Below is a master list of things for families and kids to do in the Carteret County NC communities of Morehead City, Newport, Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach, Salter Path, Beaufort, Cape Carteret, Harkers Island, and communities down east. This list also answers many of the frequently asked questions we get about the area, thus it will be updated daily.
As always, we welcome your discussions and additions using the comment form at the end of this list.
Go grab some tea, this is going to be a long one.
- Are there any water slides, mini golf (putt putt), bumper boats, or kids parks at the beach?
Atlantic Beach town park offers a kids water fountain (splashpad), kids playground, basketball courts, large skateboard park, picnic areas, and concession stand. In Indian Beach, there are bumper boats, mini golf, go cart raceway, train ride, and other opportunities for kids. Emerald Isle has a kids arcade, water park, and several play areas. In Morehead City, there is Shevans Park and Rotary Park where kids can play.
It should be noted that if your child requires a inclusive playground where she/he can play with other children and still be able to use the play are then Swinson Park offers that.
- Are there any movie theaters in the county?
Yes, at Atlantic Station in Atlantic Beach there is Atlantic Station Cinema and in Emerald Isle there is Emerald Plantation Cinema 4. There are none in Morehead City.
- Where are the fishing piers at the beach?
Oceanana fishing pier in Atlantic Beach and Bogue Inlet fishing pier in Emerald Isle. Triple S and Sportsmans pier no longer exist.
- Where are there public beach access points at the beach?
All along Hwy 58 which runs the entire length of Bogue Banks (the beach), look for CAMA signs that mark where the public can access the beach. Many require paid parking. Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach has a large parking area that offers public restrooms, concession stand, picnic/grilling area, and lifeguards on the beach. The circle on Atlantic Beach has paid parking, and lifeguards on the beach and is a central area for shopping and eating. At the very east end of Atlantic Beach (where the fort is) they also have free parking and beach access.
- Where is the best place to find seashells and shark’s teeth?
In the sand dunes and on the beach near Fort Macon State Park bathhouse and on the beach near the fort. If you go to the bathhouse, look for the covered areas where the grills are and then go up in to those dunes to find unspoiled seashells and shark’s teeth.
- Tell us about beach fishing
Fishing on the beach simply requires a NC fishing license, whereas on the fishing piers you do not need a license. You can fish on any beach along the coast except in public swimming areas noted by the municipality. People seem to gravitate to the east end of the island at Fort Macon because the water gets very deep fast and fish follow the ships coming in to port. Most people use a Carolina rig to fish on the bottom with shrimp.
- Is there are community theater?
Yes, search the Internet for “Carteret Community Theater”. The theater is in Morehead City on Arendell St just before you get to (or leave) downtown.
- Are there any public golf courses in Carteret County NC?
Brandywine Bay in Morehead City is a semi-private golf course that encourages public play. The Crystal Coast Country Club in Atlantic Beach/Pine Knoll Shores is open to public play. Star Hill Golf Club is a 27 hole course in Cape Carteret, NC is open to the public.
- Where can we find charter fishing boats to take us inshore/offshore fishing?
Carteret County is a mecca for fishing given our proximity to the deep and warm gulf stream waters, thus there are dozens of opportunities for charter boat fishing by very experienced captains that can get you to where the big fish are. In downtown Morehead City, there are many opportunities for charter boats. In Atlantic Beach, look for various charter boat operations along the causeway near the bridge.
- Are there any sports teams in the area?
The Morehead City Marlins is a summer collegiate league baseball team that plays at Big Rock Stadium in the Spring.
- We heard about the wild horses on some islands nearby, where are they?
Shackleford Island (or as the locals call it, Shackleford Banks) is best known for viewing the wild ponies (banker ponies) but it is only accessible by boat. Thus, you will have to rent a boat or take a small ferry from Beaufort, Morehead City, or Harkers Island. You can also see the wild horses from land over in Beaufort along Front St which runs the entire length of Taylors Creek. While standing on land, look across the water at the Rachel Carson Wildlife Reserve (Carrot Island) and you will likely see the banker ponies grazing.
- Where are the breweries that offer craft beer?
In Atlantic Beach you have Crystal Coast Brewing Company, AB Bottle Co, Idle Hour Biergarten, and The Growler Bar. In Morehead City you have Tight Lines Pub and Brewing Company, Crystal Coast Brewing Company, Promise Land Market, The Crafty Attic, and Circa 81. In Beaufort, you have The Mill Whistle, Beaufort Wine and Food, Clawsons Restaurant, Backstreet Pub, and Fishtowne Brew House. In Newport, you have Shortway Brewing Company, and in Emerald Isle you have The Growler, The Carolina Wine Mixer, and Emerald Isle Wine Market. Craft Beer on the Crystal Coast is very popular.
- Where is the Aquarium?
Of all the things to do in Carteret County, the NC Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores is definitely a favorite for kids and families. This aquarium offers a large otter tank and shark tank, dinosaur exhibit, bird watching area, snake viewing area, information on endangered sea turtles and their rescue efforts, educational presentations, and dozens of exhibits and tanks for just about every aquatic animal you will find along our coast. This is a must to do if you are visiting the area.
- Is Uber and Lyft active in the area?
Yes, and UberEats is coming soon.
- Where are the best spots for nightlife and bars?
In downtown Morehead City, there are several bars and dance clubs. Look for Jacks Bar, Off The Hook, and Arendell Room. On the circle in Atlantic Beach, look for Tacklebox Tavern, and on the Causeway look for Tipsy Turtle. In Beaufort, look for the Dock House. In Emerald Isle, the Emerald Club is where it’s at. All of these venues typically have live music.
- Where can I learn more about the history of Carteret County?
Check out the Fort Macon Visitors Center in Atlantic Beach, the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, and The History Museum on Arendell St in Morehead City. In Harkers Island, check out the Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild.
- Where is the ferry that takes you to Ocracoke Island and Cape Hatteras?
Take Hwy 70 East till it dead ends at Cedar Island. It is about a one hour trip from Morehead City and Atlantic Beach by car. The Ocracoke ferry is a 3 hour ride from Cedar Island to Ocracoke.
- Is there an airport in Carteret County?
Yes, in Beaufort. But it is only a general aviation airport with no commercial airlines flying in/out of the area (for now).
- Is there a place to bowl in the area?
Yes, in Cape Carteret there is a place called MacDaddys that has a bowling alley, along with restaurant and bar, and a very large kids arcade and game room.
- Are there any bars in the area where you can play pool?
In downtown Morehead City there is a large pool hall called Boyds Billiards. As you travel west on Arendell St near Taco Bell, there is a bar called Shipwrecks Bar that has pool tables.
- Is there a racetrack in the area?
Yes, Google “Carteret County Speedway” – They have many great events and things to do for kids and families visiting the area.
- What are some things to do in Harkers Island?
- Take a ferry to Cape Lookout or Shackleford Banks to see the wild horses and observe some of the most pristine remote barrier islands NC has to offer.
- Visit the Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild to learn about that heritage.
- Visit some local seafood restaurants and talk to some locals about how important the seafood industry is to the county.
- Talk to some locals who can give lessons on learning to catch oysters, clams, shrimp, and fish the right way!
- What large annual festivals or events happen in the area?
Search our site or the Internet for the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, NC Seafood Festival, Carolina Chocolate Festival, Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild in Harkers Island, Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla, Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Festival, Newport Pig Cooking Contest, Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend, Beaufort Pirate Invasion, Beaufort Old Homes & Gardens Tour, Beaufort’s Brewin’ Craft Beer Festival, and Crystal Coast Boat Show. These should keep families and kids busy all year around 🙂
Tourism and commerce links in the Tarheel State.
Using the comment form below, tell us some of your favorite things to do in Carteret County NC?