Morehead City is a destination as well a convenient hub for visiting other sites along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. Morehead City cracked Field & Stream’s top 10 list of best fishing destinations in the U.S., the magazine noting, “It’s hard to find a better all-year-and-all-season environment with this much diversity and appeal.” The Carolina Princess ( www.carolinaprincess.com) provides affordable half- and full-day fishing excursions. For a list of more than a dozen charter boat options, visit www.fryingpantower.com.
Morehead City is one of the state’s official ports of entry, and Bogue Sound is a part of the Intracoastal Waterway – so the waterfront teems with tankers, trawlers, barges and pleasure craft. Port City Touring Co. ( www.pctourco.com) provides several daytime and evening cruises ideally suited for the “off-season” between November and May, dolphin tours in particular. During the day, Morehead City’s numerous artist galleries, specialty shops, and antique stores lure visitors inside. The History Place ( www.thehistoryplace.org) offers a chance to take a relaxed look back at the region’s early days. At night, restaurants and taverns along the waterfront provide venues from which to enjoy the scenery. Another nighttime activity is the Port City Pirates & Ghost Tour ( www.pctourco.com) – inside a reportedly haunted house!
Many sites along the Crystal Coas” are easily reached from Morehead. It’s a quick trip over the bridge crossing Bogue Sound to popular Atlantic Beach, and from there to Fort Macon State Park ( http://1.usa.gov/1tBkUne) or the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores ( www.ncaquariums.com). Beaufort, 4 miles east of Morehead City, retains its coastal village charm. Beaufort Historic Site ( www.beauforthistoricsite.org) offers tours of several homes and public buildings. The Maritime Museum ( http://bit.ly/1ntTCuz) features items salvaged from the wreck of Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. On Harkers Island is the visitor center for the Cape Lookout National Seashore ( www.nps.gov/calo).
A ferry ( http://1.usa.gov/1wrTe8V) runs through December to take visitors to Shackleford Banks, where the famous wild ponies live, and to Core Banks, with its diamond-painted lighthouse. Horse Sense & Survival Tours ( http://1.usa.gov/1t6mwHO) are ranger-led excursions to Shackleford to see the horses. Trips are scheduled for Oct. 17 and 19 and Nov. 15 and 22. Reservations are required.
The Swansboro Mullet Festival ( www.swansborofestivals.com), Oct.11-12, features a parade, fireworks and beach music. Atlantic Beach holds the annual Carolina Kite Festival Oct. 25-26. (Details: Call 252-247-7011). The 27th Core Sound Decoy Festival ( www.decoyguild.com) on Harkers Island runs Dec. 6-7. Also on Dec. 6, The Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla, a gathering of vessels properly decked out for the Yuletide season, can be seen along the Morehead City and Beaufort waterfronts.
Area info: www.crystalcoastnc.org. Gary McCullough