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Emerald Isle is a small-town beach retreat. It offers beautiful sand-dune-covered beaches beribboned with leaning wooden fences and a quaint village of cottages and low-key seafood joints. A big day here involves a leisurely kayaking trip followed by a stop at the local ice cream shop, where you can sit in one of the several brightly colored rocking chairs lined up outside. Emerald Isle is one of a network of Outer Banks barrier islands, which intersects with North Carolina’s Crystal Coast — an 85-mile stretch of pristine coastline that has long attracted those seeking a refuge from the demands of daily life.
Albert J. Ellis Airport (OAJ) in Jacksonville and Coastal Carolina Regional Airport (EWN) in New Bern receive limited flights and are both about 45 miles from Emerald Isle. The closest major airport is the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), which is 160 miles away. Emerald Isle is extremely walkable and bikeable, but you will probably want a rental car to explore such nearby towns as Atlantic Beach.
April through June in Emerald Isle is warm and sunny, with temperatures in the low 70s to mid-80 degrees Fahrenheit. July through September grows hotter, with temperatures in the mid- to high 80s, and October through March cools down considerably, with temperatures in the high 50s to mid 60s, with forays into the 40s. Emerald Isle is prone to rain year round, so pack an umbrella no matter the season.
Emerald Isle is home to 12 miles of sandy beaches, but locals and visitors alike tend to agree that the Point is the prettiest. Located on the westernmost tip of the island, this expansive, undeveloped strand offers unobstructed ocean and sunset views. To access this beach, you’ll have to nab one of the limited number of spots in nearby Station Street Park, then walk about a quarter mile. The sense of isolation is part of the Point’s appeal, but it also means there are no restrooms or shops nearby, so plan accordingly.
A stroll down the 1,000-foot Bogue Inlet Pier is a great way to take in ocean views, watch surfers playing in the waves below, or partake in one of Emerald Isle’s big draws: fishing. Every year people line up along the pier to cast off and try to snag trout, mackerel, and tuna — or even blowfish or barracuda. You can buy day fishing passes and rent equipment at the pier. If you’d rather someone else catch your dinner, or you want to enjoy the ocean views with a drink in your hand, the pier’s bar and grill has got you covered.
Escape into the shady, forested environs of Emerald Isle Woods Park, bordered on the north by Bogue Sound. Its 41 acres are criss-crossed with walking trails, and a wooden boardwalk will lead you to a floating dock and kayak launch. This park is a favorite of birders, who come here to spot ospreys, egrets, woodpeckers, and other feathered locals. It also features a nine-hole disc golf course.