Summer is a convenient time to vacation for most residents and families, but not everyone can plan a trip.
With that in mind, here are five places in Onslow County and the surrounding area where you and your family can enjoy a "stay-cation" right here in Eastern North Carolina.
1. Hammocks Beach State Park
Open everyday, Hammocks Beach State Park sits on approximately 290 acres of mainland East of Swansboro and includes Huggins Island and Bear Island. The park offers a full-service visitor center and is a launch site for canoes and kayaks with a ferry service to Bear Island. Rangers also teach educational and interpretive programs that teach students and families about the life of sea turtles, animal adaption, lifecycle, endangered species and natural and human threats to wildlife. Other activities include camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming and boating.
Address: 1572 Hammocks Beach Road, Swansboro
Cost: Free for most activities. Ferry tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, $3 for seniors ages 62 and up
Phone number: 910-326-4881
2. Neusiok Trail, Croatan National Forest
Situated in Croatan National Forest, the Neusiok Trail (pronounced noose-ee-ock) winds through 21 miles of cypress swamps, hardwood ridges, longleaf pine savannah, pocosin shrub bogs and scenic coastal marshes. The Neusiok Trail is also apart of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, which links Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. The trail also includes three camping shelters and allows camping along its length.
Address: To southern point, Oyster Point: From Newport, follow Chatham St. for 2.8 miles to Market St. and turn left. Follow Market St. to Mill Creek Road. Go 7.1 miles to Oyster Point Road. Turn right for one mile.
To northern point: From Havelock, turn onto N.C. 101 and go 5.3 miles to Ferry Road N.C. 306. Turn left and go 3.3 miles to FR 132. Turn left on unpaved road. Go 1.7 miles to Pinecliff Picnic Area at road's end.
Phone number: 800-832-1355
3. Take a scenic boat tour
The Lady Swan offers a one-hour scenic cruise around historic Swansboro, the intracoastal waterway and nearby Huggins Island. The departure location is Moore Street dock in downtown Swansboro and offers cruises on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This year, they've also teamed up with Swansboro Parks and Recreation to offer a series of unique cruises.
Address: Main Street Dock, downtown Swansboro
Cost: Pricing is variable.
Phone number: 910-325-1200
Tiki Tour owners Lara Beaudoin and Captain James Ross offer charter tours on two vessels through the intracoastal with opportunities to learn about the nature and history of Topsail Island. Guests can learn about Native Americans that lived and fished in the area, pirate movements and history as wells as military operations such as Operation Bumblebee.
Address: 412 Roland Ave., Surf City
Cost: Tours on Tiki Queen are $20 per person, Tiki Time Pontoon rates are variable. Call for specific rates and charters.
Phone number: 910-262-7355 or 910-650-3223
4. Head to the beach
Onslow and Carteret counties are home to some of North Carolina’s best beaches. The Crystal Coast stretches 85 miles from Cape Lookout National Seashore to the New River inlet while Topsail island is 26 miles of beautiful shores and intracoastal waterways. Spend the day enjoying the water, engaging in activities such as surfing, fishing or eating at the many waterfront restaurants. There are a variety of local water sport facilities that rent paddleboards, kayaks, canoes and various other equipment at affordable day rates.
If you're interested in a great recreational activity for the whole family, the wild horses on Shackleford Banks are it. There are about 110 to 130 wild horses that live in small groups called harems. They may be seen on all parts of the island, but can sometimes be difficult to spot at first. Remember to watch the horses from a safe distance. Bring binoculars and use a telephoto lens so you don't disturb the horses or endanger yourself. Keep your dog on a leash for its safety and the horses. And lastly, always remember to carry fresh water for yourself and your pet. During the warm months, bug repellent is recommended.
Websites: VisitNC.com/Crystal-Coast, EmeraldIsle-NC.org, NTBNC.org, SurfCity.GovOffice.com, TopsailBeach.org, NPS.gov/CaLo.
Phone number: 1-800-VisitNC
5. Spend the day at a speedway
Coastal Plains Raceway is an IHRA sanctioned facility that features an all concrete, 1/8th mile track. The season extends though Nov. 18 with their Thanksgiving Classic and has divisions for Top, Mod, Motorcycle and Jr. Dragster categories. The grounds can accommodate RV camping and opportunities to tailgate. Every race is family friendly and everyone is welcome.
Address: 4744 Richlands Highway
Cost: Adult general admission tickets $10, children under 10 years are free
Phone number: 910-455-3555 or 910-347-2200
Enjoy NASCAR sponsored races this season at Carteret County Speedway. The season extends through Oct. 28 and the grounds offer RV camping and opportunities to tailgate. All races are family friendly, boast live music and a bar and the promise of all-day fun.
Address: 501 Whitehouse Fork Road, Swansboro
Cost: Adult general admission tickets $15, children under 10 years are free
Phone number: 252-436-7223