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a boat sitting off the coast of cape lookout with the cape lookout lighthouse in the background

Southern Outer Banks North Carolina Things to Do

a boat sitting off the coast of cape lookout with the cape lookout lighthouse in the background

Southern Outer Banks North Carolina Things to Do

Along the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina is a stretch of 85 miles of breathtaking sandy shores. The crystalline blue water of this region is why it is often referred to as the Crystal Coast. There are several beach towns here that have distinct histories, natural areas, and activities to enjoy. No matter what beach town you’re looking to visit, we here at Bluewater Vacation Rentals offer a wide variety of vacation homes all along the Crystal Coast. 

Nature enthusiasts will fall in love with the area’s numerous state parks, kayaking, boating, biking, hiking, and beachcombing opportunities. Additionally, history buffs can spend their time on the Coast exploring museums and historic sites. There are so many things to do on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina, so read on for the best ways to explore this beautiful slice of paradise. 

Boat Rentals and Tours on the Crystal Coast

men on a crystal coast fishing charter boat with fishing poles cast into the water

One of our favorite ways to experience the Crystal Coast is on the water. Rent a boat for the day from Crystal Coast Boat Charters and Rentals and traverse the Intracoastal Waterway and Bogue Sound near Emerald Isle, NC. Take the boat out island hopping to the uninhabited barrier islands along the Crystal Coast or spend the day fishing. 

If you want to experience the best fishing spots with a local expert, take a fishing charter with  Capt. Stacy Fishing Center in Atlantic Beach, NC. From shark fishing to full-day fishing trips, Capt. Stacy has a trip for anyone to enjoy. For a customized and private excursion, book a tour with Crystal Coast Ecotours. Take a boat tour and see salt marshes, birds, ponies, and maritime forests along the way. The other tours include dolphin watching, fishing, wild horse watching, surf fishing, and more. Check out all of the exciting trips with Crystal Coast Ecotours here.

Bike Rentals and Tours on the Crystal Coast

an assortment of pastel colored bikes with baskets along the beaufort nc waterfront

The best way to explore the Crystal Coast on land is on a bike or beach cruiser. Beachside Bikes have locations in Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle. Rent a bicycle for the day and cycle to the best sites and things to do on the Crystal Coast. Hwy 58 Bikes offers rentals for electric and cruiser bikes on the Crystal Coast. A bike rental is an exceptional way to experience and explore the breathtaking beauty of Emerald Isle. 

You can find a unique selection of biking tours at Hungry Town Tours in Beaufort. The Beaufort culinary bike tour includes three stops for appetizers, entrees, and dessert. The tour works with restaurants that offer fresh and local products. Peddle through history on the hidden Beaufort tour. See hundreds of historic homes while learning the significant history of this port town.

Spacious Vacation Rentals with Bluewater 

the interior of a beautiful bluewater vacation rental home with a relaxing color scheme and wood floors and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen

After a day exploring the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina and the things to do, you’ll be more than ready to unwind. Our vacation rental properties are the perfect setting to relax during your getaway. Take in a spectacular sunset from the porch of one of our Emerald Cottages, ideal for families. Browse our complete collection of vacation rentals here and call us at 866-231-5892 if you have any questions!

What’s Your Favorite Thing to Do?

What was your favorite thing to do on the Crystal Coast? Have you heard the Crystal Coast referred to as the Southern Outer Banks before? We’d love to know. Kick off the conversation in the comments below! 

National Parks Week, Celebrating National Parks Week, North Carolina's National Parks, Cryatal Coasr National Parks

National Parks Week on the Crystal Coast

National Parks Week: 4 Parks to Explore on the Crystal Coast

Join us celebrating National Park Week 2021 from April 17 to 25!

Crystal Coast Map

“National Park Week is America’s largest celebration of national heritage. It’s about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations, and enhancing America’s best idea—the national parks!”

-National Park Service

harkers island national park

It’s almost a pleasure to get lost here with its bridges spanning sparkling waters, marshes of waving grasses, flocks of birds swirling like autumn leaves, and cool wooded sanctuaries harboring vintage residences. It is also good to know there’s a helpful soul at virtually every turn of the road, at gift shops, convenience stores, gas stations, real estate offices, boat building concerns, marinas, seafood concessions, pizza, and burger joints.


Situated in Atlantic Beach, Fort Macon is packed to the brim with southern history. When you tour, take the time to have a tour guide show you the ropes.

There are cannons galore as well as great informative videos to begin your visit. There is history on the stairs, on the walls, and even on the doors. Be sure not to miss an inch on your trip back in time.


Fort Macon Atlantic Beach NC, Fort Macon National State Park

cape lookout national park

The Cape Lookout National Seashore consists of 66 miles of beautifully undeveloped coastline stretching in barrier islands from Ocracoke to Beaufort Inlet. A short 3-mile boat ride off-shore takes you to the barrier islands of Cape Lookout National Seashore where you can enjoy activities like shelling, fishing, birding, camping, lighthouse climbing, and touring historic villages. Enjoy your time on the island searching for the famous wild horses of Shackleford Banks, across the way. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is the perfect backdrop for a fun-filled day at the beach. You can even bring your dog!

There aren’t any restaurants, so be sure to pack a lunch, sunscreen, water, and other necessary supplies!


Find Paradise on the unspoiled sands of this barrier island and national park. Hammocks Beach State Park is one of the few locations along the coast that remain nearly completely untouched. Ride a passenger ferry over to the island and spend the day exploring or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. Load up your gear and reserve a campsite on the sound or ocean.

The ferry operates every half hour throughout the day during the summer season, giving you the chance to spend the entire day exploring the 4-mile long island. Once the ferry docks, there is a 1/2 mile trail that leads to the beach where you can swim, shell, kayak, or camp overnight.

Bring everything you need, there isn’t anywhere on the island to purchase food and drinks.

Ferry Services:

Hammocks Beach State Park | Swansboro

(910) 326-4881


Hammocks Beach National Park

Sea Turtle Tracker 2019


It’s sea turtle season again on the Crystal Coast! We’ve got you covered with this Sea Turtle Tracker for 2019 to keep up to date on how many nests and eggs are laid on our local beaches. Check out the counts in Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Indian Beach, Cape Lookout, and Fort Macon below!



Nest and Egg Count on Our Local Beaches Emerald Isle Nests: 43 Eggs: 3916 Atlantic Beach Nests: 7 Eggs: 472 Indian Beach Nests: 6 Eggs: 579 Cape Lookout Nests: 526 Eggs: 20189 Fort Macon Nests: 3 Eggs: 3

Sea Turtles Native to North Carolina Beaches

Did you know there are only seven species of sea turtles worldwide, and six are listed as threatened or endangered in the United States?

Although the most common species in North Carolina is the Loggerhead sea turtle, five sea turtle species regularly visit North Carolina waters: the Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback, Green, and Hawksbill. However, only Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback sea turtles lay their eggs on North Carolina beaches. These species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered in the United States.

POPULATION DECLINE

Many sea turtle populations worldwide are declining. The existing seven species face different dangers, both on nesting beaches and in the ocean. Some of the threats that turtles face in North Carolina include

  • development and heavy traffic on beaches that can disrupt adults or destroy incubating eggs
  • indirect capture by fishing nets, which can lead to injury or death
  • accidental collisions with boats
  • beach renourishment activities that can uncover or compact sea turtle nests
  • general ocean pollution – especially plastic bags. Sea turtles can confuse these plastic bags with one of their main food sources – jellyfish.

What You Can Do to Help

Because our native sea turtles are endangered, it is important to do our best to preserve their natural habitat. For the health and well-being of our sea turtles, please make sure to take these tips seriously when vacationing on the Crystal Coast with us.

  • Use red filters on flashlights when walking on the beach at night
  • Do not disturb turtle nests or nesting sea turtles
  • Turn off all outside lights facing the beachfront during the nesting season
  • Keep dogs on a leash
  • Fill in all the holes you dig
  • Remove all tents, toys, and beach gear overnight
  • Reduce beach traffic around sea turtle nests to prevent nest compaction
  • Dispose of trash in an appropriate manner
  • Be careful when navigating watercraft to prevent turtle collisions and injuries
  • Join a conservation organization to remain updated on current sea turtle conservation efforts.
  • Donate to the Emerald Isle Sea Turtle Patrol

Call the Emerald Isle Police non-emergency number at (252) 354-2021 or the Atlantic Beach Police non-emergency number at (252) 726-2523 if you see an injured, nesting, or hatching turtle  – OR if you see anyone disturbing a marked turtle nest area

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Exploring with the Locals: Cape Lookout National Seashore

The Cape Lookout National Seashore consists of 56 miles of beautifully undeveloped coastline stretching in barrier islands from Ocracoke to Beaufort Inlet. Visiting these pristine sands is a great way to immerse yourself in the history and breathtaking scenery here. Bring your family (even your dog!) and come explore the Cape Lookout Seashore together!

Spending a few hours

Stop by the Harkers Island Visitor Center where you can explore the exhibits, watch the park film, walk the nature trails and more. At the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, you can soak up the sun and salt water on the beach, venture into the Keeper’s Quarters museum and climb to the top of the lighthouse for spectacular sweeping views of the coast from 160 feet in the air. On Shackleford Banks, you’ll find a sheller’s delight; conchs, sand dollars, whelks and even the state shell – the Scotch Bonnet! It’s also a great spot to relax and watch for wild banker ponies. In Portsmouth Village, take a step back in time with a guided tour of the village, the Salter House and Visitor Center.


Playing the whole day

With an entire day, you can plan an extended trip such as a short kayaking session or a private ferry tour of the seashore. You will have ample time to search for horses on Shackleford Banks and explore down to the point of Cape Lookout. Along the way you’ll see a variety of shorebirds, find a treasure trove of seashells and you’ll want to watch for dolphins and whales along the way.

Ferry Services

Hammocks Beach State Park

Swansboro (910) 326-4881

Shackleford Banks & Cape Lookout

Island Ferry Adventures | Beaufort

(252) 728-7555

Lookout Cruises | Beaufort

(252) 504-SAIL

Outer Banks Ferry | Beaufort

(252) 728-4129

Calico Jacks Ferry | Harkers Island

(252) 728-3575

Harkers Island Fishing Center

(252) 728-3907

Island Ferry Adventures | Harkers Island

(252) 728-6181

Local Yokel Ferry and Tours | Harkers Island

(252) 728-2759