The 15 Best Beaches In North Carolina

Among beach locales along America’s Atlantic coast, North Carolina ranks as one of the most fun-filled, with a variety of activities to enjoy, from fishing charters to surfing. Swimming anywhere along the North Carolina coast is generally safe and fun, but look for beaches with lifeguards, pay attention to beach warning flags and other signs, and watch out for signs of rip currents. 

 

The region offers a range of options for accommodations, cuisine that features fresh seafood as well as family favorites like burgers and subs, and exciting nightlife that includes live music, lounges, and gorgeous sunsets.

 

From Carova Beach on the border with Virginia down to Oak Island in the south, we’ll take a look at some of the best beaches in North Carolina and hit all the highlights you won’t want to miss.

1. Wrightsville Beach

Located on the Atlantic shoreline, Wrightsville Beach is just east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Duke University and the Research Triangle sit inland, approximately two hours away, and Charlotte, which offers an international airport and American Airlines hub, is three and a half hours away.

Getting To Wrightsville Beach

From the Washington, DC area, take highway 95 south, or if you are approaching from the west, catch highway 85 out of Atlanta. Connect with Highway 74 to get to Wrightsville. Once you arrive, you can easily explore the region in a rental car or bike.

Parking At Wrightsville Beach

You’ll find paid parking lots near the beach, on South Lumina, East and West Salisbury, North Lumina, and at Wynn Plaza. If you park on a residential street, you must have a residential decal or hangtag. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Wrightsville Beach

seagull flying over the horizon at sunset at wrightsville beach north carolina
houses on the water by wrightsville beach north carolina

Wrightsville Beach offers more than ten miles of riding paths along the beach as well as routes that take you into historic areas in nearby Wilmington or the surrounding wetlands. Plenty of beachfront shops rent equipment and offer lessons.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

With so many fun activities from water sports to museums to boat tours, Wrightsville Beach is one of the best beaches in North Carolina for kids, teens, and families. If a slower pace is more your style, relax on the beach with a good book or take a dolphin cruise.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Wrightsville Beach Weather

Late summer in North Carolina can be hot and muggy, but from mid-April through early June, afternoon temperatures are in the high eighties. April and May can be overcast, but rain is more common in July and August.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach offers a range of accommodations, and while large resorts like the Holiday Inn Resort and Blockade Runner Beach Resort offer impressive amenities, many mid-size chains provide excellent options as well.

  • Staybridge Suites Wilmington E
  • Springhill Suites by Marriott Wilmington Mayfaire
  • Front Street Inn
  • Homewood Suites Wilmington / Mayfaire
  • Hampton Inn Wilmington – Smith Creek Station
  •  

Top 5 Things To Do Near Wrightsville Beach

Sailing, fishing, and surfing are among the top activities at Wrightsville Beach, but visitors also enjoy the surrounding wetlands and gardens.

  • Shallotte River Swamp Park
  • Wrightsville SUP
  • Wrightsville Kayak Company
  • New Hanover County Arboretum
  • Airlie Gardens

Top 5 Restaurants Near Wrightsville Beach

Although seafood certainly abounds in Wrightsville Beach, there are plenty of options for American, Asian, Mexican, and Italian cuisines. Breweries, bistros, and tea houses are also available.

  • Bdobo Mongolian Grill
  • Spoonfed Kitchen & Bake Shop
  • Ceviche’s
  • The Donut Inn
  • Shark Bar and Kitchen

2. Ocracoke Island Beach

Ocracoke Island is located on Pamlico Sound, just southwest of Cape Hatteras National Seashore and just north of Portsmouth Island. On the mainland, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge sits to the north.

 

The closest large city is Raleigh, some five hours inland.

Getting To Ocracoke Island Beach

Reaching the island is an adventure in and of itself, as it is only accessible via ferry. Take highway 12 along the Outer Banks to the Hatteras, Swan Quarter, or Cedar Island Ferries, which all accept both passengers and vehicles.

 

Be sure to call ahead to check for weather delays, and note that the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island lines require reservations. Rides on the Hatteras ferry are free, while the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island routes have toll roads. The Ocracoke Express offers a fourth, passenger-only option.

Parking At Ocracoke Island Beach

There are six public parking areas north of the village, and street parking is allowed, but be aware of restricted areas. Vehicles are allowed on the beach. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Ocracoke Island Beach

Ocracoke Island offers Springer’s Point Preserve as well as the Ocracoke Lighthouse, Preservation Museum, and Island Visitor’s center.

 

Horseback riding is a popular activity, and wave runners are available for rent.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Families, couples, and older people will enjoy the historical attractions Ocracoke has to offer, and there are plenty of water sports for teens. The Visitor Center can give you plenty of information about points of interest, beach regulations, exhibits and attractions, and programs sponsored by the National Parks Service.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Ocracoke Island Beach Weather

Temperatures on Ocracoke Island range from the mid 50’s in early March to the mid 80’s in August. Year-round, the average temperature is about 70 degrees, and you can enjoy most outdoor activities from early spring through late fall.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Okracoke Island Beach

Wrightsville Beach offers a range of accommodations, and while large resorts like the Holiday Inn Resort and Blockade Runner Beach Resort offer impressive amenities, many mid-size chains provide excellent options as well.

  • Staybridge Suites Wilmington E
  • Springhill Suites by Marriott Wilmington Mayfaire
  • Front Street Inn
  • Homewood Suites Wilmington / Mayfaire
  • Hampton Inn Wilmington – Smith Creek Station
  •  

Top 5 Things To Do Near Okracoke Island Beach

Sailing, fishing, and surfing are among the top activities at Wrightsville Beach, but visitors also enjoy the surrounding wetlands and gardens.

  • Shallotte River Swamp Park
  • Wrightsville SUP
  • Wrightsville Kayak Company
  • New Hanover County Arboretum
  • Airlie Gardens

Top 5 Restaurants Near Okracoke Island Beach

Although seafood certainly abounds in Wrightsville Beach, there are plenty of options for American, Asian, Mexican, and Italian cuisines. Breweries, bistros, and tea houses are also available.

  • Bdobo Mongolian Grill
  • Spoonfed Kitchen & Bake Shop
  • Ceviche’s
  • The Donut Inn
  • Shark Bar and Kitchen

3. Emerald Isle Beach

Emerald Isle Beach is across the Bogue Sound from the Croatan National Forest. Morehead City lies to the north, and Jacksonville is southeast. Rocky Point is farther south on Highway 40, which runs northeast to Rose Hill and eventually Raleigh.

Getting To Emerald Isle Beach

From Raleigh, take highway 40 southeast, then pick up state highway 24 in Kenansville. From Wilmington, take highway 40 north and switch to state highway 53 until you can get on 24 outside White Oak.

 

Highway 24 leads to state highway 58, which crosses the channel onto the island.

Parking At Emerald Isle Beach

You can park and access the beach via 3rd Street, Emerald Drive to the east, or Islander Drive in the west. Ocean Drive offers four-wheel-drive access for off-roading during the winter. The city assesses a beach access parking fee of $10 per vehicle per day. 

Sometimes, you can find a spot.

Photos Of Emerald Isle Beach

Visit the Salty Pirate Waterpark on Emerald Isle, take the family on an adventure at one of the area’s motorsport parks, or get a taste of history at Fort Macon. Older visitors can enjoy museums, galleries, or a walk along the pier.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Emerald Isle Beach offers plenty of different activities and attractions to appeal to people of all ages, and nearby golf courses offer a relaxing option for parents and older people.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Emerald Isle Beach Weather

The average temperature on Emerald Isle is 62 degrees. Visit in early March through May, as it gets fairly hot through the summer and precipitation is likely, with relative humidity of 73%.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Emerald Isle Beach

Emerald Isle offers several mid-priced hotels and motels with great views, outdoor pools, and easy access to attractions like Fort Macon State Park and the aquarium.

  • Best Western Plus Silver Creek 
  • Sound of the Sea Pool Gate
  • Point Emerald Villas
  • The Inn at Pine Knoll Shores
  • Atlantis Lodge

Top 5 Things To Do Near Emerald Isle Beach

Visit the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier or rent some bicycles and take a trek along the shore. Water parks and boat charters offer adventure, and the Emerald Plantation brings you quaint local shops and a movie theater.

  • Hwy 58 Bicycles
  • Wellness Massage & Yoga
  • Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier
  • Salty Pirate Water Park
  • Crystal Coast Boat Charters & Rentals

Top 5 Restaurants Near Emerald Isle Beach

Enjoy quick, simple meals like sandwiches and pizza or more exotic fare like Thai or Caribbean. Moderately priced bistros, sports bars, and kid-friendly spots are readily accessible, but fancier choices are limited.

  • Thai Sticky Rice
  • The Shark’s Den Sports Bar & Grill
  • The Trading Post
  • The Village Market
  • Caribsea

4. Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach sits on the Intercoastal Waterway in Brunswick County, North Carolina, in the southern end of the state. Bird Island Coastal Reserve lies between the beach and the border with South Carolina, and surrounding towns include Grissettown and Calabash.

Getting To Sunset Beach

Take Highway 40 from Raleigh, or if you’re approaching from the north, get on 95 and head south through Rocky Mount. State highway 17 will lead you to the beach. From Atlanta, get on Interstate 85 and pick up interstate 20 outside Columbia.

Parking At Sunset Beach

Parking is available near Sunset Beach Pier. You can also find spaces on side streets, but these are limited. Street parking on West Main Street & Sunset Boulevard South offers the best beach access option. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Sunset Beach

In addition to less physical activities like the Ingram Planetarium, visitors to Sunset Beach can join the hundreds of thousands of people who, since the 1930s, have written down their deepest thoughts and left them in the Kindred Spirit Mailbox.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

No

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

Sunset Beach does not have lifeguards, so swimming is at your own risk. For this reason, it might not be the best option for families with young kids. However, there are plenty of activities like boating, golf, and fishing, which older teens and adults will enjoy.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

No

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Sunset Beach Weather

The hot season in Sunset Beach runs from the end of May through September, with average temperatures in the low to mid 80’s. Humidity and the chance of daily precipitation are also high, so visiting in the spring or early summer may be more enjoyable.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Sunset Beach

Enjoy great accommodations with beautiful views in mid-priced hotels and inns near Sunset Beach. You’ll find additional properties, including large resorts, less than seven miles north in Ocean Isle.

  • Seahouse Villas
  • The Sunset Inn
  • Sea Trail Resort Villas
  • Ocean Isle Inn
  • The Winds Resort Beach Club

Top 5 Things To Do Near Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach offers fishing and boat charters as well as ATV tours, kayaking and kite surfing. Take a short walk across the Intercoastal Waterway and visit Bird Island, a 1,500-acre wildlife habitat, or enjoy golf at one of the area’s many courses.

  • J&L Kayak Ecoventures
  • Shallotte River Swamp Park
  • Hurricane Fleet
  • Island Hoppers Bicycle 
  • Sunset Beach Fishing Pier

Top 5 Restaurants Near Sunset Beach

From quick sandwiches and fantastic onion rings to amazing barbecue, Sunset Beach diners can enjoy all kinds of cuisines – and of course, there’s plenty of fresh seafood from which to choose.

  • MMM Que Rico
  • Waterfront Seafood Shack
  • Calabash Deli
  • Bennett’s Grill and Cafe
  • La Cucina Italian Grill

5. Carolina Beach

Located just twelve miles south of Wilmington, Carolina Beach abuts the Carolina Beach State Park and is bordered by the Cape Fear River to the west. Silver Lake, Winnabow, and Bolivia are among the nearby towns, and Kure Beach and Bald Head Island lie along the shore to the South.

Getting To Carolina Beach

From Wilmington, take US 421 south to US 117. Then take Independence Boulevard to Carolina Beach Road. Or fly into Charlotte and then drive east on US 74, picking up US 401 and then I 95 north. Switch to US 421 south and follow it to Carolina Beach.

Parking At Carolina Beach

Find and pay for parking with the convenient Paymobile app for your smartphone. Plenty of metered and free lots line Canal Drive or you can opt for metered street parking along Carolina Beach Avenue North or South. Parking regulations are  enforced between 8 am and 7 pm from April through October. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Carolina Beach

photo of carolina beach north carolina

In addition to plenty of watersports, Carolina beach is known for its live music and events like free movies and festivals.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Families and older people enjoy Carolina Beach for its laid back vibe and the availability of non-sporting activities like concerts, but there’s also plenty of fun to be had on the beach itself.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Carolina Beach Weather

Temperatures in Carolina Beach rarely climb higher than the low 90’s. Still, as is the case for many of the best beaches in North Carolina, lower humidity from April through June and from mid-September through late October makes for a more comfortable visit.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Carolina Beach

Find affordable accommodations ranging from national hotel chains to locally-owned gems throughout Carolina Beach. Gorgeous sea views and amenities like tiki bars, pools, kitchenettes, and on-site exercise facilities make your stay memorable.

  • Hampton Inn & Suites Carolina Beach & Oceanfront
  • Beach House Inn & Suites
  • Carolina Beach Inn
  • Courtyard by Marriott Carolina Beach & Oceanfront
  • SeaWitch Motel

Top 5 Things To Do Near Carolina Beach

Visitors to Carolina Beach enjoy ziplining, ATV tours, surfing, and kayaking as well as more relaxing activities like beach yoga. Escape rooms and helicopter tours offer unique experiences, and biking is a great way to enjoy the shoreline.

  • Shallotte River Swamp Park
  • Tony Silvagni Surf School
  • Pleasure Island Bike Rentals
  • High Tide Helicopters
  • iEscape Rooms

Top 5 Restaurants Near Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach offers plenty of choices when it comes to seafood, plus Thai, Southern, Mediterranean, and Mexican fare. Visitors can also enjoy cocktails and snacks at any of the area’s bars and pubs.

  • Surf House
  • Soulflavor
  • Island Burgers and Bites
  • Shuckin’ Shack
  • Ida Thai Cuisine

6. Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach is nestled between Bogue Sound and Onslow Bay and sits across from Morehead City on the mainland. To the north, Fort Macon State Park consumes much of the rest of the peninsula, and beyond that Cape Lookout National Seashore rounds Harkers Island and continues up toward Cedar Island.

Getting To Atlantic Beach

US 70, Interstate 40, and US 17 all lead to the coastline and Atlantic Beach. From US 70, turn right and cross the Atlantic Beach – Morehead City Bridge to get onto the island. Once there, state highway 58 takes you up and down the shoreline.

Parking At Atlantic Beach

Paid parking on Atlantic Beach supports the provision of lifeguards, bathhouses, and waste management. Several different lots are accessible to visitors, including the West Boardwalk CAMA Lot, Circle Point Grass Lot, and Circle Pavilion Paved Lot. You can also find one-hour street parking along West Drive and Atlantic Boulevard. I always find a spot.

Photos Of Atlantic Beach

view of atlantic beach north carolina
people at atlantic beach north carolina

Be sure to check out the historic architecture of Fort Macon, which was used as a military prison until 1876. If you visit Atlantic Beach in October, don’t miss the Carolina Kite Festival.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

Atlantic Beach offers events and activities for just about everyone. Teens and kids can enjoy playing on the beach, and older people can take in the historical attractions.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Atlantic Beach Weather

During the hot season from May to September, the average temperature on Atlantic Beach is 84 degrees, with temperatures peaking in July. August can be very humid and uncomfortable on the warmest days.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Atlantic Beach

Clean, comfortable, and reasonably-priced hotels and inns are a staple of Atlantic Beach, and visitors enjoy friendly staff members, great views, and easy access to the water.

  • Atlantis Lodge
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Atlantic Beach
  • Windjammer Inn
  • Island Inn of Atlantic Beach
  • Caribbe Inn

Top 4 Things To Do Near Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach is one of the best beaches in North Carolina because it offers everything from escape rooms to dolphin charters, so there is no shortage of exciting activities.

  • Crystal Coast Ecotours
  • Lookout Adventures
  • Island Water Sports
  • Game On Escape Rooms

Top 5 Restaurants Near Atlantic Beach

Whether you’re looking for traditional American food, seafood, or interesting combinations like a shrimp omelet, Atlantic Beach has plenty of options. Visitors enjoy fast, friendly service as well as the opportunity to try some of the foods the South is known for, like biscuits, grits, and homemade jam.

  • The Banks Grill
  • Amos Mosquito’s Restaurant & Bar
  • Shark Shack
  • Circa 81
  • Island Grille

7. Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island is near the South Carolina Border, approximately three hours south of Raleigh. Nearby towns include Wilmington, Whiteville, and Wallace, and the Green Swamp Preserve lies about an hour and a half inland and slightly north, on state road 211.

Getting To Bald Head Island

Reach Bald Head Island via Interstate 95 and 40, connecting to US 17 or state road 87. Catch state road 211 and then get on the Southport – Bald Head Island Ferry. It is a passenger-only line, so you will need to park at the terminal.

Parking At Bald Head Island

Cars are not allowed on Bald Head Island. You can park at the ferry landing for $11 per day or $9 during the off-season. There are also a few other paid lots in the area that are a bit cheaper. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Bald Head Island

view of bald head island boardwalk from the shore behind grass

Bald Head Island has a championship course that has been named one of the nation’s best golf course renovations by Links magazine. If your interests tend toward history, check out Old Baldy Lighthouse, which was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Given the seclusion and laid-back pace, families with young kids might prefer another locale. With its uncrowded beaches, nature conservancy, and acclaimed golf course, Bald Head Island is a nice option for older people looking to unwind.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

No

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Bald Head Island Weather

The weather on Bald Head is warm, with temperatures over 90 degrees for an average of 41 days out of the year – more than most other places in North Carolina. With the average high in July reaching 88 degrees, rainfall is highest in September and lowest in April, and visitors are typically most comfortable in April, May, or October.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Bald Head Island

Accommodations on Bald Head Island and just across the river include relaxed bed and breakfasts with harbor views as well as larger inns and hotels.

  • The Inn at Bald Head Island
  • Marsh Harbor Inn
  • River Hotel of Southport
  • Wingate by Wyndham Southport
  • Comfort Suites Southport

Top 5 Things To Do Near Bald Head Island

  • Old Baldy and the Smith Island Museum.
  • Bald Head Island Conservancy
  • Riverside Adventure Co.
  • The Sail Shop
  • Island Retreat Spa and Salon

Top 5 Restaurants Near Bald Head Island

From pizza and salad to more upscale options and intimate settings, Bald Head Island offers a fairly good range of cuisines. Many additional choices are available across the river, less than ten miles away, but the ferry ride back does take up to an hour.

  • Bald Head Island Club
  • Shoal’s Club
  • Delphina
  • Mojo’s on the Harbor
  • Will O’the Wisp

8. Topsail Beach

Topsail Beach is part of Pender County, North Carolina and is located approximately 38 miles north of Wilmington. Kirkland, Topsail, and Holly Ridge are among the towns on the mainland, and the town of Sloop Point sits on the island just to the north.

Getting To Topsail Beach

Take state highway 140 north from Wilmington. It turns into US 17 just outside the town of Topsail and then becomes state highway 210.

 

Take the Surf City Bridge onto the island and then pick up state road 50 and hook back to the south until you get to Topsail Beach.

Parking At Topsail Beach

Free public parking lots on Anderson and Ocean Boulevards offer beach access for guests, and a new 180-space lot near the Surf City Bridge was announced in April of 2019.

 

Most of the time, you can find a spot.

Photos Of Topsail Beach

topsail beach north carolina boardwalk

Topsail Beach is unique among the best beaches in North Carolina because it is the home of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Anyone with an interest in wildlife conservation and rehabilitation will enjoy visiting this famous facility.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Topsail Beach is often fairly crowded with swimmers, surfers, and people enjoying all kinds of fun in the sun, so older people might prefer to take in the area’s museums, historic sites, and wildlife attractions, or visiting the shore early in the day or in the evening after the hubbub dies down.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Topsail Beach Weather

The weather on Topsail Beach is often partly cloudy, with frequent rain showers in July and August. Average temperatures are in the mid to high eighties, and the most enjoyable months are April and May or September and October.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Topsail Beach

Topsail Beach offers several highly-rated, mid-priced motels and inns, some within walking distance. Find great rooms with a view along the pier or a budget-friendly motel just blocks from the water.

  • Jolly Roger Inn & Pier
  • Sea Vista Motel
  • Main Street Inn
  • Breezeway Motel
  • Loggerhead Inn

Top 5 Things To Do Near Topsail Beach

Enjoy kayaking, boat charters, fishing, and a retro skating rink, plus museums and the Possum Acres Wildlife sanctuary. Or visit the Topsail Towers historical landmarks, which were constructed after WWII for military’s rocket testing programs.

  • Herring’s Outdoor Sports
  • Tiki Tours
  • A&B Saltwater Adventures
  • Topsail Beach Skating Rink
  • Missile & More museum

Top 5 Restuarants Near Topsail Beach

Sushi, burgers, and plenty of tasty breakfast and brunch offerings give visitors to Topsail Beach and the surrounding area a range of possibilities. Be on the lookout for great barbeque and coleslaw.

  • Cora’s Isle-End Deli
  • Beach Shop & Grill
  • Sushi Gem
  • Big B’s Smokin BBQ
  • Nineteen Restaurant

9. Lake Lure Beach

Near Chimney Rock and Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure Beach is farther inland than many of the other best beaches in North Carolina. Locate an hour and forty-five minutes west of Charlotte, the beach lines the southern tip of the lake, which feeds into the Broad River.

Getting To Lake Lure Beach

From Charlotte, take I 85 west through Gastonia. Pick up US 74 at exit 10B and then get on state road 9 in Columbus and follow it out to Lake Lure.

Parking At Lake Lure Beach

A public parking lot sits alongside the lake, near the water park area. You can always find a spot.

Photos Of Lake Lure Beach

view of lake lure north carolina
view of the still water at lake lure north carolina

Lure Lake offers a great water park for the kids, plus Sliding Rock, one of the most exciting natural water slides in North Carolina. It runs more than 60 feet and empties into a cold tidal pool. Tubing and river rafting are also popular.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

No

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

 

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

Lake Lure is a great spot for families with young kids, and there is plenty of fun for teens too. The water park has attentive lifeguards, and everyone can enjoy tubing, rafting, or even horseback riding.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

No

Lake Lure Beach Weather

June at July at Lake Lure are usually muggy, and the hottest day of the year is in July, at 87 degrees. Chances of precipitation between May and August are also fairly high, at 37%.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Lake Lure Beach

The Lake Lure region offers unique accommodations like the Rumbling Bald Resort and the 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa, as well as simpler lodges and motels, all within a few miles of the lake and beach.

  • Rumbling Bald Resort on Lake Lure
  • Willowbrook Inn of Lake Lure
  • The 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa
  • The Carter Lodge
  • The Riverside Lodge

Top 5 Things To Do Near Lake Lure Beach

Spend a day at the beach and water park, and then check out Chimney Rock, a 500-million-year-old monolith which offers amazing views and diverse opportunities to learn and explore, from hiking trails to the Animal Discovery Den.

  • Lake Lure Beach Water Park
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Lake Lure Flowering Bridge
  • Lake Lure Tours
  • Lake Lure Adventure Company

Top 5 Restaurants Near Lake Lure Beach

From Mexican classics to coffee and snacks, when you visit Lake Lure, you are sure to find mid-priced, casual dining you and your family will love, as well as a beer or two for Mom and Dad.

  • Medina’s Village Bistro
  • Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery
  • Old Rock Café
  • Carolina Moon Coffee Café and Unique Finds
  • Nachito’s Mexican Restaurant

10. Nags Head Beach

Nags Head Beach is located just across the Roanoke Sound from Roanoke Island, home of the Roanoke Island Marshes Nature Preserve. The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge occupies much of the nearby mainland.

Getting To Nags Head Beach

Take Interstate 87 east out of Raleigh, and pick up US Highway 64 near Rocky Mount. Continue traveling east, crossing the Alligator River and the Croatan and Roanoke Sounds to get to the island. Then head north to Nags Head.

Parking At Nags Head Beach

There are plenty of free, public parking areas with beach access along Nags Head, most within 50 to 100 yards of the ocean. You will always find a spot.

Photos Of Nags Head Beach

view of nags head beach and the boardwalk in the background
aerial view of waves crashing at nags head beach north carolina
view from nags head beach looking at the houses with the sunset in behind them

Visit the Jockey Ridge State Park while you’re in Nags Head and try hang gliding and hiking on the massive dunes. Fish from the pier, take a charter boat tour and learn about the region’s flora and fauna, or watch the sun go down from a sailboat. Jet Skis and parasailing are also available.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Hang gliding, kite flying, and watersports offer plenty of fun for teens and families visiting Nags Head.

 

Older people can enjoy galleries and walks along the pier, but beach access can be a challenge for anyone with balance or mobility issues.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

No

Nags Head Beach Weather

Visit Nags Head in April, May, or June, when the temperatures are in the mid-70’s and low eighties and humidity is lower. During July, the weather can be oppressively muggy.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Nags Head Beach

Reasonably-priced hotels and inns on Nags Head offer terrific views of the sound, top-notch service, and amenities like fully stocked kitchenettes, hot tubs, a daily happy hour, and ready beach access.

  • Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk
  • First Colony Inn
  • Surf Side Hotel
  • Oasis Suites Hotel
  • Islander Motel

Top 5 Things To Do Near Nags Head Beach

Take a kayak adventure or a dolphin cruise, visit Jennette’s Pier for some fishing or an evening stroll, or check out an art gallery. From the picturesque dunes to the colorful beachfront homes, Nags Head offers lots to do and see.

  • Outer Banks Kayak Adventures
  • Seagreen Gallery
  • Jennette’s Pier
  • Paradise Cruises
  • Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School

Top 5 Restaurants Near Nags Head Beach

Find everything from burgers and pizza to upscale dining with a waterfront view on Nags Head. Pubs and tap houses offer great beer and food, plus games like foosball and billiards.

  • Blue Moon Beach Grill
  • Waveriders Coffee Deli & Pub
  • Village Pizza Nags Head
  • Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant
  • Red Drum Tap House

11. Holden Beach

Holden Beach is on the southern end of the coast, in between Bald Head Island and Ocean Isle Beach. Green Swamp Preserve sits to the north, and Bird Island Reserve is just 45 minutes south-west.

 

The Cape Fear River runs past Wilmington and out to sea about an hour and a half to the east.

Getting To Holden Beach

From Wilmington, take US Highway 17 south for about an hour. In Lockwoods Folly, turn onto Stone Chimney Road. Then turn onto Scotch Bonnet Drive to get to the beach. From Raleigh, take I 95 and I 40 down to Wilmington and then catch US 17.

Parking At Holden Beach

There are several public parking lots at the east end of Holden Beach, some with restroom facilities and handicapped spaces.

 

You’ll pretty much always find a spot.

Photos Of Holden Beach

aerial view of waves crashing at holden beach
sun setting over holden beach

Holden Beach boasts the Magic Mountain Fun Park, a favorite of visitors for its water slides and ice cream parlor. Beach activities and water sports are also popular, but use caution since rip currents create dangerous conditions, and there are no lifeguards on Holden Beach.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

No

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Holden Beach is one of the best beaches in North Carolina for kids, with lots of great activities like biking, kayaking, jet skis, mini-golf, and helicopter rides.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

No

Holden Beach Weather

Holden Beach is hot in August and September, with average temps in the high 80’s and frequent rain. Plan a trip for early summer or spring – in April, it’s just 73 degrees, and in May it’s a sublime 80 degrees in the afternoon, with a low of 62.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Holden Beach

Accommodations on Holden Beach are limited, but you can find mid-priced hotels about 25 miles away, on the mainland near highway 17. There are also a few campgrounds if you’re traveling in an RV.

  • Gray Gull Motel
  • SureStay Hotel by Best Western Shallotte
  • Best Western Shallotte
  • Days Inn by Wyndham Shallotte
  • Ocean Breeze Family Campground

Top 6 Things To Do Near Holden Beach

Take a fishing charter, or try kayaking, paddle boarding, or jet skis. Holden Beach offers galleries and museums to explore too, and you can even take a painting class. Don’t miss the Swamp Park Zip Line and ATV Center – it’s a bit farther away, but so fun.

  • TourH2O
  • Holden Beach Fishing Pier
  • Fort Apache Museum
  • Beach Fun Rentals
  • Treasure Island Miniature Golf
  • The Swamp Park Zip Line and ATV Center

Top 5 Restaurants Near Holden Beach

There’s plenty of seafood in Holden Beach, but you can also find amazing barbeque, cinnamon rolls, and pies. Family-friendly options abound, including sandwiches, burgers, lobster rolls, and crab cakes.

  • Castaways Raw Bar & Grill
  • Mermaids Island Grill
  • Mankin’s Causeway Cafe
  • Simply Barbeque
  • Archibald’s Deli

12. Hatteras Beach

Hatteras Beach is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a protected and undeveloped area between Nags Head in the north and Ocracoke in the south. It is separated from the mainland by Pamlico Sound and bordered by the towns of Frisco and Avon.

Getting To Hatteras Beach

Take state highway 12 south to the Herbert C. Bonner bridge, or take the Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry from Ocracoke Island. You can also cross the Sound at Roanoke / Nags Head on US 64 and then head south on 12 near Jennette’s Pier.

Parking At Hatteras Beach

Driving an off-road vehicle on Hatteras Beach is allowed if you have a permit. There is public parking at the southern end of the island, at the Ocean Center Beach Area parking lot, and there is parking with beach access south of Avon or south of Frisco, off highway 12.

Photos Of Hatteras Beach

view of hatteras beach north carolina
view of lighthouse at cape hatteras north Carolina

Known as “the graveyard of the sea,” Hatteras Beach offers the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum with maritime exhibits, crafts, and cultural and historical talks about the Civil War and WWII. Don’t miss the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Given the range of watersports, galleries, and historical attractions like the Outer Banks Futuro House, Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Hatteras Beach have something to offer young and old alike.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Hatteras Beach Weather

April, May, and June are good times to visit Hatteras Beach, since the temperatures peak in the low 80’s. Precipitation is more likely in July, so it can be uncomfortably muggy. September and October bring cooler weather, so consider visiting then if you can’t come in the spring.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Hatteras Beach

Great hotels are available on Hatteras Beach, right on the Marina or within a short walk or drive. Enjoy no-frills accommodations or higher-end properties with views of the water, friendly staff, and easy access to the ferry and local attractions.

  • Village Marina Motel
  • Breakwater Inn
  • Sea Gull Motel
  • Lighthouse View Oceanfront Lodging
  • Durant Station

Top 5 Things To Do Near Hatteras Beach

From horseback riding to museums, galleries, and even yoga classes, there are plenty of things to do on Hatteras Beach. Charter a fishing boat, or try kayaking, parasailing, or flying a kite on the shore.

  • Hatteras Island Horseback Riding
  • Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center
  • The Cora Tree
  • Hatteras Island Ocean Center
  • Museum of the Sea

Top 5 Restaurants Near Hatteras Beach

Seafood is the dominant cuisine on Hatteras Beach, with options ranging from moderately priced to more upscale. You can also find other options like pizza, sandwiches, salads, and great cocktails with a view of the sunset on the water.

  • Sonny’s Waterfront Restaurant
  • Dinky’s Waterfront Restaurant
  • Kat’s Deli
  • Rocco’s Pizza
  • The Wreck Tiki Bar

13. Pine Knoll Shores

Pine Knoll Shores is on Bogue Sound, between Atlantic Beach and the Thomas Roosevelt Natural Area. Much of the mainland in this part of North Carolina is protected as part of the Croatan National Forest.

 

Broad Creek, Wildwood, and Morehead City are some of the nearby towns on the other side of the Sound.

Getting To Pine Knoll Shores

US Highway 70 runs south through the Croatan National Forest into Wildwood, where it curves west to Morehead City. Turn right onto the Atlantic City Bridge and pick up state highway 58 eastward to Pine Knoll Shores.

 

If approaching from the southern end, take state road 58 and cross the channel at Emerald Isle, then head west on 58.

Parking At Pine Knoll Shores

Pine Knolls has a limited amount of public beach access parking on its eastern end. Paid parking is available at Iron Steamer and Memorial Park, and vehicles are not allowed on the beach. I sometimes find a spot.

Photos Of Pine Knoll Shores

The awesome exhibits and educational programs at the North Carolina Aquarium help make Pine Knoll Shores is one of the best beaches in North Carolina. Focused on conservation and research, the aquarium helps visitors understand and appreciate the diversity of wildlife in the nearby waves. This beach is less about water sports and more about naturalism.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

No

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Pine Knoll Shores Weather

Temperatures in Pine Knoll Shores hover around the low eighties for much of the late spring and early summer, so plan your trip for May or June. Or visit in the fall – October brings average temps of 70 degrees.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Pine Knoll Shores

You can find a variety of mid-priced inns and hotels right on the beach at Pine Knoll Shores. Most are a short walk for area attractions like the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area and boast amenities like hot tubs, golf courses, and outdoor pools.

  • Atlantis Lodge
  • Hampton Inn and Suites Atlantic Beach
  • Windjammer Inn
  • Whaler Inn Beach Club
  • The Inn at Pine Knoll Shores

Top 5 Things To Do Near Pine Knoll Shores

Get to know the amazing plants and animals of North Carolina’s marshes and woodlands by exploring the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, which protects the area’s only intact maritime forest. Or try a fishing charter, mini-golf, or go-carts.

  • Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area
  • Crystal Coast Country Club
  • Lookout Adventures 
  • Yellowfin Sport Fishing
  • Lost Treasure Golf & Raceway

Top 5 Restaurants Near Pine Knoll Shores

Barbecue and seafood are popular favorites on Pine Knoll Shores. A wider variety of cuisines including Mexican, Japanese, and Mediterranean is available on the mainland, about twenty minutes away.

  • The Crab Shack
  • On the Rocks
  • Big Oak Drive-in & Barbecue
  • Port of Call
  • Crab’s Claw Oceanfront Caribbean Restaurant

14. Carova Beach

Carova Beach is near the Virginia border, in the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. Knotts Island is just to the west, and nearby towns include Corolla, Duck, and Southern Shores.

Getting To Carova Beach

The Carova Beach area is only accessible via four-wheel-drive vehicle or boat, but you can access the region by crossing Currituck Sound on the Wright Memorial Bridge (US 158) on the tip of the mainland at Point Harbor and then driving up state highway 12.

Parking At Carova Beach

Parking that’s close to Carova Beach is limited to the Carova Beach Park and Boat Ramp, but the area is accessible via four-wheel-drive vehicle. Just be sure to plan for an off-road adventure. I always find a spot.

Photos Of Carova Beach

view of the houses on carova beach north carolina
waves crashing at carova beach north carolina

Carova Beach is fairly isolated, and features among the best beaches in North Carolina for its 4,500 acres of dunes and marshes. Check out the Currituck Banks National Estuarine Preserve and the Currituck Soundfront.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Young children can run wild on the isolated shores of Carova Beach, but there are comparatively few opportunities for older kids or teens to try watersports or other activities. This beach is definitely for people who are interested in experiencing “untamed North Carolina.”

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

No

Carova Beach Weather

Temperatures on Carova Beach and the surrounding area are in the mid-seventies in spring and mid-to-high eighties in summer. As is the case for most the Outer Banks, late July and August can be muggy – sometimes oppressively so.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Carova Beach

The closest accommodations to Carova Beach are in Corolla, about 35 minutes south along state road 12. Options range from moderately priced to more upscale, with amenities like massages and oceanfront balconies.

  • Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks / Corolla
  • Corolla Light Resort
  • Inn at Corolla Light
  • Sanderling Resort
  • Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk

Top 5 Things To Do Near Carova Beach

Nature hikes, birding, and shelling are popular on Carova Beach, and nearby Corolla offers activities like museums, as well as adventure tours and equipment shops to get you set up for surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Don’t miss the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

  • Corolla Adventure Park
  • Wild Horse Adventure Tours
  • Corolla Jeep Adventures
  • OBX Lizard Land
  • Coastal Explorations

Top 5 Restaurants Near Carova Beach

Head south from Carova Beach into Corolla for delis, steaks and seafood, and great barbeque. You’ll also find fun pubs, snack bars, and pool halls that offer entertainment as well as food and beverages.

  • Corolla Village Barbecue
  • The Oceanfront Grille
  • Lighthouse Bagels & Deli
  • Corolla Pizza & Deli
  • Pasquale’s Pizza & Pub

15. Oak Island

Oak Island is separated from the mainland by the Intercoastal Waterway and sits between Holden Beach and Caswell Beach. Bald Head Island is to the east, just on the other side of the Cape Fear River.

Getting To Oak Island

From the north, take I 95 and I 40 to US 17 south. State road 906 crosses the Intercoastal Waterway onto the island. From the south, take 17 and then pick up state road 211 east, or switch to 906 in Bolivia and head south.

Parking At Oak Island

Parking is available on Coswell Beach Road, Ocean Drive, East Oak Island Drive, and several other locations. Wooden walkways and sand paths provide beach access. You will pretty much always find a spot.

Photos Of Oak Island

aerial view of oak island north carolina

In addition to historic attractions like Old Baldy Lighthouse, Oak Island offers great fishing on chartered boats, off-shore, or from one of the area piers. Swimming and snorkeling can sometimes be limited by advisories issued by the state, so check water quality at the N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program’s website before you visit.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Surfing and fishing offer entertainment for teens and families, and everyone will enjoy the area’s museums or simply walking along the serene, uncrowded beach.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Oak Island Weather

April, May, and June offer the best temperatures for visitors to Oak Island, with highs in the eighties and lows in the mid-sixties. The rainy season begins in mid-June and lasts through September, and humidity is at its peak in July and August.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Oak Island

Oak Island offers ocean-front accommodations with pools, free breakfasts, and direct access to the beach. Golfing, lighthouses, and the Oak Island Pier are nearby.

  • Ocean Crest Motel
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Southport – Oak Island Area
  • Oak Island Beach Villas
  • Oak Island Inn
  • Hampton Inn & Suites

Top 5 Things To Do Near Oak Island

Visitors enjoy the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport as well as fishing from the pier or just taking a stroll. Waterfront Park offers swings and benches where you can watch the water, as well as ice cream and hotdogs.

  • Oak Island Pier
  • Oak Island Lighthouse
  • North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport
  • Old Baldy Lighthouse & Smith Island Museum
  • Waterfront Park

Top 5 Restaurants Near Oak Island

Find great seafood as well as coffee shops, American comfort food, burgers and hotdogs, and upscale dining. Great service, great views, and great drinks are sure to provide a memorable dining experience no matter where you go.

  • Island Way
  • Turtle Island
  • Shagger Jacks
  • Kai-Joe’s
  • Tranquil Harbor Restaurant & Bar

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