When we think about beaches in the U.S., the first places we think of are Florida, California, and even Texas. What many don’t know is that there are a lot of states that offer sandy beaches and picture perfect shores and all you need to do is look well enough and you’ll find where the true great beaches our. During our travels, we’ve found that one of the states with the best beaches is the Old North State, North Carolina. At the western end of the state, there are numerous visitors that both locals and tourists frequent during the summer and it could be you that’s next in line to visit these great place. This guide’s just in time for the upcoming summer season.
The coastline of North Carolina has a diverse mixture of seashore experiences so you are not limited to just basking in the sun and swimming around. Aside from pristine beaches and amazing swimming experiences, you can also visit historic sites, natural areas and even fishing villages. The Outer Banks and the Crystal Coast have these villages and towns that are rifled with summer homes. This is also the area wherein you’ll find the big hotels.
oIf you are planning on visiting the coastline, then you should plan for a trip that spans a couple of days or even a week or so as there’s just so many things to do.There are over 10 great beaches in the North Carolina coastline but before anything else, here are some of the things you’ll need to know before you pack your swimming attire and other essentials that you’ll need to know before you go.
- 1 How To Travel To North Carolina Coastline
- 2 Best Time To Visit North Carolina
- 3 Our Top Picks for the Best North Carolina Beaches
- 3.1 Cape Hatteras National Seashore
- 3.2 Wrightsville Beach
- 3.3 Nags Head
- 3.4 Topsail Beach
- 3.5 Kure Beach
- 3.6 Currituck Beach
- 3.7 Carova Beach
- 3.8 Ocracoke Beach
- 3.9 Oak Island Beach
- 3.10 Roanoke Island
- 3.11 Hammocks Beach State Park
- 3.12 Holden Beach
- 3.13 Frisco Beach
- 3.14 Canadian Hole
- 3.15 Salvo Beach
- 3.16 Coquina Beach
- 3.17 Carolina Beach
How To Travel To North Carolina Coastline
While the coastline is readily available, you need to understand that there are no public transit vehicles that can get you from the heart of the city, and right down to its marvelous beaches. If you want to get there, you may need to rent a car from one of the many rentals in North Carolina. Aside from local companies, you can also rent a car from big brands like Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Alternatively, you can hire an Uber or Lyft if you are already nearby.
To get to the northern coastal area, take the road from Chesapeake, Virginia to Princess Anne Road or Route 615. This route will give you an amazing view filled with birds as you can stop by the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge along the way. This habitat is filled with marine life and migratory birds so be sure to bring you camera for some picture taking.
From there, take the Currituck Sound Ferry. This will take you to the mainland of North Carolina. The 45-minute ride is free and can accommodate up to 18 cars per trip. Be sure to arrive early especially during the summer. Once you have dropped off the Sound Ferry, take Route 168 going south. After passing the small town of Barco, you’ll be in U.S. Highway 158.
Pass by the Wright Memorial Bridge and once through, you’ll be at the Outer Banks. From here, travel along Route 12 and you’ll see some of the beaches including Corolla Beach and Duck Beach. This is a good stop over for your trip and it will take you to some amazing sights. If you are planning on visiting these beaches, this is the way to go.
After you are done with Corolla Beach and Duck Beach, head down to Route 12 south of Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks. Doing so will take you to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Again, feel free to make a stop at these places.
At the end of Route 12, board the ferry which will take you from Ocracoke and to Cedar Island. This two hour trip will feel a little sluggish so be sure to rest while you are here. After dropping off the ferry, drive down U.S. Highway 70 Beaufort, North Carolina. Before moving forward, stop by in Atlantic City so you can call it a day if you are already tired. This area also has beaches and fishing villages which can help you relax unwind.
From Atlantic City, head down to Route 58 and then follow Route 24 to get to the outside of the Marine COrps Base at Camp Lejune. From here, head to U.S. Highway 17 in Jacksonville to get to one of the last noteworthy beaches in Wilmington. In here, you can try scuba diving for a change.
The route we’ve given above will take you to some of the best beaches in the area possible. While these doesn’t take you to all of them, you’ll make the most of your trip to the North Carolina coastline through it. You can make your own variations if you want to.
Best Time To Visit North Carolina
When deciding the perfect time to visit North Carolina, you must first ask yourself what kind of activities that you want to try to narrow down your options because North Carolina has plenty of things to offer regardless of its season. But if you want to bask in the sun and get a good tan as you enjoy other activities that it can offer, needless to say, summer is the best time for you as you can also get to enjoy the best North Carolina beaches. And speaking of beaches, here are some of the North Carolina beaches that we can recommend.
Our Top Picks for the Best North Carolina Beaches
North Carolina is known for its beaches that a trip to this state will not be complete if you haven’t been even to one of its beaches. Yes, California and Florida aren’t the only ones that can talk big about its beaches; North Carolina too and they’re definitely worth the visit. If you’re planning to visit the state soon, here’s a rundown of the best North Carolina beaches that you need to see.
1Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Preserved by the US National Park Service, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers more than 70 miles of seashore runs from Ocracoke Island to Bodie Island. It also has three visitor centers that you will love – the gift shops, programming, and information. One of which is even close to the Museum of the Sea that displays exhibits that are related to maritime history, the keeper’s quarters, the Outer Banks, as well as the lighthouse. There are artifacts from many shipwrecks that can be found off the coast. And the best part of it is that it has four campgrounds for visitors who want to spend the night.
The Wrightsville Beach is one of the popular North Carolina beaches not just because of its beauty but also because of the activities and accommodations that it has to offer. Here, you can get to enjoy many water activities such as kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, and fishing. There are evening cruises as well. In addition to that, you have countless accommodation options. Whether you want to stay in a full service resort or a more budget-friendly one, you have a lot of hotels and short-term accommodations to choose from.
Nags Head is one of North Carolina beaches in the Outer Banks that are more developed. Plus, it lets you enjoy the natural beauty of the Outer Banks while giving you access to amenities such as mini golf, shopping spots, and restaurants at the same time. You can also get to enjoy and witness several special events like sand castle building contests.
Nags Head is also a stone throw away the Bodie Island. Hence you can also get to visit it and even climb to the top during summer. Apart from that, the historical Jennette’s Pier is also nearby wherein you can get to enjoy fishing and exploring a kid-friendly museum.
Like the Nags Head, the Topsail Beach is also one of the best North Carolina beaches that offers good attractions. One of which is the well-known Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center that especially cares for sea turtles who are sick and/or have been injured. Topsail Beach also has the Missiles and More Museum that has exhibits related to the island’s history, as well as exhibits on pirates and military history. There are many beach houses for rents too and they retain the laid-back feel that the barrier islands and Outer Banks give.
If you’re looking to relax more, the Kure Beach is one of the North Carolina beaches that is perfect for you. Aside from the beautiful setting that it has, it also has a more relaxed atmosphere compared to other North Carolina beaches. There are nearby attractions too. One of which is the North Carolina Aquarium. In addition to that, there are nearby restaurants as well wherein you can get to taste the most delicious food in town. Of course, there are special events too. During the holidays, the Kure Beach holds the Island of Lights Festival that features a tour of the area’s most beautiful homes and Christmas Flotilla.
Like the Kure Beach, the Currituck Beach is also one of the top North Carolina beaches that offers a quiet, clean, and serene atmosphere. However, it is also close to town wherein you can also get to enjoy plenty of activities.
The Currituck Beach also has a lighthouse that has an interesting Gothic Revival lighthouse design. In fact, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. However, tours are seasonal so might as well plan your visit ahead. There is Currituck Banks Reserve nearby as well. Here, you can hike, hunt, fish, and enjoy more outdoor activities.
Carova Beach, like Kure and Currituck is one of the North Carolina beaches that offers a more peaceful atmosphere. But unlike Kure and Currituck beaches, Carova Beach seems a bit more untouched. It has no restaurants, shops, or any other attractions unlike many North Carolina beaches. The development in this beach is only limited to a rescue station and beach homes. Even so, it’s still a nice place to be in as the winds and waves are always perfect for windsurfing, kiteboarding, and sailing. There is a nearby town that offers more activities, though, where you can enjoy a number of attractions like restaurants and the Corolla Wild Horse Museum.
Ocracoke Beach is also one of the NorthCarolina beaches that are undeveloped. In spite of that, it still attracts a number of visitors due to the relaxing atmosphere that it has to offer. Like in Carova Beach, you can also get to enjoy surfing and sunbathing and flying kites, plus boogie-boarding and puilding sandcastles. It is also a home to many turtles, birds, fishes, and other wildlife. As a matter of fact, birdwatchers can spot more than 400 species of birds.
Furthermore, the Ocracoke Beach is only accessible by ferry which, by the way, is the reason it’s not so crowded. Don’t worry if you plan to visit this place as several ferries make the daily trip.
9Oak Island Beach
If you’re planning to bring your whole family with you, the Oak Island Beach is one of the North Carolina beaches that we highly recommend. Here, you have the perfect 10-mile beach that offers both easy-going and peaceful time at the beach. Oak Island Beach also has several amenities waiting for you including bike rentals mini golf, and marinas.
This place is also popular for many locals and tourists alike because of the wildlife refuge that it houses too. Named for its size, the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge offers a protected home for wildlife located on a barrier island in the Outer Banks. It is also a home to many migratory birds that includes wading birds, waterfowl, and raptors. There are loggerhead sea turtles as well. Aside from seeing a good amount of wildlife, you can also go hiking, fishing, and do some wildlife photography.
11Hammocks Beach State Park
Visiting the Hammocks Beach State Park is like hitting several birds with one stone. This is because it is made up of a number of attractions – the Bear Island, 319 acres of the mainland, and three smaller islands namely Dudley, Hugging, and Johns. Hammocks Beach State Park really has a lot of space for you to enjoy. It even has massive dunes and primitive campsites that are worth talking about.
There is a visitor center as well. Here, you have access to the ferry. It is also a launch site for canoes – both personal and rented.
What makes it worth visiting like the other North Carolina beaches is that it has exhibits and other programs wherein you can get to learn more about the natural environment of the park as well as its varied wildlife.
The Holden Beach is also one of the less crowded North Carolina beaches that you can visit. This is because it is a bit separated from the mainland. This means you can only reach it via canoe or kayak. But the rowing is all worth it as aside from the fact that you can get to enjoy the beach, you can also get a glimpse of endangered loggerhead sea turtles in the area if you’re lucky enough. You can also spot dolphins playing in the surf. It is also where the annual North Carolina Festival by the Sea is often held and it’s an events that’s also not to be missed as you can get to see beautiful handicraft products and taste delicious food.
Frisco Beach is also one of the quiet North Carolina beaches that you need to visit, especially if you’re looking for a tranquil place to bask in the sun. Its waters are much ideal for swimming too! And the best part is that, while it offers a peaceful space, there are several small restaurants in the area, as well as convenience stores, unlike the Carova Beach. There are also a couple of accommodations to choose from that ranges from rental homes (of all sizes) to campgrounds. Frisco also has a mini golf course, a go-cart track, and a company that offers flight tours.
If you’re in for some surfing and more extreme water activities, head to the Canadian Hole, one of the North Carolina beaches for the only the bravest. This is because of its wind and water conditions that are for sports aficionados. Its wind and waters are the best for stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, and kiteboarding throughout the year. It also has some of the most beautiful sunsets that are made even more scenic by the Hatteras Lighthouse from the distance.
Like the Canadian Hole, the Salvo Beach is also one of the North Carolina beaches that is perfect for those who are looking for water sports to do like kiteboarding. However, this place doesn’t provide much shopping activities and other amenities. Even so, it is one of the best North Carolina beaches that can provide you with the most relaxing vacation. Its atmosphere is also even great for special occasions like weddings. Don’t worry if you plan to stay the night in this place as there are rental homes available. There are no luxury hotels, though. Still, you are assured that you will have a pleasant stay too.
Coquina Beach is also one of the undeveloped North Carolina beaches. Still, it is worth visiting because of the serenity that it can bring to each of its visitors. Also, it is close enough to well-developed towns such as Nags Head and Kitty Hawk. Here, you can find nice restaurants and other services.
The beach is also a nice place to visit as it is the location of the shipwreck Laura Barnes and there are a few pieces of it that still remain. It is a beach that you shouldn’t miss for that relaxing trip you have been wanting.
Carolina Beach Unlike other North Carolina beaches that gives off tropical vibes alone, Carolina Beach has a more of a vintage vibe with its vintage boardwalk with live music, great fishing, plus several events throughout the year. The best part of it is that you can enjoy games and rides during summer that are set up along the boardwalk’s strip.