The Crystal Coast which includes Beaufort, Morehead City, the Bogue Banks communities of Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Cape Carteret, and Swansboro, draws visitors from all over, and is an easy three hour drive on U.S. Highway 70 to Raleigh, the state capital. Greenville, NC, home of East Carolina University, is a quick hour and a half jaunt.
Travelers from the north or south will find that Interstate 95 or U.S. Highway 17 takes them to either U.S. Highway 70 and on to Morehead City or to NC Highway 58, which leads straight to Emerald Isle.
From the west, Interstate 40 will also take you to U.S. 70, which leads directly to Morehead City. From the east, the most picturesque journey into Carteret County, travelers must reserve space for the 2¼-hour ferry ride from Ocracoke Island to Cedar Island (see the ferry schedule in this chapter). At the ferry landing, NC Highway 12 continues a short distance to intersect with U.S. 70 W near the community of Sea Level, the highway's point of origin. (Interestingly enough, U.S. 70's other terminus is in Los Angeles.) From here, it's an unforgettable ride through lowland fields of junkus and Spartina marsh grasses and Down East fishing villages to historic Beaufort and the Crystal Coast or on to Havelock and New Bern.
Between Morehead City and Emerald Isle or Swansboro, the main thoroughfare is NC Highway 24, which offers views of Bogue Sound as you cross its bridges at Broad Creek and Gales Creek. On the island of Bogue Banks, NC 58 runs parallel to the beach for more than 22 miles, from Atlantic Beach west to Emerald Isle. Mile markers along the way make it easy to find things. Mile 1 (MM 1) begins at Fort Macon State Park on the east end of the island and the markers continue west, ending at the high-rise bridge in Emerald Isle.