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Emerald Isle & Beaufort, NC Anniversary Trip + Travel Guide

Last week Stephen and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary (June 4th!), and we decided to visit Emerald Isle and the Beaufort NC area for a long weekend. Neither of us had been before and it was such a cute area! I would 100% go back. That is also one of the many things I love about NC – in just a few hours (or less) you can be at the beach or mountains. It makes it really easy to go on a vacation and not spend nearly as much time or money getting there. In today’s blog though I wanted to recap our trip and share recommendations for any of y’all visiting the area!

Where to Stay So if you’ve never been to the area, it can be kind of confusing because there are a lot of little towns but they are all pretty much within 30 minutes of each other. The Crystal Coast is NC’s Southern Outer Banks area that consists of Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Morehead, Beaufort, etc. So since all of these towns are so close to each other, if you’re staying in one of them you can venture to the other for a little change of scenery. Stephen and I stayed at a condo in Emerald Isle because we wanted to be by the ocean, but we also drove to Beaufort, NC to walk around the town and have dinner on the waterfront. That is another benefit of visiting this area– you don’t have to choose between the ocean and beach, or the waterfront, since everything is within such a short proximity.

This is the condo we stayed at and we really loved it! Emerald Isle Realty also has plenty of other options (as I know this one is already booked out for a while), but we really enjoyed staying here versus a hotel. It was nice having the extra space plus a kitchen and living room area. Especially if you had bad weather one of the days you’re there (like we did), it was a great spot to just relax and still have a gorgeous ocean view! It also had an outdoor pool and hot tub which was great as well. If the waterfront is more your vibe, I’d recommend actually staying in Beaufort, and just driving to Emerald Isle or Atlantic Beach for a beach day.

Porch from our condo + ocean view (suit is older but from Abercrombie)
Super easy beach access from our condo!

What to Do Our first day there was pretty low key since the weather wasn’t ideal but the nice thing about NC that is even if the forecast says rain all day, you’ll probably just have rain for a few hours and then it will clear up. That is exactly what happened to us on Friday. It was raining all morning but by the afternoon we were able to get a few hours of sun! We ended up driving to Beaufort and just walking along the water and exploring the shops and restaurants. This area is great because you don’t necessarily need a plan, you can just walk around and enjoy the views and pop into different spots.

Beaufort Waterfront
Downtown Beaufort
Anniversary Dinner – if you don’t know the story behind the top, you can watch here!

On Saturday, we ended up doing a boat tour with Captain Mark! We started at a dock in Atlantic Beach and went all the way up to Beaufort through the waterfront that we walked along the day before. Whether it’s just you and one other person, or a group, I definitely recommend doing this! They can also set up a dining table on the boat so you can bring your own food, drinks (yes, wine), and just spend the day out on the water. For our tour we didn’t dock at any of the islands but you can have the boat bring you out to Shackleford Island where you can see all the wild horses and collect shells. We did end up seeing the wild horses from our boat and saw a ton of dolphins during our tour as well.

This is Lucky — Captain Mark’s pup!

Here are some other things to do if you’re visiting!

Cruising Tikis (Beaufort) – this looked so fun!
Biking Through Beaufort – with @hungrytowntours you bike your way through Beaufort while stopping to eat & drink along the way.
Beaufort Ghost Walk – would 100% do this especially is visiting in the fall!
North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
Fort Macon State Park
Kayaking & Paddleboarding – you can kayak to the Rachel Carson Reserve and see the wild horses!

Where to Eat Okay, probably the most important part of any trip — the food! I’m going to list the spots that we went to and then add some other local recommendations we got 🙂

Caribsea – Stephen and I both thought this was the best meal! We went here for our anniversary dinner. Definitely a little pricier but if you’re looking for a nice(r) dinner, this would be my suggestion.
The Black Sheep – Right on the water and really good pizza!!
Moonrakers – Another spot if you’re looking for a nicer dinner. We preferred Caribsea but you can’t beat the outdoor dining view. They also have a rooftop bar that overlooks the water if you just want to grab a drink and/or apps.
Stir It Up – Local coffee spot we hit every morning in Emerald Isle. Definitely recommend the banana foster (iced) coffee!
The Trading Post – Went here for breakfast one morning and thought it was really good! Cute/casual spot.
Kathryn’s Bistro and Martini Bar – We wanted to go somewhere close to the condo the first night we checked in and this spot didn’t disappoint! If you like martinis and are looking for a bit of a nicer meal in Emerald Isle, this is a good spot.
General Store – If you’re in Beaufort and want ice cream!

The Black Sheep in Beaufort — right on the water!
Apps + View at Moonrakers

Other spots to try –
Beaufort Grocery – My parents recommended this spot but I wasn’t able to make a reservation. Next time!
Front Street Grill at Still Water – apparently they have great painkillers and tuna tacos!
Mill Whistle Brewing – if you’re into craft beers
The Village Market – shop in Emerald Isle if you’re looking to pick up craft beer, wine, and made from scratch sandwiches. Great option if you’re going out on the boat or beach and want to pack food.
Promise Land Market – Fine wine and craft beer shop, plus a bar and kitchen. Brunch served here as well!

If y’all have been to visit and have any other recs please leave them below! Overall though I would definitely recommend this area for a weekend getaway. Thank you to The Crystal Coast for hosting us for our anniversary and partnering with me on this post 🙂

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