Stretching 300 miles from Virginia Beach almost to Myrtle Beach, the coast of North Carolina is a place of outstanding beauty. With long, warm summers, short, mild winters and vast expanses of unspoiled ocean vistas, eastern North Carolina has long been known as a summer retreat for tourists, and increasingly as a winter haven for snowbirds. Even so, this region is largely characterized by small, centuries-old shoreline communities. Visitors who encounter coastal charms from their North Carolina beachfront rentals are apt to return in the coming years.
The Outer Banks
The Outer Banks are a chain of barrier islands off North Carolina’s northeast coast whose precise geography is constantly changing. A long-time bastion of Carolina tourism, the islands are home to historic fishing villages, windswept shores and protected maritime landscapes. Much of the waterfront is preserved in its natural condition as Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
On Bodie Island, outside Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers made their famous first flight. Today, a monument marks the site of this momentous event. Farther south, Hatteras Island houses the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, which details with artifacts the region’s long and notorious history of shipwrecks. Accessible only by boat or airplane, neighboring Ocracoke Island is where the legendary pirate Blackbeard met his final fate.
The Inner Banks and Beyond
The term “Inner Banks” has recently been coined for the beach communities along the so-called Crystal Coast, plus the extensive area around Albemarle Sound. Marked on its northern limit by the uniquely patterned lighthouse at Cape Lookout, the Crystal Coast is named for its crystal-clear waters, which boast some of the best diving and fishing on the Atlantic seaboard. Included here are the twin tourist centers of Morehead City and Atlantic Beach, the historic town of Beaufort and Shackleford Banks with its wild horses. The greater Albemarle district is famed for its fertile farmland, scores of small towns and traditional sense of Southern hospitality.
The area of Cape Fear and the Cape Fear River makes up the southeasternmost part of North Carolina’s coastline. The region forms a roughly 50-mile radius around the city of Wilmington, the state’s primary seaport. Wilmington’s greatest attraction is arguably its renowned Riverwalk. In the metro area, the marshy coastal plain and tranquil offshore islands have a mainly tourist-oriented economy, while the interior remains mostly rural and agricultural.
Wherever you wash up on the Carolina coast, you’ll find a boatload of opportunities for recreation and relaxation.