History of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast

If you’re planning a trip to one of our Atlantic Beach rentals on the Crystal Coast in North Carolina, you’ll be fascinated to learn about its rich and varied history. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the people and stories of the past that have made The Crystal Coast what it is today.

aerial view of the crystal coast of north carolina

Why Is It Called The Crystal Coast?

The Crystal Coast has a beautiful name to describe an equally beautiful place. The name reportedly came into being when the care tenet County Chamber of Commerce described the exceptionally clear waters as “crystal.” 

The History

The 85-mile stretch of sand that is known as the Crystal Coast has a long and rich history dating back to the 1700s. The area is often referred to by its eerie nickname, the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” and plenty of Crystal Coast ghost stories are told about the area’s historical run-ins with infamous pirates like Blackbeard.

Native Tribes

Before colonial settlers arrived in the area, this part of North Carolina was home to eight Native American Indian tribes:

  • Easter Band of Cherokee
  • Coharie
  • Lumbee
  • Haliwa-Saponi
  • Sappony
  • Meherrin
  • Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation
  • Waccamaw-Siouan


Settlement began in North Carolina in the late 17th century. Throughout the early 1700s, conflict raged between the Native American population and the new settlers who overtook the area.


In the early 1700s, the coastline was also attractive to pirates. Most notably, the infamous Blackbeard and his crew stopped at the ports of the Crystal Coast in 1718 after a bout of looting in the Caribbean. For centuries, tall tales were told of how his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was lost in these very waters. In 1996, the ruins were found in the Beaufort Inlet. 

horse drawn carriage in front of a historic home in beaufort

Recent History & Tourism

Learn more about the history and tourism opportunities of the Crystal Coast by heading to the Crystal Coast Visitors Center. Here, volunteers can provide you with brochures and pamphlets explaining the area’s history and its tourism opportunities.

Experience The History On Your Vacation

With its rich history, the Crystal Coasts gives its visitors plenty of opportunities to step back into the past and experience the history for themselves.

History Tours

There are a variety of history tours available in the area where you can explore the land and hear stories about the fascinating things that have happened here.

The Historic Beaufort Walking Tour will take you through the picturesque tree-lined streets of historic buildings that were once home to the town’s first sea captains, seafarers, and merchants. There are over 150 homes that are anywhere from 100-300 years old. This is a great tour if you’re staying in one of our Beaufort vacation rentals.

historic home

On the Beaufort Ghost Walk, you’ll explore the town through its spooky historic ghost stories and legends.

The Beaufort Pirate Walk will show you the town where Blackbeard’s ship was discovered, and you’ll hear swashbuckling tales about this fascinating period of history.

Visit the Fort

Fort Macon is a 19th century Civil War fort. It’s a spectacular old structure surrounded by a lovely state park, making it perfect for a day out. In the summer months, you’ll be treated to exciting Civil War reenactments, or, in the winter, take a guided tour to discover stories about what took place in the fort. If it’s a nice day, be sure to explore the extensive trails outside!

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.


The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum

In Harkers Island, you’ll find a fascinating museum that highlights the interesting fishing and hunting history of the area. You’ll find an array of personal heirlooms, old photos, and even some live demonstrations from locals. 

North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort

The region’s maritime history is truly fascinating. From innovative Maritimers to dastardly pirates, this museum will give you a full picture of this area’s deep ties to the sea.

The History Place

In Morehead City, you’ll find this wonderful museum that covers every aspect of the history of the Crystal Coast in minute detail. There’s always a new exhibit on, so head to The History Place to see what’s new.

Choose Your Dream Beach Rental

Discover your new dream vacation home with Spectrum Properties. Our gorgeous homes offer luxury and comfort while you’re on holiday. Check out our lovely Harkers Island vacation rentals today.