Known as the "Harbor of Hospitality," visitors arriving by boat to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, are welcomed with wine, cheese, a rose and 48 hours of free docking. Even though you can boat into town along the Pasquotank River, the nearest beaches are about an hour away, stretching along the state's Outer Banks.
Sand and Surf
Jockey's Ridge State Park is home to the tallest sand dunes on the Eastern Seaboard, just 50 miles southeast of Elizabeth City. Swim in the Roanoke Sound where soft sands drift gradually out from the shoreline, making a safe place for kids to splash in the shallow water without sudden drop offs. Fly a kite from the towering dunes or slide down them on a sandboard from October through March. Summer days are ideal for windsurfing along the swimming beach or just watching hang gliders wheel overhead. The park has a boardwalk, nature trail, picnic area and visitors center with handicapped access.
Bring Your Pooch
A 45-mile drive southeast of Elizabeth City brings you to Kitty Hawk Beach, accessible through eight access points with parking areas. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, lifeguards patrol the beach from mid-morning until 6 p.m. You'll find restrooms at the Kitty Hawk Beach House and Byrd Street access. Wheelchairs access is provided at Windgrass Circle, which is open from sunrise to just after sunset and has handicapped-accessible parking. Bring your dog to the beach, providing he is on 6-foot or shorter leash during the hours when lifeguards are on duty or on a 12-foot leash or under voice control at all other times.
Resorts and Residents
The town of Duck -- 50 miles from Elizabeth City and 9 miles north of Kitty Hawk -- has 7 miles of shoreline stretching alongside the town. There is no public parking at the beach and access is limited to residents, guests and visitors staying at vacation rentals. The beach allows dogs off-leash as long as they are under voice control. Lifeguards patrol designated swimming areas during the months of May through October and ride all-terrain vehicles along the shoreline.
Away from it All
Explore more than 70 miles of remote shoreline along the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, two hours southeast of Elizabeth City. The park has some of the largest waves on the Atlantic Coast, with challenging surf and plenty of wind for windsurfing or kiteboarding. Get a North Carolina fishing license and a dip net or ring trap and try your hand at catching blue crab. Build a beach campfire to cook up your catch and stay for days at one of the park's four modern campgrounds.
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images