The charming N.C. coastal towns of Beaufort and Morehead City combine with area beaches and more to make up the Crystal Coast – a long-time favorite destination of those in search of water, sand, history, events and fresh local fare. All in all, the Crystal Coast ( www.crystalcoastnc.org) is an easy place to savor.
The Crystal Coast is experiencing a dining revival that revolves around fresh ingredients from the sea and nearby farms. New and long-standing options include Bistro by the Sea ( www.bistro-by-the-sea.com), featuring fresh and creative seasonal fare; Clawson's 1905 Restaurant & Pub ( www.clawsonsrestaurant.com), a Beaufort institution since 1905; Amos Mosquito's ( www.amosmosquitos.com), including the house specialty “Fish for Two” with an assortment of Thai dipping sauces; Circa 81 ( www.circa-81.com), known for its eclectic and unexpected tapas and cocktails; Blue Moon Bistro ( http://bit.ly/1n3wBzd); Morehead City’s classic El’s Drive-In ( http://bit.ly/PRmen5) and the Arendell Room ( www.arendellroom.com), a speakeasy-like craft cocktail bar.
Beaufort’s Front Street Village ( www.frontstreetvillage.com) is another reason to visit Beaufort’s quaint waterfront area. Front Street Village will be combining the boating lifestyle with village living, including residential condos, a marina, waterfront venues for varied events, dining, and 2015’s full-service Inn at Front Street Village.
Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend (April 23-27; www.beaufortwineandfood.com) celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. You can explor an extensive selection of wines as well as local restaurant cuisine featuring special dinners at Beaufort restaurants, a gala reception, Saturday's “Vin de Mer” wine tasting, and Sunday's champagne brunch.
The summer concert series (May-September; www.crystalcoastnc.org/events) is when visitors and locals gather every third Thursday of the month on Emerald Isle, luminous Saturday evenings in Morehead City, and every second starlit Friday at Fort Macon to jive and thrive with distinctive concerts.
The 40th Annual Wooden Boat Show (May 3; www.maritimefriends.org) in Beaufort examines the true livelihood of the area, highlighting the talent of wood boat carvers at the N.C. Maritime Museum. The boat-building tradition goes back centuries; the show features wide-ranging activities, including demonstrations, races and more.
The Beach Fun Run Series (May 6-Aug. 14; www.crystalcoastnc.org) is sponsored by the Carteret County Parks & Recreation Department and welcomes all ages and skill levels to 1 mile, 5K, or 10K runs.
Boasting a new waterfront site this year, the Beaufort Music Festival (May 9-10; www.beaufortmusicfestival.com) offers attendees an adventurous range of concerts and performances for a spirited weekend.
ARTrageous! (May 17-18; www.artscouncilcarteret.org) is a juried fine art show and sale on the Morehead City waterfront.
SwanFest (May 25-Sept. 14; www.crystalcoastnc.org) in pretty Swansboro has grown into a great music occasion, featuring local favorites as well as Nashville recording artists.
The huge Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament (June 6-14; www.thebigrock.com) draws amateurs and experts to the Crystal Coast: It’s fished by more than 100 anglers in substantial categories. The prize for the winner has changed drastically over the years, from a red wagon full of silver dollars at the first tournament in 1957 to the present-day win of more than $1 million in cash.
The 53rd Annual Beaufort Old Homes & Gardens Tour (June 27-28; www.beauforthistoricsite.org) features a walking tour of Beaufort's private historic homes, gardens, churches, and meeting halls during the last full weekend in June. Private homes, Beaufort historic site buildings, the Old Burying Ground, narrated bus tours of the historic district, music concerts and an antique car show highlight this signature event.
EmeraldFest (June 19-Aug. 21; www.crystalcoastnc.org) is back this summer with weekly free outdoor music concerts from 6:30 to 8 pm Thursdays at the Western Ocean Regional Access facility. Expect a variety of genres and great regional performers. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, and enjoy the fun. Lynn Seldon