You can find more general information on Crystal Coast here.
Before we moved to the the area, we enjoyed visiting the Beaufort area, and actually spent a couple of summers of looking for a home there. Since we had no success, we decided to try some other areas.
In 2006 when we were looking the Cape Carteret to Swansboro area seemed to have a lot of potential. Today that potential has been confirmed. We are seeing new services move into the area. This spring a Lowe's Home Improvement Center was built next to the very successful Lowe's Grocery Store in Cape Carteret. A new Walgreen's Drug Store just opened in Swansboro and construction on another one has begun in Cape Carteret.
Swansboro does not have quite as much history as Beaufort, but it is still an old, cute sea coast town, and since it is only 28 miles from Beaufort, we can easily visit Beaufort whenever we want. This is a link to a recent trip we made to visit the tall ship Royaliste.
It is hard to say which area, Swansboro or Beaufort is nicer. I guess it depends on your view point and what you want in an area.
I find our Western end of Carteret County near Swansboro a little more down to earth than Beaufort.
I would give the shops in Beaufort the edge, but I'm not sure my wife would agree. While Swansboro doesn't have the large number of clothing shops, it has plenty of home decor shops to keep the ladies interested and there are more shops close by on Emerald Isle.
Swansboro also has its fair share of excellent restaurants and they are a little more reasonably priced than the ones in Beaufort.
In fact the Cape Carteret, Cedar Point, Emerald Isle, Swansboro has all the services that one could want in a retirement area, and there is no drawbridge traffic bottle neck like there is in Beaufort.
Wherever you settle on the Crystal Coast, you'll likely be happy. So far we've been very impressed with the people we've worked with here . They're friendly and go out of their way to try to help you meet your goals. Once in a while they do get caught up in "beach time," but that is to be expected.