5 On-Land Outdoor Adventures to Have at the Crystal Coast

Explore the 21 miles of the Neusiok Trail System in the Croatan National Forest to see a wild side of the Crystal Coast.
Explore the 21 miles of the Neusiok Trail System in the Croatan National Forest to see a wild side of the Crystal Coast. Patrick Mueller
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Taking a vacation to a beach town and spending the majority of your time on land? It sounds like a crazy concept, but the Crystal Coast of North Carolina has enough to do away from the beach that it just might happen. Whether you’re a cyclist or bird watcher, there are trails, waterways, and parks for everyone on this pristine section of North Carolina coastline, so much so that you’d forget your proximity to the ocean if not for the vast expanses of marsh and tidal creeks that surround this island community. Of course, you can still spend time at the beach, but consider these five activities off the sand on your trip to the Crystal Coast.

1. Cruise the Emerald Isle Bike Path

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The Emerald Isle Bike Path offers an easy, laid back and downright awesome 11 miles of paved and boarded pathways that stretch from the point at Bogue Sound to Indian Beach. This path is for all skill levels and winds through open grassland, maritime forests and even the heart of downtown Emerald Isle. Grab a hearty breakfast at The Trading Post, saddle up that beach cruiser and enjoy a slow ride through one of the most scenic areas on the Crystal Coast.

2. Venture Into Croatan National Forest

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The only true coastal forest east of the Mississippi, Croatan National Forest features more than 160,000 acres of trails, waterways, and campgrounds ripe for hiking, trail running, paddling, and camping. The forest is bordered by tidal creeks to the east and west, and stretches south all the way to Bogue Sound. Visitors to Croatan National Forest will not want to miss catching the sunrise at Cedar Point Campground, canoeing through the winding creeks fed by Bogue Sound, taking advantage of the 21 mile Neusiok Trail system, and mountain biking the 13 mile long Black Swamp OHV Trail.

3. Day Tripping at Emerald Isle Woods Park

Emerald Isle Woods Park is a 41-acre community park located on Emerald Isle that has everything you need for a day outside with friends—including birding trails, boardwalks, restrooms, and outdoor grills. Grab your picnic essentials from The Village Market and prepare to spend the rest of your day hanging out in the sun and winding through trails that span over ancient dunes and offer fantastic views of the marsh.

4. Hike the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Trail / Visit the NC Aquarium

The family of Teddy Roosevelt, our nation’s 26th president, graciously entrusted more than 290 acres of wildly pristine maritime forest to the state of North Carolina back in 1971. Today the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores calls this parcel of land home, and there is an accompanying 1.5-mile interpretive trail adjacent to the aquarium that leads visitors straight to Bogue Sound. The trail is well maintained and follows a dune ridge through the forest to the ocean. This is a great way to spend a half day checking out a massive amount of wildlife local to the Crystal Coast—and the scenery is breathtaking.

5. Outdoor Yoga

OK, this may take place on the beach, but it isn’t your typical beach activity. Local yoga studio Uptown Yoga is one of several studios on the Crystal Coast that offers outdoor yoga events and workshops, including the Coastal Yoga Festival in May. This year’s festival covers everything from an early morning Sunrise Flow class on Atlantic Beach to an extremely fun community drum circle that closes out the festival. Even if you’re not around during the festival, classes are available from Uptown Yoga or Momentum Yoga and Wellness, both of which are in Morehead City, all year round.

Originally written for Crystal Coast NC.

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