Southern Boating

Crystal Coast, North Carolina

Herds of wild Shackleford horses can be seen running on the shores and swimming on the Crystal Coast. Photo: Crystal Coast Tourism Authority

North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks (SOBX) represents one of the few remaining natural barrier island systems in the world. Strung together with 85 miles of silken coastline—56 being the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore—the Crystal Coast is both a place and a state of mind set apart from the ordinary.

This chain of islands is a culinary lover’s dream-come-true with a mixture of eateries tailored to suit any palate on any budget, from tasty seafood shacks to waterfront pubs to fine dining bistros. Thanks to the Carteret Catch program—a joint venture between local restaurants, retailers and fishermen—the Crystal Coast features a “fish to fork” initiative, serving only seafood caught that day by local fishermen. Boasting no chain restaurants, the program supports the 85 privately owned restaurants that change their menus daily depending on the fresh catch of the day.

But even if you’re not a foodie, tales of swashbuckling pirates, Civil War triumphs and tragedies, and deep-rooted maritime heritage are sure to entice history buffs. Glimmering waterways welcome eco-adventurers with stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and world-class fishing. And for the shopping enthusiasts in your crew, unique treasures await in every charming town that dots the Crystal Coast.