As summer transitions to fall, many locals find this is their favorite time to head to the Crystal Coast.

“The fall is special here because it’s the shoulder season,” said Carol Lohr, executive director of the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority. “Fishing is fabulous. People can actually get out and enjoy less crowded beaches and lower rates for accommodations and enjoy some of that delicious local food that we serve in our restaurants and enjoy festivals and events that happen down here.”

For many, Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer, and the tourists don’t tend to visit the Crystal Coast as often, meaning fewer people crowding the beaches. That has many locals and those within a short drive heading to the ocean to enjoy an “off season” of pleasant weather, nice water temperatures and plenty of activities – without the big crowds. The average high temperature in Morehead City in September is 83 degrees, and in October, it’s still a pleasant 76 degrees, according to U.S. climate data.

“The weather down here is wonderful in the fall,” Lohr said. “It’s cooler, but it’s still warm enough to go swimming and wear shorts and enjoy the outdoors. Some people swim down here until almost Thanksgiving. I usually, personally, tend to swim through October, but then it gets a little chilly for me, but a lot of people still enjoy it. The surfers are out there. The fishermen are out in their boats and on the piers and surf fishing, so it’s a great time to be here.”

Day-trippers can take advantage of traditional attractions that are often crowded with tourists during the summer such as N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, N.C. Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores and Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach.

Even though the fort is the destination for many, the park has 412 acres and a new 3.2-mile nature trail.

“That is one of the few places that you can actually see the painted buntings, which is a beautiful colorful bird that lives at the Fort Macon area and also over on Carrot Island across from Beaufort,” said Lohr. “If you’re into birding, it’s a great place to go watch for birds and check them off of your list.”

B.G. Horvat, chief of interpretation at the Cape Lookout National Seashore, said the national park recreation areas are popular as fishing picks up.

“All the anglers like to come out and have their big fishing trips over that time,” Horvat said. “The cabin camps are usually pretty full as it is a pretty popular time of the year to come on out and spend some time on the seashore doing some surf fishing.”

Anglers can expect to hook into flounder, red drum, bluefish, and many other fish, he said.

“They are catching all sorts of different species of fish out there, but the weather is also a lot better as long as we’re not getting any hurricanes,” said Horvat. “It is a little bit more mild temperatures and makes for a pretty good time out there.

“It’s kind of tropical out there, I would say. It’s a good way to not have to actually go down to the tropics. Coming out here to the Cape Lookout National Seashore you find yourself on a little escape to a tropical locale.”

Lohr said the seashore is one of the biggest assets of the Crystal Coast.

“The ferries will be running over there in the fall,” said Lohr. “You can surf fish and take your four-wheel vehicles over there on two of the passenger vehicle ferries that are available and enjoy that. You can see the wild horses on Shackleford Banks. People enjoy kayak tours. The water is warm enough to enjoy kayaking and seeing water from the water’s view.”

For more information about all the things to do and see on the Crystal Coast, go online to www.crystalcoastnc.org or for more information about Cape Lookout National Seashore, go online to www.nps.gov/calo/index.htm.