15 Best Things to Do in Swansboro, NC

Swansboro, NC
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Famed for its moniker as the "Friendly City by the Sea," Swansboro in North Carolina's Crystal Coast region is a hub of outdoor activities, family fun, and small-town Southern charm.

This town in Onslow County started as a settlement around the plantation owned by Theophilus Weeks, a British soldier.

Swansboro was officially incorporated in 1783 with a population of around 3,000.

As the town is located just minutes from world-renowned beaches, visitors can enjoy a variety of water sports, fishing, and beachcombing.

Nature lovers can explore the area's many parks and nature trails or take a leisurely walk through the historic downtown district.

Other popular attractions include the Hammocks Beach State Park, Arts by the Sea festival, and the Clyde Phillips Seafood Market.

With so much to see and do, Swansboro is the perfect destination for a fun-filled family vacation or romantic getaway.

Here are some of the best things to do in Swansboro, North Carolina:

Catch a Wave at Hammocks Beach State Park

Hammocks Beach State Park is a 1,611-acre oceanfront park located on Bear Island.

The waters along the coast are among the bluest, and the beaches are serene and quiet.

The island can be accessed by a private ferry or the state park's passenger ferry.

Once on the island, visitors can enjoy miles of unspoiled beaches, hiking trails, canoe, kayak rentals, and picnicking.

Wildlife-rich marshes, ponds, sandy dunes, and rugged dunes can all be found in Hammocks Beach State Park.

Visitors to Hammocks Beach State Park enjoy fishing, but remember that you need a fishing license for North Carolina.

You can play with the waves in the swimming area or relax and chill.

Picnics can also be enjoyed at the island's covered pavilions.

Take a Stroll through Historic Downtown Swansboro

Historic Downtown Swansboro is home to various shops, restaurants, galleries, and businesses.

Saunter down the tree-lined streets and relish Swansboro's small-town charm.

Popular stops at Historic Downtown Swansboro include Bicentennial Park, the Swansboro Museum, and the White Oak River Bistro.

Be sure to save some time to browse through the unique shops, such as TCandy Edventure, Poor Man's Hole, and Pogies Fishing and Kayaking Center.

For a bit of history, you take a self-guided tour of the downtown district to see some of the town's historic homes and buildings.

The Swansboro Area Chamber of Commerce also serves as the town's Visitors Center and can provide you with a walking tour map.

Catch a Sunrise at Riverview Park

If you love the sunrise, you'll want to head to Riverview Park.

This beautiful park sits on the White Oak River and offers panoramic views of the river and the surrounding marshes.

It features hundreds of feet of elevated boardwalks, with picnic shelters and covered observation shelters for those who want to take in the scenery.

Bring your camera to capture the stunning sunrises over the river.

The park also has a pier where you can cast your line and try your luck at fishing.

You can find Riverview Park along West Corbett Avenue.

Spend a Day on Bear Island

Marsh land in Bear Island
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Bear Island, a four-mile-long barrier island off the coast of Swansboro, is one of North Carolina's most stunning locations.

The island is only accessible through a private ferry or the Hammocks Beach State Park passenger ferry.

It is also home to Hammocks Beach State Park, which offers a variety of amenities and activities for visitors.

This is where loggerhead sea turtles nest and their eggs and hatchlings have to fend off numerous predators to make it to the ocean.

Originally named Bare Island because of the lack of vegetation and abundance of sandy dunes, the island was renamed Bear Island.

Discover the Town's Wonders at the Swansboro Area Heritage Center Museum

Situated on West Church Street, the Swansboro Area Heritage Center Museum is a must-see for history buffs.

The museum exhibits the history of Swansboro, Bear Island, and the surrounding area.

Exhibits include items on the town's maritime history, the shipbuilding industry, the Civil War, and much more.

The primary backdrop of the exhibit space is covered with a chronology depicting the history of the Swansboro area, titled Navigating Through Time.

From the spear tips and ceramic artifacts among the Native American and Colonial antiquities to Swansboro's maritime days and present-day history and information on the enduring celebration, the annual Mullet Festival.

Various storyboards, photographs, and artifacts help weave the tale of the Swansboro town.

Sample the Local Fare at Clyde Phillips Seafood Market

Clyde Phillips Seafood Market is a local favorite when it comes to seafood.

This market, located on East Corbett Avenue, offers a variety of fresh seafood, including shrimp, oysters, crabs, and fish.

In addition, some stalls serve prepared dishes like crab cakes, shrimp salads, and fish tacos.

If you're shopping for souvenirs, there are also vendors that sell T-shirts, hats, and other Swansboro-themed items.

Since 1954, residents have purchased seafood from Clyde Phillips Seafood Market, so you know they only offer the best of the best.

Watch the Sunset at the Swansboro Municipal Park

The beautiful Swansboro Municipal Park sits on the shores of the White Oak River.

This diverse 18-acre community park has entrances on Main Street Extension and Commerce Drive.

It includes a recreation center, multi-use fields, basketball and tennis courts, a fitness and nature trail, and a splash pad.

The Swansboro Municipal Park is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the river.

The park also has a boat ramp, so you can launch a kayak or canoe and explore the river.

Shop for Antiques at Poor Man's Hole

An antique shop on Front Street, Poor Man's Hole is the perfect place to find a unique souvenir or gift.

The store can seem like a museum of maritime history rather than a vintage shop, as there are numerous vintage and antique nautical items.

Additionally, you can find t-shirts, books, home goods, gifts, and furniture made by Speight Rhue.

You may even have the chance to talk to the store's owner, Joe Rhue, and learn about Swansboro's history as you shop.

You will find gifts for everyone at Poor Man's Hole.

Relax at Bicentennial Park

Bicentennial Park is a beautiful place to relax and take in the scenery.

It's also a popular wedding venue in Swansboro.

Surrounded by the White Oak River, the park is also adjacent to the main road, making it convenient for visitors to access.

Bicentennial Park is also an excellent spot for fishing, as it has a pier that extends into the river.

The park's boardwalk and brick walkways are also popular spots for wedding photography.

Although small, the park offers benches that look out over the water and is lit for nighttime fishing excursions.

It's an excellent place to stop if you want to see a stunning sunset or just spectacular scenery while traveling.

Soak up the Sun on Huggins Island

Kayaking in Huggins Island
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Huggins Island, a 211-acre expanse of dense maritime forest in Bogue Inlet, is located at the mouth of the White Oak River.

It is the longest and most challenging of the three indicated water routes in Hammocks Beach State Park.

A six-mile loop will be created if you paddle the entire distance around Huggins Island.

This trail is less beginner-friendly than the others due to its location at the river's mouth, even if it is still tranquil in calm weather.

It has many areas with exposed roots, branches, and submerged logs.

Along Huggins Island, tidal streams blend with more open water, and you will encounter more diverse landscapes, animals, and fishing opportunities.

Huggins Island significantly impacted the development of Swansboro and North Carolina.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth in Candy Edventure

Candy Edventure is a paradise for anyone with a sweet tooth.

The store on West Church Street is entirely dedicated to candy and offers a wide variety of sweets, including bulk candy, novelty candy, handmade chocolates, and more.

They also offer classes for those who want to make their candy.

You'll find many of your favorite childhood delights inside Candy Edventure, like a retro soda fountain counter, homemade fudge, ice cream, and popcorn.

Don't miss out on the ice cream nachos, a popular item on the menu.

Candy Edventure is the perfect place to take a break from sightseeing and satisfy your sweet tooth.

Join the Swansboro Mullet Festival

The Swansboro Mullet Festival, the oldest Crystal Coast festival, was first held in 1954.

Local mullet fishers organized a fish fry in 1954 to commemorate the city's completion of the new bridge.

The custom has expanded to include rides, games, a weekend of live music, artisans, and a down-home procession to open the event.

Natives of Swansboro can recall when mullets were brought to shore in nets attached to tractors along the beach.

Lots of food is served at the festival, including the state's official dish: fried mullet.

Other seafood favorites include hush puppies, clam chowder, and shrimp.

Arts and crafts vendors, live music, and entertainment are also available at this event.

The Swansboro Mullet Festival is held annually on the second weekend in October.

Discover the Wonders of Ward Shore Park

Ward Shore Park features a flat green area at the water's edge with panoramic views of the marsh and coastal breezes.

It sits at the shore of the Inter Coastal Waterway near historic downtown Swansboro.

This area can handle small to medium-sized gatherings, with room for chairs and tables and an ideal background for beautiful photographs.

Ward Shore Park is close to Downtown Swansboro and is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic, read a book, or go for a walk.

It's a fantastic location for relaxing and taking in views of Pelican Island.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Side Trip to Emerald Isle

View of the Milky way on the skies at Emerald Isle
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Emerald Isle, a family-friendly beach village, was incorporated in 1957 and had a year-round population of about 3,800 people; however, that number increases dramatically during the tourist season.

Formerly known as the barrier island of Bogue Banks, Emerald Isle is five miles away from Swansboro.

Waves crashing on the shores of Emerald Isle
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You can also enjoy the Emerald Isle beaches, some of the most beautiful in the state.

When you're done swimming, you can go fishing at the Bogue Inlet Pier or unwind in Blue Heron Park.

Emerald Isle also has many great restaurants, shops, and golf courses.

Sunset at Emerald Isle
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Bond with Your Kids at the Salty Pirate Water Park

Take the kids to Emerald Isle's Salty Pirate Waterpark, formerly known as Water Boggan of Emerald Isle, and spend the day there.

The Salty Pirate Water Park is terrific for spending quality time with the family and unwinding during those hot summer days.

You won't be intimidated by the size of this waterpark because it is family-owned and smaller than most others.

There is a charming cafe where you can eat and look out over the water park.

Due to the park's convenient location, you can easily access many other Emerald Isle attractions, and it features an arcade and snack bar.

This family-run water park offers a variety of wading pools, tubes, and water slides to keep kids of all ages entertained.

Final Thoughts

Swansboro is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state.

This coastal town offers something for everyone, whether you're looking for a place to relax or an adventure.

Swansboro offers several fantastic places to eat, stay, and have fun.

So, what are you waiting for?

Visit this town and enjoy all the best things to do in Swansboro, North Carolina!