It should come as no surprise that I believe the best destination in North Carolina is on the coast. There is a distinct magnetism to the Crystal Coast in North Carolina, a southern charm with an added touch that can only come with a beach community. I have traveled to beaches across the world, but nothing else can compare. The Crystal Coast is an 85-mile stretch of beautiful coastline where stress is lost and relaxation is found.
This area is almost exclusively locally owned restaurants and shops (shop local anyone?). This area is quiet, and even in peak season you will have a piece of the beach to yourself. The locals welcome you with open arms, and fellow vacationers feel like old friends. Have I got your attention yet?
So why is this area called the Crystal Coast? As it’s name states – it is because of the crystal clear water! The ocean is generally calm on these southern-facing islands with water temperatures averaging 75-80°F in the summer, the warm water lingers throughout the fall as well. This area is like a second home to me, so it comes as no surprise that when we get back home to Raleigh, I still feel a touch homesick!
I have compiled a list of the three A’s: Accommodations, Adventures, and Appetite! If you have any questions about the Crystal Coast or our family trip please shoot me an email!
Rentals are sought-after accommodations at the Crystal Coast, your piece of home – but at the beach! We stayed in a beautiful modern ocean-front condo with Bluewater Vacation Rentals (they have over 600 rentals across the Crystal Coast). The condo had two spacious bedrooms (two queen beds in one room, the other a king) and two full bathrooms. All of the beds were plush and SO comfortable – not something you find at all rental properties. The condo also had a gorgeous full kitchen – and if you know me at all, this is a HUGE bonus, especially when traveling with a family. Having a full kitchen allows for a relaxing morning, cooking breakfast at your leisure while allowing the kiddos to play. We enjoyed breakfast on our expansive patio overlooking the ocean every morning – does it get much better?
Our rental was located in Grande Villas in unit D3 in Indian Beach. Grande Villas is a luxury beach resort with unbeatable amenities. The pool has beautiful ocean views, a health and fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, dog park (YES! It is pet friendly here!), sports and games lounge, endless books and movies to borrow, and an outdoor fire pit. It is the whole package!
We had an exceptional experience with Bluewater NC. Their staff was attentive and quick to respond, all questions were answered promptly. We felt so welcomed from the second we walked into the condo. Hospitality is not only their business, but it truly is their passion. Our experience was extraordinary, our family came away from this vacation feeling revitalized and bonded – highly recommend!
**$150 off new reservations for 2022 or 2023 using the code “WTC2022” Code is valid through the end of 2022. Valid: Nov 1, 2022 — Dec 31, 2022 Click here**
The N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores – The N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is the perfect stop on your stay at the Crystal Coast. I have been visiting this aquarium for many years (long before children). Here you can watch river otters play, touch a stingray, explore a living shipwreck, meet a bald eagle, and so much more. They have an expansive outdoor nature play area which is a favorite for children.
On this visit to the aquarium, we did a behind the scenes tour for the first time and it did not disappoint! I was SO excited to learn all there is to know about the animals. We walked through the sea turtle rehabilitation, learned about the tank engineering, and best of all – got to go feed the fish in the Living Shipwreck (the largest saltwater habitat in North Carolina). The tour is called the Feeding Frenzy, and only happens on certain days of the week – so be sure to call and schedule ahead.
Lost Treasure Mini Golf – Mini golf and the beach go together like peanut and jelly, and Lost Treasure Mini Golf is a great spot in Salter Path. There are two 18-hold courses (with a train that takes you to the first hole – such a fun addition), go-karts, and bumper boats. Lost Treasure is definitely a family friendly spot at the Crystal Coast you won’t want to miss.
Bogue Inlet Pier – We always make a stop at the Bogue Inlet, a historic wooden pier popular for fishing & spending a casual morning or afternoon watching others fish! We spotted a giant leatherback turtle off this pier one summer and it was awe-inspiring. On this particular trip we watched the dolphins play for several minutes, such a special treat! There is a seafood grill located here and a beautiful beach to relax or have the kiddos play. Bring a jacket if visiting in the cooler months, it can get windy on the pier.
Flower Fields – In the fall you can find several flower fields right near the bridge into Emerald Isle. It was something we stumbled upon on our way to a restaurant and we had way too much fun with photos and playing through the fields. There is something special about a sunflower field at the beach, not to mention the endless fields of poppies that will leave you speechless.
Table 9 – An upscale restaurant with a dynamic seafood and steak menu that is family friendly?? Yes, please! Located in Atlantic Beach, we loved the atmosphere here and the service was amazing. I highly recommend the fish bites as an appetizer, I am still drooling over them!
Crab Shack – It doesn’t get more local than the Crab Shack in Salter Path. Located on the Bogue Sound, this no-frills restaurant gets right down to it – the food. Once seated you are welcomed with a big bowl of hush puppies, my favorite. The food is delicious and fresh, and the staff went out of their way to welcome our kiddos and keep their hungry tummies happy!
Trading Post – If you are looking for comfortable food – this is your place. From chicken and waffles to shrimp and grits, The Trading Post has all your favorites. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – you can’t go wrong. They have a backyard lounge with live music on select days also which is a lot of fun.
34 North – Located in Cedar Point, this one of the best bars we have ever been to at the Crystal Coast. When you hear bar, you may not think of bringing the kids – but this place is the epitome of family friendly. There is a large outdoor space with many games, both for the littles and us kids at heart. There are fire pits and space heaters for the cooler months, and a 24 tap iPourIt system (if you have never seen one of these – you get a wristband and scan it to the tap, pour as little or as much as you like!). 34 North hosts food trucks, is handicap accessible, pet-friendly, kid-friendly, and even offer a complimentary shuttle service… so what are you waiting for? Go!
Flip Flops Donuts – It is not a trip to the Crystal Coast without stopping at Flip Flop Donuts. It has become somewhat of a tradition for our family, and we bring the donuts to the pier – a perfect way to start the day!
Until next time…