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Fort Macon State Park anchors the east end, and family-friendly Emerald Island is positioned at the west end of this 21-mile stretch of beach. In between are the quiet oceanfront towns of Indian Beach and Pine Knoll Shores. The shoreline is the same from town to town, but off-beach experiences vary. Fort Macon has lifeguards, bathhouses, and free parking; Pine Knoll Shores and Indian Beach are full of posh and cozy vacation rentals, and golf; Emerald Isle is full-on family fun, with a fishing pier and waterslide. Amenities: food and drink, lifeguards, parking (some with fee, some free), toilets. Best for: sunrise, sunset, surfing, swimming, windsurfing.