A friend and I just returned from a lovely Easter weekend stay at Atlantic Beach/Pine Knoll Shores.
We stayed at the Clamdigger Inn, which seemed to have the best rate for an oceanfront room with a balcony. The room was clean and comfortable, with 2 double beds, a small microwave and mini fridge, and a nice sized TV with cable. The bathroom was very small, but otherwise the room was fine. The pool was clean and the hotel even provides towels for the pool and beach area if you ask at the desk. They also have a few tethered chaise lounges on the beach for the free use of their guests. The hotel is surrounded by homes rather than condos or hotels, so the beach is quiet and uncrowded. The restaurant on premises offeres daily breakfast and lunch specials for $4.95. The free wireless internet didn't work in the rooms, but works fine in the lobby.
Our first night there we ate at The Crab Shack. The food was pretty basic, but the staff was nice.
The next day we enjoyed the clean, quiet beach. I enjoyed walking and looking for shells, and found a lot of nice ones to bring back to my neice and nephew. Scallop shells and olives were fairly plentiful, a few whelks, and even a few augers.
We had dinner at the Channel Marker, which has a nice view of the sound. The food and service were both very good. We had scallops and oysters and enjoyed them very much. The desserts looked enticing but we were too full to try them.
We visited the aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores the next day, not far from our hotel. They were having an Easter Egg-stravaganza, so there were plenty of kids enjoying the activities. There are lots of varieties of sea life on display: fish, amphibians and reptiles. They also have the largest aquarium tank in the state, which features sharks and an amazing variety of fish. My favorite exhibit was the otters, which were very playful and active while we were there. The gift shop is nice and I found some reasonably priced souveniers.
We had dinner at Kathryn's in Emerald Isle. The restaurant is in a strip mall, no ocean or sound view, but the interior is nicely decorated and the service was very good. I had the lump crabcakes, which were great! Not a lot of filler, and not overly seasoned--just chock full of lump crabmeat. My friend had a casserole of seafood in a creamy asiago cheese sauce that looked delicious. If you like martinis, they had a whole menu of lots of different ones to try.
The following day we enjoyed walking around Beaufort and browsing the shops. We booked a 3 hour boat tour to Cape Lookout to see the lighthouse for $30 which departs from the dock across from the Maritime Museum. We spotted dolphins on the boat trip to the island, and the captain slowed down so we could have a better look. We were glad we had brought our jackets, as it got chilly when he cranked up the boat to high speed. We had an hour to putter around the lighthouse and keeper's station, and they have restrooms and a little giftshop. The lighthouse is not currently open for climbing, since they need to make repairs to the stairs. Take your own snacks if you think you'll get hungry while you're there, and be prepared to take any trash with you, as there is no trash disposal on the island. On the ride back the boat captain took us by the best spots to see the wild horses, and we spotted a few and got a few snapshots. He also toured us by the beautiful homes along the waterfront.
We tried Amos Mosquitos for dinner. The themed swamp decor and menu was fun (they even have swamp sound efffects in the rest room) and the food and service were quite good. The crab cake appetizers are spicy though, so watch out for that! The little bread basket they bring has some interesting choices, and you can swap your sides to get sweet potato fries or mashed potatoes if you like. We were too full to try their desserts. We ate on the enclosed patio, which has a view of the sound.
All in all it was a lovely, relaxing getaway, and I would definitely go back!