Eastern Home & Travel May/June 2017 - Page 45

I’m on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast in a small skiff skimming over the sound, wind whipping my hair as I admire these iconic images—symbols of this proud region. About 90 minutes north of Wilmington, miles of gorgeous sandy beaches welcome tourists attracted by the area’s serene beauty, natural landscape and affordably priced accommodations. You won’t find crowds of people converging in one spot. In fact, the Crystal Coast stretches for 70 miles from Swansboro in the west to Cedar Island in the east and includes idyllic beach havens such as Emerald Isle, Indian Beach, and Atlantic Beach, as well as cozy towns like Morehead City and Beaufort. Its vibe is low-key, perfect for those who want to experience small-town charm and a restful escape from the hectic pace of life. I’m here to do just that: savor the simpler pleasures —a walk on the beach, a bike ride through coastal woods, a tasty meal—plus learn about the proud culture of this place, where watermen have raised their families for generations and still fish the waters of the Atlantic for prized seafood. After a few days of immersing myself in this region, I understand why folks come here year after year. There’s no other place like it. WINDSWEPT BEACHES Back on Bogue Sound, I’m headed to view the wild horses up close as they roam their uninhabited island, wading and sometimes swimming to tiny spits of land for tasty grasses. On board the skiff with me is Carolyn Mason, a local expert who shares her knowledge about the thriving band of horses whose ancestors likely came across the Atlantic on Spanish galleons 300 years ago. Carolyn holds a list of the horses with names ranging from the literary (Homer, Zelda, Shakespeare and Penelope) to the playful (Aftermath, Tuna and Texas). A group of Princeton students led by professor D.I. Rubenstein maintains a database EASTERN HOME & TRAVEL 45