Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Guided tours
Backcountry camping
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The highlight of Fort Macon State Park is the old fort, but there are also hiking trails and a nice beach to explore. This is actually among the most-visited state parks in North Carolina, and the majority of people come for the beach. Don't miss out on the history when visiting, though. The Bogue Banks were a strategic location during the Civil War, and Fort Macon became an important battleground.

This site has seen multiple iterations of coastal defenses, beginning in 1756 with Fort Dobbs. These earlier forts were claimed by the sea after coastal erosion and beach migration overtook them, so in 1826 work on Fort Macon began on higher ground. Improvements were made throughout later decades. An erosion control project conducted in the 1840s was led by Robert E. Lee, who was a young army engineer at the time.

Just after the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861, Confederate forces seized Fort Macon without much of a fight, but the Union Army would be back. In 1862 the nearby cities Morehead City and Beaufort gave into Union occupation, and the fort fell to an overnight seige shortly after. The Union retained control of the area for the rest of the war and some years after. It was deactivated after the Reconstruction Era, briefly occupied again during the Spanish American War in 1898, but decomissioned for good in 1903.

The State of North Carolina bought it in 1923 and made a state park in the 1930s after restoration by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The old fort saw one more brief hoorah during World War II, when the state leased it to the U.S. Army in case of foreign attack. Troops and artillery garrisoned here for just three years before it reopened as a park. Today the restored fort is open for self-led and guided tours. The visitor center and museum are full of interesting information about the region's history and surrounding natural environment.


There are two trails in the state park, which both depart from the same trailhead behind the visitor center. Yarrow's Loop is a very short, grassy nature trail with interpretive signs about plants and animals. Elliot Coues Nature Trail is longer and more varied. It leads alongside coastal marsh, through shrubby maritime forest, across the road, and to the swim beach. You can start the 3.2-mile round trip from either end, whether at the beach parking area or the visitor center.


Fort Macon Beach curves around the east end of Bogue Banks, where the Beaufort Inlet opens to the Atlantic Ocean. Because currents can be strong at the inlet, swimming is restricted to a designated area on the south-facing stretch of beach. The inlet beach is for fishing only. A large parking lot with nice facilities accesses the swimming beach, and the visitor center parking lot is closer to the fishing beach.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Historic fort. Museum. Beach. All free.


No camping.


ADA accessible
Historically significant
Flushing toilets
Potable water
Picnic tables
Covered picnic areas
Bird watching
Whale watching
Family friendly
Guided tours


Nearby Lodging + Camping


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