Top 16 Beaches in North Carolina

While planning your next summer vacation, consider visiting the beautiful beaches of North Carolina. Take a break from the hectic city life and hit these beaches famous for their powdery sands, turquoise waters, conserved dunes, beachfront rental houses, and a laid-back, easygoing approach to enjoy your beach vacay to the fullest. We have compiled a list of some of the best beaches in North Carolina to help you plan your vacation and create an unbeatable itinerary!

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach is among the top beaches in North Carolina, owing to its crystal blue waters and soft powdery sand. It has more than 40 access points and therefore doesn’t seem too crowded. It is 8.5 miles from Wilmington and keeps the beachgoers pretty active with water sports and wellness activities. It is considered one of the top surfing towns where even inexperienced surfers can take surfing lessons and practice their skills.

Wrightsville Beach offers you activities like surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and scuba diving. You can fish on Johnnie Mercers Pier or explore farther with a fishing charter or scenic cruise. Shop around at the beach boutiques and surf shops. After spending the day on the Wrightsville Beach, you can head to any of the restaurants for food, live music, and drinks. Spend time here and enjoy the pristine surroundings with your loved ones.

Wrightsville Beach (4)

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Atlantic Beach

clear waters and offers plenty of amenities for a memorable time. It is one of the most developed beach areas in the state where you can rent bikes and water sports equipment for a fun day at the beach or just watch the kids build sandcastles.

You can also explore the city by walking on any one of the four highlighted walking trails that are part of the Walk Atlantic Beach initiative. You can find sea turtles here and learn more about the marine life at the nearby North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Atlantic Beach also has a wide range of restaurants and many beach boutiques. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your best swimwear and head out for a vacation now!

Atlantic Beach - panoramio.jpg
By James Willamor, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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Carova Beach is isolated compared to the other Outer Banks beaches in North Carolina. The main reason for this is the unpaved roads in the area. It is only accessible by a 4×4-wheel drive and does not have large supermarkets or many amenities. Carova Beach offers several secluded vacation rentals directly on the beach or tucked away in sand dunes.

This place is ideal for people who want to get away from the bustling city life. If you love the outdoors and outdoor activities, you will surely keep yourself entertained. It offers several activities such as biking, kayaking, birding, and surfing. There are many hiking trails that will let you wander in the nature preserves. Carova is also home to the Banker Horses that you can spot near the shoreline.

Wild Horses

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Nags Head

Nags Head is the largest village located in the Outer Banks area and offers 11 miles of coastline. The Jockey Ridge Park is famous for its beautiful natural sand dunes on the eastern coast. The park also offers spectacular views of the water from the top of the dunes.

You can also enjoy hand gliding or kite flying here. It has many other amenities, such as a mini-golf course, skateboard park, biking paths, and many shops and restaurants. You can wander through the Nags Head Wood Preserve, which includes the Roanoke Trail and leads you through salt marsh and forest.

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By Vanished User 1004, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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Topsail Island

Topsail Island offers a small-town feel and a laid-back getaway. It has three main beach areas, namely, North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach. North Topsail Beach is surrounded by water on three sides and lets you enjoy many water activities. Surf City is a more commercial place with lots of stores and restaurants. You can also visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and check out Serenity point, the southernmost point of the Island, for some amazing views.

Topsail Beach is the smallest of the three and has a population of about 500 people. It is a trendy vacation spot with soft powdery sands and splendid vistas. You can also catch the loggerhead sea turtles on the beach-nesting near the dunes here.

North Topsail Beach, NC (4600325820).jpg
By rjones0856, CC BY 2.0, Link

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Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach in North Carolina offers a fun, laid-back vibe and fantastic seafood restaurants. It is located just 15 miles from the historic town of Wilmington. The famous Boardwalk here has been recognized as one of the Top 10 boardwalks in the country. The Boardwalk is a major attraction and is ever bustling with a wide variety of activities, games, live music performances, and other events.

The Carolina Beach State Park is another major attraction where you can spot the Venus flytrap plant on the Flytrap trail. You can also get some gorgeous views of the Cape Fear River. The white sand shoreline at Freeman Park lets you enjoy activities like shelling, surfing, and even camping. The nightlife at Carolina Beach is vibrant and entertaining. You will love to visit the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, which extends 700 feet into the Atlantic Ocean and has plenty of benches and amenities.

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By Annebethmi, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island, located in North Carolina, offers you 14 miles of pristine beaches with long stretches of sand where you can soak up the serene nature. It is accessible only by ferry from Southport and is car-free. It has three main beaches, the north beach, south beach, and west beach, which can be reached using golf carts, bicycles, or foot.

The North Beach is the place for many water activities like paddleboarding, kiteboarding, surfing, swimming, and several restaurants. West Beach offers you incredible vistas of the sea. South Beach is the more popular and preferred one as it has warmer water temperature, cool breeze, and easy water access. The Bald Head Island has 10,000 acres of untouched beach, marsh, and maritime forest reserve where you can truly soak up the natural beauty.

Bald Head Island NC - Harbor - panoramio (4).jpg
By David Broad, CC BY 3.0, Link

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Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle, located in North Carolina, offers 12 miles of spectacular shoreline and is a popular spot for relaxing family vacations. It attracts almost 50,000 tourists during the summer months. The shoreline is vast and provides many amenities such as water sports, picnic areas, and dedicated pavilions for barbeques, showers, and parking. The site has only one oceanfront hotel but has many private condos and homestays.

It is a favorite location for the nursing sea turtles, and if you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse or two of the dolphins. It also has an amusement park along the coast. The Emerald Isle Wood Park has a disc golf course and forest trails. The restaurants here serve the freshest seafood to tingle your taste buds with the flavors of the sea. It is one of the most popular beaches in North Carolina, and it will surely make for a memorable vacation for your family.

Sunset at The Point, Emerald Isle, North Carolina.jpg
By Vahurzpu, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

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Cape Lookout

With many fun activities to offer to the visitors, Cape Lookout is one of the most popular beaches located in North Carolina. Core Banks and Shackleford Banks are designated parts of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Shackleford Banks is ideal for swimming or simply relaxing on the shore. You can also spot the feral horses, a rare sighting, here.

You can also book ferry rides which last 15-20 minutes and where you get a chance to see bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and an abundance of other marine life. You can also explore the waters on canoes and kayaks or perhaps take a guided tour to learn more about the place and the delicate balance of the ecosystem that it houses. Visit the lighthouse, where you can view amazing sunsets on the water in the distance. Basic camping equipment and campgrounds are available here, which can be rented to enjoy the natural beauty of the seashores.

Cape Lookout National Seashore and Lighthouse, NC

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Lake Lure Beach

Lake Lure Beach is surrounded by the majestic Blue-Ridge Mountains. It is a perfect place to float on water, picnic in the shade, or just enjoy the sandy beach. Guided boat tours help you discover the beauty and charm of the lake and tell you all about the history of Hickory Nut Gorge.

A visit to Lake Lure will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike as it has something for everybody. It has a water park with giant slides. It also has golf courses and restaurants nearby. Other outdoor activities include hunting, cycling, mountain biking, rock climbing, and fishing. Many trails are accessible from here, which lets you explore the scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Blue Ridge also offers a variety of flavors when it comes to dining. Plan a trip to Lake Lure beach and enjoy to the fullest.

Address: 2724 Memorial Hwy, Lake Lure, NC 28746, United States | Timing: 10:00 pm – 06:00 am | Google Map Location: | Phone Number: +18286250077

Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras is famous for its beautiful undeveloped seashore located along the Atlantic Coast in North Carolina and comprises the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It is shaped by winds and waves and is everchanging. The unspoiled beaches provide you with a magical feeling when you hear the sound of the ocean waves under the starry nights.

Cape Hatteras also houses the tallest lighthouse in the country that tourists can easily ferry to. You can even climb up the lighthouse on a full moon night to truly enjoy the night. You will get many fishing opportunities in the waters of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. There are four campgrounds available within the park for camping, requiring prior reservations.

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The small city of Duck, which earned its name due to the popularity of duck hunting in the 20th century, is as famous for its beaches as for its shops and restaurants. You will find some of the best clothes shops located here, along with art galleries, jewelry stores, farm stands, spas, and so much more. The restaurants here draw locals from all over the Outer Banks.

Duck also offers several water activities. You can paddleboard, surf or go on a kayak or just swim. There are several trails that make biking, running, or walking preferred activities. You may also spend time simply walking on the beach and collecting seashells. And if jazz is your kind of music, visit the town in October for its annual jazz festival.

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Currituck Beach (Corolla)

Currituck Beach is located by the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound. It provides seclusion as well as relaxation to its visitors. You can enjoy leisurely strolls on the beautiful, untouched beaches here, or perhaps just relax and soak in the ocean. You can also opt for guided tours to explore the area and spot the legendary wild horses known to have descended from Spanish mustangs.

You can also indulge in a number of water-based activities like surfing, parasailing, paddleboarding, and kiteboarding here. Apart from the beach and ocean, you can also tour the vineyards or head to one of the many restaurants here. The famous historic Corolla Park also houses Whale head, a 1920s era Art Nouveau-style mansion-turned museum. Other attractions include Knotts Island and the Maritime Museum.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse.jpg
By Kenneth Hawes, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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Hammocks Beach State Park

Hammocks Beach State Park is accessible only by ferry, boat, canoes, or kayaks and is preferred by those looking for a quiet, relaxing beach vacation. It has three smaller islands which are mainly undeveloped and give you a closer feel to nature and the ocean.

Bear Island has extensive sand dunes and is popular with boaters and kayakers. It also has a primitive camping site. You can also explore Huggins Island and Jones Island. You can just take some time to learn about the park’s wildlife and ecology. The park also provides guided tours.

Hammocks Beach State Park June 2014 Walkway Gift shop and Bath House - panoramio.jpg
By Mikeiamunion21, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Address: 1572 State Rd 1511, Swansboro, NC 28584, USA | Timing: 08:00 am – 06:00 pm | Google Map Location: | Phone Number: +19103264881

Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke Island stands apart from the other barrier islands of North Carolina, aesthetically as well as logistically. Accessible only by air or ferry, these 16 miles of undeveloped coastline provide you with tranquility and a really secluded getaway. The beaches are not overcrowded, making it all the more relaxing and quiet escape.

Visit the nearby village to enjoy a laid-back vacation and dig into the local cuisine and culture. Water activities such as boating, kayaking, and more water sports are available on these pristine white sand beaches. You can rent a boat or take a ferry to explore the second oldest lighthouse in the country. Ocracoke is also one of the best shelling destinations in the Outer Banks. You can go camping at the Ocracoke Campground at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Beach Ocracoke Island NC 0341 (26619030585).jpg
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Oak Island

Oak Island provides a peaceful getaway and lets you enjoy the beach environment at a slower pace. It is a perfect mix of lazy beaches and fun sightseeing activities. Oak Island Nature Center offers fun activities for adults and children alike. It also includes Talking Trees Walking Trail. Caswell Beach houses the Oak Island Golf Country Club for outdoor activities other than strolling the beach.

If you are in the mood to learn about historical stuff and enjoy shopping, a visit to the small town of Southport is a must which offers an unmatchable experience. It is home to a variety of seafood as also a southern barbeque. Plan a getaway here for a truly fulfilling vacation experience.

Oak Island NC Sunset.jpg
By Michael Au, CC BY 2.0, Link

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We hope our list of the best beaches helps you select your getaway to make your summer vacation memorable.