vacation to emerald isle beach nc

Emerald Isle

Gem of the Crystal Coast

Named after its beautifully lush maritime forests, Emerald Isle is a laid-back beach community comprised of unspoiled beaches, pristine forests, quaint beach cottages and loads of activities for the whole family.

Originally inhabited by Native Americans, the island was explored and used by English colonists and also by pirates, such as the infamous Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. In 1893, a group of families came to the island and settled there, creating the town of Middletown. Still, it remained largely uninhabited until the 1950s, when cottages first began to dot the beaches.

It was then that Henry K. Fort of Philadelphia bought what is now Emerald Isle and part of Cape Carteret as an investment. He saw the success of neighboring Atlantic Beach and imagined Emerald Isle expanding to a resort of the same caliber. However, Fort couldn’t secure enough support to build a bridge, and his dream of a resort community was abandoned.

After Fort’s death, the land was inherited by his daughter Anita Fort Maulik, who ultimately sold the property to a group of investors from Southeastern North Carolina. The land, not yet known as Emerald Isle, was purchased for $350,000, the largest amount in Carteret County history at the time. The seven investors then divided the land into 54 blocks, each a little more than 1,000 feet wide, and development was underway.

Ferry service began in 1960, connecting the mainland to the beaches and increasing the number of visitors to the budding coastal village. When the Cameron Langston Bridge was built in 1971, development continued, bringing in more beach rentals, attractions and restaurants to the family-oriented beach community.

Today, Emerald Isle is abuzz during the summer and peacefully serene throughout the rest of the year. While more than 3,500 people are lucky enough to call the town home, in the summer, the population quadruples as families flock to the Bogue Banks for the ultimate beach vacation.

From surfing to sunning, mini-golfing to shopping, the opportunities for fun are endless in Emerald Isle. A surf rod and a bucket of bait will start your fishing adventure—try your luck on the pier or on a charter boat. You can also stop at one of the many local seafood stands or markets to purchase the freshest catches—they will even ice down your selections for your return home.

There are also plenty of other ways to get out on the water—go crabbing, look for shells on one of the many beaches, or launch your kayak from a public access point, such as Cedar Street Park. Motorized boats and personal watercrafts as well as kayaks and canoes are available for full and half-day rentals at local businesses.

Want to explore rare and pristine maritime forests? A new walking and bike path along Emerald Drive and Coast Guard Road offers great views of beaches, marshes and coastal ecology. Or navigate the hiking trails at Emerald Isle Woods, a 41-acre nature preserve on the sound.

Of course, the beaches are the main attraction in Emerald Isle—find sandy beaches, clean turquoise waters and plenty of space to spread out for a game of volleyball or a mid-afternoon nap. Surfers know Emerald Isle as one of the best places to catch a wave along the Bogue Banks, with plenty of great breaks, particularly around the Bogue Inlet Pier.

If a walk on the beach or a sunset cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway is your desire, head to Emerald Plantation, a beautifully landscaped, private gated community of luxury townhouses and single-family homes located on Bogue Sound. The beaches are just a short walk away, and the area is equipped with its own boat ramp to the sound and the Intracoastal Waterway. A large clubhouse, lighted tennis courts and swimming pool are other amenities that are available at Emerald Plantation.

There are also plenty of family attractions in Emerald Isle, including go-kart tracks, water parks, mini-golf and more. And you’re never far away from the many other attractions and activities just down the road in Atlantic Beach and Morehead City.

With miles and miles of waterfront area from the Atlantic Ocean to the Bogue Sound, there are plenty of coastal areas to explore and getting there is easy. In fact, there are approximately 58 public walkways to the beach and 17 to the sound. Here are some of the main access points to the beach. Check the listing of parks for sound accesses.

Western Ocean Regional Access
Located a half-mile from the Cameron Langston Bridge, near Islander Drive. Features parking, sand volleyball courts, restrooms and showers.

Eastern Ocean Regional Access
Located near 25th Street, 6 miles from the bridge. Features public parking, a bathhouse and picnic shelter, with a sound-side access just across the street for non-motorized boating.

Third Street Ocean Access
Located on Ocean Drive and Third Street. Features a small parking lot; no restrooms or facilities.

Blue Heron Park
Located behind Town Hall. Bring the kids to Blue Heron Park for a romp on the town's playground equipment, or grab your racquets and enjoy the adjacent tennis courts. An expansive community center offers numerous programs for locals and visitors alike including aerobics, indoor basketball, volleyball and soccer, yoga, pilates and much more. Visitors can purchase passes to the community center for $5 per day, $20 per week or $30 per month. There is a fee of $2 per person, per hour to play tennis.

Cedar Street Sound-side Park
Located at the end of Cedar Street. The perfect spot to embark on a kayak adventure, Cedar Creek Park has a small parking area, pier and launching area to the Bogue Sound.

Ocean Oaks Park
Located in the Ocean Oaks subdivision off Coast Guard Road. The kids will enjoy playtime on the playground while parents can relax and grill burgers and hot dogs.

Emerald Isle Woods
Located along Coast Guard Road, 1/4 mile from the bridge. This sound-side park features 41 acres of maritime forests, including walking trails, elevated boardwalks, a new bathhouse, a picnic shelter and sound-side pier.

For additional information about the town of Emerald Isle, visit the town's official website at To obtain information about Emerald Isle businesses, visit the Emerald Isle Business Association's website at

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