Best Beaches in North Carolina: Your Ultimate Guide to Sun, Sand, and Surf (2024)

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on North Carolina's most exceptional beaches! Venture into the picture-perfect shores of Emerald Isle, renowned for its translucent waters, or find solace in the hidden treasure that is Carova Beach. Be mesmerized by the stunning Cape Lookout National Seashore, where wild horses roam and the legendary Cape Lookout Lighthouse stands tall. Experience the tranquil atmosphere of Topsail Island, an ideal family getaway, and uncover the captivating blend of past and present in the quaint town of Nags Head, situated in the Outer Banks' heart.

North Carolina's varied coastline caters to every beach lover's desires, whether you seek thrilling escapades or a serene retreat. Immerse yourself in our in-depth guide, and let the sun-soaked sands, glistening waters, and unforgettable moments of North Carolina's top beaches lure you into a coastal dream.

Best North Carolina beaches:

  • Atlantic Beach
  • Emerald Isle Beach
  • Wrightsville Beach
  • Carolina Beach
  • Holden Beach
  • Bald Head Island
  • Kure Beach
  • Ocraco*ke Island
  • Oak Island
  • Corolla Beach
  • Topsail Beach
  • Nags Head
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Discover Atlantic Beach, NC: A Coastal Paradise

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Located on North Carolina's Crystal Coast, Atlantic Beach is a top destination for beach lovers seeking pristine sands and sparkling waters. Facing south, the beach is sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean's winds and waves, making it ideal for swimming, surfing, and scuba diving. As part of the famed Crystal Coast, Atlantic Beach is also home to the magnificent Boardwalk and the historic Fort Macon State Park, attracting thousands of visitors annually.

At Atlantic Beach, indulge in fresh seafood, explore the Oceanana Fishing Pier, or venture out on a fishing charter at Captain Stacy Fishing Center. The coastal region offers a wide selection of vacation rentals, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere. Nearby attractions include the North Carolina Aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores and the Walk Atlantic Beach initiative, featuring four walking trails around the city.

Don't miss out on the regular Atlantic Beach special events and festivals, ensuring a fun-filled and memorable getaway for all. Whether you're building sandcastles, chasing sunsets, or learning about sea turtles nesting along the shores, Atlantic Beach is the perfect coastal paradise for families and adventurers alike.

Experience the Magic of Emerald Isle Beach, NC

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Emerald Isle Beach, nestled along North Carolina's Crystal Coast, is the perfect getaway for families and adventurers alike. With remarkably clear waters and pristine white sands, this beach offers a paradise-like atmosphere for relaxation and fun. Rent a pontoon from Emerald Isle Adventure Shop and explore the intercoastal waterway, or enjoy a variety of fishing opportunities, from casting off the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier to deep-sea adventures.

Emerald Isle is also a hub for water sports, including paddle-boarding, kayaking, swimming, and surfing. The North Carolina Birding Trail within Emerald Isle Woods Park offers a unique opportunity to observe the region's diverse bird species. After a day of beach activities, unwind at one of the many beachfront restaurants and savor a stunning sunset.

Conveniently located near Atlantic Beach and Pine Knoll Shores, staying at Emerald Isle provides ample opportunities to explore the sandy beaches, neighboring towns, and attractions like the North Carolina Aquarium. Discover the magic of Emerald Isle Beach and create unforgettable memories on your next coastal escape.

Discover the Vibrant Wrightsville Beach, NC

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Wrightsville Beach, a popular destination on North Carolina's coast, offers visitors a lively beach experience filled with water sports, shopping, dining, and nightlife. Known as the birthplace of surfing in the state, Wrightsville Beach provides the perfect setting for surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding with Wrightsville SUP, and kiteboarding. With over 40 access points, the beach offers ample space to relax and enjoy crystal-clear waters.

Families will love the children's programs, environmental education, and guided field trips available at Wrightsville Beach. For fishing enthusiasts, cast a line at Johnnie Mercers Pier or embark on a fishing charter for an unforgettable experience. After a day of fun, dine at one of the beachside taverns and enjoy live music on the pier.

Conveniently located east of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach combines an active island lifestyle with shopping options ranging from beach boutiques to surf shops. Unwind at the end of the day with resort amenities or a spa experience in a serene setting. Make your next beach vacation unforgettable at Wrightsville Beach, NC.

Experience Family Fun at Carolina Beach, NC

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Carolina Beach, located near historic Wilmington, is the ideal family-friendly destination in North Carolina. Known for its shallow coastline, calm waves, soft sand and attentive lifeguards, the beach offers a safe environment for all ages to enjoy swimming, playing in the sand, or strolling along the shore.

Don't miss the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, a classic American promenade featuring shops, restaurants, and arcades. For nature enthusiasts, explore Carolina Beach State Park and its diverse hiking trails, including the Flytrap Trail, where you can spot native Venus flytrap plants.

A visit to the Aquarium at Fort Fisher offers an unforgettable experience with its open ocean tank housing sharks, rays, and eels, as well as rare albino alligators. With daily diver feeds, educational programs, and annual events like Valentine's Day and Halloween, Carolina Beach promises a memorable vacation for the whole family.

Discover Tranquil Charm at Holden Beach, NC

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Nestled on Brunswick Islands, Holden Beach is a delightful family destination with small-town charm and natural beauty. This serene, beach town offers a welcoming atmosphere, exciting shelling, and memorable morning strolls along its pristine sands.

At Holden Beach, enjoy a perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. Rent jet skis, kayaks, or surfboards for some thrilling water activities, or simply relax and soak up the sun and golden sand. Satisfy your appetite at one of the many delicious seafood restaurants near the beach, offering scenic views of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Choose from a range of beachfront vacation rentals and homes for a comfortable stay and create unforgettable memories with your loved ones at Holden Beach, North Carolina.

Experience Serenity at Bald Head Island, NC

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Bald Head Island, a unique car-free paradise, offers tranquility and unspoiled nature on the eastern side of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Accessible via ferry or private boat, the island is a haven for relaxation and adventure alike.

Explore the island's stunning beaches, maritime forests, and salt marshes by foot, bike, or golf cart. Visit North Carolina's oldest standing lighthouse, Old Baldy, and appreciate panoramic views from the top. Immerse yourself in the island's rich wildlife at the Bald Head Island Conservancy and participate in turtle walks, kayaking tours, and fishing tutorials.

Enjoy a peaceful vacation at Bald Head Island, where you'll find beach rentals, dining, and shopping options, all while staying connected to nature's wonders.

Discover Kure Beach: A Coastal Gem in North Carolina

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Plan your ideal coastal getaway at Kure Beach, a quaint seaside town just 18 miles from downtown Wilmington. Experience the area's rich history at Fort Fisher State Historic Site, the Civil War's largest land-sea battle location.

Indulge in water sports, such as surfing, kayaking, and paddle boarding, or simply swim in crystal-clear Atlantic waters. For family fun, visit Ocean Front Park or enjoy fishing off the oldest pier on the Atlantic Coast. Don't forget to join exciting events like the Boogie in the Park concert series and Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues & Jazz Festival.

Kure Beach offers charming lodging options, including beach cottages, vintage motels, and inns, making it the perfect destination for a memorable beach vacation.

Escape to Ocraco*ke Island: A Tranquil Paradise in North Carolina

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Discover the hidden gem of Ocraco*ke Island, a secluded haven in the Outer Banks, only accessible by ferry or private vessel. With 16 miles of pristine white-sand beaches, indulge in water activities like swimming, fishing, kayaking, and surfing, or unwind under the sun.

Explore the charming Ocraco*ke Village, home to the historic Ocraco*ke Island Lighthouse, unique shops, and delectable seafood restaurants. Rent bikes or golf carts to visit the Ocraco*ke Pony Pen, where you can admire the island's wild ponies. Don't miss the breathtaking sunset over Silver Lake Harbor, making your Ocraco*ke Island experience truly unforgettable.

Discover Oak Island: North Carolina's Family-Friendly Coastal Escape

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Unwind at Oak Island, a picturesque haven on North Carolina's southern shoreline, a mere 30 miles from Wilmington. Boasting over 60 entry points along its 10 miles of unspoiled sandy shores, this island promises an ideal blend of leisure and excitement for families.

Experience panoramic views of Caswell Beach and Bald Head Island from the Oak Island Lighthouse, or learn about the region's fauna at the Oak Island Nature Center. Engage in pier fishing, make use of marinas, and launch boats for an unforgettable seaside holiday.

Savor mouthwatering seafood at local eateries in Southport, and keep an eye out for charming and friendly sea turtles as you wander along the magnificent coastline.

Corolla Beach: A Secluded Gem in North Carolina's Outer Banks

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Experience the serenity of Corolla Beach, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Discover pristine shores and golden sand, perfect for swimming, surfing, or sunbathing, with leashed pets welcome too.

Explore the fascinating wild spanish mustang horses roaming freely on the beach. Opt for a guided tour or a 4-wheel drive adventure to get a closer look. Don't miss the majestic Currituck Beach Lighthouse, boasting stunning panoramic views of the picturesque surroundings.

Corolla offers diverse outdoor activities, including golfing, kiteboarding, and kayaking, along with delightful waterfront dining and shopping experiences. Immerse yourself in North Carolina's rich biodiversity and local wildlife at the Center for Wildlife Education or take on thrilling challenges at Corolla Adventure Park.

Topsail Beach: Unwind at North Carolina's Serene Coastal Getaway

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Escape to Topsail Island, a tranquil 26-mile-long sanctuary on the North Carolina coast, with pristine, uncrowded beaches perfect for a family vacation. Experience nature's wonders as loggerhead sea turtles nest and lay eggs along the shoreline from mid-May to August. Visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City to learn more about these fascinating creatures.

Surfing, boating, fishing, and jet skiing are popular activities on Topsail Beach. Don't miss the breathtaking sunset views at Serenity Point, the island's southernmost tip. Immerse yourself in local history at the Missiles and More Museum, and explore the rich maritime past, including tales of pirates hiding behind the inlet.

With easy access to downtown Wilmington, Topsail Island offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment.

Experience Nags Head: North Carolina's Coastal Treasure

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In the heart of North Carolina's Outer Banks lies Nags Head, a charming town that seamlessly combines historical allure with contemporary appeal. Wander the pristine 12-mile shoreline and appreciate the unique architecture in the Nags Head Historic District.

Jockey's Ridge State Park is a must-visit, boasting the highest sand dunes on the Atlantic Coast. Engage in exhilarating activities like hang gliding, kiteboarding, or nature trail exploration. Anglers will delight in the Nags Head and Outer Banks Fishing Piers, promising memorable fishing experiences.

While in the area, stop by the famed Bodie Island Lighthouse and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, honoring the pioneers of flight. With its stunning beaches, captivating history, and a wide array of activities, Nags Head offers an enchanting North Carolina coastal getaway.

Discover Cape Hatteras National Seashore: North Carolina's Island Gem

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Explore the mesmerizing Cape Lookout National Seashore, a breathtaking expanse of 56 miles of beach along multiple barrier islands in North Carolina. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of Shackleford Banks, perfect for swimming and spotting over 100 wild horses that inhabit the island.

During summer, ascend the iconic, diamond-patterned Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for unparalleled views. Experience the area's wildlife and natural beauty through ranger-led tours, canoe or kayak excursions, or birdwatching adventures. Cape Lookout National Seashore offers an idyllic escape to unspoiled nature and captivating scenery.


Which beach in North Carolina has the clearest water?

Emerald Isle, located in North Carolina's Crystal Coast, is renowned for its crystal-clear waters. The pristine shoreline and captivating azure waters make it a top destination for beachgoers seeking a beautiful and refreshing swimming experience.

What month is best for NC beaches?

The ideal months for visiting North Carolina beaches are May through September. These months offer warm temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and enjoyable water conditions, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water activities.

What is the most peaceful beach in North Carolina?

Carova Beach, located on the Outer Banks, is one of North Carolina's most peaceful beach destinations. Accessible only by 4-wheel drive, this secluded beach offers a serene atmosphere away from the bustling crowds, ideal for those seeking tranquility and relaxation.

Best Beaches in North Carolina: Your Ultimate Guide to Sun, Sand, and Surf (2024)
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