Discover Gems of the Crystal Coast on Your Golf Getaway

Crystal Coast TDADiscover Gems of the Crystal Coast on Your Golf Getaway

See firsthand why Beaufort was named “America’s Favorite Town” by Travel + Leisure magazine

It simply sounds good: The Crystal Coast of North Carolina. Perhaps not as well known as the Outer Banks to the north or the Brunswick Islands to the south. But here, right in the middle of the state’s sandy stretch of enticing coastline, is an 85-mile collection of anything and everything to make a vacation special, including some compelling golf based on quality rather than quantity.

4-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Start off with slick greens and a taste of history in Beaufort.

Day 2: It’s all about water, water and more water in and around Morehead City.

Day 3: Begin with 18 holes and end on a quiet, peaceful stretch of white sand.

Day 4: Finish strong with 45 holes and a last taste of incredible seafood.

Day 1: Beaufort Beckons

Get your day started with a taste of history in the picturesque coastal town of Beaufort, named “America’s Favorite Town” by Travel + Leisure – but not before a trip upstream to North River Golf Club. This local favorite was designed by Bob Moore and claims some of the best greens in the eastern part of North Carolina. Broad, pine-lined fairways beckon, but lurking always are water and fingered bunkers. A spacious practice area is the ideal spot for a pre-round warm-up or after-round “trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong” session.

Once back in town, unwind with a casual stroll along quiet lanes teeming with history, along with boutiques, galleries, bed-and-breakfasts, and acclaimed cafés and restaurants. Definitely plan to take an hour or so to explore the North Carolina Maritime Museum, located along Front Street, where you’ll find relics excavated from Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard's original ship, which was uncovered in Beaufort Inlet after spending nearly three centuries underwater. Along the town’s waterfront, anyone with a nautical bent will discover plenty to see and do, including climbing aboard a ferry for a short voyage to Shackleford Banks, home to the famous wild ponies descended from Spanish mustangs of the 1500s.

Day 2: There’s More to Morehead City

As you might expect, the focus of the port of Morehead City is on the water around it. And you’ll find it hard not to focus on the water that comes into play on 11 of the 18 holes at Brandywine Bay Golf Club, though landing areas are generous. Originally designed by Bruce Devlin and later reshaped by Ellis Maples, the course meanders among mature trees, and its TifEagle Bermuda greens roll smooth and true any time of year. A recently renovated clubhouse is perfect for an after-round cocktail.

There’s a lot to keep you occupied along the waterfront in Morehead City, starting with a slow march along the boardwalk to take in the scenery and boating activity. There’s also a wide selection of galleries, boutiques and acclaimed local restaurants, including the legendary Sanitary Fish Market and Restaurant, Jack's Waterfront Bar and Red Fish Grill. If you happen to be in town in early October, definitely plan to attend the annual, three-day North Carolina Seafood Festival where you’ll find food and fun.

This is also the perfect jumping off spot for a range of outdoor adventures. A dive center is located near the docks, with diving to view wrecks in the Graveyard of the Atlantic creating a unique experience. Charter fishing boats and tour services offer fishing trips and island-hopping excursions. In fact, Morehead City is home to the annual, weeklong Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in June, and is renowned for its charter fishing fleet.

If smaller is better, kayaks and canoes are available for rent on the docks. But if just kicking back is the desire, don’t forget the nearby beach towns where long stretches of white sand await for relaxing, swimming and soaking in some rays.

Day 3: Beach Town Behavior

Start the day at the imposing sounding but very welcoming Country Club of the Crystal Coast, which is nestled along the Bogue Sound and is the only golf course on the 21-mile island. Here you’ll find fairways winding through rolling sand dunes, tall pines and majestic oaks, and, of course, bodies of water that come into play on 13 holes. But the course is touted as always fun to play.

If water caused you woes on the course, it may also be the remedy. Check out the peaceful seclusion and pristine beaches of Pine Knoll Shores, named a “Best Beach Town” by Coastal Living Magazine. One of the more secluded enclaves on the Crystal Coast, the town is known for its environmental sensitivity, and is indeed the fitting setting for the North Carolina Aquarium where you can watch sea otters play, touch a stingray or look a big fish in the eye – without getting wet. And this newfound awareness will just add to the experience as you sit on a quiet beach with your toes in the sand.

Day 4: Final Stretch

Finish your Crystal Coast golf odyssey on a high note with, dare we suggest, 45 holes. There are 27 holes awaiting north of Cape Carteret at Star Hill Golf Club, which garnered 3 1/2 stars in Golf Digest’s ranking of “Places to Play.” The club’s topography, according to local lore, was shaped by the impact of a meteor thousands of years ago.

Then, again face water and sea breezes when you tee it up for a final 18 at Silver Creek Golf Club at Emerald Isle. Stretching more than 7,000 yards from the championship tees, fairways are lined with sweeping long-leaf pines while dark water lurks to add an element of danger to shotmaking.

If there’s still energy to burn, there are plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities at Emerald Isle, including swimming, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, sailing and fishing – the Bogue Inlet Pier is a must-visit, whether you’re in the mood to wet a hook or just watch the waves roll toward shore. Or maybe you just want to laze around on the beach before setting off for one more round of tasty seafood. It’s all in a good day on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, a true gem of a place.

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching activities and events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.

Gary Carter is an Asheville-based travel writer who covers a range of topics for magazines, online publications and his blog, Eliot’s Tales 4 Gen B.

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