More barrier island beach resorts line Bogue Banks, which runs south of Morehead City in a nearly east-west orientation for some 21 miles. The half-dozen family-oriented resort towns have freely accessible—but quite often crowded—beaches. The largest, Atlantic Beach, across a bridge from Morehead City, has a boardwalk backed by a mini-golf course and skateboard park. The enjoyable North Carolina Aquarium (daily, $13 adults), five miles west of town on Hwy-58 at Pine Knoll Shores, features extensive displays on the local loggerhead sea turtles as well as sharks and river otters.

At the northeast end of Bogue Banks stands Fort Macon State Park (daily, free), which centers on a massive pre-Civil War fortress overlooking the harbor entrance. The pentagon-shaped masonry fort, completed in 1834, was captured early in the Civil War by the Confederacy. In April 1862, Union forces retook Fort Mason after a bombardment and controlled Beaufort for the rest of the war.