Summer Fun in Atlantic Beach

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Sand sculpture at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

Atlantic Beach is one of our favorite places to visit. We stay in an incredibly affordable oceanfront condo in Indian Beach at Colony by the Sea. With a pool, super quick access to the beach, and a quaint, family friendly atmosphere it has been a perfect place for us over the years. The beach where we stay is never crowded and for those who want more activities, Emerald Isle is close by as well as Morehead City. We hope that this place never loses its special charm and we hope that when you visit, you will love it as much as we do. Summer fun in Atlantic Beach is so special to us.

Here are some of our favorite things from a recent trip, including repeats and new found adventures:

Family Fun

Shevans Park Playground

Atlantic Beach Park is great and easy to spot, but be sure to visit Shevans too. Shevans Park, located in Morehead City, has been completely redone since the last time we were there and the difference was really amazing. It is beautifully designed with a nautical theme and kids of all ages were having tons of fun there. The ribbon-cutting ceremony just happened in 2020 and upgrades include a climbable lighthouse, an awesome splash pad, and American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant amenities like swings. The park also includes tennis courts and picnic areas. It is open from dawn until dusk. It’s super cute and kept the kids attention the entire time we were there. If the last time you visited Shevans was when it was wooden, you have to go back to see the changes.

Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf and Raceway

This is a must-do every visit in Salter Path. The kids love riding the train up to do miniature golf, complete with caves and a few waterfalls. The bumper bumps and go-carts are always fun. Be sure to check the Crystal Coast Visitor’s Guide for coupons. You can pay per activity or get an all day rate. See details and all locations here:

North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

For more summer fun in Atlantic Beach, check out the aquarium. With a playground that feels like a secret hide-out in the woods, this aquarium is a fun adventure. There is also a small inside play area for kids to have fun and enjoy their visit. On the day we were there, one of the aquarium educators shared about vultures and gave an up close and personal demonstration. Every time we have visited there is an impressive sand sculpture out front that delights people of all ages. You will find great photo opportunities, a Dairy Queen, and a gift shop here as well. Plan your visit here:

Miss Crystal Coast Sunset Cruise

The Beaufort waterfront is a great place to visit for dining, shopping, and boating. Years ago, we took boat tours to be dropped off at different stops including Shackleford Island (those were amazing and also when I lost my cell phone on the island and someone found it, saved it from the tide, and returned it the same afternoon).

This year we decided to take an hour and a half sunset cruise to search for wild horses and dolphins (7:00-8:30 p.m.). The girls loved it. The boat was equipped with a bathroom and snacks and beverages, important for families with children on hot summer days when you want as least stress as possible. We considered a Sand Dollar Island trip but it was booked up a week in advance. Book early to get the tour you want! For more information, visit This is, without a doubt, the epitome of summer fun in Atlantic Beach.

Yummy Eats

Snapperz Grill & Steam Bar

Snapperz was very busy at dinner during our vacation at the Morehead City location, but at lunch we were seated quickly with no wait. The thinly shaved onion ring “seaweed basket” appetizer was so delicious that even my 8 year-old daughter ate them and has asked to go back just for those (she never ate onions before). The Wasabi Seared Tuna appetizer also got rave reviews from my husband. The Seaside Salad with blackened chicken was wonderful; it’s packed with veggies and comes with a cornbread triangle. The girls loved their kids meals. With cute names like Guppy Chicken Tenders, Nemo’s Fish Basket, Little Buoy Burger, and Clown Fish Grilled Cheese, who wouldn’t? The Chocolate Lava Cake and Key Lime Pie were big hits as well. Check out the full menu here:

Dank Burrito

This is such a fun place and they have a drive thru so you can get excellent food fast. At the window, the girls and I could see someone finishing up the Vanilla Crème Brulee dessert with a blow torch. The kids meals are great – taco, burrito, quesadilla, or hand-breaded chicken tenders (girls highly recommend). We also had the Cajun Fried Catch of the Day Burrito (fried mahi with Cajun spices, rice, beans, pico, lettuce, chipotle mayo, cilantro) and the Soy Ginger Pork Burrito (marinated pulled pork, rice, beans, soy ginger slaw, sour cream, cilantro). Orders come with chips and salsa too. I regret not trying the desserts on this trip! Check out the full menu here:

Tsunami Buffet

We ate here twice. I’m not kidding. They have a salad bar, fruit, desserts, and assorted ice cream cups and bars, a hibachi grill and a sushi bar, but the regular buffet was the best. The staff was prompt to replace buffet items with hot, fresh choices and it was really delicious. Items included salmon, baked chicken, coconut milk shrimp, black pepper chicken, Mongolian beef, perfect fried plantains, sugar biscuits, and the best rice and green beans. There were also crawfish, other types of shrimp, and gyoza.

El’s Drive-In

Important to know before you go – cash only restaurant! El’s has been around since 1959 making fresh burgers and you can drive-in and wait or call ahead with your order. Prices are great – we know because we saw a major difference at other similar places. You can grab a grilled cheese or a hot dog for $2.95, a hamburger for $3.25, chicken salad for $3.50, or a shrimpburger for $4.75. Add a milkshake for $2.50. They also have a few plate options that are more expensive, but still much cheaper compared to other locations. The large barbecue plate is $10.25, the shrimp plate is $14, and the large oyster plate is $16.50.

Entertainment & Shopping

Emerald Isle has tons of wonderful shops that we have checked out in the past but this time we skipped because it was crowded and there just wasn’t enough time to do everything. Instead we visited the small shopping center closest to where we were staying and a few stores in Morehead City.

While my husband and oldest daughter watched Black Widow at Atlantic Station Cinema, my younger girls and I shopped at Ernie’s Gift World for unique finds and friendly service. No trip is complete without a visit to AB Ice Cream & Candy, open in the summer from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. They make homemade fudge daily and will ship if you can’t get there in person. They have over 40 ice cream flavors as well as smoothies. The Sea Turtle Sundae is great, especially if you add hot fudge to it! See it all for yourself here:

Beach Photography

For the first time, we had professional family pictures taken on the beach. Anyone with kids knows that trying to get nice family photos can be challenging. Someone will inevitably have to use the bathroom, be too hot or too cold, be tired and antsy and ready to finish, or fall into the ocean like our youngest did halfway through the session. Lemon + Lily Photography did a fantastic job. The pictures turned out very nice and her calm, kind demeanor and patience with children was much appreciated. Find her on Facebook and book your session!

Summer fun in Atlantic Beach – there’s nothing like it! We can’t wait to visit again and make more memories. Plan your trip here:

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