Last Updated on May 25, 2023
Last Updated on May 25, 2023
During our years of traveling North Carolina’s coast, we’ve fallen in love with its idyllic beaches, crystal-clear waters, and adorable beach towns. It can be difficult to pick just one NC beach to visit, but we’ll always recommend Atlantic Beach!
Atlantic Beach has multiple beach access points, unique hotels, amazing restaurants, and even a local brewery. After many summers and years of visiting, we created this guide to share the best things to do in Atlantic Beach NC.
Whether you’re traveling this summer or any other time of year, we are jealous and hopeful that you’ll enjoy yourself in Atlantic Beach. If you live in the area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we think this guide will help you, too!
Here’s how we’ve organized this guide:
- Where is Atlantic Beach?
- The Best Time to Visit
- Where to Stay in Atlantic Beach
- Annual Events
- Things to Do in Atlantic Beach This Weekend (and Most of the Year)
- Where to Eat in Atlantic Beach
- Things to Do Near Atlantic Beach (Aquarium, Emerald Isle, and More!)
You can skip ahead to any section or keep reading about how to find Atlantic Beach.
Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do In North Carolina (Your NC Bucket List)
Where is Atlantic Beach NC?
Atlantic Beach, North Carolina is in Carteret County, roughly halfway along the state’s east coast.
It is part of a collection of destinations known as the Crystal Coast. This stretch of barrier islands and coastal towns run from Cape Lookout National Seashore to Emerald Isle.
Atlantic Beach is one of five towns on the Bogue Banks barrier island. The others include:
- Emerald Isle
- Indian Beach
- Pine Knoll Shores
- Salter Path
Bogue Banks is separated from the mainland by the Bogue Sound. It’s reachable via the Atlantic Beach Bridge from Morehead City.
You can visually travel to Atlantic Beach using the following maps:
The Best Time to Visit Atlantic Beach NC
There’s no doubt that summer is the most popular time to visit Atlantic Beach, but we’ve also enjoyed vacations here in spring, fall, and winter. In fact, you’ll often find 70-degree days and beautiful sunshine even in December and January.
While the weather is great throughout much of the year, things could change. Tropical storms and hurricanes have landed at Atlantic Beach, so we recommend insuring your trip.
The weather is beautiful during much of the off-season, and you won’t run into minimum night requirements with accommodations.
During the summer, rental companies often require a 7 or 3-night minimum, but we have found that they are much more flexible during the offseason! Book a place to stay in Atlantic Beach then and enjoy fewer crowds, warm days, and salty air!
Some businesses and restaurants may not yet be open for the season, but plenty are still open year-round!
Where to Stay in Atlantic Beach NC
Atlantic Beach has several great options for where to stay. In addition to beach houses available for rent, some hotels and inns are open for business.
Address: 123 Salter Path Rd., Atlantic Beach, NC
One of our favorite places to stay is Atlantis Lodge, a vintage, 1960s beach hotel with a private beach. Construction began on the hotel’s first 12 units in 1962, and the Atlantis’s first guest checked in in 1963.
Since then, the Atlantis Lodge has welcomed thousands of guests to this gorgeous oceanside residence. Guests can enjoy the fully equipped private beach and a third-floor lounge that serves as your living room away from home.
Read More: 20 Amazing Hotels in North Carolina (+ Inns, Resorts, & Rentals)
Atlantic Beach Resort
Address: 715 W Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
Staying at Atlantic Beach Resort is an all-inclusive vacation. You won’t have to leave the premises to enjoy everything Atlantic Beach offers! The Resort faces the Atlantic Ocean and has beach access directly to the ocean.
The Resort rents multi-room condo-style units with full kitchens and porches. Onsite, there are outdoor and indoor swimming pools, an outdoor Jacuzzi, miniature golf, tennis, and volleyball courts, and so much more entertainment.
Seahawk Inn & Villas
Address: 105 Salter Path Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
Seahawk Inn is a cozy seaside hotel with spectacular ocean views and easy beach access. The building is painted a signature blue and yellow and features 38 rooms overlooking the ocean with balconies and patios.
Each room comes with a refrigerator, coffee maker, and WiFi.
There are also two Villas that can accommodate up to 12 people available to book on a weekly basis. These two-story properties have full kitchens, living rooms, and three full bedrooms and baths.
These are great for larger parties looking for a true beach vacation.
Address: 103 Salter Path Rd., Atlantic Beach, NC
The upscale and modern Windjammer Inn boasts sleek guest rooms with large private balconies for guests to take in the full beauty of the Atlantic Ocean and beaches.
Hotel guests enjoy private access to a heated pool and hot tub, beach service, a renovated lagoon with a waterfall, and free morning coffee.
Even though summer is the most popular time to visit Atlantic Beach, there’s plenty to do throughout the year. The town hosts fun annual events and festivals you can partake in during any season!
Here are some you should check out:
- Atlantic Beach International Food Festival (May): While this is only its second year, it has already garnered a glowing reputation. In addition to cuisine from all over the world, the festival features kite flying contests, sandcastle competitions, sports, food, and more.
- Atlantic Beach Beach Music Festival (May): The ninth annual Beach Music Festival starts at the Atlantic Beach boardwalk. Come out for a lively day of music and performances.
- Fourth of July Fireworks: Join the community for Fourth of July fireworks, music, and s’mores at the Atlantic Beach Circle.
- Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Tournament (October): This three-week tournament sees dozens of participants compete for thousand-dollar prizes to catch the most King Mackerel.
- Carolina Kite Festival (October): The free Kite Fest gathers kite flyers to enjoy this leisurely pastime. This October event meets on the beach, at the Sands Villa Resort in Atlantic Beach.
Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar
The Best Things to Do in Atlantic Beach This Weekend (and Most of the Year!)
Even if your visit doesn’t align with one of the aforementioned annual events, there are still many things to do at Atlantic Beach regardless of when you come!
You can’t come to Atlantic Beach and not hit the beach!
This oceanfront community boasts many public beach accesses, in case you need a place to park.
The most popular public beach is the Circle at Atlantic Beach (201 West Atlantic Blvd), located across the Atlantic Beach Causeway in the heart of the community. The Circle has 300 parking spots (paid in the summer), restrooms, showers, and picnic tables.
While the Circle has easy and convenient beach access, others are throughout Atlantic Beach. Some others you may be interested in are:
- The Bathhouse at Fort Macon State Park
- Fort Macon Inlet Access
- Fort Macon State Park
- The Les and Sally Moore Public Beach Access (177 New Bern St)
- Tom Doe Memorial Beach Access (Ocean Blvd)
The focal point of the Circle is the Atlantic Beach Boardwalk. While covering only a short stretch, the boardwalk is lined with many beach shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Relax on the benches and picnic tables and take in the beautiful views. Young children may also enjoy the nearby swing set just off the sand.
Read More: 22 Great Things to Do in Carolina Beach (and Nearby!)
Crystal Coast Brewing Company
Address: 219 West Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, NC
We’re big fans of Crystal Coast Brewing Company and think that if you’re in Atlantic Beach, you should definitely check it out.
Crystal Coast Brewing Company is a newer family-owned brewery that aims to provide locals and visitors with great beer and a lively atmosphere. Check out their taps and cans that you can take to the beach.
Read more: 80+ Tasty North Carolina Breweries (The Best of the Best!)
Fort Macon State Park
Address: 2303 E Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
Fort Macon State Park might be one of the smallest state parks at only 424 acres, but it’s still one of the most visited! Its high level of traffic can be attributed to its beautiful location just northeast of Atlantic Beach.
The state park is centered around the restored Fort Macon, pivotal in the Civil War. The Confederates took the fort at the start of the war, but Union forces regained it in 1862.
Visitors to Fort Macon State Park can explore the fort, browse the visitor center and museum, relax on the beach, or walk on the nature trails that wind through the park.
It’s one of our favorite places to spend an afternoon!
Read More: Fort Fisher State Historic Site (20+ Facts and How to Visit)
Oceanana Fishing Pier
Address: 700 E Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
The Oceanana Pier is one of the most recognizable structures in Atlantic Beach, stretching almost 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. This is a prime spot for fishing on the Crystal Coast.
Different species swarm the waters each season, making it a fisherman’s dream.
This pier isn’t just good for fishing; it also features panoramic ocean views. You’ll see just as many people simply strolling the pier taking in the sights as you will see fishing!
And, the Pier House Restaurant makes it so you can spend the whole day at the Oceanana Pier! The Restaurant serves oceanfront breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
More Fishing at Atlantic Beach
One of the absolute best things to do at Atlantic Beach is to reel in your next catch. Whether you’re surf fishing on the beach, fishing from the pier, taking your own boat, or hiring a charter, you have a change to bring something big home.
Atlantic Beach Boat Ramps
If you’ve brought your own boat, these boat ramps will help you get out on the water:
- Moonlight Drive Ramp
- Pelican Drive Dock
- West Bogue Sound Drive Ramp (No parking)
- Bridge Abutment Parking Facility
Atlantic Beach Fishing Charters
If you’re seeking a fishing charter in Atlantic Beach, here are some local operators who’d be happy to take you out for a half day or longer:
- Atlantis Charters (252-728-6244)
- Breakday Charters (252-732-0990)
- Cape Crusader Charters (252-342-1513)
- Capt. Joe Shute’s Charters (252-222-0670)
- Captain Bates Guide Service (252-888-4868)
- Captain Stacy Fishing Center (800-533-9417)
- Chasin’ Tails Outdoors Charters (252-240-3474)
- Crystal Coast Adventures (919-414-2452)
- Family Time Fishing Charters (336-345-7369)
- Fin-S Charters (252-241-3590)
- Fish Finder Charters (252-240-2744)
- Mount Maker Charters (252-342-0464)
- Pelagic Sport Fishing Charters (252-904-3361)
- Reelax Fishing Charters (252-721-3041)
- Salty Dog Charters (252-917-0445)
We try our best to keep up with website links and phone numbers. However, if you find one or more of these listings are incorrect, please kindly let us know by email.
Read More: How to Explore the NC Oyster Trail (10+ Adventurous Ways!)
Renting a boat and getting on the water for a day is one of the best activities in Atlantic Beach.
AB Watersport (612 Atlantic Beach Causeway, Atlantic Beach, NC) is fully equipped to meet all your water sports needs!
You can rent boats, kayaks, canoes, paddle boats for full or half days, and jet skis hourly. They also offer guided jet ski tours that’ll take you to the most popular islands and secret spots.
More Attractions in Atlantic Beach
Beyond the best things to do in Atlantic Beach, there are even more attractions to enjoy!
- AB Loops Walk Paths and Bike Paths
- Atlantic Beach Skatepark
- Atlantic Beach Town Park
- Atlantic Beach Watersport
- Battle Works Laser Tag
- Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail
AB Loops Walk Paths and Bike Paths
For a different perspective on this charming beach community, we recommend exploring by bike! There are some nice paths along the main road known as AB Loops.
I’ve followed them from our place at the western end all the way to Fort Macon!
If you didn’t bring your bike or your rental doesn’t have any, Beachside Bikes is a great local business that rents bikes and scooters in half-day, day, or weekly increments.
Atlantic Beach Skatepark
Address: 915 W Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
Enjoy unique, kid-friendly entertainment at the Atlantic Beach Skatepark. The Skatepark is the only one like it in the region and one of the largest in Eastern North Carolina.
It is designed to be suitable for all skill levels, so kids of all ages can come try their hand at skating the bowl.
Atlantic Beach Town Park
Address: 915 W Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
Surrounding the skatepark is Atlantic Beach Town Park. This place is free-to-use, with a playground, basketball court, picnic shelters, and more. Starting in May, an 18-hole mini golf course opens and is just $5 per person to play.
During the season, the park’s Splashpad is open 7 days a week and is a great place to let your little ones cool off. A concession stand is also open during the season if you’d like to grab a drink and a quick bite.
Battle Works Laser Tag
Address: 1010 West Fort Macon Road, Suite 10, Atlantic Beach, NC
Battle Works is the most immersive gaming experience on the Crystal Coast. Its laser tag isn’t your typical plastic lasers in a glow-in-the-dark arena; it’s a video game-like experience that they call simply “Tactical Laser Tag.”
Walk-ins are welcome to engage in an enticing game of laser tag equipped with full body light, sound effects, and more. This place is great for families and groups of friends looking for a fun afternoon.
Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail
While the ocean is the go-to Atlantic Beach attraction, the community also has a beautiful nature preserve.
The Hoop Pole Creek Nature Preserve is a 31-acre area of maritime forest with ancient trees and marshes. The mile-long Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail mostly consists of a handicapped-accessible boardwalk surrounded by lush trees.
The entrance is next to the Atlantic Station Shopping Center (1010 W Fort Macon Rd), marked by a subtle sign.
Read More: 100+ of the Best Hiking Trails in North Carolina
Where to Eat in Atlantic Beach
Of course, your stomach will ask for a delicious dinner in the sand or the ocean after all that time. Atlantic Beach is home to some great seafood options, but there’s a diverse mix of restaurants beyond that!
In the summer, restaurants get very crowded, and few take reservations. You may be interested in eating outside peak lunch or dinner to avoid waiting.
4 Corners Diner
Address: 100 E. Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, NC
4 Corners Diner is the oldest restaurant in Atlantic Beach and has had many names throughout the decades.
It’s been known as Davis Seafood, Tommy’s Pancake House, and Dine 39, but the name 4 Corners Diner was established in the 1990s and has stayed ever since.
This diner is a classic breakfast spot. Breakfast is served all day, with options like eggs n’ omelets, waffles, shrimp and grits, and more. Lunch is served after 11:00 am, and the burgers, seafood selections, and daily specials are all delicious.
Amos Mosquito’s Restaurant and Bar
Address: 703 E. Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, NC
A casual, fine-dining restaurant, Amos Mosquito’s is a family affair. Owner Hallock Cooper Howard started the first Amos Mosquito’s in Morehead City in 1999.
A few years later, she moved to Atlantic Beach and opened a new location with her husband’s and mom’s help. Today, Amos is run by a tight-knit, ever-growing family and friends and continues serving the Atlantic Beach community.
The menu consists of a myriad of flavors and dishes. Choose from starters like steamed pork dumplings and buzz buzz shrimp and entrees such as different styles of tuna, shrimp & chicken pesto alfredo, crab cakes, and so much more.
Thursday nights feature sushi specials, and the desserts are a perfect end to your night.
Atlantic Beach Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe
Address: 1010 W. Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
There’s nothing better than ice cream after a day on the beach. AB Ice Cream Shoppe is the go-to dessert place in Atlantic Beach.
This local, family-owned eatery offers over 40 hand-dipped Hershey’s ice cream flavors. In addition, you can try some of their saltwater taffy, candies, or homemade fudge!
Big Oak Drive-In
Address: 1167 Salter Path Rd, Salter Path, NC
If you know NC Tripping, then you know we are big suckers for old-school, traditional, and iconic classics.
Big Oak Drive-In is a must-eat when in Atlantic Beach. This cash-only spot is dubbed as the best shrimpburger on the Crystal Coast.
Not a Shrimpburger fan? Then go for an oyster burger, soft-shell crab, or a barbecue sandwich.
We’ve discovered they tend to close early, so call ahead for their hours and enjoy one of North Carolina’s iconic bites!
El Zarape Mexican Restaurant
Address: 204 Atlantic Beach Causeway, Atlantic Beach, NC
Atlantic Beach also features Tex-Mex cuisine in the form of El Zarape Mexican Restaurant. El Zarape has been a community pillar for years, serving traditional dishes like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and more.
Located right on the beach, this is the perfect place to dig into a plate of chips and salsa after a long day of beach adventures!
Address: 401 Money Island Dr., Atlantic Beach, NC
Island Grille has claimed a special place in the hearts of Atlantic Beach-goers for the past twenty years. It’s a cozy, yet upscale dining establishment at the far end of Money Island Drive, but it has a big reputation and spirit.
Island Grille isn’t your typical fried seafood eatery; they offer small dishes with a modern take. Every Monday, they have a BOGO special for entrees and Tuesday features a new entree.
They take reservations, so be sure to secure your table for a fine dining experience.
Oceanana Pier House Restaurant
Address: 700 E Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
We mentioned the Pier House Restaurant briefly, but it’s so iconic that it deserves more detail. Since 1959, the Oceanana Pier and Restaurant has serviced the Atlantic Beach community with its expansive views and great food.
The Pier House Restaurant is located at the famous pier, and diners can enjoy an oceanfront meal in the dining room or on the pier.
The menu is centered around fresh local seafood, which is no surprise given the abundant fishing at Oceanana Pier. In addition to traditional breakfast meals, the Pier House Restaurant serves fish-of-the-day specials, flounder, shrimp, and more.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best places to eat in Atlantic Beach.
The Shark Shack
Address: 100 S Durham Avenue, Atlantic Beach, NC
Founder Chef Tom’s five-year stint inspired the Shark Shack in the Bahamas. Chef Tom has traveled and cooked worldwide, perfecting the recipes he has brought to Atlantic Beach.
In 2018, his daughter and son-in-law bought the restaurant, which continues to be the heart of the community.
The Shark Shack specializes in fresh seafood, with a local favorite being their fish bites. Other homemade dishes include jumbo crab cakes, shrimp, fried oysters, clam strips, traditional mahi mahi, and sea bass.
For non-seafood eaters, there is a selection of burgers, sandwiches, and tacos off the grill.
Venice Italian Kitchen
Address: 407-9 Atlantic Beach Causeway, Atlantic Beach, NC
If you want a break from all the seafood, try Venice Italian Kitchen! The story of the Venice Kitchen dates back to 1940 when the current owner’s grandparents emigrated from Italy.
They settled in Virginia and opened an authentic Italian restaurant after discovering no Italian place existed. Today, a little slice of Italy in Atlantic Beach is waiting for you to visit.
The menu is a delicious assortment of traditional Italian dishes like pasta and pizza. You can also choose a deli, sub, chicken platter, and more. Enjoy your meal on the outdoor deck overlooking the ocean.
Ready to Visit Atlantic Beach NC?
We have fallen in love with this Bogue Banks town ever since our first stay at Atlantis Lodge. Since we’re always traveling around the state, we often frequent these attractions in Atlantic Beach.
If you’re familiar with this amazing town, we’d love to know about your favorite things to do. Let us know in the comments section or by email.
Don’t forget to share your Atlantic Beach NC adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!
Things to Do Near Atlantic Beach NC
Some of our favorite Atlantic Beach NC things to do are on the Bogue Banks and neighbors on the mainland.
Emerald Isle is one of the most popular beaches in North Carolina due to its beautiful sunsets and adorable shops. Grab dinner at Gaffer’s, a donut from Flip Flops Donuts, and fill up your cooler with fresh seafood to cook at your rental from Capt’n Willis Seafood.
NC Aquariuam at Pine Knoll Shores
The NC Aquarium is just around the corner from Atlantic Beach, which is awesome for all ages. There’s also an excellent outdoor area with a wooden walkway to various displays and exhibits.
Read More: North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (5 Important Things You Need to Know)
Cape Lookout National Seashore
The Cape Lookout National Seashore is a few miles offshore from Atlantic Beach. This remote barrier island comprises 56 miles of undeveloped, pristine beaches that the National Park Service protects.
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is possibly the most iconic aspect of this shoreline, which has a distinct black and white diamond pattern. Climbing the lighthouse is popular here but closed for repairs until at least 2025. Other things to do on Cape Lookout include horse-watching, shelling, fishing, birding, and camping.
Reach Cape Lookout National Seashore and Shackleford Banks from Beaufort or Harkers Island via ferry. We also highly recommend booking a UTV in advance and go to The Point for some of the best shelling in North Carolina!
Read More: Portsmouth Island (How to See this Beautiful Uninhabited Place)
Just a fifteen-minute drive from Atlantic Beach, Beaufort is a wonderful place, home to chic boutiques and a friendly community.
Also, don’t forget to grab some grub at Beaufort Grocery CO and Moonrakers. The latter will give you a nice view of boats, Taylor Creek, and Carrot Island.
The wild horses of the Rachel Carson Reserve were the main reason we first stopped by Beaufort, and we were hooked on the town. You don’t need a lot of luck to see the horses from the waterfront, but you can get a closer look by hiring a boat to the Reserve.
Crystal Coast Ecotours are a great option, and they offer dolphin cruises, too.
You can also come here to visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum. They have some cool things to see throughout the year but watch for special events.
Read more: 40+ of the Most Amazing Museums in North Carolina (for ALL Ages!)
On the mainland, Morehead City is one of our favorite coastal towns. This community has a lot going for it, such as the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in June and the North Carolina Seafood Festival in the fall.
The Morehead City Waterfront sees a lot of traffic in the summer as people embark on evening strolls and visit one of the many amazing restaurants here.
We highly recommend Sanitary Fish Market for dinner! And stop by Friendly Market and pick up some freezer meals for your beach week.
More Atlantic Beach NC Things to Do (NC Travel Guides
After years of living in North Carolina and traveling throughout the state, we’ve created many NC travel guides that include these attractions in Atlantic Beach and nearby! Here are a few of them.