Newcomers to the area often tell us that they want to be near the water. Since Carteret County is 61% water, it would seem that being "near" the water would not be a great challenge. In one sense, that is the case. Nowhere in Carteret County is very far from the water.
However, when people start trying to solve the puzzle of the county's waters, they find it much more complicated. There is no shortage of water, it just turns out that there are lots of different kinds of water. I spent over twenty years in the technology industry, and I learned to tell people that they should figure out what they wanted to do with their computer before buying one. It is very similar with water in Carteret County. If water is important to you, he helps to know what you want to do on it, before you pick a place to put down some roots.
Having said that, it is all a matter of trade offs. What is convenient to one person might well be inconvenient to another person. If you want to get to the water in Carteret County, you can get to it, one way or the other.
There are lots of factors to consider, and I will list some of them. However, if you are serious about wanting a place on or near the water, there is no substitute for getting in a car with me and visiting some of the places. Not only do I take clients to visit prospective areas by car, I often put them in my skiff and show them some of the area. I have taken clients right to the dock of the subdivision where they were considering buying a place. If you are interested in serious help from me, check out my real estate site or just send me a note. This is a contact form that will get in touch with me.
The first thing to decide is whether or not you want to live in a community with a boat ramp. Picking a subdivision with a good boat ramp will cost extra money compared to a subdivision without one. Subdivision boat ramps are also not all created equal, some are not as advertised. The best rule of thumb is to talk to someone living there who actually boats to verify any claims that are being made.
We have one subdivision close to us where you often see the boat ramp advertised as being a feature for the community. The reality is that you cannot even get a good sized skiff launched at their ramp unless there is a high tide and the winds are right.
And of course ramps require maintenance. Then the ramp is only part of the boating equation. Only a few spots in Carteret County are close enough to navigable water that they can get away without dredging a channel. Dredging requires a permit and can only be done at certain times of the year. In our subdivision some of our HOA dues go to a fund to maintain the channel from our ramp to the marked channel in the White Oak River. In some cases finding a subdivision with a HOA that charges very little might mean that there is no maintenance being done on the boat ramp or the channel from the ramp.
If you decide on a community with a boat ramp, getting your boat into the water is easier especially in summer when the Wildlife Resources Ramp in Cedar Point is crowded. It is also a whole lot easier with a subdivision ramp if you are taking your family boating. Dad can go launch the boat, tie it up at the community day dock, and then go back and get the family.
In some communities you can leave a boat tied up at the day dock for two or three days or until something starts growing on your boat hull which is about two or three days. Leaving your boat tied up at a community day dock is a great way to have some serious boating fun.
There is one way to get access to a very nice boat ramp without living in a subdivision with a boat ramp. If you live in the town of Cape Carteret, paying $50 annually will give you access to the very nice Cape Carteret boat ramp. The last time I checked you could have access to that ramp from anywhere in the county for a $300 yearly fee. Of course there are other for fee ramps in the area, and there is a new, very large public boat ramp being built on Emerald Isle. There are also ramps in Morehead City and Beaufort.
As you are deciding whether or not you want to pay the premium for living in a subdivision with a boat ramp, you need to decide what kind of boat you want and how large it is going to be. Another saying we have along the Crystal Coast is that we have a lot of water spread very thin.
In other words while you might see lots of water, don't necessarily assume that you can take anything in the water beyond a kayak. In fact there are places where you can even run into challenges in a kayak.
You can actually end up with a property that is near some beautiful water which can turn out to be hard to access without going to a public water access miles away. Or you can find a place where there is water access at the end of the street where you only put in a kayak. Then there are places that can accommodate even a good-sized off shore boat. Carteret County and the Swansboro area have all that and more.
Many locals including myself favor a skiff around 20ft long with a 90HP motor. I did a lot of talking to boaters in 2006 before we got our own skiff in 2007. It has been a great choice for what I want to do with a boat. Most skiffs are fairly utilitarian. They are designed for hauling people and gear and for fishing. They are the easiest boats to operate in shallow water, and temporarily beaching one to let people off on a sandbar or an island in the inlet is easy.
Our standard procedure is to put the bow of the boat on the sand, let everyone but the captain off, bury the anchor in the sand, and back the boat off shore into some shallow water. The captain then tilts the motor and wades back ashore. That way you don't risk having your boat stranded as the tide goes out.
I am lucky to have my boat on a lift behind our home. Our skiff is less than thirty feet from my garage. In under ten minutes, I can load my gear, connect my GPS, and be in the White Oak River. Having a boat on a lift has allowed me to boat nearly every week during the year. I even used my skiff as an icebreaker once this winter.
However, having a boatlift means having waterfront property, and that costs even more than just being in a community with a boat ramp. Still it allows me to maximize my time with my boat. Wednesday, March 23, I took clients out to see some property from the water. Later that afternoon, a fishing buddy and I went out for our first fishing trip of the year. The next afternoon I slipped my kayak in the water for the first kayaking trip of the year on the White Oak River. I could do all that because I live right by the water.
Of course if you decide to be on a river instead of the sound, picking the right river is also very important. Some rivers are more subject to winds or flooding. The banks of the New River in Jacksonville are mostly in the hands of the Marines. Then there are big rivers like the Neuse which has a history of fish kills. We chose the White Oak River which has enough tidal action to keep the water moving in summer. It is also a short river with no city on it and mostly natural wetlands along much of its upper reaches. Another thing in its favor are the oysters in the river. They are nature's way of keeping water clear. There are rivers in the Beaufort area where the docks have to be extremely long to reach the water. Of course if you have the money to be on Taylor's Creek in Beaufort, you are in a prized spot.
I have hardly touched on some options like being on the soundside of Emerald Isle, renting a slip, or dry stacking a boat. You also have to consider where you are in realtion to the inlets if getting into the ocean is important. I can be in the ocean in twenty minutes from our home on the White Oak. If you are half way between Cape Carteret and Morehead City on the Intracoastal, it can take longer.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the water in Carteret County, and there are a lot of different kinds of water to enjoy from the White Oak River to the Intracoastal Waterway, Bogue Sound, Bogue Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Crystal Coast, which in my view includes Swansboro, and which is sometimes called the Southern Outer Banks, is one of the great boating places along the Carolina Coast. We have access to the Atlantic through Beaufort and Bogue Inlets. For those who don't want to go into the ocean there is plenty of room to boat in the sounds and rivers.
Hopefully this article has helped a little in solving the puzzle of the waters of the Crystal Coast. You can follow one of my boating trips with linked pictures on this Google Map. You can also check out my site with many pictures of boating in the area.