• Photo: Rena Schild / Shutterstock

Morehead City

The quiet commercial waterfront at Morehead City is dotted with restaurants and shops that have put new life in its old buildings. The largest town on the Crystal Coast, it hosts a state port and charter-fishing marina. It's also home to sizable marine research facilities for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.

Arendell Street (U.S. 70) is Morehead City's main drag. Running parallel to the waterfront, it and some side streets contain the Fish Walk, a series of colorful sculptures in clay relief depicting indigenous fish and other types of sea life, as well as gift shops, restaurants, and the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority.

Outside the city, you can fish, swim, picnic, and hike at Fort Macon State Park. Route 58 passes through all the beach communities on Bogue Banks, a barrier island across Bogue Sound from Morehead City. There are a number of popular family beaches, including Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle. Points of public access along the shoreline are marked by orange-and-blue signs. Lifeguards monitor only a few beaches.

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