Coastal Vacation Rentals
Outdoor Adventure On The NC Coast
If your idea of the perfect getaway means feeling the wind in your face and the surf on your feet, consider North Carolina’s beaches your oasis. From kayaking near Beaufort to kiteboarding on the Outer Banks to scuba diving off of Wrightsville Beach, the coast holds many paths to adventure.
Combining windsurfing, wakeboarding and kite flying, kiteboarding entails maneuvering a kite in the wind to glide the board over waves, wakes and currents. All skill levels can enjoy the sport and craft their experience by choosing among various kites and boards. Even first timers are often able to catch up to 20-40 feet of air.
The Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding Training Center is the world’s largest hang gliding school, teaching more than 10,000 students every year. There are a number of ways to learn to fly. First, there is the solo dune hang gliding method taught at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. This involves running into the wind off a sand dune. Or, you can learn the tandem method. Strapped to a certified instructor, you are launched from a boat or towed behind an ultra-light aircraft. You’ll reach altitudes of 2,000 feet or more before being released and soaring unfettered over the Outer Banks.
Outdoor activities such as surfing are huge draws to North Carolina’s beaches. A unique combination of swells, wind and wave patterns, particularly along the northern Outer Banks, creates terrific surf conditions. The original site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a favorite of North Carolina surfers, but you can find good surfing spots all along the coast. Many popular surf camps and clinics for all ages and skill levels are based out of Wrightsville Beach.
Scuba divers from around the world visit North Carolina’s coast solely for the abundant shipwrecks. The Crystal Coast area, which includes Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Emerald Isle and Morehead City, is one of the prime diving destinations in North America. One of the most popular dives is at the U-352, a vintage German U-boat. Off Wrightsville Beach, you’ll find a number of Civil War–era wrecks. Near Hatteras is the Tarpon, a US submarine built in 1936 that sank in 1957 on its way to the salvage yard. Wherever you are on the coast, you’ll find dive instructors available to train beginners and a number of dive companies that offer dive tours and charter services.
Piers, beaches and inland waterways offer prime fishing conditions along the coast all year; however, a change in the Gulf Stream makes it especially abundant in the fall. Beaches and inlets offer flounder, bluefish, pompano and Spanish mackerel. Head offshore and you’ll bring up Wahoo, grouper, marlin, yellow fin tuna and sailfish. The Neuse River, which runs alongside New Bern, is full of speckled trout and puppy drum. Twenty piers are scattered along the coast and are favorite spots to cast a line.
North Carolina is home to seven coastal lighthouses waiting to be discovered. If you're up for the climb, there are wonderful rewards for you at the top – beautiful views that stretch on for miles. Opened in 1875, Currituck Beach Light Station’s red brick exterior differs from the black and white patterned and whitewashed lighthouses to the south. From Easter to Thanksgiving weekend you can climb its 214 steps. Visit Old Baldy, which has served Bald Head Island for 141 years, and you’re only 112 steps to great views.
Paddle through marshy canals, under canopies of oaks and maples, and in calm creeks. Coastal outfitters offer many tours to choose from, each focusing on a unique aspect of the beautiful and storied areas. Learn about the abundant wildlife, discover the history of flight and pirates, enjoy stunning sunsets or paddle after dark in search of bioluminescence and fireflies. Sea kayaking, where you can watch coastal birds and marine life, including bottlenose dolphins, is also very popular.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the tallest natural sand dune system in the Eastern United States, is the perfect place to try your hand at sand-boarding, a sport that has taken the snow out of snowboarding. Only allowed in a designated area of the park between October 1 and March 31, sand-boarding will definitely quench your need for adrenaline.
If your idea of outdoor adventure involves less adrenaline and more relaxation, we’ve got you covered there too. Sandcastle building, crabbing, kite flying, swimming in the ocean and body surfing are all great ways to enjoy North Carolina’s beautiful beaches. Of course, reading a book in the sun on a comfy lounge chair counts too.
added: May 3, 2010
updated: June 30, 2012