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Forget about the popular (and overcrowded!) Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach! When it comes to fun in the sun, North Carolina’s Atlantic Beach, located on the Atlantic’s shimmering Crystal Coast, has something for everyone.

Accommodations: Carribe Inn, 309 East Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, NC 28512. Phone: (252) 726-0051. Claiming to have “the most unique accommodations on Atlantic Beach,” the Carribe Inn has aquatic designed rooms, waterfront BBQs, boat slips and a dock and fish cleaning area. It’s also convenient to 30 marinas, 50+ charter boats, 6 fishing piers, golf courses, restaurants, nightclubs, 4 movie theatres, and unique gift shops. Prices range from $39 for a double room for two to $225 a week for an efficiency studio that sleeps six (higher during peak season.)

Food:

Crab's Claw: For lunch, and you have GOT to try the jalapeno corn bread and a bowl of corn chowder soup at The Crab’s Claw, located on the beach near the boardwalk on Atlantic Beach. Better yet? Go for a late dinner, snag a table out on the deck, and watch the sunset. Simply beautiful!

Attractions:

The Boardwalk: Full of typical beach boardwalk fun. Arcades, go-karts, bumper cars, and a Ferris wheel abound for the youngsters. For the adults there’s bungee jumping, specialty shops, and beachside bars with fruity, refreshing drinks are awaiting you whenever you’re ready to take a break from lying on the beach.

Ft. Macon State park: Built from 1826-1834 on the east end of Bogue Banks in Carteret County, Fort Macon replaced Fort Dobbs, a wooden structure built in 1756 and Fort Hampton, a similar structure which eventually washed away. What used to be a strategic civil war fort is now it’s a 398-acre state park, one of the most popular in the United States. Swimming, fishing, nature programs and trails, guided tours of the fort, a museum with numerous exhibits and audio-visual displays are some of the activities available. The old Fort Macon Life Boat Station, where history was made again as late as 1990 when the U. S. Coast Guard named a woman to its command, is adjacent to the state park.

NC Aquariums at Pine Knoll: Minutes from Atlantic Beach, this aquarium is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., admission is only $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for kids (kids under age 5 are free), making this one of the most inexpensive yet educational tings you can do with your children during your vacation.

How to get there: Take U.S. 70 to Moorehead City. Go south on 1182, most of which is a four-lane bridge that separates Moorehead City from Atlantic beach. Once you cross the bridge, pick up Hwy 58 and go west or east, depending on where you're staying on the beach.