How Safe Is Morehead City for Travel?

Updated On September 6, 2023
Morehead City, United States
Safety Index:
78
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Morehead City, North Carolina, is a wonderful mix of Southern charm, coastal beauty, and laid-back beach vibes.

This picturesque town, set against the stunning backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, has a story that unfolds in every wave that laps its sandy shores.

Founded in the mid-19th century, Morehead City owes its name to Governor John Motley Morehead, a man whose vision breathed life into this maritime gem.

Its roots as a port town are deeply ingrained, with its thriving waterfront serving as a testament to its enduring maritime legacy.

Morehead City is known as the “Seafood Capital of North Carolina.”

You’ll find that moniker true at every turn with the freshest catches of the day in charming waterfront eateries.

October brings the annual Seafood Fest to town.

Stroll along the bustling waterfront, where colorful fishing boats bob gently in the harbor, and the salty breeze carries whispers of adventures on the high seas.

You’ll feel like you’re walking in a Nicholas Sparks novel, which is almost true since the Mandy Moore movie A Walk to Remember was based in Beaufort, just across the water from Morehead City.

Warnings & Dangers in Morehead City

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk here with high rewards. Crime rates are lower than the state and national average even before you figure in the tourist crowd.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Carteret County has a public bus system that can take you to points of interest. Taxis, rideshares, shuttles, and rental cars are widely available. All options come with a low risk.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

More than half of the thefts in Morehead City are shoplifting. Surprisingly, just one purse snatching has been reported in the past five years. The risk is low, but there are people capable of stealing around you, so don't let your guard down.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Hurricanes from June through November are the largest risk here, but winter storms and severe weather in the spring through fall can also cause high winds, dangerous lightning, and flooding. Stay weather aware because even a sunny beach day with a strong rip tide can be dangerous.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

The risk is low, with just one robbery in 2020 and 2021. Before that, there wasn't a year with more than six robberies going back a decade.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low risk; as a small coastal town, there's not much appeal for terrorists. It's still important to report anything suspicious you see to the local police. Camp Lejeune is about 55 miles away, but any risk that is there is protected by a heightened amount of security.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM

There's a medium risk here for many reasons. First, scams are such a problem that there's a Scam Jam held each year. Second, rental scams and elderly scams are repeatedly tried by fraudsters. Check with the local police before you go to ask about recent scams. Only rent a home from a company that's verified through the Better Business Bureau, and never wire money to reserve a home.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

This is another low risk, but make sure you still use proper personal safety steps. Learn about beach safety, especially if you are bringing kids.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

Here's another low risk, with the 2022 Water Quality Report showing full compliance and no violations. Always check with the city's social media sites after flooding or a tropical storm, as there could be boil orders or water issues.

Safest Places to Visit in Morehead City

The tourism region around Morehead City is known as the Crystal Coast, but you might also hear it referred to as the Southern Outer Banks.

It goes from Cape Lookout National Seashore 85 miles to where New River meets the Ocean.

NOTE:

If you are looking for articles on the Outer Banks towns, please review others on this website.

Morehead City is about five hours from Hatteras at the heart of the Outer Banks (OBX).

The Crystal Coast has an official tourist site which includes Morehead City but covers the entire stretch of barrier islands.

Morehead.com is a travel website with information focused on Morehead City but also dives into regional activities.

Morehead City is located on a peninsula, and Atlantic Beach is just to the south on the Bogue Banks, while Beaufort is to the east.

It’s the largest community on the Crystal Coast and a point many must pass through to get to their beach destination.

Suffice it to say, there’s every kind of water activity you can imagine.

Fishing, diving, paddling, boating, swimming, eco-tours, and more and lined around the waterways.

I recommend looking into the Morehead City Ferry Service for various trips to nearby islands or sunset tours.

You can even book a tour to swim with dolphins.

While most islands can be reached by driving, sometimes a boat is easiest.

For example, you’ll have to drive almost two hours to get to the tip of Cape Lookout National Seashore.

A ferry ride is about 20 minutes and costs less than $25.

One must-see boat ride for animal lovers is the ferry to Shackleford Island, where more than 100 wild horses roam.

This is the same type of horse roaming the beaches of Corolla on the north end of OBX.

The Morehead City Waterfront is where you’ll find the best seafood restaurants in town.

One thing I love about Morehead City is that it doesn’t bow to the tourism cheesiness you might find in places like the Jersey Shore.

This is just honest seaside beauty and a working dock.

The History Museum of Carteret County is in Morehead City, but Beaufort has a great collection of museums just four miles east.

To visit the North Carolina Museum at Pine Knoll Shores, you’ll drive eight miles to the barrier islands and visit the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area.

Fort Macon State Park sits just six miles away, east of Atlantic Beach.

Guided tours are available daily, and living history museum attractions like the cannonball firing take you back in history to when this was a working fort.

You can visit Ocracoke on the Outer Banks via ferry through Cedar Island, which passes through a wildlife refuge about 34 miles away from Morehead City.

Places to Avoid in Morehead City

You won’t find dangerous parts of town in Morehead City or the Crystal Coast.

The main places to avoid are private property and membership-only locations.

While summer is obviously a great time to visit the beach, hurricane season starts in June and runs through November.

The most active time is generally August through October.

Please keep this in mind if you’re planning a trip during these months.

Hurricanes and tropical weather can build out at sea for days before making land, and it’s a mentally stressful dance to see if the storm is coming at you, veering away, or getting stronger.

The storms can also come from the Gulf Coast and cause heavy rains and tornadoes or “ride” the coastline with dangerous conditions up and down the seaboard.

Even a hurricane way out in the water, known as a “Fish Storm,” can cause dangerous rip tides and strong waves on clear, sunny days.

The coast of North Carolina is my favorite place in the country, and I’ve always wanted to spend my September birthday there.

Twice, I’ve had to cancel trips because of potential incoming hurricanes.

If you are there as a storm is approaching, do not attempt to “ride it out.”

Get safely inland.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Morehead City

  1. Morehead City has its own police department that patrols by land and sea. You can follow them on Facebook @MCPDNC. The phone number is (252) 726-3131.
  2. Sign up for emergency updates through the CodeRED program. You can sign up on the Carteret County website. This will give you weather alerts and county-wide updates. Even in August 2023, Hurricane Idalia hit the big bend in Florida, crossed over the south, and led to a state of emergency in Morehead City.
  3. The tourism website shows 20 beaches on the Crystal Coast, but most are overseen by the town in which they are located. That means parking fees, permit regulations, and hours could change in each town.
  4. Cape Lookout National Seashore is a great place to get away from the town beaches and enjoy preserved land under the oversight of the National Park Service. You’ll pay the entrance fee but then have access to all the beaches.
  5. Before you book a diving trip, check the requirements for each tour. The Olympus Dive Center does offer training, but you’ll make better use of the time if you get certified before you go.
  6. Anglers need a fishing license from the state of North Carolina. The website Go Outdoors North Carolina has all the information about coastal licensing, boating, and hunting.
  7. You should know how to parallel park while driving in Morehead City, as many street parking options require it.
  8. Morehead City is surrounded by water on all but one side, and streets can flood easily. Never drive through a flooded road or assume the water isn’t that deep. It’s also helpful to keep track of the tide schedules. Even one heavy rainstorm can cause problems if it happens at high tide.
  9. Yes, there are sharks in the waters off North Carolina. In fact, you can visit the OCEARCH website to see live tracking of certain sharks. Always look for shark flags at the beach to warn that they are in the water.
  10. This is a very dog-friendly part of the seashore. Dogs are even allowed on Shackleford Island. I have two of the sweetest golden retrievers you’ll ever meet, but I’m not sure if I would trust them on a beach filled with wild horses.

So... How Safe Is Morehead City Really?

Morehead City’s violent crime rate is a good 40% less than the state and national averages.

Half of those happen in private homes.

From a violent crime angle, Morehead City is very safe.

However, no town is safe enough to let your guard down and start walking around at night with your iPhone distracting you.

The theft rate here is about 80% higher than the national average.

Two pieces of context will help understand that.

First, the theft rate only includes the crimes vs. population, without adding in the thousands of people who visit each year.

Second, about half of that is shoplifting.

Over the past five years, 52% of all thefts were shoplifting.

I’m not sure if I’ve seen a number that high, even in a large tourist area.

What also surprised me was that just 17% of thefts were car break-ins.

Usually, that number is about twice as high.

It could also be that far fewer people rely on vehicles here and use boats or bikes instead.

The only safety concerns you should really have here are related to the dangers of the water, weather, and wildlife.

For example, do you know what to do if you are caught in a rip tide?

Does a double red flag on the beach mean anything to you?

Would you scoff at a wind advisory and paddle on the ocean anyway?

You are about to have the time of your life in this charming Southern slice of beach life.

Just be educated about the risks and ask the locals about any activity you haven’t done before.

They know better than anyone the best safety advice and hidden treasures along the way.

How Does Morehead City Compare?

CitySafety Index
Morehead City78
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International visitors need a visa or visa waiver. Start with the U.S. State Department website to fill out the Visa Wizard module. That will tell you what kind of visa or waiver you qualify for. Also, get a passport that isn't within six months of expiring.

Currency

Currency

You can exchange currency at your home bank for the lowest fees or use ATMs that are compatible with your debit card. Charge as much as you can in advance to avoid pulling out your wallet for every tour.

Weather

Weather

Since there's a lot of water around here, bring water shoes, boat shoes, sunscreen, and bug spray. The summers are almost that perfect temperature of warm with a cool breeze at night. Winters will get chilly with an occasional burst of cold air. Always bring layers because you want to adapt to the changing temperatures throughout the day.

Airports

Airports

The nearest commercial airport to Morehead City is the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport (EWN), located approximately 40 miles southwest of Morehead City in New Bern. If you want a larger airport, Raleigh-Durham is 2.5 hours away, and Charlotte is five hours away.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance comes in very handy here, not just to protect your flights from delays and cancelations, but also because every tour and ticket will likely have you waive the liability of the vendor in case of an accident.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Morehead City Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 8° C
Feb 9° C
Mar 12° C
Apr 17° C
May 21° C
Jun 25° C
Jul 27° C
Aug 26° C
Sep 24° C
Oct 19° C
Nov 14° C
Dec 10° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
131418222529313029242016
Low
°C
2361116212322191384
High
°F
555764727784888684756861
Low
°F
363743526170737266554639

North Carolina - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Apex84
Asheville57
Boone82
Cary83
Chapel Hill81
Charlotte56
Cornelius75
Corolla81
Davidson82
Duck79
Durham84
Elizabeth City79
Gastonia61
Goldsboro46
Greensboro77
Hatteras82
Hickory68
High Point62
Hope Mills53
Kannapolis82
Kill Devil Hills77
Kitty Hawk79
Manteo75
Mooresville77
Morehead City78
New Bern77
Raleigh74
Rocky Mount52
Rodanthe85
Statesville78
Wilmington84
Winston-Salem47

Where to Next?

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