Top 3 things to do in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

Atlantic Beach Causeway Bridge 


Atlantic Beach, North Carolina is a beach town in Carteret County, North Carolina.  It is one of five communities located on Bogue Banks.  Bogue Banks island is a barrier island which is 26 miles long and half mile at its widest points.  Although not as well known as mega beach destinations like Ocean City, Maryland to the north, or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to the south, it more than makes up for it by its unspoiled natural beauty.  

Atlantic Beach is geared towards families and is not yet commercialized like the two above mentioned destinations.  There are few chain restaurants/national retailers on the Bogue Banks.  This is a blessing as it manages to keep things as natural and pristine as possible.  Yes, you will find stores on the Bogue Banks, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as those mega destinations.

My wife, yours truly, and our dog, spent the entire month of December in Atlantic Beach.  We hope to share with you our top 3 attractions / things to do here!

     1. The Beach!

Soon as we crossed over to Atlantic Beach via Atlantic Beach Causeway bridge, we noticed the lack of commercialization.  We didn’t see McDonald’s golden arches nor billboards everywhere.  It was certainly refreshing to see after visiting Ocean City, Maryland recently!





Views from Atlantic Beach Boardwalk gazebo


Once we settled in at our place, we set about our first attraction, the beach/Boardwalk area.  AB Boardwalk is short (about 3 blocks).  I would probably consider this the ‘main’ area.  If you’re planning on meeting someone at Atlantic Beach, then this would be the easiest place to find.   It’s located directly in front of the AB Causeway Bridge, so you can’t miss it.

There are volleyball courts featured prominently in front of the Boardwalk.  We walked around the Boardwalk and sat down at the gazebo overlooking the beach.  What a view!  We took in the fresh ocean breeze for few minutes.  We then walked around the area near the parking lot (West Dr / East Dr / Atlantic Blvd) where there were several shops/restaurants.  Cute Christmas decorations were set up on one of the stores.  Although it didn’t feel like Christmas weather (around 50 degrees), we sure appreciated the decorations!

Note: For all our dog parents, dogs are allowed on the beach as long as they’re leashed.

We enjoyed the beach during our time there immensely.  During mornings, we would walk the beach to get some exercise in.  We would see plenty of wildlife including seagulls, sanderlings, pelicans, etc.  





Typical day at the beach! Birds hanging out taking in some sun!

Sunrises are beautiful here.  We would enjoy the ever changing colors of the early dawn.  There are orange, purple, yellow colors visible during sunrises.  Magnificent scenery!!!

Another beautiful early dawn


During evenings, we would marvel at beautiful sunsets.  We loved how the sun would set directly in front of the beach area.  In fact, due to the southerly orientation of Bogue Banks, we were able to see both sunrise and sunset from the beach area!  



This was our favorite place to watch the sunset 

Tip:  Vehicle access on the beach is allowed from sunup to sundown from October 1st-March 15th.  You will need to purchase a vehicle access permit from either the Town Hall or online from the town’s website (http://atlanticbeach-nc.com/beach-driving-permits/) 





     2.  Fort Macon State Park
     
Location of Fort Macon State Park is what distinguishes itself from most state parks.  It is literally right next to Atlantic Beach on the eastern side of Bogue Banks.  If you walk along the beach heading east, you’ll run right into Fort Macon State Park.  

Fort Macon State Park is one of top 3 most visited state parks in North Carolina with an annual visitation of around 1.3 million, despite its small size of 424 acres.  The Battle of Fort Macon was fought here in 1862.  It features a fully restored fort, Ranger led tours, nature trails, and observation decks.  Admission or parking fees are not charged, which is an added bonus.

Fort Macon State Park (fort view)


There are two areas you should consider visiting.  

First is the Fort Macon Beach & Historic Landmark area.  As you’re driving into the park, you’ll pass the park signage on the left.  Shortly after that, entrance should appear on the right.  Once you park, there are two things of note:

  • Observation deck on the beach:  Take the Boardwalk from the State Park building to the ocean.  This is a prime spot to view birds.  We spent countless hours hanging around here!
View from the observation deck

Fort Macon State Park and Boardwalk 

  • Elliot Coues Nature Trail:  This was for us the best thing about this park.  This nature trail boasts 3.2 miles of trail that connects the fort and the beach area.  Along the way, it travels along the marsh, open maritime forest, and sand dunes with views of the ocean.  Trail is dog friendly as well, so take your furry friends with you.


Elliot Coues Nature Trail

Second is the Fort Macon & the visitor center.  As you exit out of Fort Macon Beach & Historic Landmark parking lot, turn right.  Go all the way until the end of that road.  You’ll see the fort on your left and the parking area ahead of you.  There are three things of note here:

  • Three different trails to explore:  The aforementioned Elliot Coues trail starts at the north & northeast ends of the parking lot.  Beach trail is 1.5 miles long and can be accessed right on the beach.  This trail winds over sand dunes and the beach, with views of Onslaw Bay and Shackleford Banks.  Yarrow’s Loop is accessed from the fort parking lot.  This is a quarter mile trail that starts/ends at the north end of the parking lot.
View from the Beach trail
  • Observation deck: Located next to the nature trail entrance on the beach side.  Be sure to stop by here to take in the views!  Coast Guard station is on the left hand side of the observation deck.  

Views from the observation deck

  • Fort Macon:  Visit the fort and the visitor center.  As of this writing, all services are open including campgrounds, visitor center, fort, park offices, and rest rooms.  
View of the fort


     
     3.  Oceanana Fishing Pier


Located about half mile from the AB Boardwalk, the Oceanana Fishing Pier is Atlantic Beach’s only fishing pier.  It stretches nearly 1000 feet into the ocean and affords fantastic views of the surrounding areas.  Sunset watching is popular, but you can’t go wrong visiting any time of the day here.  You’ll see plenty of people fishing on the pier.  Pier House Restaurant, at the foot of the pier is a popular local restaurant.  

Oceanana Pier





We’re so thankful for all the great memories at Atlantic Beach, NC.

We hope you enjoyed our top 3 attractions in Atlantic Beach.  Thank you all for reading!

Jake
Wandering Money Pig 


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