USA: North Carolina

The coastal areas of North Carolina are becoming a popular vacation destination and recreation area. Scuba divers are drawn to North Carolina to dive the variety of spots both offshore and in close. The Gulf Stream brings warm waters and lots of marine life fairly close by the coastline. Colorful fish can be found swimming among the natural ledges off Topsail Beach. If you love wrecks, you have to make a trip to the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”, the area offshore of Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. It’s easy to see why the North Carolina Coast was rated the #1 wreck diving destination in North America for 2006 by the readers of Scuba Diving Magazine.

The coast consists of barrier islands which create shallow estuarine waters rich with fish, shrimp, crab and other shellfish. With 2.5 million acres of water, North Carolina has been a favorite destination for fishermen for many years. The North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries has one of the most aggressive artificial reef programs in the United States. The Resource Management Enhancement Section monitors 39 ocean sites and 7 estuaries. Multiple “reefs”, consisting of ships, planes, bridge rubble, and reef balls and other concrete materials are located within the sites.

The northern coast is essentially a long skinny sandbar. The huge dunes of Kill Devil Hills where the Wright Brothers first flew planes are on the northern end of the barrier islands near Nags Head and Oregon Inlet. Just to the south, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the point of land that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. A two-lane highway stretches from the quaint fishing village of Ocracoke in the south to the historic sites near Kitty Hawk on the northern end. Along the way are beautiful sand dunes covered with sea oats and quiet sandy beaches frequented mostly by families. Offshore, the Gulf Stream meets cooler waters and the seas can be treacherous. Many ships have sunk in these turbulent waters. Here divers can explore historical wrecks from the 17th Century, the Civil War, and World War II.

South of Cape Hatteras, the waters are generally warmer and calmer. The Outer Banks and the Cape Lookout National Seashore are home to numerous dive charters. Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle are two of the most popular beach towns on this area known as the Crystal Coast. Morehead City is the top wreck-diving destination in NC and also the home of the North Carolina Seafood Festival each October. Between Atlantic Beach and Wilmington are beautiful beaches with cottages and condominiums all along the intracoastal waterway. South of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, the Cape Fear River empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Fear.

North Carolina is a fabulous location for diving wrecks and for experiencing up close encounters with the many tiger sand sharks that live in the waters offshore. The peak diving season for all of North Carolina is May to October.