beer tastings are offered each week for those who want to learn more about all the offerings available.
5. Inshore Kayak Fishing
It’s no secret that the Crystal Coast is home to arguably the best fishing waters on the East Coast. With all of the tidal creeks and inlets, marsh flats, sand bars and man-made underwater structures, the Crystal Coast is basically a huge honey hole full of all kinds of sport fish. If you’re looking to wet a line and need a boat, Beaufort Paddle can get you outfitted—it even offers tips on local sweet spots and how to get there.
Where to Unwind: Located on the ocean in Atlantic Beach, the Idle Hour Biergarten is a modern take on the traditional beer garden. Here, too, you’ll find a large selection of beers—mostly from Germany and North Carolina—and the food reflects the same influences. The menu features made-from-scratch food using local ingredients. Go with a traditional bratwurst or Bavarian Pretzel for that German biergarten feel, or sample some of the local seafood on the menu to enjoy the fresh offerings that can only be found on the coast.
Originally written for Crystal Coast NC.