Atlantic Beach NC - About the Area

North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores

Using the theme, "From North Carolina's Mountains to the Sea", the NC Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores takes its visitors on an incredible and unforgettable journey. Visitors will get to explore the five galleries. While exploring the Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plain, Tidal Waters and Ocean galleries, visitors will see more than 3,000 animals on their aquatic journey.

The real show stopper is the 306,000 gallon Living Shipwreck. This display contains a 70 foot replica of a sunken World War II German submarine which sank off the Crystal Coast in 1942. The coral encrusted submarine is surrounded by live sand tiger sharks up to 8 feet in length, schools of rare fish, sea turtles, moray eels and other sea animals. The 63 foot window offers fantastic views of life around the U-352 sub. The children will love chatting with the divers in the exhibit through the underwater microphones.

Another must see is the River Otter exhibit. Neuse and Pungo are 2 very playful North American River Otters. Along with their newest friend, Eno, they swim and frolic in their Piedmont habitat. Also be sure to visit the two touch tanks. This allows you to get up close and personal with such creatures as stingrays, whelks, horseshoe crabs and others.

The NC Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores is located 5 miles west of Atlantic Beach at Mile Marker 7. It is open 9AM to 5PM every day except Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Admission is $10.95 for adults ages 13-61, $9.95 for ages 62 and over, $8.98 for ages 3 - 13. Children under age 3 and NC Aquarium Society members are free. Group tickets available for 10 and more pat a discounted rate! The aquarium offers summer camps for children grades 2 - 7 as well as programs, activities, and field trips for all ages. Visit or call 252-247-4003 for more information.

Fort Macon

Fort Macon State Park is one of the Crystal Coast's historical highlights. This old Civil War fort was named for Nathaniel Macon who was speaker of the House of Representatives and a U. S. Senator from North Carolina. The fort was garrisoned in 1834 and was seized by the Confederate Army at the start of the Civil War but was regained by the Union forces in 1862. The fort was deactivated in 1877 and re-garrisoned in 1898 for the Spanish-American War. It was once again abandoned in 1903. In 1924 congress gave the fort and surrounding land to the state of North Carolina to be used as a public park. In 1936 Fort Macon State Park became North Carolina's first functioning state park.

Visitors can enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches with easy access at the Fort Macon bathhouse. The beach access offers a bathhouse, restrooms, refreshment stand and a picnic area with outdoor grills. There are also designated fishing and swimming areas.

The fort itself offers free guided tours or you can choose to do a self guided tour using a tour map. Visitors can explore rooms like the Commandant's and Enlisted Men's Quarters, the WWII Barracks, and the Gunpowder Magazine. There are also Civil War enactments in April, July and September. Kids love to have their picture taken with the cannon!

Fort Macon State Park encompasses 385 acres of pristine beach, dunes and maritime forest and is located just east of Atlantic Beach. The new Coastal Education Center next to the fort is under construction now with plans to open in Fall 2009. The park is open daily 8AM - Sunset and the fort is open daily 9AM - 5:30PM.

Cape Lookout National Seashore

The Cape Lookout National Seashore is well known for its operational lighthouse. The national seashore is made up of three unspoiled barrier islands. The North Core Banks, South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks make up the 56 mile stretch from Ocracoke Inlet to Beaufort Inlet. The undeveloped seashore is accessible by private boat or ferry only and makes for a memorable day trip. Concession ferries and boats are available from Beaufort and Harkers Island. These islands are excellent for fishing, shelling and primitive camping. All visitors should be aware that this remote location is a natural territory with no fast food, limited fresh water and no life guards. All necessities, such as drinks, food, sun screen, insect repellent and clothing items, should be brought with you.

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse with its black and white diamonds is located near the southern tip of the South Core Banks. The distinctive black diamonds face north and south with the white diamonds facing east and west. All visitors are welcome to the newly renovated Lighthouse Visitors Center. The center can be found near the South Core Banks ferry dock. It offers a shaded pavilion and new boardwalk to the adjacent and newly renovated Keepers Quarters. The exhibits found in the Visitors Center and the Keepers Quarters focus on the history of the lighthouse and the fascinating stories of the shipwrecks and rescues along the seashore. The center is open to the public 9AM - 5PM April through November.

Private boats or concession ferries are also available to Shackleford Banks and Portsmouth Island. Shackleford Banks offers a pristine undeveloped beach but is most famous for its wild ponies. These wild ponies are believed to be of Spanish ancestry and lived here for centuries. Don't forget to bring your camera. The ponies don't mind having their picture taken, but remember they are wild so don't get too close. Portsmouth Island is located at the northern most end of Core Banks. This village was formed in 1753 as a port of entry for most communities until Hatteras Inlet opened. From 1894 - 1938, Portsmouth Island centered on its U. S. Life Saving Station until a severe hurricane in 1933. By the 1970's there were no more year round residents. The island is preserved as a National Historic Site with a few homes, churches and cemeteries still remaining. If venturing a visit, bring your insect repellant.

The Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitors Center in Harkers Island is open 9AM - 5PM every day except Christmas Day and New Years Day. The center offers exhibits of the communities and other local history. It also offers a gift shop and indoor theater with two short films that play on a rotating schedule. The center offers a picnic area and public restrooms. If taking a ferry from Harkers Island, be sure to check out the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum next door.


Originally called "Fish Towne", Beaufort is the third oldest town in North Carolina. Beaufort's history stretches from land to sea with stories of Otway Burns and Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Incorporated in 1722, Beaufort history comes to life in the historical homes and churches that are centuries old.

The Beaufort Historic Site offers a variety of tours for visitors. You'll get to tour historic buildings such as the 1829 Carteret County Jailhouse, the Apothecary Shop, the Doctors Office and the 1796 Carteret County Courthouse and possibly see a re-enactment of a trial. The Beaufort Historic Site is open Monday - Saturday 9:30AM - 5 PM in season and 10AM - 4PM off season.

Since Beaufort was built on its maritime heritage, what better place to visit than the NC Maritime Museum. Here you will see the history of boating in Carteret County as well as artifacts from Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge. The museum is open weekdays 9AM - 5 PM, Saturdays 10AM - 5PM and Sundays 1PM - 5PM. No admission charge.

Take a walk along Beaufort's thriving waterfront and smell the salt air. While you're there be sure to check out the quaint waterfront shops, which are a true delight for shoppers. Beaufort also boasts some of the best dining in the area.

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