parks we love, nc coastal parks, family-friendly parks on the crystal coast

Spotlight on our Favorite Parks Along The Crystal Coast

Spotlight on our Favorite Parks Along The Crystal Coast

Today, we’re sharing our favorite parks on the Crystal Coast.

We all know that location plays a major part in your search for the perfect home. You might think the closer you are to where you work, go to the gym, or buy your groceries would be the best option, but something else to consider is how close you are to your local parks and recreation centers. You might want to focus on things you and your family will want to use for many years to come. Parks are not only a great place to meet new neighbors, but they can also increase property value in the long run.

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Of all the favorite parks, this one is THE most favorite for many.

There may not be any swings or playgrounds at arguably the most famous park along our coast, but there is plenty of thrills for those who dare climb to the top of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. The Island Express Ferry Service has boats departing from Harkers Island and Beaufort that you can take to reach the destination. When you reach the island, you can pay the per person fee to venture to the top and take in the incredible views from atop the 12 story lighthouse. There are over 200 narrow steps that lead you to the light at the top of the tunnel, and some rules that you must follow in order to be allowed entrance to climb.

Even if you’re not planning on climbing the lighthouse, be sure to stop in the old lightkeeper’s house! You can learn all about how the operation was handled before electricity was available on the island. Try to pick up the oil can and imagine lugging it up those steps a few times a day!

Senator Jean Preston Playground

Photo of the Playground Equipment is Courtesy of Playworld, the designers and builders of the park.

Tucked away in the far corner of the Emerald Isle Boat Ramp Parking Lot, sits a beautiful playground designed for all kids to enjoy. It’s the newest park to make our Favorite Parks list!

The park is named after late Senator Jean Preston, an EI local, former teacher, and NC General Assembly Member. A majority of the playground equipment is designed for the accessibility of children of all abilities. This is definitely a must-stop park for families with kids who like to roam and explore, as there are tons of different activities and places to explore.

The safety-surfacing allows people of all ages to walk with ease and doesn’t leave a mess behind to find in shoes and socks later. After playtime, you can walk down to the end of the pedestrian dock along the boat ramp canal for a picnic with a perfect backdrop for a family photo opportunity. Throughout the summer, the town of Atlantic Beach hosts weekly concerts and movie nights- so be sure to check the schedule and plan ahead!

Atlantic Beach Town Park

Make sure to stop for a family photo at the Custom-Painted hole in the wall mural, created by our very own Stephanie Ross

The Atlantic Beach Town Park has something for everyone in the family. Amenities at the park include an 18 hole mini-golf course, a concession stand, splash pad, playground, basketball court, and skate park. A trip here can be a great way to end or begin any beach day.

The park is located right across from the Atlantic Station Shopping Center, where there’s a Move Theater, Lazer Tag Arena, Bookstore, and Toy Store, so if a sporadic summertime thunderstorm pops up, there are a few options to hunker down close by.

If your family is up for some wooded adventure, the Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail can be found on the Eastern edge of the shopping center parking lot, across from Bojangles. Mini Golf and Concessions do cost money, so save up the change in those piggy banks and cash in on some fun in the sun!

Shevans Park

Photos of Shevans Park courtesy of

Located just a few blocks away from all the excitement at the Morehead City Waterfront, stands a few unique family gathering places at Shevans Park. Four full-size Tennis Courts are available for those looking to volley, and a large wooden castle-themed playground is the main attraction for children. There’s also a covered gazebo area with restrooms.

The unique design of the playground area is captivating for kids used to the typical plastic/metal structures. Just make sure to watch out for splinters! Two of the tennis courts are lighted, for those looking to volley after dark to avoid the heat of the summer. Picnic Shelters can be rented out for Birthday Parties or special events, for just $25 and there are two charcoal grills on-site for easy cookouts!

Reservations are required for groups wishing to reserve the playground and picnic shelter. Picnic shelters are available for birthday parties, and events. The picnic shelter rental fee is $25. Please contact Morehead City Parks at Recreation staff at 252-726-5083, ext. 1, or the Recreation Center (1600 Fisher Street) to complete the rental application and provide rental payment.
A young girl rests on the railing of the Morehead City Ferry while anticipating her next adventure.

What to Know About the Morehead City Ferry Service

A young girl rests on the railing of the Morehead City Ferry while anticipating her next adventure.

What to Know About the Morehead City Ferry Service

With its stunning oceanside vistas and iconic waterways, Morehead City is a picturesque town flooding with beauty. Among the various ways to explore the historic and vibrant Crystal Coast community, traveling by water is something every visitor should consider. Part of what makes a memorable vacation is “living like a local,” and hitching a ride on the Morehead City Ferry Service is your ticket to an immersive experience rife with gorgeous scenery and unwavering charm. Whether you’re planning to search for treasure on Sand Dollar Island or take a cruise to watch dolphins amid the sunset, you’re in for an unforgettable endeavor aboard the Morehead City Ferry!

Places to Visit near the Morehead City Ferry Service

Depending on when you’re leaving the mainland, you may wish to check out a few places near the ferry. Jaycee Park offers panoramic views of the Bogue Sound, several swing benches, and a pair of picnic tables if you’d like to enjoy a quick snack overlooking the waterfront. Grumpy’s is just up the street and makes a mean skillet if you’d like to grab something for breakfast. If you’re craving seafood after spending some time on the water, check out Red Fish Grill has an eclectic menu of unique features, classic dinner entrees, and handheld fare. And if you need a snorkel and goggles, Olympus Diving has you covered. Ensure you allow ample time for boarding as the ferry’s departures are stringent and dictated by the tide.

Sand Dollar Island Ferry and Tour

Sand Dollar Island reveals itself during the low tide, making it an intriguing outing for curious travelers. On your way, enjoy a fully narrated ride showcasing the Morehead City State Port, Sugarloaf Island, Fort Macon, and the Shackleford Banks. Once you arrive, you’ll find several tidal pools holding sand dollars. Scour the ankle-high pools, throw on a pair of goggles, and dive into the deeper basins to locate one of nature’s souvenirs. The Sand Dollar Island Tour is approximately three hours.

Sunset Dolphin Watch Cruise

Set sail on a spacious catamaran to take in Crystal Coast sunset while snagging a glance at emerging bottlenose dolphins. In addition to several points of interest included on the Sand Dollar Island Tour—minus the Shackleford Banks—you’ll also see Radio Island and the revered Beaufort Waterfront. Drift throughout several gorgeous Crystal Coast bays and inlets on a carefree voyage. The Sunset Dolphin Watch is approximately one and a half hours.

Find Your Crystal Coast Vacation Spot with Bluewater

Complementing the two main attractions offered by the Morehead City Ferry Service, the Special Sand Dollar Island and Dolphin Watch Tour adds an extra 30 minutes to the trip and combines the best of both tours for those who want to see it all! Thankfully, Bluewater has several vacation rentals in Morehead City and other nearby towns with easy access to a myriad of Crystal Coast attractions so that you won’t miss a thing!

Which Morehead City Ferry tour will you enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments below!

May events on the crystal coast

Crystal Coast Events for May 2022

Crystal Coast Events for May 2022

Whether you’re vacationing with us or you’re a local, There’s always something to look forward to and always fun to be had. Don’t miss any of these May 2022 Events on the Crystal Coast.


May 1- Time: 11 AM – 4 PM

The Market at Cedar Point | 1046 Cedar Point Blvd | Cedar Point

Come by for locally baked goods, pies, specialty treats, cupcakes, fresh bread, Coffee Trucks, Bakery Food Trucks, local art, and more!


May 4- Time: 11 AM – 9 PM

North Carolina Maritime Museum| 315 Front Street | Beaufort

The Outer Banks is one of North Carolina’s most popular destinations for summer tourism. It is also one of North Carolina’s oldest summer destinations. Join Curator of Maritime History David Bennett to explore what tourism looked like along the Outer Banks from the late 18th century to the early 20th century. Free, no registration is required for the in-person program, held in the museum auditorium.


Reoccurring every Wednesday – Time: 6:30 PM – 11 PM

Bogue Sound Distillery | 108 Bogue Commercial Drive | Newport

Stop by for a chance to win one of three gift certificates in addition to the cash jackpot! 


Recurring weekly on Wednesday. Time: 6 PM – 8PM

Promise Land Market | 909-B Arendell Street | Morehead City

Every Wednesday local artists bring their work to show and sell. Join us for art and 1/2 price bottles of wine!


May 5-8 Time: 10 AM – 5 PM

North Carolina Maritime Museum | 315 Front Street | Beaufort 

Whether you’re a boating enthusiast or prefer to keep your feet on dry land, the Annual Wooden Boat Show has activities for all ages. This event, held each year on the first Saturday in May, celebrates the art of North Carolina traditional wooden boatbuilding and the sport of boat racing. Dozens of handcrafted wooden boats will be on display, along with nautical demonstrations, and activities for children. The annual Wooden Boat Show has received top honors from the Southeast Tourism Society as a “Top 20 Event for the Southeast” four consecutive years. Throughout the show, please feel free to tag your photos with #BeaufortBoatShow.


May 5 & 19, 2022 – Time: 5:15 PM – 8 PM

Carteret County Parks & Recreation | 207 W Atlantic Blvd | Atlantic Beach

Price: $8 per person, per race

All ages and skill levels are welcome! Beach run options include 1 mile, 5k, and 10k. All runs will take place on the beach. Registration is from 5:15 – 6:15 pm and the race starts at 6:30 pm.


May 6 – May 8 , 2022 – Time: 9 AM – 5 PM

Crystal Coast Civic Center | 3505 Arendell Street | Morehead City

Price: $5 Adults | $3 Seniors/Students | Children Free

It’s a Shell-abration! Please come help us celebrate the end of the Covid pandemic and the return of the North Carolina Shell Club shell show. We welcome everyone- beginners, crafters, collectors, naturalists, and scientists. The show will feature educational exhibits, shell craft and artwork, and a huge selection of shells for sale from some of the best vendors in the country. The show is meant for beginners and experienced collectors, young and old, those who like collecting on the beach, and lifelong collectors who would like to grow their collection. F & S 9-5 pm, Sun till 3 pm.


May 6, 2022 – Time: 9:30 AM – 2 PM

Beaufort Historic Site | 130 Turner Street | Beaufort

Price: $50 

Learn how to make your own Pine Needle Basket with Ms. Penny Holland! The class will be held three different times: May 6, July 22 (advanced session), and September 16. Pine needle basket-making dates back to almost 9,000 years ago and the baskets served as a vessel for grain, crops, and other essentials. The price for materials is $50 for each class. All supplies provided. Bring bag lunch. Must sign up by calling 252-728-5225 or visiting the Beaufort Historic Site at 130 Turner Street. Sign-up ends a week before each class. Max for each class is 10. All Beaufort Historic Site Events are subject to cancellation and or change.


May 7, 2022 – Time: 8 AM-Noon

Emerald Isle Parks & Recreation | 203 Leisure Lane | Emerald Isle

Ride 1-8:30 am Emerald Isle-~10 mile fun ride on the multi-use path. Out and back from 203 Leisure Lane to the Eastern Regional Access ( 2701 Emerald Drive).

Ride 2-8:00 am Fort Macon-50 miles out and back along Highway 58 from 203 Leisure Lane to Fort Macon.

Ride 3- 8:00am-Cape Lookout-100 miles out and back from 203 Leisure Lane to Harker’s Island.


May 7, 2022 – Time: 3 PM – 7 PM

Portside Marina | 209 Arendell Street | Morehead City

Price: $20

DMC, Inc. is excited to host a Kentucky Derby pub crawl sponsored by, Adams Beverages, Cirila Cothran Real Estate, Portside Marina Ship Store, and Tow Boat US. Stops include:

Arendell Room, Catch 109, Floyd’s 1921, Jack’s, Off the Hook, Portside Marina, Promise Land Market, Red Fish Grill, Taps & Tackle, Tight Lines, & Yellowfin Pub

Enjoy Derby drink specials, appetizers, and photo opportunities while walking around beautiful downtown MHC. Get dressed up to enter our best hat and outfit competitions – judged by local celebrities from 2:00 – 3:30 pm at Portside Marina!

Participants will receive a complimentary drink voucher, raffle ticket, and some unique Derby swag. Additional drinks and appetizers will be available for purchase at participating locations.



May 8, 2002- Time: 10 AM – 1 PM

Jacks Waterfront Bar | 513 Evans Street | Morehead City

Price: $40 Adults | $20 Children

Come out and enjoy live music with Lauren Nicole and a delicious buffet to celebrate mom!


May 12, 2002- Time: 8 AM – 6 PM

Beaufort Historic Site | 130 Turner Street | Beaufort

The Beaufort Historical Association has partnered with Plein Air New Bern to host a “Paint Out” all around the town of Beaufort during the day on May 12th. Over 30 juried Plein air painters will set up their easels around Beaufort during the day to capture the city’s charm on their canvases. All are welcome to watch these talented artists in action (and purchase work all throughout the day)! Artists will meet back at the Beaufort Historic Site from 4 – 6 pm for a meet & greet and will display their work in a pop-up art show and sale. Free for all to attend!

Several demos will also be scheduled throughout the day.

Download the En Plein Air App to find painters’ locations around Beaufort throughout the day.


May 12 – May 15, 2002- Reoccurring Daily

3505 Arendell Street | 3409 Arendell Street | Morehead City

Price: Varies

Join us at Celebration on the Sound, an inaugural weekend festival hosting a carnival, fireworks, and live performances from Parmalee, Avery Anna, Randy Houser, and Shy Carter


May 13,  2002- Time: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Beaufort Historic Site | 130 Turner Street | Beaufort

Learn the lost art of how to make biscuits without yeast! Join Sarah Smith for this special workshop in the Old Jail on the grounds of the Beaufort Historic Site. This event is free and open to the public. The Old Beaufort Shop will also feature a wide range of Historic Teas that are perfectly paired with your biscuits!


May 13, 2002- Time: 11 AM-Noon

North Carolina Maritime Museum | 315 Front Street | Beaufort

Cats, women, and banana peels were all considered bad luck if found on the deck of a ship, but why? Join Associate Museum Curator Christine Brin in the museum auditorium as she explores some of the more common maritime superstitions and why they may not have been as ridiculous as they appear at first glance. Free, no registration is required for the in-person program, held in the museum auditorium.


May 14, 2002- Time: 6 PM – 11 PM

Carteret County Speedway | 501 Whitehouse Fork Rd | Swansboro

Price: $15

Spring is in the air and excitement is on the track! The fan-favorite Enduro hits the track for the first time this season. This is a race like no other: You can expect obstacles on the track and much much more! In action: Chargers, Mini-Stock, Street Stock, Super Trucks, Jr Mini Cup, Enduro


May 14, 2002- Time: 6:30 PM – 8 PM

Martin Luther King Jr. City Park | Between 9th & 10th Street | Morehead City

Come join us for the first “Second Saturday” concert of the year! This week, we will feature Red and the Rockers, a classic rock band. Bring the whole family for a night of live music and fun in Downtown Morehead City!


May 18, 2002- Time: 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Crystal Coast Brewing | 219 West Fort Macon Road | Atlantic Beach

Price: $60 – Per Couple 

We are very excited that you will be coming to paint with us! Our goal is to provide you with an experience that encourages creativity, conversation, and FUN!! Wine & Design is not your typical art class. Be prepared to listen to music, laugh and let go of stress. Grab a friend or loved one and we promise you will have a good time. Our local artists will guide you step by step to create your very own masterpiece. This class is open to the public and perfect for all experience levels. Your ticket includes all art supplies.


May 20 – May 21, 2022 – Time: 4:30 PM – 11:30 PM

Gallants Channel Event Space | 293 W Beaufort Road Ext | Beaufort

Beaufort Music Festival (BMF) is a community-supported, volunteer-run event put on by Beaufort Arts and Music, Incorporated, a 501c3 non-profit organization. For over 30 years, the festival has taken place each May in historic Beaufort, and the town is packed on Friday and Saturday with locals and tourists alike enjoying the beautiful weather and plenty of great music. As of 2019, the festival has moved to a new location in Beaufort called Gallants Channel, an annex owned by the NC Maritime Museum and is situated on that water at Gallants Point.  

This year’s lineup is the biggest and best yet!
Old Crow Medicine Show
Big Something
The Collection
Empire Strikes Brass
Blue Footed Boobies
L Shape Lot
Signal Fire
Isaac Hadden Project
49 Winchester
Harvey Street Co.
Shamarr Allen
and more to come!

There will be food trucks, vendors, beer tent, and a kid’s area. In an effort to eliminate single-use plastics, the festival will not be serving drinks in plastic cups. In order to consume alcohol at the festival, each patron will need to purchase a BMF Steel Pint. Please be sure to visit their website for more information.


May 2o, 2022 – Time: 8:30 AM – 1:30 PM

Crystal Coast Country Club | 152 Oakleaf Drive | Pine Knoll Shores

Price: $85

Join us for out third annual Kayak for the Warriors Golf Tournament at the Country Club of the Crystal Coast. Registration fee of $85 includes 18 holes, a cart, and lunch. The shotgun start will begin at 8:30 a.m. A barbecue lunch is included, prizes for first and second and last place, mulligans, contests for longest tee, closest to the pin, a putting game, and other surprises. We are requesting that individuals and teams sign up online by May 14, 2022. Registration forms will also be available online at, at town hall, and in the golf shop. 


May 21, 2022- Time: 11 AM – 6 PM

Atlantic Beach Circle | 115 Atlantic Boulevard | Atlantic Beach

Save the date for the 8th Annual AB Beach Music Festival on the boardwalk at the Circle on Saturday, May 21, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

This year’s festival will feature:

  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.     Gary Lowder & Smokin’ Hot
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.       The Embers
  • 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.         North Tower
  • 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.         The Mighty Saints of Soul
  • 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.         I-42 Band


May 21, 2022- Time: 7 AM – NOON

Historic Downtown Beaufort| 500 Front Street | Beaufort

Price: $30 for 5K & 1 Mile Run/Walk; $10 for Children 6 & Under

Join us for the 12th Annual Crystal Coast Run/Walk for Autism! We’re excited to announce that the Crystal Coast Run/Walk for Autism will be in-person this year! Join us for an amazing day of community that will improve the lives of children and adults with autism. Proceeds from the Crystal Coast Run/Walk for Autism will fund local programs of the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC), the leading statewide resource organization serving people in NC across the spectrum throughout their lifespans.


May 21- May 22, 2022- Time: 6 AM – 5 PM

Tipsy Turtle Tavern | 407- B Atlantic Beach Causeway | Atlantic Beach

Price: $500 per day for boats

The Hillsborough Sportfishing Club proudly presents the 18th Annual North Carolina Offshore Challenge. The purpose of this tournament is to raise funds to sponsor disabled veterans, sons, and daughters of fallen soldiers on family-friendly fishing trips. To meet our goals, support of the community and businesses across the state is greatly appreciated


May 21, 2022- Time: 2 PM – 5 PM

Emerald Club | 8102 Emerald Drive | Emerald Isle

Price: $20 

Join the Emerald Isle Parrothead Club for the 18th Annual Beach Bike Poker Run! This adults-only event for a cause supports kid camps for the children of wounded, ill and injured Marines and Sailors of Eastern North Carolina. Enjoy a game of poker, drink specials, live music, and prizes. Make the event even more spectacular by dressing yourself and/or your bike in a PHUN theme. PHOLKS will be acknowledged and celebrated throughout the event for their innovative ideas!


May 27, 2022- Time: 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Wine & Design | 4737 Arendell Street | Morehead City

Price: $25

We are very excited that you will be coming to paint with us! Our goal is to provide you with an experience that encourages creativity, conversation, and FUN!! Wine & Design is not your typical art class. Be prepared to listen to music, laugh and let go of stress. Grab a friend or loved one and we promise you will have a good time. Our local artists will guide you step by step to create your very own masterpiece. This class is open to the public and perfect for all experience levels. Your ticket includes all art supplies.


May 28, 2022- Time: 7:30 AM – 11 AM

The Gym | 300 Taylor Notion Road | Cape Carteret

Price: $30

Transition Together is hosting a 5K to honor this nation’s heroes with a “Never Forgotten” Memorial Day 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run. Registration allowed until 7:45 a.m. on race day. Family fun activities will be on site! 

Award Classes: U18 / 18-34 / 35-49 / Masters (Male and Female)
5K: $30 – T-Shirt and Awards are being presented.

Crystal Coast Calendar of Events

Looking for more fun along the Crystal Coast? Check out our 2022 Crystal Coast Calendar of Events page!