The Crystal Coast is one of the rare places on earth where it is still possible to not see or hear another soul on the beach. The freedom to experience complete solitude with only the gentle lull of the waters of the Atlantic or the sounds of twittering Piping Plovers to disrupt thoughts lost in the sounds of nature.
The authentic "coastal experience" features waters of crystalline purity bordering sandy, sparkling beaches. An eccentric history steeped in legendary tales of swashbuckling pirate adventures and ghostly encounters. Exotic wild horses roaming the same shores for centuries and generations reflecting southern tradition.
To understand the real coastal experience is to feel the tranquil sea breezes gently blowing across glassy waters, to stroll the historical streets of a quaint maritime village saturated with memories of the past and to dine on fresh-from-the-docks seafood at a waterfront bistro. It is both a place and a state of mind representing a departure from the ordinary and arrival at the extraordinary.
Dangling like a delicate strand of pearls off the coast of North Carolina, the favored Atlantic beach destination of generations represents one of the only remaining natural barrier island systems in the world. The Islands are strung together with 85 miles of silken coastline along the southern Outer Banks -- 56 miles of which are in the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Lush maritime forests edge the silken coast like emerald jewels studding a royal crown. The barrier islands take a curious southward curve, blessing the Crystal Coast with beaches that course east and west, making it possible to admire the dazzlingly bright sun as it rises to greet the day. Then slip into the shimmering translucent blue waters in the evening during a spectacular North Carolina sunset.
The "gems" of the Crystal Coast include Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Emerald Isle, Harker's Island and Morehead City, each one as distinct and precious as the next.
Reminiscent of times past where wild horses roam freely on deserted beaches, the Cape Lookout National Seashore, with its famed lighthouse, offers escapists a 56-mile stretch of undeveloped shimmering beaches accessible only by boat. Sea oat laced sand dunes and miles of large unbroken conch shells seem like they have been resting there for centuries. In harmony with the natural scenery are fishermen patiently waiting and watching like shore birds, looking for their next meal to spring out of the frothy blue waters.
An eccentric history steeped in swashbuckling pirate tales, romantic mysteries, deep-rooted maritime heritage and wartime triumphs and tragedies, the sea breezes wafting in from the ocean are still alive with the memories of the past. From ghostly excursions through the Old Burying Grounds and leisurely strolls among the painstakingly preserved buildings at Beaufort Historic Site, to a gentle ferry ride to the seashore to view historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Or take a firsthand look at the treasures excavated from Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.
Unlike its overdeveloped and sometimes pretentious neighbors, the natural beauty of the Crystal Coast lends itself to some awe-inspiring ecological escapes. Fifty-six miles of unspoiled shoreline on the National Seashore surround Cape Lookout Lighthouse, an island with no development, no traffic, no pollution and no worries.
One of the two spots in North America where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream caress the coast, creating what divers that flock to the Crystal Coast call a "wreck diver's dream" with near-perfect conditions for an experience unlike anywhere else in the world. Known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," there are more than 2,000 vessels that have made their watery graves along the North Carolina coast. During WWII, German U-boats frequently targeted merchant vessels, sending them to their final resting places 100 feet beneath the sea, viewable by divers thanks to the stunningly clear, warm waters with average temperatures around 80 degrees F and more than 75 feet of visibility.
The coastline is shadowed not by chain hotels, but by nothing more than what Mother Nature intended. Vacationers to the Crystal Coast find a variety of accommodations to suit every lifestyle and budget. There are several realty agencies offering seaside cottages and massive beach mansions for rent that are the perfect place for family reunions, both small and large. Hotel accommodations include the Sheraton Atlantic Beach, the largest full service hotel on the coast of North Carolina.
After a hard day's wreck diving or surf fishing, visitors to the Crystal Coast tend to work up a hearty appetite. With more than 100 restaurants to choose from, finding the right taste to tame any appetite is an easy task. Generations of restaurateurs have put their life's passion into their cooking. It is not uncommon to find that the present owner of a Crystal Coast restaurant is the great-great grandchild of the original owner, keeping treasured crab cake or coconut pie recipes handed down through the family on the menu, to introduce to new generations of restaurant goers.
From elegant candlelit beachside dinners with she-crab soup and casual bistros with light gourmet sandwiches, to drive-in cheeseburger stands and down home seafood shacks offering menu items as simple as merely "flounder" or "oysters" with all the fixin's (including the inevitable basket of fried heaven known as the hush puppy), visitors leave their diets at home and enjoy all the tastes that the Crystal Coast has to offer.
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