Long stretches of beautiful coastline create a clean border around the 22-mile island that includes Atlantic Beach, NC. Dotting the island that is flanked with mainland views and rolling blue ocean waves, are the small sea-faring communities of Pine Knoll Shores, Salter Path, and Indian Beach.
Atlantic Beach holds down the fort (literally) at the eastern end of the island that proudly exhibits historic Fort Macon. The other end unfolds into the largest community on the island, Emerald Isle. Like the rest of the towns, Emerald Isle has its own personality and atmosphere, playing host to vacationing families during the summer while maintaining a solid infrastructure for the year-rounders that call it home. As of 2008, the population for Emerald Isle was approximately 3,855.
Known for its family-friendly environment, you’ll find quaint eateries mixed with fine dining restaurants in Emerald Isle. Shopping involves boutique hopping with large chain stores within a 15-30 minute drive. Holiday Trav-L Park Campground situates close to a waterslide park, miniature golf, and go karts. The campground’s central gazebo is the scene of weekend entertainment, such as bands and picnics. And, if you’re Irish (or even if you’re not) Saint Patrick’s Day is a big deal here. Don your craziest shamrock and head down to the festivities for some green beer and great food.
The amenities that you’ll find in homes in Emerald Isle are mind-blowing — private screening rooms, enormous Jacuzzis, fitness rooms, poker rooms, mini-arcades, and even “cigar rooms.” Of course, you’ll find some nostalgic cottages up and down the waterfront, and beautifully decorated condos, but you’ll find gated communities and exclusive magazine-cover homes at the “point,” as well.
Atlantic Beach is the kind of place where you vacationed with your family in the 50s and 60s. You’ll find great beaches with oceanfront motels like the Oceanana , which offers a fishing pier and outdoor play area. At the Sea Hawk, you can walk out of your room and onto the top of a dune, plop down in a hammock swing, and read a book for your own seaside retreat.
Friendly and noncommercialized, Atlantic Beach has long been a favorite spot for shaggers (beach music dancers), fishermen, and sunbathers. For those of us lucky enough to live here, we enjoy being able to pluck fresh seafood from our “front yards.” Our salty oysters are delicious; and, the makings for a great clam bake are only steps away. Seafood is more a part of the lifestyle than it is something to eat. Speaking of eating, should a fresh catch dinner be your craving, there are plenty of opportunities on Atlantic Beach. Casual dining with an upscale twist is the best way to describe the restaurants. If you lived here, you’d likely run into other locals on a regular basis gathering for drinks or a fresh fish or steak dinner.
Life at Atlantic Beach can mean a close-knit neighborhood or settling into a home with a more independent feel. Cottages range from cozy one-story homes to grand vista-panning multi-deck residences. The newest neighborhoods are easy to spot from the bridge–like a brightly colored roller coaster expanding the shoreline. The sidewalk that runs the length of the main road offers good biking and walking opportunities, and gives you a “connectedness” to your neighbors. In 2008, the year round population is just over 1,800.
Entertainment on Atlantic Beach is generally supplied by water-based events, like speed boat races and regattas. Sports fishing is huge here, so everyone knows that when the Big Rock Blue Marlin and Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournaments are in full swing, there’s gonna be some serious partying. Even “casual” boaters fall in love with the island. Who wouldn’t relish heading out the back door with their morning “cuppa joe” to their own dock and cruising over to Shackleford to catch dinner or maybe over to the Beaufort waterfront to shop for it?
Of course, if you are more into watching big fish, then catching them, you can do that at the NC Aquarium located minutes from Atlantic Beach in Pine Knoll Shores. A lot of folks think the Aquarium is just for visitors, and though, they get their share, the Aquarium offers ongoing programs to interest every age. There are also plenty of opportunities for volunteers who don’t mind getting a little wet. Pine Knoll Shores is a small pristine community that situates almost mid-way of the island, and is a popular location for retirees seeking more of a quiet, country club feel. The Country Club of the Crystal Coast fits the bill. Sitting snug against Bogue Sound, it offers the only golf course on the island…though you’ll find about a half dozen great courses within an hour’s drive.
The water “lifestyle” is suited for a lot of people looking to put roots down where the view itself is the best retreat. Coastal North Carolina is one amazing opportunity for anyone who is interested in slower paced living without a higher cost.