Fort Macon State Park (Interesting Facts and 7+ Things to Do!)

Last Updated on June 6, 2022

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Fort Macon State Park might be one of North Carolina‘s smallest state parks (424 acres), but it is typically among our most visited. That’s primarily because of its beautiful location on Bogue Banks, near Atlantic Beach and Morehead City.

Of course, there’s also the interesting and important history both preserved and restored here. If you plan to visit Fort Macon State Park, you can learn all about it while touring the fort, exploring the park’s nature trails, or kicking back on the beach.

Our guide digs deeper into all of the above and more things to do at Fort Macon State Park. Whether you’ve come to learn something or enjoy the outdoors, we think this guide will prepare you for a wonderful adventure in Eastern North Carolina.

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do in North Carolina

Where is Fort Macon State Park?

Address: 2303 E. Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, NC 28512

First, we’ll share how you can find this wonderful attraction and its history.

  • Fort Macon State Park is located in Carteret County, a coastal county in Eastern North Carolina.
  • The park lies on the eastern end of Bogue Banks, across Bogue Sound from the mainland.
  • Fort Macon is surrounded by water on three sides and borders the Town of Atlantic Beach to the west. Emerald Isle on the western end of Bogue Banks is about 25 minutes away by car.
  • Morehead City is less than a 10-minute drive away and Beaufort is 15 minutes away from Fort Macon State Park.

Read More: Eastern North Carolina Map (with 300+ Amazing Places Listed)

More Fort Macon State Park Facts

Fort Macon State Park
  • Beaufort Inlet borders Fort Macon State Park’s eastern shores.
  • Over the centuries, the harbor has been targeted by pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard.
  • While he died near Springer’s Point on Ocracoke Island in November 1718, Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s infamous ship, ran aground at Beaufort Inlet in June 1718.
  • In 1747, Spanish raiders attacked English colonists in Beaufort, holding the town for several days.
  • Later in 1782, the town was taken back by the British.
  • The Spanish attack indicated a need for some type of defense system, thus leading to the construction of a fort in 1756.
  • This fort was never completed, and Beaufort Inlet remained defenseless until 1808 when another fort, Fort Hampton, was built.
  • Fort Hampton is located about 300 yards east of the current Fort Macon, for which construction began in 1826 after Fort Hampton was abandoned and flooded by 1825.
  • Fort Macon was named for the 19th-century politician Nathaniel Macon, who funded construction.
Fort Macon outside
  • Fort Macon played a key role in the Civil War. Confederates took the fort at the start of the war, but Union forces reclaimed it in 1862.
  • The Union then used the fort as a coaling station for Union Navy ships.
  • After the Civil War, Fort Macon was garrisoned twice more; once during the Spanish-American War and World War II.
  • North Carolina purchased Fort Macon in 1924, making it the second state park (after Mount Mitchell) in the new state park system.
  • Between 1934 and 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps restored Fort Macon.
  • During World War II, Fort Macon was garrisoned but was returned to the state in 1946.
  • The wreck of Queen Anne’s Revenge was discovered in 1996, about 1 mile off the shore of Fort Macon State Park.

Read More: 125+ Interesting Facts About North Carolina

How to Visit Fort Macon State Park Today

Fort Macon State Park is open daily except for Christmas Day. Here are hours for the fort itself and other areas within the park:

  • Fort: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Fort Area
    • November to February: 8:00 to 6:00 pm
    • March to May and September to October: 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
    • June to August: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Bathhouse Area
    • November to February: 8:00 am to 5:30 pm
    • March to May and September to October: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
    • June to August: 8:00 am to 9:00 pm
  • Lifeguards
    • Memorial Day to Labor Day: 10:00 am to 5:45 pm

Things to Do

There are plenty of things to do at Fort Macon State Park, including the visitor center, the fort itself, and more!

The Fort

Fort Macon outside wall

Fort Macon was built in 1826 and was restored between 1934 and 1935. The five-sided fort is the focal point of the park and is on the eastern edge of the park near Beaufort Inlet.

The fort features military architecture such as powder magazines, counterfire rooms, and a wide moat protecting the stronghold. It’s made from solid brick and contains 26 vaulter rooms that are surrounded by 4.5-feet thick outer walls.

There are also historic reenactments in the inner court.

You can explore the fort on your own or through one of the many guided tours available. Tours occur most days at 11:00 AM and meet at the Fort entrance. See the exact tour dates here.

Visitor Center

When you first arrive, stop by the visitor center for a printed guide to lead you through the fort.

The visitor center offers info about the fort and its surroundings as well as the Coastal Education Center and gift shop for you to grab a souvenir.

The Coastal Education Center has a large exhibit hall containing a treasure trove of information about the park’s natural ecology, biology, and history. They have regular interpretive programs for you to come learn more about the park.

Museum Exhibits

Fort Macon interior

The Museum familiarizes you with different chapters of the fort’s life. Exhibits touch upon the daily lives of the soldiers stationed at Fort Macon.

Fort Macon

You can explore the restored soldier barracks, video theater, and kitchen reconstructions. Additional exhibits include weaponry, photography, and murals of battles.

Fort Macon museum

For a complete breakdown and representation of Fort Macon’s storied past, the Museum is the best place to spend your time.

The Beach

Fort Macon beach

Fort Macon has a nice beach and swimming area, too.

The protected swimming area is one of the more popular spots here, especially on warm sunny days. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, there are lifeguards on duty and refreshments stand to ensure a good time.

No matter when you plan to visit, please leave no trace and pack out what you packed in!

Read More: 10 Amazing Beaches Near Wilmington (Which One is the Best?)

Fishing

There is also an abundance of fish and fishing spots in the inlet throughout the year.

Each season brings different fish to catch; spring and summer feature flounder and bluefish while sea mullet and gray trout return to the waters in fall. Winter is a little slow, but determined fishermen can find speckled trout and redfish.

Nature Trails

Fort Macon beaufort inlet

Fort Macon State Park boasts miles of coastal trails for hiking.

  • The Beach Trail: As the name suggests, the Beach Trail follows the length of the inlet’s beach. It’s 1.5 miles one-way and a relatively leisurely and beautiful walk.
  • The Elliot Coues Nature Trail: This trail spans 3.2 miles roundtrip through the marsh, forest, and dunes. It connects the Fort and Swimming area and is accessible through both parking lots.
  • Yarrow’s Loop: This is the shortest of all Fort Macon State Park’s hikes at a 0.25-mile roundtrip. It begins and ends at the Fort parking lot. The loop offers informational exhibits that describe plants and animals within the park.

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Picnicking

The park grounds are a great place to sit for a relaxing picnic surrounded by lulling waves and nature.

Picnic amenities include picnic tables, shelters, water, and outdoor grills commonly used to cook freshly caught fish.

Special Events

Fort Macon events

In addition to Fort tours, Fort Macon State Park hosts regular special events throughout the year.

Here are a few examples:

  • The Small Arms Demonstration on Wednesdays, an informative program about small weaponry that a soldier stationed at Fort Macon would use, such as muskets or rifles. The event also features a blank firing demonstration.
  • Typically, the park also conducts the annual two-day Civil War Reenactment comemmorating the Battle of Fort Macon. Hundreds of participants and spectators gather to relive history.
  • The World War 2 Living History Weekend is packed with presentations and demonstrations, including a display of WW2 vehicles and weaponry in the parking lot.

We Love Fort Macon State Park!

Fort Macon fort wall

Another reason we love Fort Macon State Park is for the hundreds of bird species that reside here. If you’re lucky, you can also spot dolphins swimming near the shore before they move elsewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

This is truly one special park and we hope you’re able to get out and explore it soon! If you’re familiar with Fort Macon State Park, we’d love to know about your favorite things to do here.

Let us know in the comments or by email. Don’t forget to share your Fort Macon adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

Things To Do Near Fort Macon State Park

Fort Macon State Park is surrounded by tons of wonderful places. Wilmington is about 2 hours away and both New Bern and Jacksonville are within an hour’s drive.

Here are some places that are closer to the park, though:

Atlantic Beach

2 miles away (5 minutes)

Atlantis Lodge NC boardwalk to beach

Atlantic Beach is one of our favorite beaches in North Carolina. Our favorite place to stay there is Atlantis Lodge, a vintage and local-owned hotel with private beach access.

Great places to eat include The Shark Shack and Amos Mosquito’s. Don’t forget about Crystal Coast Brewing, an amazing NC beermaker with a taproom in Atlantic Beach!

Morehead City

4 miles away (10 minutes)

NC Coastal Towns Morehead City Waterfront

The adorable coastal town of Morehead City is known for quite a few things, including scuba-diving and the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. If you’re in town during that epic week-long event, we guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun watching the boats, weigh-ins, and other festivities!

Meals at the Sanitary Fish Market and El’s Drive-In are two things we highly recommend.

Beaufort

9 miles away (15 minutes)

Beaufort NC Waterfront view from Moonrakers
View of the Beaufort Waterfront from Moonrakers.

Beaufort is a wonderful small town past Morehead City on US-70. It’s another one of our favorites to escape the bustle of everyday life.

There’s quite a bit to do here, including strolls along the waterfront, meals at Beaufort Grocery Co and Moonrakers, and a visit to the Rachel Carson Reserve. You can see the wild horses of the reserve from the mainland, but we think you should hire a boat and get a closer look!

Read More: How to See Outer Banks Wild Horses (Tour Info, History, and More!)

Emerald Isle

14 miles away (25 minutes)

Big Oak Drive In Atlantic Beach

One of the most popular beaches in North Carolina is Emerald Isle. This place is quite worthy of its hype. Enjoy the clear beaches and eat delicious food from Big Oak Drive-In & Bar-B-Q.

Here are a couple of places to keep an eye out for between Fort Macon State Park and Emerald Isle:

  • NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
  • The Crab Shack (Salter Path)

These are a few of the best places to visit along the Crystal Coast, an 85-mile stretch of beaches that make up the Southern Outer Banks. Here are some more travel guides to this area including Fort Macon State Park!

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