The rain and snow of this odd winter have gone on long enough. It’s time to start daydreaming about a vacation. These best beaches in North Carolina are sure to prompt the travel bug. So get ready to be inspired to travel for fun in the sun.
Fortunately, with 300 miles along the coast of North Carolina, residents and neighbors of the Tar Heel State don’t have to travel too far. The North Carolina coast is actually the seventh-longest coastline in the nation!
If you’re going to vacation on the North Carolina coast, there are many beautiful beach options to consider. Here are our favorite North Carolina beaches to explore.
There are so many beaches in North Carolina it’s actually difficult to come to consensus about which ones are the best.
Carolina Beach — The vintage boardwalk alone is reason to visit Carolina Beach. Especially to enjoy Britts Donuts, which has been operating nearly eight decades (cash only!). During the season you can also expect live music, rides, and games on the boardwalk.
Carolina Beach State Park is a 761-acre park with miles of hiking, a marina, and campsites. Intrepid explorers might like a trip to the Flytrap Trail, named for the carnivorous plants along its path.
Wrightsville Beach — Just east of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach is a spacious beach with clear blue waters. It’s a place to enjoy water sports, family fun, and fishing. Or you can check out the feathered residents along the North Carolina Birding Trail.
From Memorial Day weekend through to Labor Day weekend you’re also likely to see surfers, stand-up paddle boarders and kite sailers on this beautiful NC beach. No wonder National Geographic dubbed Wrightsville one of the top surfing towns in the world!
Kure Beach — Just 15 miles south of Wilmington, Kure Beach is a coastal Cape Fear classic. It’s a smaller, more picturesque beach area with fishing, surfing, swimming, kayaking, and boating. Enjoy relaxing on the Atlantic Ocean, knowing you’re also nearby the attractions of the bustling Carolina Beach.
Topsail Beach — Reaching south from Surf City, this beach is pronounced as Tops’l. It’s apparently named for the topsails of pirate ships that once hid in the inlet. Now Topsail is a family-oriented beach area also known for its sea turtles. Loggerhead Sea Turtles come ashore to nest mid-May through August on Topsail Island.
Atlantic Beach — Found on Bogue Banks, one of the state’s barrier islands, Atlantic Beach boasts hiking and biking trails with fishing pier access and oceanfront views. The North Carolina Aquarium is a popular attraction too.
When talking coastal Carolina beaches, you also have to consider these top island options.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore — Stretching 72 miles along the Outer Banks, this skinny strip of islands offers many high, sandy dune beaches. You’ll see people swimming, surfing, and beach combing. Visitors can also enjoy a visit to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the nation’s tallest lighthouse. Or visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse, with dates back to the 1870s, and has only recently opened to the public.
Bald Head Island — Be prepared for a relaxing time at this island’s beaches. You can’t even bring your car to this 12,000 acre Cape Fear island. You’ll take a ferry over to explore 14 miles of beaches and travel by bicycle or golf cart to get around.
Emerald Isle — You’ll be able to find a beachfront rental here, but no hotels. Part of the Crystal Coast, and located on the Bogue Banks, Emerald Isle is popular for scuba divers, paddle boarders, and kayakers. Those who prefer a rod and reel will want to try the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier.
Holden Beach — One of the Brunswick Island beaches, close to the border of South Carolina, Holden Beach was recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of the best family beaches in the country. This beach is quiet, but its close proximity to Myrtle Beach makes it easy to amp up the activity level a notch or 11.
Wondering what is the closest beach to Charlotte, North Carolina? That’s actually a trick question. There’s plenty of beach to be found around Lake Norman, just north of the city. Or you could visit Lake Lure, NC, which has beachfront around a beautiful mountain lake. Home to the inn where Dirty Dancing was filmed, this town is a perfect balance for those who like both woods and sand.
Asking the same question for Raleigh, North Carolina? The answer is Wrightsville Beach, 131 miles away. Topsail is just a bit further at 139 miles from the capital city.
When making your plans, you’ll want to also know that public beaches in North Carolina come with many access points, amenities such as public restrooms and showers. Some even have shaded lookouts or porch swings for those who don’t want to make the trek down the dunes.
Whether you’re making a home in Charlotte or Raleigh, you’re not going to be too far from these great North Carolina beaches. Summer is coming! Start planning now. You may even want to explore South Carolina beaches too!