With 300 miles of pristine coastline, it's no surprise that North Carolina is one of the best beach destinations in the country. From quiet barrier islands to bustling coastal towns and family-friendly destinations, North Carolina beaches are perfect for your next summer vacation (though their sandy stretches are beautiful any time of year). These spots offer stunning white sand beaches, of course, but they are also home to historic sites, diverse wildlife, beautiful golf courses, and exciting water sports. We've rounded up the 10 best beaches in North Carolina for your next trip to the Tar Heel State, from Sunset Beach to Duck.
Cape Lookout National Seashore is a must-visit destination for beach lovers. With 56 miles of beach across several barrier islands, this park has a lot to offer visitors. Shackleford Banks is ideal for swimming and lounging on the beach, and the island is home to more than 100 wild horses. During the summer, visitors can climb the diamond-painted Cape Lookout Lighthouse.
Take a ranger-guided tour, explore the islands from the water by canoe or kayak, or go bird watching to learn a little more about Cape Lookout and its wildlife. Plan a one-night stay at one of the park's beachfront cabins or campgrounds to further enjoy the undeveloped natural beauty of this coastline. Duck is located on the northern stretch of North Carolina's barrier islands and offers something for everyone. You can book a stay at Sanderling Resort and enjoy family-friendly activities, several swimming pools and a spa, or take a day trip to the nearby Corolla for a walk along the beach in a four-wheeled vehicle for a chance to see one or two wild horses. Nearby golf courses and water sports make it an ideal destination for visitors who want to get out and enjoy nature. Hammocks Beach State Park's Bear Island is only accessible by ferry or boat, making it perfect for people looking for a quiet, relaxing beach.
You won't find lines of beachfront restaurants or bars along this largely undeveloped beach, which is why people love it. You can rent canoes, kayaks or paddleboards to explore the marshes, Bear Island and Huggins Island, or take some time to learn about the park's wildlife. Bear Island is also home to several campgrounds, so you can extend your stay at this state park. Carolina Beach is just 20 minutes' drive from historic Wilmington and offers stunning beaches, boardwalk and other family-friendly attractions. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is a classic American boardwalk with bars, restaurants, game rooms, and places to rent bikes and surfboards.
Nearby Carolina Beach State Park offers more outdoor recreational activities, with many hiking trails such as the Flytrap Trail, where you can spot the native Venus flytrap plant. Ocracoke Island is accessible by ferry from nearby Hatteras, Swan Quarter or Cedar Island and is perfect for people looking for a peaceful beach getaway. Spend your days lounging on 16 miles of white sand beaches or fishing, kayaking, sailing and surfing. Rent a boat or golf cart to explore the island, or visit one of the trails for a leisurely nature walk. At the end of the day, enjoy the sunset over Silver Lake Harbor. Atlantic Beach is located on North Carolina's Crystal Coast and is perfect for families who want to build sand castles on the beach or go fishing.
Atlantic Beach is also a popular destination for sea turtles looking for a place to nest each year - from May to October sea turtles lay their eggs in this area. You can learn more about the region's marine life at nearby North Carolina aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores. Bald Head Island is only accessible by ferry from nearby Southport and cars are not allowed on this peaceful island. Move around this island by golf cart, bicycle or on foot - play a round of golf or try your hand at croquet at the Bald Head Island Club. Of course, with 14 miles of beautiful beaches you'll also want to spend some time dipping in the sand and surfing or looking for seashells. Topsail Beach is located just south of Jacksonville and offers 26 miles of remote beaches that are rarely crowded.
Animal lovers will rejoice as from mid-May to August loggerhead turtles come ashore to nest and lay eggs along the Topsail shoreline. You can explore the island's preservation and conservation efforts at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City. Kitty Hawk and Nags Head are two popular beaches close to more developed areas that offer plenty of activities such as surfing, boating, fishing or water skiing on their waves. You can even search for pirate treasure - legend has it that these areas were once popular spots for pirates! Cape Hatteras National Seashore is part of the Outer Banks that is preserved by the U. S.
UU. More than 70 miles of protected shoreline range from Ocracoke Island to Bodie Island - there are three visitor centers that offer information, programming and gift shops. Finally Wrightsville Beach consists of two islands that are easily accessible from mainland North Carolina - here you can relax on the beach or enjoy surfing, boating, fishing or water skiing on its waves. Sections of remote beaches and beautiful barrier islands characterize North Carolina's coastline - however those looking for more crowded beaches will enjoy Kitty Hawk and Nags Head as well as Wrightsville Beach.
The lighthouses along North Carolina's coast are some of the most beautiful in America - many can be explored! We recommend that you call attractions and restaurants prior to your visit to confirm current opening hours.