North Carolina is very much a no-brainer when it comes to vacation on the southeastern coast of the U.S. Glistening blue waters, pristine sandy beaches, and plenty of nightlife and vacation rentals have made it much more of a destination over the last few years. There's one beachside destination, in particular, that's not quite Myrtle Beach nor is it the remote shores of Ocracoke, or even the charming, antique streets of Charleston. Emerald Isle is roughly two and a half hours from Raleigh and while it's not as well known as the others, there's plenty to do, see, and explore here for just about everyone.


Related: Reasons To Fall In Love With South Carolina

With vacation rentals on the rise, everyone is trying to find that one place that won't be overcome by tourists. And while much of North Carolina is a beach lover's haven for the summer months, Emerald Island is still secluded enough to make for a quiet beach getaway. It's further east than most southern tourist destinations and sits just off the mainland, but if you need any more reason to visit this gorgeous island, here are some of its winning attributes.

The Beaches Are Unique And There's No Shortage Of Scenery

While Emerald Isle is an island, its unique location makes it one of the most interesting places on the Crystal Coast to explore. Thanks to its positioning along the Gulf Coast, its waters are a brilliant turquoise hence its name, Emerald Isle. The outer part of the island is nothing but beach, with sandy shores running from one end to the other and meeting at the end of the island, appropriately known as The Point.

The Point gives way to a stunning white sand beach and a small inlet called the Bank Channel, which flows into the beach from the opposite side of the island. Any house rental along this end of the island would provide gorgeous sunsets, incredibly easy (walking) access to the beach, and a quiet atmosphere thanks to its residential nature.

Boutique Shops And Dining Options Galore

For those interested in more than the beach, they'll want to head toward the middle of Emerald Isle where the main shops are located.

Emerald Drive, which turns left after crossing the bridge to get to Emerald Isle from the mainland, gives way to a variety of boutique shops, antique stores, and a plethora of dining options, many with the freshest local seafood around. Many of these shops are unique and diverse, offering classic beachy gift options along with local wares and one-of-a-kind Emerald Isle items.

The Eastern Half Of Emerald Isle

As visitors move east on Emerald Isle, they cross Indian Beach, Salter Path, Pine Knoll Shores, and eventually get to Atlantic Beach and Fort Macon State Park.

This is the perfect place for nature lovers who love to hike on vacation or take in the local wildlife, and it's also a great spot to set up on the park's beach for the day. This is also where visitors can find much of the island's history, some of which include the notorious pirate Blackbeard who was rumored to live on the Crystal Coast.

Each beach community on Emerald Isle has its own history and stories to accompany them so, as you make your way down the island, it's worth it to make some stops and get to know the local lore. Many of these communities are also home to museums and art galleries so if that's something you're interested in, you'll have plenty to choose from.

Easy Beach Rentals

Emerald Isle is somewhat of a haven for beach rentals and some of the best ones feature incredible views of both the inlet and the ocean. Thanks to all of the diverse communities along this island, there's no shortage of options when it comes to finding the right town and nearby activities. For those who really enjoy the water and all of the recreational activities that come with it, it's easy enough to find a house inland that's close to rivers and creeks, perfect for slow exploration of nearby marshlands. Both kayaking and canoeing are popular activities on Emerald Isle and, sometimes, this is the best way to take in all of the nature around you.

For those who wish to be near shops, sticking close to Emerald Drive (and, conveniently, Crystal Coast Welcome Center) is a great way to still be within driving distance of the beach but within walking distance of shops. For nature lovers, finding a rental near Blue Heron Park or on the opposite end of the island by Fort Macon State Park will be nothing short of a dream.

Next: Virginia Beach: Everything You Can Do On The East Coast's Lesser-Known Boardwalk