Swansboro, sometimes called the "Friendly City by the Sea", is a town of 3,700 people (as of 2020) in Onslow County, North Carolina, between the White Oak River and the Intracoastal Waterway. The town was incorporated in 1783, and named for Samuel Swann, a former Speaker in the North Carolina legislature. It's on the western border of the popular Crystal Coast tourist region, and is often considered to be unofficially part of the region. The town's main attractions are its beautiful waterfront views and its quaint downtown, filled with boutiques, shops and delicious restaurants.
Swansboro is on NC-24, about half an hour east of Jacksonville and just across the White Oak River from Cape Carteret. If you're coming from Raleigh, the quickest route is to take I-40 to Kenansville (exit 373) and then follow US-258/NC-24 past Jacksonville.
Parking in town is free, and many people enjoy walking or biking through the downtown area.
- Bicentennial Park, at the base of the Highway 24 bridge, gives visitors a chance to fish in the White Oak River or relax and watch the water. There's also a statue of Otway Burns, a local privateer who built the first steamboat in North Carolina.
- Hammocks Beach State Park. On Bear Island. Secluded beaches for picnicking, sunbathing, swimming, hiking, fishing and shelling. Loggerhead turtle nests can be viewed as well. 14 primitive backpack campsites, 3 primitive group campsites, 4 sites for canoe campers. A passenger ferry runs to the island between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but pets are not allowed onboard.
- The main downtown area is along Front Street, which features numerous shops, restaurants and historic buildings.
- Aquaculture Dude Ranch, 334 Journey's End Lane, +1 910-326-5106. Offers ecology tours into the Croatan National Forest, and has a dock where you can dig for clams, dip for crabs, catch shrimp and oysters, and set fish traps.
- If you want to bring your own boat for fishing or cruising, Swansboro has three marinas:
- Casper's Marine Service, 301 South Water Street, +1 910-326-4462. 150 slips.
- Dudley's Marina, Highway 24 East, +1 252-393-2204. 25 slips. Also has hot showers and a store for fishing equipment.
- Swansboro Yacht Basin, Highway 24, +1 252-393-2416. 90 feet of dockage. Also has three restaurants, including the Flying Bridge.
- There are two fishing piers in the area, a small city-maintained pier by the bridge and one pay pier.
- The 25-mile Bicentennial Bicycle Trail loops through downtown historic Swansboro and into the Croatan National Forest.
Swansboro is a town that loves its festivals. Among the highlights:
- One Saturday in mid-March, the Rotary Civic Center puts on the Swansboro Rotary Oyster Roast with all-you-can-eat steamed oysters, flounder, clam chowder, sides (hush puppies and coleslaw) and beverages, as well as a traditional North Carolina pig pickin'. Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door.
- At the end of May, Swansboro hosts the King Mackerel Blue Water Tournament with prizes up to $25,000, and a barbecue cookout for participants. Advance entry fee is $300 per boat.
- One Saturday in mid-June, downtown Swansboro hosts Arts by the Sea, where local artists display their arts and crafts amid lots of food booths. Admission and parking are free.
- On July 4th, be sure to watch the fireworks show over the river at 9PM, with popcorn and funnel cakes to munch, and entertainment before dusk.
- The Mullet Festival, held during the second weekend in October, began as a celebratory event when the bridge over the White Oak River was completed in 1954. Since that year, Swansboro has had an annual celebration with parades, a street carnival, live entertainment, arts and crafts, and lots of seafood, with an emphasis on mullet: grilled, fried, smoked and stewed!
- The Friendly City Speckled Trout Tournament is held in early November at Casper's Marina; fishermen are encouraged to weigh their trout alive and release them back into the water.
- On Thanksgiving weekend, pull your car up to the riverfront early to watch the Christmas flotilla, as a parade of boats decorated in lights pulls into the harbor after dark.
Many people come to Swansboro for the express purpose of meandering through its quiet lanes and browsing the quaint shops. Parking is free, so take your time.
- Elliott's Parrot Place, 686 W Corbett Avenue, ☏ . Live handfed birds (including cockatoos, cockatiels and caiques), bird supplies and cages, toy birds and vintage parrot-inspired jewellery.
- Poor Man's Hole, 131 Front Street, ☏ . Antique store.
- [dead link] Russell's of Swansboro, 116 Front Street, ☏ . Open daily. A gift and home-furnishings store located in three renovated buildings, offering country crafts, costume jewellery, pottery and handpainted items.
- Through the Looking Glass, 101 Church Street, ☏ . Open daily; call for winter hours. Home and garden accessories, perfume, jewellery, candles, Christmas gifts and an excellent selection of wines.
- Swansboro Food & Beverage Co., 106 Front Street, ☏ . Locals claim it serves some of the best fried seafood in the state, and you get a complimentary bowl of down east chowder with every meal.
- Riverside Steak and Seafood, 1 Main Street, ☏ . Famous for their secret-recipe sweet-potato muffins. Sandwiches, steaks, seafood and pasta. $6.95 (sandwiches) - $26.95 (steaks).
- il Cigno Italiano, 206 West Corbett Ave (on the banks of the White Oak River), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. W-M 4-9PM, closed Tu. Italian cuisine. Try the il Cigno Mozzarella platter and house-made desserts.
- Yana's Ye Olde Drug Store, 119 Front St, ☏ . Open for breakfast and lunch. Reminiscent of 1950s drugstore lunch counters, serving omelettes, pancakes, burgers, sandwiches, salads, homemade onion rings and old-fashioned ice-cream desserts. A 1950s memorabilia shoppe is right next door.
- The Boro Restaurant & Bar, 109 Front St, ☏ . Daily 11AM-9PM. Live music on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
- 1 By The Bridge, 108-3 W Corbett Ave, ☏ . Su-Th 8AM-midnight, F Sa 8AM-2AM. Breakfast, lunch and bar, with fusions of South Florida flavors.
- 2 El Cerro Tacos, 714 W Corbett Ave, ☏ , email@example.com. Flavors From Jalisco and Michoacán, Mexico.
- Church Street Coffee, Deli, and Irish Pub, 105 Church St, ☏ . Located in the 1888 James Moore House. Eat indoors or on our outdoor Bistro tables.
- Bake Bottle & Brew, 147 Front St, ☏ . Wine and craft beer bar, ice cream and gifts, with a beautiful deck overlooking the Intercoastal waterway. Also has a Homebrew and winemaking section.
- Best Western Silver Creek Inn, 801 Cedar Point Boulevard, ☏ . 65 rooms, including suites and whirlpool rooms. Outdoor pool, jacuzzi and fitness center. Adjacent to the Cedar Point Grill and Silver Creek Golf Course (golf packages available). Average price $102.
- Hampton Inn & Suites, 215 Old Hammock Road (behind Hardees), ☏ . 98 rooms, including suites. Gym/fitness center, free breakfast, free high-speed internet access, two versatile function rooms for up to 100 guests. Average price is $82.
- Waterway Inn, ☏ , toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Owned & operated by Dave & Kay Owens, 160 Cedar Point Boulevard. 16 new rooms with sea themes, accessible by car or boat; wireless internet access; refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker available in every room; cable w/ HBO; A/C and heat; free local calls; family bar-b-que area; boat slips; 90-ft fishing pier; picnic and play area. Adjacent to a public boat ramp.
The Crystal Coast area has a variety of other areas to visit:
Further afield, there are some interesting destinations for daytrips: