Overview and History

Bogue Banks

Bogue Banks is the narrow barrier island that stretches below Morehead City, with its main highway, N.C. Highway 58, nearly parallel to N.C. Highway 24. At the east end of the island is Fort Macon and the town of Atlantic Beach and at the west end of the island is Emerald Isle. The body of water called Bogue Sound separates Bogue Banks from the mainland. The 30-mile-long island is connected to the mainland by two high-rise bridges, one at each end — one bridge from Morehead City to Atlantic Beach on the east end and the other bridge from Cape Carteret to Emerald Isle on the west end. Because the ocean and sound beaches attract visitors and summer residents, you will find many second homes, condominiums, hotels and summer rental cottages on the island.

Bogue Banks offers residents and visitors a special treat. The island runs east to west and its Atlantic Ocean side faces due south, so you can watch the sun rise in the east over the ocean, travel across the sky, and set in the west over the ocean. This barrier island changes with each storm or hurricane as sand is shifted or eroded away.

N.C. Highway 58 extends the entire length of Bogue Banks. Along the way, it is marked with green mile markers (MM). The MM series begins with mile 1 at the east end and continues along N.C. 58 to mile 21 on the west end.

The majority of Bogue Banks' development, both commercial and residential, is along N.C. 58, and in the Coast Guard Road area of Emerald Isle. A ride from one end to the other gives you an overview of the island communities. To illustrate how narrow the island is, in several places you can see both the sound and the ocean from the road.

Bogue Banks embraces five townships that often seem to blend together. Atlantic Beach is at the far east end of the island and borders the town of Pine Knoll Shores. Indian Beach surrounds the small unincorporated community of Salter Path, and Emerald Isle is at the far west end of the island. Each town has its own personality, points of interest and governing body.

As N.C. Highway 58 passes through the different communities, it often takes on a new name. In Atlantic Beach, the road is called Fort Macon Road. East Fort Macon Road is the strip between the old fort and the main intersection in town. West Fort Macon Road is the strip between that intersection and the western edge of town. The longest stretch of the highway is called Salter Path Road, and it runs from Atlantic Beach through Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach, and Salter Path. In Emerald Isle, the highway is called Emerald Drive. It really isn't as confusing as it sounds — N.C. 58 is just one road with several names that all spell scenery and coastline comforts.

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Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach is the oldest of the five towns on Bogue Banks. It was originally the site of a small pavilion built on the beach in 1887. The one-story building had a refreshment stand and stalls in the back for changing clothes. The popularity of surf-bathing was growing, and guests at the old Atlantic Hotel in Morehead City and other areas were transported to the sound side of Atlantic Beach by sailboat. The guests then trekked across the island to the pavilion, which faced the ocean. Supplies were dragged over the sand dunes by ox cart.

In 1916 the original pavilion and 100 acres were bought by Von Bedsworth, and the 100-room Atlantic View Beach Hotel was built, a lone sentry on the strip of island. The hotel later burned, but by 1928 a group of county citizens had built a toll bridge from Morehead City to today's Atlantic Beach and had developed a beach resort with dining facilities, bathhouses and another pavilion. This complex would also perish to fire just a year later. A New York bank took possession of the property and built a new hotel, and Atlantic Beach slowly began to grow into the town it is today.

In 1936 the toll bridge was sold to the state, and toll charges were dropped. In 1953 a drawbridge replaced the old bridge, and in the late 1980s, the drawbridge was replaced by the current Morehead City-Atlantic Beach four-lane, high-rise bridge. High-rise bridges play an important role along the Crystal Coast, allowing large vessels to easily maneuver the coastal waters. Past the North Carolina Port at Morehead City, you will see tugs with barges, pleasure boats, long-line fishing boats and an occasional passenger cruise liner on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Today Atlantic Beach is home to about just a few thousand year-round residents, although the population swells to a whopping 35,000 during the summer months. Atlantic Beach is a mixture of old-fashioned beach cottages, moderate vacation homes, and modern condominiums.

The center of Atlantic Beach, known to old timers and locals as The Circle, is found at the southernmost end of the Atlantic Beach Causeway and offers oceanfront day parking and souvenir shops. A developer plans to construct high-rise condos, retail shops, restaurants, lodging and many other upscale improvements. New homes are going up in undeveloped areas throughout Atlantic Beach.

Pine Knoll Shores

Pine Knoll Shores is immediately west of Atlantic Beach and was incorporated in 1973. In 1918 Alice Hoffman bought substantial acreage on Bogue Banks (known then as "Isle of the Pines"). She made her home here, off and on, until her death in 1953. The property was then inherited by her niece, wife of President Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and her four children. These Roosevelts envisioned Pine Knoll Shores as a planned community, sensitive to the delicate ecology of the maritime forest that surrounds it. Today, town policies still strive to protect the environment. As it was being built, early town planners worked to ensure that Pine Knoll Shores would be a residential community, and it has remained so.

The town's approximately 1,700 year-round residents share their community with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, one of the state's three aquariums. This newly renovated aquarium is a must-visit for everyone regardless of their age.

Surrounding the aquarium is the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, a 265-acre maritime forest owned, maintained and protected by the state. It is one of the few remaining maritime forests on North Carolina's barrier islands. See our Attractions for more about these sites.

A historic marker stands at the corner of N.C. 58 and Roosevelt Boulevard (MM 7), noting the spot of the first landing of Europeans on the North Carolina coast. Giovanni da Verrazano, a Florentine navigator in the service of France, explored the state's coast from Cape Fear to Kitty Hawk in 1524. His voyage along the coast marked the first recorded European contact with what is now North Carolina.

Salter Path

The first families to settle in Salter Path arrived in the late 1890s from Diamond City, which at the time was a whaling community on Shackleford Banks. Shackleford Banks is a 9-mile-long island that is now part of Cape Lookout National Seashore.

By 1897 approximately 500 people were living in Diamond City, a town with several stores, a school, a post office and church buildings. Hard storms in the late 1890s convinced many Diamond City residents that it was time to leave the island. Many cut their homes into sections, tied them to skiffs and floated or sailed their dwellings across the water. Once at the new home site, the houses were reconstructed. Many residents of Diamond City settled on Harkers Island, in the Shackleford Street area of Morehead City or in Salter Path on Bogue Banks. 

Legend has it that the name Salter Path originated with Joshua Salter, a Broad Creek resident who often traveled by boat from the mainland to fish and hunt on Bogue Banks. Stories say he made a path from the sound side of the island, where he anchored his boat, to the oceanfront. Folks called the walkway Salter's Path, and like many things in Carteret County, the name just stuck.

Many locals credit the early residents of Salter Path with bringing shrimp into the culinary limelight. Early fishermen considered these delectable creatures a menace, and enjoyed instead such community fishing catches as the jumpin' mullet. But after local residents began to eat them, shrimp soon became a marketable and profitable commodity. Shrimping is now a lucrative industry along the Crystal Coast, much to the joy of residents and visitors alike.

Indian Beach

As you leave Pine Knoll Shores and travel west on N.C. 58, you enter the resort and residential town of Indian Beach. It was incorporated in 1973 and offers residents and visitors beautiful beaches for sunbathing, surf fishing and watersports. The community is home to condominiums, mobile home communities and restaurants, which you’ll find profiled in various chapters within the Crystal Coast section of this book. This town of about 100 residents surrounds the unincorporated community of Salter Path, creating an East Indian Beach and a West Indian Beach. So don't be surprised when you drive through Indian Beach, Salter Path and then Indian Beach again.

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