20 Best Things to Do in Atlantic Beach, NC

Atlantic Beach, NC
Eifel Kreutz / iStock.com

Welcome to Atlantic Beach, one of the five communities of Bogue Banks and a great town with a rich history.

This is the perfect spot to visit if you love beaches and chilling in the sun.

It is essentially a barrier island located offshore on the Atlantic coast, surrounded by water and shorelines.

It has a great climate throughout the year, wherein the winters are short and mild, and the summers are hot, humid, and very long.

So, if you are a summer baby and love basking in the sun and beaches, then this is the place for you.

Check out this list of the best things to do in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina:

Explore the Fort at Fort Macon State Park

Cannon at Fort Macon state park
Rudy Umans / Shutterstock.com

The famous Fort Macon, where the Battle of Fort Macon was fought in 1862, now stands with pride since being rebuilt and fully restored to its former glory.

Fort Macon State Park, though comparatively smaller in area than other state parks, is the second most visited state park in the entire North Carolina.

It receives a massive number of tourists and visitors throughout the year.

Arched brick tunnel way at Fort Macon State Park
Rob Byron / Shutterstock.com

It is located just near Atlantic Beach and was made open to the public in 1936.

There is no admission fee or parking fee, and it is entirely open to the public.

Enjoy a variety of activities like swimming, guided tours, surf fishing, nature trails, and a bathhouse.

Aerial view of Fort Macon State Park
Joseph Moran / Shutterstock.com

The park is very beautiful and there are green lawns spread all around.

It is also very important from a historical point of view, hence attracting many tourists.

Have Fun with Your Kids at the Atlantic Beach Town Park

The Atlantic Beach Town Park is the perfect spot to vacation with your kids.

The beautiful park has many facilities like a traditional playground, a skate park, a miniature golf course, and even a splash pad.

Additionally, there are a variety of activities that you can enjoy, such as hiking or taking a leisurely stroll along the nature trails.

The skate park is well-built, with some challenging areas as well.

During the summer, drive-in movies are occasionally hosted in the parking lot.

There is also a half-court basketball court.

The restrooms are clean.

You can also pack a picnic lunch and have a lunch date with your family at the picnic shelter and shaded tables.

The park remains open all seven days of the week.

Mini-golf is chargeable, while the rest of the park's facilities may be enjoyed free of charge.

Hike the Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail

A flock of birds flying over the grass at Hoop pole Creek nature trail
Lynn Blue / Shutterstock.com

A mile-long hike, the Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail is very beautiful and provides guests with a peaceful walk through nature.

Most of the path is paved, and there is also a sprinkling of boardwalks, so it's easy to walk on.

On either side, you can glimpse at salt marshes and estuaries as they flow by.

A crab crawling on the marshes at Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail
Sherry Barr Photography / Shutterstock.com

Tall trees are also located here.

If you're visiting during the summer, be sure to carry some bug repellent creams.

The nature trail offers a nice break from the crowds and the beaches.

It also has excellent scenic views, ideal for some nature photography.

Enjoy Fresh Seafood at the Oceanana Pier and Pier House Restaurant

Distant view of Oceanana Pier
Ryan McGurl / Shutterstock.com

Take a long stroll on the ocean boardwalk and follow it up with a nice dinner or lunch at the Oceanana Pier and Pier House Restaurant, which serves delectable seafood at great prices.

It's the perfect spot to end a peaceful stroll after spending some time with yourself.

Do try the grilled shrimp, as it's cooked to perfection and the glaze and sauces are very tasty.

Their bacon cheeseburgers are also among their standout menu items.

Try a Modern Gaming Experience at Battle Works Tactical Laser Tag

Battle Works Tactical Laser Tag is not a typical glow-in-the-dark arena or a typical laser tag gaming place.

It's a modern game area that mixes elements of video games and uses laser tag equipment.

Featuring stimulated electronic weapons and battlefields set in an urban theme, this is a great place to visit with your kids and let out some pent-up energy.

The light and sound placement and arrangement are terrific.

If you are visiting as a small group, you can go for a walk-in play.

Meanwhile, if you're coming with a large group, you can book the venue in advance.

Have a Memorable Dining Experience at Beach Tavern Bar and Grill

Beach Tavern Bar and Grill is a famous restaurant in Atlantic Beach that most visitors and tourists swear by.

The food here is fantastic and very delicious.

The seafood used in the dishes is all fresh and locally sourced.

Some of their must-try dishes are the clams.

The typical menu items (like their fries, chips, chicken nuggets, and juicy burgers) are also delicious.

Shop for Beach Essentials at Wings Beachwear

Famous for its resort wear and beach apparel, Wings Beachwear has been producing and selling great merchandise since its inception in 1978.

The clothing is available for all ages.

There is also a swimsuit section, which features some really beautiful bodysuits.

The souvenir department houses umbrellas, chairs, and other essential accessories to take to the beach.

Select some fabulous, funky beachwear and sunglasses for the perfect beach look.

Tour with the AB Watersport Adventures

The best place to rent a jet ski in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, is AB Watersports, which offers 30-minute and hour-long rentals as well as jet ski adventures to Cape Lookout.

They provide a range of family-friendly activities, such as jet ski and boat services, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and island hopping.

Paddleboards and kayaks are the primary rentals offered by Watersports, and they are delivered right to your door.

A guided Jet Ski tour from them will take you on a beautiful ride down the Crystal Coast, home to the well-known lighthouse Cape Lookout, picturesque islands, cut banks, and miles of secluded beaches only be reached by boat or jet ski.

Shop the Whole Day at Posh Pelican

A bunch of crazy women who love shopping, enjoying life, and having a great time came up with the insane concept for The Posh Pelican.

There are so many brand-new arrivals at the Posh Pelican in Atlantic Beach!

With sweaters, jeans, and the finest holiday clothing, their team of stylists can help you look your best this fall.

Amazing gifts and reward cards are also available at The Posh Pelican.

Experience a one-of-a-kind shopping experience tailored to your needs at The Posh Pelican, situated on Fort Macon Road between the Beach Tavern and Shark Shack.

Order a Cold Beer at Crystal Coast Brewing Company

The objective of the family-run Crystal Coast Brewing Company is to offer fantastic beer and a welcoming environment to locals and visitors to North Carolina's Crystal Coast.

The award-winning beer produced by Crystal Coast Brewing Company is popular throughout the world, and they like giving visitors a taste of the coast.

They exclusively use fresh, premium components in their brewing system.

They use a variety of regional ingredients in their brews, such as grains, fruits, and hops.

They want to make sure that every pint they serve is of the greatest caliber and adheres to all regulations.

Have a Good Sleep at Palm Suites

For your island trip, Palm Suites of Atlantic Beach is the ideal housing choice.

This Atlantic Beach, North Carolina hotel is ready to meet your needs, whether you're planning a family outing, a vacation for two, or a fishing trip with friends.

Palm Suites offers 90 tastefully furnished suites standing by to provide our visitors with the highest level of comfort and quality.

Their suites are more luxurious than standard hotel rooms since they have a kitchenette with a microwave, mini-refrigerator, sink, and counter.

There are countless outdoor activities and fresh locations to discover on the Crystal Coast in the little coastal community of Atlantic Beach.

Purchase Beach Items at AB Surf Shop

The AB Surf Shop is a family-run enterprise.

Tommy Morrow opened it when he was only 15 years old, making it the oldest surf shop in North Carolina.

From a little surf shop selling only surfboards, the store has expanded into a full-fledged sanctuary and boutique.

For all beach lovers, their surf shop and boutique include apparel, footwear, accessories, surfboards, and bodyboards.

Get the newest AB Surf Shop items by going to AB Surf Shop in Atlantic Beach!

Other Things to Do Nearby

Watch Fish Play at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

Jellyfish at Pine Knoll Shores NC Aquarium
Winding Path Arts / Shutterstock.com

The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is just 10 minutes away from Atlantic Beach.

This vast aquarium site is a really fun place to visit, where you can learn about a variety of fishes and look at them.

They even have a shipwreck, fashioned and modeled based on a real wreck, which you can explore.

Octopus swimming amidst the corals at North Carolina Aquarium, Pine Knoll Shores
why forget photo / Shutterstock.com

Get your kids to learn and unleash that inner pirate.

It's a colorful and wonderful sight with thousands of aquatic animals on display.

River otters are also kept in a special enclosed area.

Some of the rare species that you can look at here include sea turtles and stingrays.

Baby shark in the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
why forget photo / Shutterstock.com

Nurturing of tortoises is also carried out here, and you can actually watch loggerhead sea turtle eggs hatch and see cute hatchlings flip about and reach the shores.

You'll also find a special play area called the Alice Hoffman Nature Trail, which has a treehouse, a climbing net, a swinging bridge, and even slides for your little kids to enjoy.

Tour the Beaufort Historic Site

Street view of Beaufort Historic site
User: (WT-shared) Haem85 at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you interested in exploring Atlantic Beach's neighboring areas?

Head to Beaufort Historic Site, which sits just 10 minutes away from the town.

Visit a variety of historically significant places like the old jail, the John C. Manson house, and more.

At this historic site, you can even take the double-decker bus tour, where you get to ride a classic 1967 English double-decker bus.

On the bus, they have narrators who continue giving you information and telling you stories from the past as you go about visiting.

Another great attraction is the apothecary shop and doctor's office, which has pharmaceutical and medicinal art pieces that were used during the olden times, dating as far back as 1857.

There are also three buildings on the historic building tour, wherein the staff dresses up in period costumes and guides you through the areas.

View Beautiful Exhibits at the North Carolina Maritime Museum

Signage of North Carolina Maritime Museum
karenfoleyphotography / Shutterstock.com

Located 10 minutes away from Atlantic Beach, the North Carolina Maritime Museum is found in the neighboring town of Beaufort.

The museum showcases its curators' excellent taste, and the exhibits feature historically meaningful and culturally significant showpieces.

Some larger exhibits include sailboats and motorboats.

A giant heart of a whale is also on display at this museum.

There are guided tours available that explain various things related to marine life, such as commercial fishing and a Fresnel lens.

Some of the species whose models are on display include sea monsters like dragons, sharks, and even mermaids.

Climb to the Top of the Lighthouse at Cape Lookout National Seashore

Lighthouse in Cape Lookout
Moonborne / Shutterstock.com

Two hours away from Atlantic Beach, Cape Lookout National Seashore has everything that you can ask for, all in one place.

The best activity you can enjoy here is climbing the tall and massive Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

It's really fun making your way to the top, and the view from up there is beautiful.

You can see the vast expanse of the turquoise blue waves as they hit the shores.

Pelicans resting in Cape Lookout National Seashore
Warren Price Photography / Shutterstock.com

Carry along that DSLR and click some really beautiful photographs for your Instagram.

Besides this, you can also enjoy various other activities, like fishing, boating, camping, horse watching, and shelling.

Historic villages are also located nearby, where you can take a slight detour.

Bird's eye view of Cape Lookout National Seashore
Ryan McGurl / Shutterstock.com

For avid bird lovers, birdwatching is a lovely activity to enjoy here, since as many as 250 types of different species visit the seashore from time to time.

Most of them are endemic and can only be witnessed rarely.

If you're planning to camp at one of the beaches, please keep in mind that the place is remote, so carry along food, water, and other necessities that you might need, including trash bags.

Observe Wild Horses at the Rachel Carson Reserve

Wild horse on Rachel Carson Reserve
Dennis W Donohue / Shutterstock.com

Originally brought here in the 1940s, the horses started thriving in the Rachel Carson Reserve's marshes and have become one of the major tourist attractions in Beaufort.

Tourists flock to this area to observe the beautiful horses in their wild and natural habitat.

Maintain safe distances when you visit them since they're untrained.

Moreover, to visit the reserve, you can only take a private boat or a passenger ferry.

So, have fun as you bob on the boat to visit this place.

Motorboats are also available.

Alternatively, you can also opt for canoes or kayaks.

Narrow trail covered with grasses on both the sides at Rachel Carson Reserve
ThePhotoFab / Shutterstock.com

Regulated hunting is a sport that can be enjoyed at the Rachel Carson Reserve.

Other than this, the marshes host a variety of natural vegetation and wildlife.

You can observe many plant species, including submerged aquatic vegetation, ocean beaches, and even a maritime forest.

Birdwatching is another hobby that everyone loves, and there are as many as 200 species to look at in this migratory flyway.

A seagull walking on the shore at Rachel Carson Reserve
The Old Major / Shutterstock.com

Plovers are also abundant here since there is an important feeding site in the estuaries.

Some of the creatures that you can spot here include river otters, marsh rabbits, raccoons, and gray foxes.

Make sure that you dedicate an entire day trip to this reserve since it's huge and there are many activities that you can cover.

Visit the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center

Essentially a heritage center, the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center showcases various artifacts from the mid-18th century that were used in the hunting of waterfowl.

Carving was a traditional art and was widely employed by many locals like fishermen and hunting guides.

The museum exhibits various carvings and styles from those days in a variety of collections.

There are really beautiful artifacts on display including those of swans, geese, and various other birds.

The Gathering Room is also very pretty and well-maintained and is filled with various artifacts related to hunting.

In the library, you can find a variety of books on various themes like birdwatching, hunting, waterfowl, commercial fishing, folklore, and community life, among others.

Aesthetic art pieces and decoys are also displayed all around.

So, you can just sit and rest in one of the armchairs with a book in hand or look around and absorb the culture.

Go Paddling at Cedar Island Bay or Whitehurst Creek

Are you interested in taking a refreshing day trip outside of Atlantic Beach?

Choose between Cedar Island Bay and Whitehurst Creek and go on a paddling adventure.

At Cedar Island Bay, you can choose from two locations to start your paddling journey: the Driftwood Campground or the Lola Road Boat Ramp.

As you go about paddling, look around at the various marshlands that house many marine creatures and birds.

You can also look at some of the semi-feral cattle that graze along the grasses in the area.

Cedar Island Bay is located 50 minutes outside Atlantic Beach.

At Whitehurst Creek, you can explore a variety of marine birds like egrets, shorebirds, seagulls, pelicans, and herons.

It begins from the straits landing boat ramp and then extends to the east side.

If you visit during the winter, you can gaze at the common bird species like ducks.

Whitehurst Creek is just 30 minutes away from Atlantic Beach.

Exercise Your Mind at Game On Escape Rooms

Escape rooms are always a great way to bond with family or friends and enhance the team spirit among yourselves.

Game On Escape Rooms is a premium escape room in Morehead City, just five minutes away from Atlantic Beach.

Breaking out of one of their escape rooms is one of the top-rated activities tourists can enjoy when vacationing in Atlantic Beach.

The doctor's lab room is best-loved by visitors and is very challenging.

This is an especially fun and interactive experience for kids.

There are many other themes to choose from.

Final Thoughts

Atlantic Beach offers a variety of culinary options for everyone.

From traditional American diners selling comfort food to fancy places serving the greatest seafood and everything in between.

It is well-known for its many public beaches, and welcoming residents strikes a balance between the requirements of its residents, tourists, businesses, and the fragile coastal environment.

Bicycles, surfboards, beachwear, wines, spices, antiques, artisan jewelry, and luxury brands are all available in local shops.

Make good use of the checklist of the best things to do in Atlantic Beach!