2020 Travel Guide: Atlantic Beach, NC | Nik Snacks

I followed my heart, and it led me to the beach – Unknown

I want to share an Atlantic Beach Travel Guide today (along with bonus stops along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina). What's the Crystal Coast, you ask? It's the southern part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

I didn't grow up in a beach-going, sun-worshipping family. Our vacations were usually visiting other family members around the country (and in the country) or international destinations. I do make a point to go to a North Carolina beach at least once a year, even if it's to dip my toes in the water to rejuvenate and reset my soul. There's a reason why people call it "Vitamin Sea".

2020 was my second time staying in Atlantic Beach but I've visited other Crystal Coast communities over the years. My first time was 20 years ago! Where Atlantic Beach is situated, it's got the Atlantic Ocean in the front and the Bogue Sound in the back. One of the best parts is the isle is only 20 miles from end to end.  
If you’re interested in visiting, read on for my favorite restaurants and things to do in Atlantic Beach and other points along the Crystal Coast!

A RENTAL: I love renting a house for a week whether it's summer or fall. You can come and go and you please, you can cook in the kitchen and have a safe space to make your own base camp during your vacation. I've rented through several different companies throughout the years: Bluewater Real Estate And Vacation Rentals AB is one of the best. You should also look at VRBO! There are hundreds of houses, condos and apartment properties that can suit you and your party's needs. We stayed at Bogue Shores in a quaint condo that sleeps 4, but is really meant for 2 and maybe 2 small children. A beautiful pool, outdoor grills, crystal clear views of the Bogue Sound and Intracoastal Waterway, a dock with 30+ boat slips and a 3-minute walk to the beach await you.

Ocean view from a balcony at the DoubleTree Atlantic Beach

A HOTEL: If you prefer room service and a daily sprucing of your quarters (or if there are no rentals available), then consider booking a room at one of these two oceanfront hotels, DoubleTree by Hilton Atlantic Beach Oceanfront and the Oceanana Family Motel. Both are located right next to the only two piers in Atlantic Beach in easy and convenient locations. The only downside is that, like a typical hotel, the rooms can be small. But they both have on-site restaurant dining options, offer breakfast every morning, and each boast multiple pool areas and a family-friendly atmosphere! And the DoubleTree is pet-friendly!

BEACH: The most obvious thing to do is to enjoy the beach! Atlantic Beach really is a magical place. It's clean, not overly crowded (so social distancing is not a problem) and those you do see are cordial and nice. We bring our own chairs, umbrellas and set up camp for hours at a time. Beach wagons are great for traversing the sand, but our little red wagon works just fine. We always pack snacks and drinks in a cooler; other times we’ll head back to the condo or hotel for a meal and a nap to take a break from the sun. Our trips always involve getting in as much beach time as possible.

BIKE: Head across the Atlantic Beach Causeway to Beaufort to rent bikes or plan a historical or culinary tour with Hungry Town Tours. Bikes and scooters are easy to rent anywhere on the Crystal Coast. Whether you bring your own or need to borrow one for a few hours, Beachside Bikes is one of the best reputable companies in the area and you can ride all over the island looking at the pretty houses!

PUTT PUTT: Visit the Atlantic Beach Skate Park which is a multiplex with an 18-hole mini golf course, BMX and skateboarding course (perfect for tweens, teens and anybody looking to show off some tricks), a splashpad, concession stand and public beach access.

YOGA What is better way to start your day than with sun salutations and downward facing dogs on the beach? Check out NC Coastal Life's schedule for yoga classes in Atlantic Beach and Beaufort. One of the most relaxing and beautiful sessions are the sunset yoga classes that are right on the beach. It’s $10 per class and you don’t even need a yoga mat, just bring your beach towel and you’re good to go.

FARMERS MARKET The Olde Beaufort Farmers Market runs on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm. Open April through November, the market welcomes well-behaved pets, has activities for the kids, 40+ vendors, a regularly scheduled food truck and live music and boasts something for everyone.

AQUARIUM (currently closed due to COVID-19) Get up close and personal to sea life at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. One of three aquariums run by the state, it's a great place to go on a rainy day or to enjoy air conditioning while learning about the natural areas surrounding the aquarium and animal care areas behind the scenes.

DEEP SEA FISHING Captain Stacy's Fishing Center is the place to go for half day, full day and overnight fishing charters. Prices include everything but the fish themselves: rods, reels, bait and tackle. Also, they keep your fish on ice while you are on the boat. There is food and beverages for purchase, but you can bring a cooler aboard if you prefer to bring your own snacks. If you're not into fishing and want to shop, there's a gift shop that is two floors of everything nautical and nice that you can bring home as souvenirs for all of your friends and family.

Big Oak Drive-In And BBQ Known for the best shrimpburgers on the Crystal Coast, you have to stop by for one of those or a barbecue sandwich. Have a car picnic in the parking lot or take it back to your lodgings, it's worth the drive to eat at this popular, iconic beach spot. Hushpuppies are only 85 cents and you could hula hoop using the onion rings here. DON'T SLEEP on their crabcake sandwich. Served on a soft bun with creamy coleslaw, it was probably the best surprise of our time here.
Click here to read about Big Oak and some other barbecue joints in NC.

Dank Burrito – Morehead City If you're looking for something fresh, modern and something for everyone, head here. What started as a food truck is now one of the most creative spots on the coast. Burritos, tacos, rice bowls all come with side of chips and your choice of salsa: pico, hot pico, cucumber jalapeno (my faaaavorite), salsa verde, black bean and corn. Also, it's owned by my friend Clarke Merrell and his wife, Liza.

El's Drive In Home of the Superburger, it's another popular drive-in spot that is a must-eat when you're visiting the Crystal Coast. Watch out for the dozens of seagulls that hangout in the parking lot, hovering and waiting for you to open your window so they can swoop in and take your food.

Full Moon Oyster Bar & Seafood Kitchen The original location is near me in Clemmons, NC so it's a treat to see a hometown favorite right by the beach. You can't miss it, as it's right off the Atlantic Beach Causeway! Spring for the Full Moon steamer bucket which comes with steamed potatoes, coleslaw, crab legs, shrimp, scallops, clams and oysters! Enough for two! You have to eat here if you like seafood – then stop at Captain Stacy’s across the street to go shopping – they have a HUGE selection of trinkets, jewelry, decor and gifts. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s so much fun to peruse!

Michaelangelo’s Pizza – Atlantic Beach I promised my boyfriend he could have pizza for his birthday dinner and Michaelangelo's delivered! Literally! NY Style pizza, garlic knots, fresh salads (just get the chef salad, it's better) subs and pastas are all good!

Wanna pizza me? A fresh pie from Michaelangelo's

Pescara Wood Oven Kitchen (closed for the season due to COVID-19) This is one of the nicer restaurants in Atlantic Beach. It's a bit pricier than many of the surrounding restaurants but 100% worth it! The menu features traditional Italian fare with NC seafood flare—including a wood-fired oven for the best pizzas on the coast—as well as produce and seafood sourced from local farmers and fishermen. They have amazing small plates, a banging wine list and my friend Creighton McNeil is the chef/owner here.

Prime 1079 Located in the DoubleTree in Atlantic Beach, the steaks, chops and crabcakes are the best.

Rucker Johns We ate here for dinner on my 37th birthday. I'll always remember that movie, To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday because it was set at the beach and I got to spend mine there too. Also the food here is good, made fresh-to-order. It's a casual, family-friendly atmosphere in a shopping center. They serve these flaky, honey-butter croissants and it is a feat not to eat 5 baskets before the food comes.

This year it felt like it was the first time I ever went on vacation–and it’s been one of the only times where I’ve truly been able to relax. I got to shed my skin, get a little bronzed and rejuvenate my heart and my soul on the beach; It feels like such a safe, happy place that I'm ABSOLUTELY LIVING to return to very soon (hopefully before the year ends).

Let me know if you’ve ever been to Atlantic Beach and if you have any favorites! I’d also love to know if you’re planning a trip there in the future – it’s my NEW favorite beach now!<

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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  1. thanks You Very Much ...... https://pictuscatfish.com/crystal-red-shrimp/


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