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FSP 2008 Sponsored Project

North Carolina State Parks Tours

The Mideast Park Loop - History, Beaches, Forests, and Rivers


View NC State Park Tour ME in a larger map
Cliffs of the Neuse State Park – Hammocks Beach State Park – Fort Macon State Park
 Goose Creek State Park – Crystal Coast
This tour will take us through the mideastern portion of the state on a path of history, natural beauty and enjoyment, leading us to secluded beaches, historic cities and forts, rivers, cliffs, wetlands, and the renowned recreation areas of the Crystal Coast. 
The tour can be started at any point, but we'll begin east of I-95 and south of Goldsboro along NC 111 at a hidden wonder, Cliffs of the Neuse State Park. Visit the interpretive exhibits on geology and history to learn how the area evolved from its geological beginnings, Tuscarora Indian ceremonial grounds, an early 20th-century mineral water and whiskey resort before becoming a state park. View the Neuse River from atop 90' high cliffs, then hike down to the riverbank. Walk among Spanish moss-covered cypress trees in search of historic remnants of gristmills and whiskey stills along the river. 

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Cliffs of the Neuse photo
Hammocks Beach photo Next up is a two-hour drive through mideastern North Carolina's backroads and small towns. Head south on NC 111 to Beulaville, turn southeast on NC 24 through Jacksonville, and continue around Camp Lejeune to scenic Swansboro and historic Hammocks Beach State Park. Climb aboard the park's passenger ferry for a 15-minute ride past herons and egrets in the wetlands to Bear Island. The northern half of this barrier island has pristine beaches and is a favorite nesting spot for loggerhead turtles. Hammocks Beach was once home to Tuscarora tribal hunting grounds, pirates, a 20th-century hunting resort, and an African-American recreation area. It has a long history of involvement in conflict from the days of early European settlement, the Civil War, and World War II, but you can relax and enjoy the beach while imagining the Tuscarora tribes, early settlers, and Blackbeard the pirate walking the island.

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Continue on NC 24 N to NC 58 and follow it northeast for an hour along Emerald Isle. You'll pass the recreation areas of the Crystal Coast and the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area with its maritime forests and freshwater ponds. Stop to visit the wonderful North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Continue past Atlantic Beach to Fort Macon State Park. This five-sided fort from 1834 replaced a series of earlier forts that defended the Beaufort harbor from English, French, Spanish, and pirate ships, and was the site of a significant Civil War battle. An early erosion control project here was initially engineered by famed Civil War General Robert E. Lee. A new visitor center awaits you with historical and environmental exhibits, and tours of the fort. The park resides in an area of undisturbed natural beauty and is the perfect place to explore salt marshes and estuaries vital to the coastal ecosystem. Enjoy fishing, hiking along the beach, dolphin watching, swimming, and learning about North Carolina.

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Fort Macon photo
Goose Creek photo Next, begin a two-hour and 20-minute journey inland, following US 70 north past scenic Beaufort, Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, and the Croatian National Forest, the home of many carnivorous plants and the American Alligator. Continue on US 70 to historic New Bern, where you can visit Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens. Cross the Neuse River and follow US 17 N to Washington, then head east on US 264 to Goose Creek State Park. Giant old oaks draped in Spanish moss welcome you to the park where Goose Creek joins the Pamlico River. Boat, fish, or swim in the rivers. Hike trails that meander through the estuarine area's black gum cypress. Keep an eye out for a heron, egret, osprey, or bald eagle. A short side trip farther east on US 264 is Bath, North Carolina's oldest city.

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Crystal Coast

The return to Cliffs of the Neuse State Park is a two-hour drive. Head north on US 264 to Washington, turn south on US 17, then head west on NC 102. In Stokestown, turn west on State Road 1753 until you reach NC 118. Follow it to NC 11 and go south to Kinston, then north on NC 55 to the park.

Major towns near the tour offering food and lodging include: New Bern, Beaufort, Morehead City, Washington, Goldsboro, Jacksonville, and the Crystal Coast from Swansboro to Atlantic Beach. You can use one of these as your home base and enjoy each of the parks during your stay. Be sure to also check out the area for historic sites, museums, golf courses, craft shops, and outdoor recreation.
Detailed text Directions

Park Links

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park

Hammocks Beach State Park

Fort Macon State Park

 Goose Creek State Park

Want to Camp!

Camp at a State Park –  call 1-877-7-CAMP-NC or

Other Places of Interest

Crystal Coast


Maritime Museum

Aquarium at at Pine Knoll Shores

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

Harkers Island

Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area

Rachel Carson Coastal Estuarine Reserve

Croatian National Forest

Historic Bath

New Bern

Tyron Palace

Tuscarora Indian

Fort Macon history and friends

Commercial Sites for Lodging, Dining, Supplies, and Recreation

Crystal Coast

For more information on North Carolina State Parks we recommend our North Carolina State Parks Map Guide

North Carolina State Parks Map Guide
A planning and traveling companion with detailed maps and information on each park

Copyright © 2010 by Friends of State Parks

Cliffs of the Neuse photo by Ben Casey, Hammock Beach photos by Natalie Koeplinger, Goose Creek photo by Kim Brown, others by Bob Sowa © 2010.

Your membership and the 501c Non Profit status of Friends of State Parks support this program.

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Friends of State Parks, Inc.

PO Box 37655

Raleigh, NC  27627

Friends of State Parks, Inc. is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 58-1634155) under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

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