Located south of the Outer Banks, the Crystal Coast boasts 85 miles of beaches and towns. Veteran surfer and local shop owner Mike Crews provides the inside scoop on the area’s surf scene.
Despite summer being in full swing, Mike Crews and the rest of the surfers who enjoy North Carolina’s Crystal Coast are longing for fall and winter. That’s when the best waves occur along the Southern Outer Banks.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Crews, a veteran surfer and owner of Hot Wax Surf and Paddle Sports, says the area’s best surf season is August through December. The south-facing beach becomes an amalgam of cooler breezes and weather (nor’easters) coming down from Canada and tropical fronts coming up from Africa.
“When we’re surfing in the fall, the sun goes down on the right side toward the inlet and turns red, so there are all of these beautiful colors and the surfers are all silhouetted against the sky,” Crews says. “It’s picturesque. You turn to your buddy and say, ‘It just doesn’t get any better than this.’”
The Crystal Coast, an 85-mile stretch of beaches and towns, has seen an increase in popularity as visitors search for a less-crowded experience compared to the popular and famed Outer Banks to the north. According to the tourism board, the Crystal Coast welcomes 2.25 million visitors per year, including an estimated 1.3 million from Memorial Day through Labor Day. These beaches boast a shallow slope that gradually descends which makes accessing the waves, most breaking further out from shore, easier.
Locals and visitors prefer to surf near the many piers where the waves tend to be bigger due to friction of the nearby wooden pilings. Bogue Inlet Pier, located in Emerald Isle, is considered the area’s home break, according to Crews.
“You see all the locals out there catching waves,” he says. “Because of the way the pilings are there are some sand formations that create some waves and break. That’s definitely what we’re known for here.”
Not only do surfers frequent pier-adjacent breaks, such as Oceanana Pier in Atlantic Beach, quality swells and surf can be found at public spots at Fort Macon State Park, the Circle (Atlantic Beach), and Eastern Regional and Western Regional beach access points. Because the breaks are sand-bottom, sandbars can move frequently based on storms, so surfers are constantly on the move along the coast looking for the best waves.
“You’ve really got it all here—surfing, fishing, hunting, any kind of water sports like surfing, kiteboarding, jet ski, SUP, anything and everything,” Crews says. “You have a lot of areas to explore. Anything that’s water-sports-related you can do here and really live the life of a waterman. I can’t imagine living inland. I don’t know how someone does that.”
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.