I used to vacation here in Emerald Isle, NC with a friend and her family growing up. Every couple of summers we'd pile in the van to begin the trip from Richmond, Virginia. We went to the same shops, restaurants and mini golf spots over the course of our trips to this peaceful island. Initially, when telling friends at school where we were headed we were met with blank stares. Later on, we heard many proclaiming "I'm vacationing in Emerald Isle again this summer." Our little beach get away had turned popular it seemed. So, I was thrilled to learn I'd be relocating to the area temporarily for work.
Over the past few weeks I've seen old stomping grounds and explored new areas.
The best, and perhaps only Mexican cuisine on the island is El Zarpe Mexican Restaurant located across from the Food Lion on Emerald Drive. Expect a short wait if you arrive in the middle of the dinner rush. Chips and salsa are promptly delivered to your table. The chips are right out of the oven and the salsa is fresh. None of that tomato paste without any spices I've been seeing around a lot these days. The margaritas are generous in both size and tequila. If you prefer yours frozen, they have premixed machines for both virgin and regular margaritas, as well as strawberry daiquiris. On both of my trips to this restaurant, I ordered carnitas tacos. Do not pass up the opportunity for fresh Mexican food because this is not part of your traditional beach vacation. This is not to be missed!
There are 3 ice cream shops within a block of each other on Emerald Drive. The best service, variety, and ice cream in general can be found at The Sweet Spot. The staff greet everyone with a smile and are quick to offer up extra toppings if needed once you get to the bottom of your bowl. There is also a variety of salt water taffy, jelly bellys and other candy if ice cream is not your thing.
If you prefer seafood, expect a short drive and a potentially longer wait down the road in Salterpath. I'd suggest Crab Shack for not only crabs, but shrimp and other sea fare. Hot hush puppies will arrive to your table when you are seated. These are great to tide you over until your meal arrives. You may end up waiting for your dinner to arrive depending on how busy it is. The king crab legs do not disappoint. The 3 long crab legs drawfed the dinner plate. Each leg was well over a foot long. Kitchen shears easily did the trick to cut through the exoskeleton and pull out the thick meat, which in places was much thicker than my thumb. The amount of meat from the three legs was more than enough to eat (especially after eating half my weight in hush puppies) and much easier than tackling dozens of smaller legs.
For sunbathing, I'd recommend a beach umbrella which can be found at any of the local surf or beach shops. The sun is hot and you can easily get burned especially in the middle of the day. With the addition of an umbrella, you can easily stay on the beach all day.
The local surf shop, Berts, has boards and equipment for surfing, skimboarding and skateboarding. There is also a variety of board shorts and swim suits for all ages. Surf board rentals can be found here as well.