As the days lengthen and the sun warms, many of us start daydreaming about the beach. We can’t wait for those gloriously unproductive days spent listening to the surf, walking the coast, casting a line or watching the sunset.
In 2013, more than 9.5 million travelers headed to North Carolina’s beaches, nearly 19 percent of the 52.5 million visitors to the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce. That number continues to rise each year.
Among North Carolina’s top destinations is the Crystal Coast — an 85-mile stretch of coastline that extends from the Cape Lookout National Seashore westward to the New River. In addition to the lighthouse at Cape Lookout, area attractions include wild horses on Shackleford Banks, the aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, Morehead City, historic Beaufort, Fort Macon, Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle.
Photographer Jonathan Fredin takes you on a visual tour of the area — to help tide you over until you can get to the beach yourself.
Samantha Mellone of New York discovers the view from the top of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is worth the 207-step climb. The lighthouse, which is only accessible by boat, is open for visitors to climb during the summer.
The Island Express Ferry Shuttle, the largest operating ferry service on the Crystal Coast, transports tourists from Harkers Island to Shackleford Banks.
Shackleford Banks horses, or “Banker ponies,” roam the southern-most barrier island in Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, home to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, is a 56-mile stretch of protected beaches that make up one of the few remaining natural barrier island chains in the world. Accessible only by boat, the coastal island is ideal for bird watching, shell collecting or climbing the lighthouse.
An angler soaks in the sun, sea and sand on Emerald Isle, the most prominent of the banks on the Crystal Coast and located at the western end of the Bogue Banks.
Left: After dining on fresh seafood, patrons can prepare their own s’mores at Amos Mosquito’s Restaurant and Bar in Atlantic Beach.
Right: Beaufort musical legend Drew Wright harmonizes with Billy Willis during a performance at The Barnacle Bar.
Fishing off the Oceanana Fishing Pier hooks a catch for everyone in the family.
Revelers gather for sunset, music and refreshments at The Barnacle, an Atlantic Beach bar at the end of the Oceanana Fishing Pier. The pier stretches nearly 1,000 feet into the ocean.
Visitors pedal through historic Beaufort on single speed, foot-brake beach cruisers during a Hungry Town Bike Tour. Beginning at the waterfront, cyclists stop at several restaurants to sample seafood, wine and other local delicacies.
A popular way to tour Beaufort’s Historic District is by sitting high aboard a vintage 1967 English double-decker bus while local narrators entertain with tales of Beaufort’s past.
Left: Sweet indulgence is a specialty attraction at The Spouter Inn Restaurant & Bakery in Beaufort. The waterfront restaurant bakes daily breads and desserts, including chocolate silk French pie, carrot cake and éclairs.
Right: A blue claw crab caught in Bogue Sound snaps at Taylor Newsome of Tallahassee, Fla., during the N.C. Aquarium outdoor adventure Sound Seafood: Catching Crabs and Clams.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores features 50 land and sea exhibits, including a 306,000-gallon tank.
The opportunity to see 11 life-sized, roaring, animatronic dinosaurs awaits visitors at the aquarium’s marsh boardwalk.
Bridgette Wright of Charlotte slogs through the mud while learning the art of harvesting crabs and clams and the importance of conserving coastal habitats at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
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