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The Circle In Atlantic Beach NC – What Does Future Entertainment And Things To Do Look Like?

While once an active and thriving area for entertainment, tourism, and things to do, the circle in Atlantic Beach NC changed significantly in the past 18 years. Today, even in the busy Spring and Summer months, this area stands in stark contrast to the crowds that used to flock to the area at night to partake in dance clubs, listening to multiple live bands, and engaging in other entertainment locally.

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Location contains Tackle Box Tavern, Pescara Restaurant, Davis Beachwear, Crabs Claw Restaurant, Idle Hour Biergarten, and Wine Bar.
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In this article, we are interested in learning what local residents and those that visit Atlantic Beach consistently think about the development and growth of this area. Although, it’s important to remember than anyone under 33 years of age in 2019 has no idea what the circle used to be.

We do know that in early 2004, the town put out marketing material outlining their plans to see a very robust multiple story resort built where you now see a concrete foundation. This resort was to be called “The Cove”, and this resort was going to contain a shopping area, restaurants, and other tourism centered retail stores in areas surrounding the high rise center.

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While we will not pretend to know what happened to this resort, it’s safe to say that the development is either perpetually stalled or abandoned.

As of this writing on November 17, 2019, the circle has exactly 2 bars, 2 restaurants, 1 wine bar, and 1 beachwear retail store. This area is still somewhat of a beach attraction offering a protected lifeguard area, paid parking, beach volleyball, kids swings, and a boardwalk.

In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, it was common to see upward of 1000 people in the streets in this area as multiple bands played local bars and entertainment centers. Today, you are lucky if you see 20 people in this area after 11 pm.

Now, I am not faulting local politicians and town tourism leaders for the lack of growth and development at the circle because I understand there is a legitimate financial issue that nobody saw coming which put the cove resort on hold, or possibly abandoned. It is quite possible that the mayor, town council, and area tourism leaders want to see this area developed significantly in preparation for the boom in tourism that is expected from the Interstate 42 corridor.

Or, perhaps these town leaders want to see the area filled in with vacation homes and condos. I will not pretend to know the answer.

But, as an entity focused on travel and tourism in Carteret County NC, we are interested in seeing town leaders, local residents, and visitors to the area use the comment form below to discuss and debate what needs to happen, or what will happen with the circle in Atlantic Beach.

Additionally, we encourage readers to share this article on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter so that others can get involved in the conversation.


Should the circle be revitalized and developed in to a robust and active entertainment and visitor center like it was in the 1980s? If not, as a local town official or resident, what would you like to see happen with this area?

Do you support the cove resort being built if it can financially or legally be built, or should town officials abandon it (or litigate) their way in to a new plan?

As a business in Atlantic Beach NC that sits outside of the circle, what would it’s resurgence in visitor traffic mean for your business, or would it have no impact?

What does the future of travel and tourism look like in this town?

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Michael Sharp

Native of Carteret County NC, Father to Makayla and Savannah. You can add me on Facebook. Interest include web development, encryption, and other technologies.

6 thoughts on “The Circle In Atlantic Beach NC – What Does Future Entertainment And Things To Do Look Like?

  • October 21, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    My name is Gene Prowse I was the DJ at one time at Johnny Dollars on the circle, with Chevy’s next to us, I was in the Marine Corps when I played there, and it was a great place for fun, tourist were all over the place. Well I came back a few years ago and saw what had been done to the area and I was just devastated at the sight of the area, its a travesty what they did to the area in my opinion! It is no longer a place for tourism and no wonder no one wants to visit any more !

  • August 23, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    I saw where the mayor wants to see revitalization along the boardwalk, and while I wholeheartedly agree the current planks need replacing, I hope any new construction or replacement will keep the same look and feel of this area.

    In your article, you should have emphasized “stark contrast” from what the circle is now compared to what it used to be.

  • July 30, 2020 at 9:00 am

    I’m from PA, always vacationed at the Jersey Shore and in 2004 a road trip brought me to Atlantic Beach. I was immediately in love. The Circle was still amusements, the perimeter was beach shops and bars and with non-stop entertainment, all the “locals” were really interesting beach people with great stories. It was larger than life but cozy at the same time. I was so taken with it that I moved there one year later. Unfortunately, it was just after that when they started demolishing everything. There was a visceral sadness as each piece fell. Now that they have lined the boardwalk with condos I don’t think there is any chance of making it a place that feels that alive again.

    • July 30, 2020 at 11:09 pm

      Yes, the whole development of this area is disappointing to say the least given how it was back in the late 1980’s when on Friday and Saturday nights there were thousands of people in the area listening to bands and now it’s just completely different. I will say this though, the whole development of this area fell through to no fault of the town and it was directly tied to finances of the developer.

      But to be sure in the past 10 years more and more people who travel to Atlantic Beach are finding recreation and spending dollars in Morehead City, Beaufort, and Emerald Isle. I honestly don’t know what is going on.

  • January 8, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    It was certainly the place to be in the mid to late 1970s. The Pump House and The Incinerator, Much fun! Very entertaining! Dancing! Maybe the Circle need not be that hyped but it really captured the spirit on where folks sought to be to enjoy life. That has long left the area, and now the circle with its condos, well, that space may never be recaptured.

    • December 17, 2021 at 5:56 pm

      I spent every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night there if I remember right Thursday was Penny draft it was amazing!


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