With 300 miles of pristine coastline, it's no surprise that North Carolina is one of the best beach destinations in the country. From quiet barrier islands to bustling coastal towns and family-friendly destinations, North Carolina beaches are perfect for your next summer vacation (though their sandy stretches are beautiful any time of year). These spots offer stunning white sand beaches, of course, but they are also home to historic sites, diverse wildlife, beautiful golf courses, and exciting water sports. We've rounded up the 10 best beaches in North Carolina for your next trip to the Tar Heel State, from Sunset Beach to Duck.
With 56 miles of beach across several barrier islands, Cape Lookout National Seashore has a lot to offer visitors. Shackleford Banks is ideal for swimming and lounging on the beach, and the island is home to more than 100 wild horses. During the summer, visitors can climb the diamond-painted Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Take a ranger-guided tour, explore the islands from the water by canoe or kayak, or go bird watching to learn a little more about Cape Lookout and its wildlife.
Plan a one-night stay at one of the park's beachfront cabins or campgrounds to further enjoy the undeveloped natural beauty of this coastline. Located on the northern stretch of North Carolina's barrier islands, Duck offers something for everyone. You can book a stay at Sanderling Resort and enjoy family-friendly activities, several swimming pools and a spa, or take a day trip to the nearby Corolla for a walk along the beach in a four-wheeled vehicle for a chance to see one or two wild horses. Nearby golf courses and water sports make it an ideal destination for visitors who want to get out and enjoy nature.
Like other barrier island destinations, Hammocks Beach State Park's Bear Island is only accessible by ferry or boat, making it perfect for people looking for a quiet, relaxing beach. You won't find lines of beachfront restaurants or bars along this largely undeveloped beach, which is why people love it. You can rent canoes, kayaks or paddleboards to explore the marshes, Bear Island and Huggins Island, or take some time to learn about the park's wildlife. Bear Island is also home to several campgrounds, so you can extend your stay at this state park.
Just 20 minutes' drive from historic Wilmington, you'll find the popular Carolina Beach, with its beaches, boardwalk and other family-friendly attractions. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is a classic American boardwalk with bars, restaurants, game rooms, and places to rent bikes and surfboards. Nearby Carolina Beach State Park offers more outdoor recreational activities, with many hiking trails such as the Flytrap Trail, where you can spot the native Venus flytrap plant. If you're staying in Wilmington, this is a perfect destination for a day trip.
Otherwise, book a room at one of the hotels or rent a beach house and enjoy your beachfront getaway. Hop on a ferry from Hatteras, Swan Quarter or Cedar Island and head to this peaceful island. Spend your days lounging on 16 miles of white sand beaches or fishing, kayaking, sailing and surfing. Rent a boat or golf cart to explore the island, or visit one of the trails for a leisurely nature walk.
At the end of the day, enjoy the sunset over Silver Lake Harbor, there are several shops, restaurants and inns located along this harbor. Located on North Carolina's Crystal Coast, just across the Morehead City elevated road, Atlantic Beach is perfect for families. Whether you want to build sand castles on the beach or go fishing, there's an outdoor activity for you. Atlantic Beach is also a popular destination for sea turtles looking for a place to nest each year, from May to October, sea turtles lay their eggs in this area.
You can learn more about the region's marine life at nearby North Carolina aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores, located 10 minutes' drive from Atlantic Beach. Cars are not allowed on Bald Head Island, accessible by ferry from nearby Southport. Instead, move around this peaceful island by golf cart, bicycle or on foot. Play a round of golf or try your hand at croquet at the Bald Head Island Club.
Of course, with 14 miles of beautiful beaches, you'll also want to spend some time dipping in the sand and surfing or looking for seashells. This less-crowded 26-mile stretch of sand is located just south of Jacksonville, North Carolina. Animal lovers will rejoice, as from mid-May to August, loggerhead turtles come ashore to nest and lay eggs along the Topsail shoreline. You can explore the island's preservation and conservation efforts at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City.
Relax on the beach or enjoy surfing, boating, fishing or water skiing on the waves. You can search for pirate treasure, if you're lucky, legend has it, the name of the island comes from the fact that the area was once a popular spot for pirates, whose upper sails were a warning to any approaching ship. Sections of remote, rarely crowded beaches and a series of beautiful barrier islands characterize North Carolina's coastline. However, those looking for more crowded beaches will enjoy the several beaches close to more developed areas, such as Kitty Hawk and Nags Head, NC.
The lighthouses along the coast are some of the most beautiful and romantic in the country and many can be explored. Here are the best beaches in North Carolina. We recommend that you call attractions and restaurants prior to your visit to confirm current opening hours. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, one of the best beaches in North Carolina, is a part of the Outer Banks that is preserved by the U.S.
UU. More than 70 miles of protected shoreline range from Ocracoke Island to Bodie Island. There are three visitor centers that offer information, programming and gift shops. Wrightsville Beach is made up of two islands that are easily accessible from the North Carolina mainland.
The islands offer everything you need for a relaxing vacation, including many accommodation options ranging from full-service resorts to more budget hotels. Popular ways to spend time at Carova Beach include sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. The area is also a popular spot for fishing. The nearby town of Corolla offers restaurants, shops, and attractions such as the Corolla Wild Horse Museum.
This museum is located in a historic school that has informative and interactive exhibits on wild horses. Keep reading for more North Carolina beaches and find the nearest beach near me. Ocracoke Island is home to 16 miles of undeveloped “wild” beaches. The entire coast is part of the national coast of Cape Hatteras.
Ocracoke attracts visitors looking for relaxing and open spaces to enjoy activities such as surfing, kite flying, sunbathing, boogie-boarding and building sand castles. The beach and surrounding areas are home to many birds, fish, turtles and other wild animals. Access the beach at more than 60 public access points or take the opportunity to enjoy a large one at one of the area's fishing docks. Guests can get out on the water at Oak Island's two marinas and the three public boat and canoe ramps.
The 10-mile stretch of sand is perfect for relaxing and enjoying everything one expects from a North Carolina beach. Hammocks Beach State Park is a state park along the southern Outer Banks that is comprised of Bear Island, three smaller islands (Dudley, Huggins and Johns) and 319 acres on the mainland. Bear Island is the park's main attraction and is a 3-mile long barrier island that can be accessed by park ferry, private ferry, or paddling in a canoe or kayak. Shrimp boats travel up and down the canal as they enter and exit the open ocean, which can be an interesting sight.
Visitors can see dolphins playing in the waves during the day and ghost crabs in the sand with a flashlight at night. The annual North Carolina Festival by the Sea is a popular event that offers crafts and delicious food. Keep reading to learn more North Carolina beaches. Coquina Beach is part of the national coast of Cape Hatteras.
The beach is completely undeveloped, but it is located close enough to the well-developed towns of Nags Head and Kitty Hawk, where visitors can find amenities and restaurants if they wish. The beach can only be accessed on foot or by 4WD vehicle. The beach is the site of the Laura Barnes shipwreck of 1921, and there are still some parts of the ship. Coquina Beach is a popular spot along the Outer Banks for surf fishing, which is best in spring or fall.
Coquina is the perfect spot for a quiet and relaxing trip to the beach, not far off the beaten path. This is where the pan banks extend to the ocean for 30 miles. These sandbanks seem to rise from the water and descend again as the tide goes down and down. In addition to enjoying the picturesque beaches, popular activities on the island include renting bicycles to tour the island, hiking, and canoeing and kayaking.
Rides and games are also organized along the waterfront strip during the summer and gift shops and gift shops are open all year round. Nearby Carolina Beach State Park is a 761-acre park located along the Cape Fear River. Park amenities include miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, and a marina. Visitor Center Displays Exhibits Related to Local and State Natural History.
Rare carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap can be found in the park's wetlands. Lake Lure is an artificial freshwater lake on the Broad River. Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the lake has an area of approximately 720 acres with 27 miles of shoreline. Visitors can relax on the sandy beach, have a picnic, and swim or float in the water.
You're reading 23 Best Beaches in North Carolina Back to Top. Atlantic Beach is one of the most developed beach areas in North Carolina, located along the Crystal Coast. There are plenty of amenities for visitors to enjoy, including rental of cycling and water sports equipment, and the opportunity to rent a fishing trip. There are four designated walking trails as part of the Walk Atlantic Beach program that allow visitors to explore the area on foot more easily.
Sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the beach every year from May to October, which means there is a chance that visitors later in the year can witness the young emerging from the sand and make their journey into the waters. What's more, North Carolina aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores and Civil War-era Fort Macon State Park are just a short drive away. Our journey south through North Carolina's best beaches ends in Brunswick County, about a four-hour drive from Charlotte. Here, the usual sand and sun draw increases with several recreational opportunities, including bird watching, sunset kayak tours, and several golf courses.
The Carolina Coast Museum and the Ingram Planetarium, meanwhile, include an aquarium and exhibits of local maritime and Native American history. As expected, sunsets aren't bad either. The North Carolina coast comprises 300 miles of barrier island beaches, each with its own unique atmosphere and a variety of things to do. And picturesque coastal towns and endless activities ensure there's always something new to explore: a fresh perspective in a family environment that keeps visitors coming back year after year.
Located on the state's famous Crystal Coast, Atlantic Beach is one of the most popular destinations, due in large part to its location and the fact that it faces south, protecting it from the wind and waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It has a long history as one of the best beach destinations on the entire coast. The soft sandy beach is wide and is backed by shopping and dining options ranging from burgers to high-end restaurants. For time away from the beach, be sure to visit one of the four Walk Atlantic Beach circuits.
Each one takes you through different areas of the city. A short drive from Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach is a hot spot for all kinds of water sports, including stand-up paddleboarding, surfing and kiteboarding. In fact, this is the beach where surfing began in North Carolina. The waves roll here steadily and tend to be soft, perfect for beginners.
The Brunswick Islands comprise six separate island communities that are located on five barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. North Carolina State Park is considered a true local gem and offers a full-service visitor center with a snack bar and bathhouse. Regardless of what you're looking for on a beach vacation, whether it's walking, swimming, bombing, trying your luck with some of the best fishing spots on the East Coast, surfing, kitesurfing, or just sitting in a beach chair watching the waves, you can find it on North Carolina beaches. With 300 miles of coastline, rugged sand dunes, and countless estuaries, North Carolina is ready for a beach vacation.
Wrightsville Beach is one of the best beaches in North Carolina and is the closest beach to Charlotte, North Carolina. Another notable spot you'll find on the seashore is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which dates back to 1870 and is one of North Carolina's most famous landmarks. The Brunswick Islands are home to both North Carolina's oldest and newest lighthouses and both are interesting and picturesque places to visit. On the Atlantic side, beach walkers can enjoy seemingly endless stretches of sand, and shell hunters will be rewarded with some of the best finds on the North Carolina coast.