Day Trips & Things To Do in Emerald Isle NC

For those days when you have had too much sun or the weather just isn't cooperating, here are a few suggestions of area attractions and great day trips for you and your family:

NC Seafood Festival: The North Carolina Seafood Festival is the second-largest festival in North Carolina and is held the first weekend in October on the Morehead City Waterfront. The event was founded in 1987 and today the three-day festival draws over 200,000 plus people. The North Carolina Seafood Festival is a celebration of one of the state’s most precious natural resources—its seafood. The festival offers fresh samplings of seafood, educational exhibits, and activities for all ages.

Wild Ponies at Shackleford Banks: Shackleford Banks is the nine-mile long, southern-most barrier island in Cape Lookout National Seashore and home to the wild horses that have roamed the island for hundreds of years. The island is accessible from Beaufort and Harkers Island by passenger ferries or by private boat. The Shackleford ponies, named such for their small stature, are under the protection of the National Park Service but roam the island freely. Visitors are welcome to observe and photograph them as they graze along the banks and shoreline.

Big Rock Blue Marlin: Held at the beginning of June each year, The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament is one of the largest sport-fishing tournaments in the country and continues to draw big crowds, big fish, and big prize money to the Morehead City Waterfront. Fishermen and spectators alike anticipate the tournament-winning catch that weighs-in on the Big Rock scale. The tournament has been an annual event for over 50 years and continues be a popular Crystal Coast event.

NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores: The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is open daily 9a.m. to 5p.m. including holidays except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days. The aquarium admits visitors free-of-charge on Veterans Day and on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Visitors should allow plenty of time to view and enjoy the five galleries with over 40 exhibits. In addition, the aquarium offers daily free programs, an outdoor boardwalk, and nature trails on its surrounding Roosevelt Natural Area. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop and the Dairy Queen that are on-site. Parking is free.

Core Sound Waterfowl Museum: Take a trip Down East to Harkers Island and visit the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center located at the end of the road. The museum hours are Monday through Saturday 10a.m. to 5p.m. and Sunday from 2p.m. to 5p.m. The Willow Pond Loop Trail hours run from dawn through dusk. The museum offers its visitors exhibits and experiences, on-site programs, and community projects that reflect the cultural traditions and heritage of Core Sound and the surrounding area.

Tryon Palace: Tryon Palace is located in New Bern and offers its visitors a glimpse of living history from the early settlement and development of the statehood of North Carolina through the mid-twentieth century. With a variety of touring options available, Tryon Palace is open Monday through Saturday 9a.m. to 5p.m. and Sunday from 1p.m. to 5p.m. Garden hours change seasonally. Tryon Palace is closed on Thanksgiving Day, December 24 – 26, and January 1. Visitors can begin at the main entrance to Tryon Palace to purchase tickets, pick up maps, view films, and visit gallery exhibits and then can continue on to the tours and activities at the Governor’s Palace, gardens and historic buildings.

Hammocks Beach State Park: Hammocks Beach State Park is located in Swansboro and encompasses four main areas that include nearly 1,160 acres: the mainland, Bear Island, Huggins Island, and Jones Island. Visitors looking for a more secluded, natural setting free from commercialization can find that at Hammocks Beach. Bear Island is only accessible by passenger ferry or private boatso the crowds are very limited. Ferry service runs daily Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lifeguards are on duty during that time and concessions are available. Facilities on Bear Island include a bathhouse, restrooms, picnic area, front porch, and outdoor showers. Primitive backpack camping is allowed on Bear Island only. See the website for campsite details.

Fort Macon State Park: Fort Macon State Park is located at the eastern end of Bogue Banks in Atlantic Beach. In addition to being a historical landmark, the park offers public beach access and free parking. The park is surrounded on three sides by water—the Atlantic Ocean, Beaufort Inlet, and Bogue Sound. Fort Macon State Park is home to a Civil War fort with a rich and diverse history of its own. Fort Macon is open from 9a.m. to 5p.m. daily. The Coastal Education and Visitor Center as well as the bookstore are open daily 9a.m. to 6p.m.

Cape Lookout National Seashore North Carolina: Cape Lookout National Seashore can only be reached by passenger ferry or private boat and in total includes fifty-five miles of unspoiled islands. These remote islands and beaches require you to bring everything you need including food, water, and supplies in addition to carrying your trash out of the park when you leave. Favorite things to do here are horse watching, shelling, fishing, birding, camping, and just enjoying the pristine seclusion of the natural untouched beaches and shorelines. Popular attractions include viewing the Cape Lookout Lighthouse; the Keeper’s Quarters Museum, and the Light Station Visitor Center.

Beaufort, NC: Founded in 1709, Beaufort is North Carolina’s third-oldest town. This waterfront town is rich in history and maritime influence. Beaufort is home to the North Carolina Maritime Museum, which houses artifacts from Blackbeard’s famed ship The Queen Anne’s Revenge. Walk the waterfront and visit unique shops and stop in to the area restaurants to try out the local fare. Explore the town of Beaufort and view historic homes that pre-date the civil war. Stroll along the boardwalk and view the majestic yachts and sailboats as they dock or pass through Taylor’s Creek. Passenger ferries and water taxis are available to tour the local waters and give excursions to nearby islands. Enjoy spectacular sunsets and breathtaking views of Carrot Island and the wild horses that roam its banks.