Cape Carteret Travel Guide

Discover the best places to visit, things to do, and where to stay in Cape Carteret, North Carolina, in this comprehensive travel guide.

Introduction to Cape Carteret

Cape Carteret is a small town located in the Crystal Coast, in the North Carolina Coastal Plain, in the southern region of the United States. Its ideal location between the Bogue Sound and the Croatan National Forest makes it a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure and natural beauty.

With its rich history, stunning scenery, and endless recreational opportunities, Cape Carteret is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. This comprehensive travel guide will provide everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip to this charming coastal town.

List of Places to Visit in Cape Carteret

Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences or just some relaxation, Cape Carteret has something for everyone. Here is a list of the must-visit places in Cape Carteret:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • The History Place: This museum tells the story of Carteret County and the surrounding areas through interesting and interactive exhibits.

  • Fort Macon State Park: This historic fort dates back to the 19th century and played an important role in the Civil War. Visitors can explore the fort and learn about its rich history through guided tours and educational programs.

  • North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores: This popular attraction showcases the diverse marine life of the region with exhibits that highlight freshwater rivers, saltwater marshes, and deep ocean reefs.

Natural Attractions of Cape Carteret: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Emerald Isle Beach: This pristine beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. Visitors can also rent kayaks and paddleboards to explore the waters or go on a dolphin watching tour.

  • Croatan National Forest: Covering over 160,000 acres, the Croatan National Forest offers countless opportunities for outdoor activities including camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting.

  • Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier: This pier is a great spot for fishing, crabbing, or simply enjoying the panoramic views of the ocean.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Cape Carteret

The Croatan National Forest offers several hiking and biking trails that showcase the natural beauty of the region. The Cedar Point Tideland Trail is a one-mile loop that passes through salt marshes, and provides a glimpse of the diverse wildlife in the area. Another popular trail is the Neusiok Trail, a 20-mile trail that winds through cypress swamps and pine forests.

Best Things to Do in Cape Carteret: Activities and Tours

  • Shackleford Banks Wild Horse and Shelling Safari: This unique tour takes visitors to the Shackleford Banks to witness the wild horses in their natural habitat.

  • Paddle NC: Visitors can rent kayaks and paddleboards to explore the waters of Bogue Sound and nearby islands.

  • Performing Arts Center: The Carteret Community Theater hosts concerts, plays, and other events throughout the year, showcasing local talent.

Week-Long Itinerary for Cape Carteret

Day 1: Explore the History Place and Fort Macon State Park

Day 2: Visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and spend the afternoon relaxing at Emerald Isle Beach

Day 3: Discover the beauty of the Croatan National Forest by hiking or biking on one of its many trails

Day 4: Go fishing or crabbing at the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier

Day 5: Take a Wild Horse and Shelling Safari to the Shackleford Banks

Day 6: Rent kayaks or paddleboards at Paddle NC

Day 7: Attend a concert or play at the Carteret Community Theater

Food and Drink Scene of Cape Carteret

The cuisine of Cape Carteret is heavily influenced by the abundance of seafood in the area. Here are some must-try dishes and local beverages:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Shrimp and grits: A classic Southern dish made with fresh shrimp and creamy grits

  • Clam chowder: A hearty soup made with fresh clams, potatoes, and cream

  • **Calabash-style seafood: **A local specialty that features lightly battered and deep-fried seafood including shrimp, oysters, and fish.

Local Beverages

  • North Carolina craft beer: Cape Carteret is home to several craft breweries including Crystal Coast Brewing, which offers a variety of local beers.

  • Sweet tea: A classic Southern beverage made with black tea, sugar and served over ice

  • Lemonade: This refreshing drink is perfect for a hot summer day.

Where to Stay in Cape Carteret: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Cape Carteret offers a variety of accommodation options to suit every budget and travel style. Here are some of the best places to stay in Cape Carteret:

  • Island Inn of Atlantic Beach: This budget-friendly hotel is located just minutes from the beach and offers comfortable rooms at an affordable price.

  • Hampton Inn & Suites Swansboro: This modern hotel provides easy access to nearby attractions and offers free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and parking.

  • Bogue Shores: This beachfront property features fully-equipped apartments with stunning ocean views and private balconies.

What to Buy in Cape Carteret: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Cape Carteret is known for its beautiful seashells, which can be found in abundance on its beaches. Other popular souvenirs include local crafts such as pottery and hand-woven baskets. For foodies, there are several local specialty shops selling homemade honey, jams, and pickled vegetables.

Local Culture and Customs of Cape Carteret

Cape Carteret has a rich cultural heritage that is heavily influenced by its coastal location and Southern roots. The locals are known for their hospitality and welcoming attitude towards visitors. Visitors are encouraged to experience the local customs such as attending the annual SeaFest festival, which celebrates the town’s maritime heritage.

Best Time to Visit Cape Carteret

The best time to visit Cape Carteret is during the spring and fall when the weather is mild and pleasant. Summers can be hot and humid, while winters can be chilly. However, there are still plenty of indoor activities to enjoy during the colder months.

Do’s and Don’ts of Cape Carteret


  • Enjoy the natural beauty of the area by hiking or biking in the Croatan National Forest

  • Try the local seafood, it’s some of the freshest in the country

  • Attend a local event or festival to experience the local culture


  • Leave trash on the beaches or in the parks

  • Disturb the local wildlife or pick any plants or flowers in the forest

  • Ignore posted safety warnings at the beaches or in the parks

Safety and Health

Safety in Cape Carteret

Cape Carteret is generally a safe destination, with low crime rates. However, visitors are advised to take the usual safety precautions such as locking their cars and securing their valuables.

Health in Cape Carteret

Visitors should be aware of the risks associated with spending time outdoors such as sunburn and insect bites. It’s recommended that visitors bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and other necessary medications.

Getting to Cape Carteret: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Cape Carteret

The nearest airports to Cape Carteret are:

  • Coastal Carolina Regional Airport (EWN): Located in New Bern, NC, approximately 44 miles from Cape Carteret.

  • Wilmington International Airport (ILM): Located in Wilmington, NC, approximately 95 miles from Cape Carteret.

Bus Stations Near Cape Carteret

  • Greyhound Bus Station: Located in Morehead City, NC, approximately 8 miles from Cape Carteret.

Other Options

Visitors can also rent a car or take a taxi from the airport to Cape Carteret

How to Get Around in Cape Carteret

The best way to get around Cape Carteret is by car. Visitors can rent a car at the airport or in nearby towns. Taxis and ride-sharing services are also available.

Where to Go Next from Cape Carteret: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Cape Carteret is located near several other popular destinations in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain region. Here are some nearby destinations and excursions:

  • Beaufort: Located approximately 12 miles from Cape Carteret, Beaufort is a charming coastal town known for its historic homes and waterfront restaurants.

  • Atlantic Beach: Located approximately 10 miles from Cape Carteret, Atlantic Beach is a popular summer destination with pristine beaches, waterfront restaurants, and a bustling nightlife.

  • New Bern: Located approximately 44 miles from Cape Carteret, New Bern is a charming town known for its rich history and beautiful waterfront.


Cape Carteret is a charming coastal town that offers something for everyone. From its beautiful beaches and natural attractions to its rich history and local culture, Cape Carteret is a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone seeking a relaxing coastal getaway. This comprehensive travel guide provides all the information visitors need to plan an unforgettable trip to this hidden gem of North Carolina’s Coastal Plain.