North Carolina sees millions of people head to its beaches on an annual basis. You can find just about everything in a beach along the shore. There are charming bungalows to rent, outer shores to explore, tall lighthouses that are still in operation, and access to some of the freshest seafood you’ve ever had in your life. Coastal living here is charming and easy. Here are some of the best beaches in North Carolina to enjoy during your stay in the state.
- Bald Head Island
This beach offers you a throwback atmosphere to the days gone by. There’s a long stretch of sandy beach to enjoy in an environment that is free of vehicles. An old lighthouse still graces the shoreline as well, although it is out of service. Built in 1817, it’s been given the nickname “Old Baldy.” Many turtle nests can be seen hatching here when the season is right, so make sure you adjust to “turtle time” when you stop by for a visit.
This beach has everything you’d expect from a US East Coast beach. There are rides and games to enjoy on the boardwalk. You’ve got a shoreline and piers that encourage fishing. The waters are calm for a beach stroll and the sands are wide enough that you’ll have plenty of personal space. There’s a doughnut shop, plenty of good restaurants, and live music and fireworks are common throughout the summer.
This beach is close to where Blackbeard once famously ran his ship aground, so you’ll find that the pirate life is a bit of the draw that brings tourists to this beach. You don’t have to be a pirate to enjoy the waters which are crystal clear, the huge stretches of beach that can be vacant during a visit, or the beautiful sunrises that are offered. If you want to spend a full day at a beach in North Carolina to relax and have fun, this might just be the place to go.
If you love having some activities available to you during a visit to the beach, then this is the best beach in North Carolina for you. Just about every beachside activity you can imagine is available here: surfing, fishing, boating, and sunbathing… just bring your favorite skimboard or other equipment and have a good time. You can even bring your hockey skates if you wish – that’s right, there is ice skating available at this beach as well. Beachcombers will also love the huge conch shells that wash up from time to time.
One of the best reasons to visit a North Carolina beach is the opportunity to have fresh seafood right there on the sands. You’ll find numerous shellfishing opportunities are available to you here. Scallops in particular are quite plentiful. This is also a prime nesting area for loggerhead turtles, so seeing them come onto the beach can be a fun experience. North Carolina is also home to some feral horses that like to live along the shore – they can be seen here from time to time as well.
If you like a nice, isolated beach, then this is the Outer Banks option you’ll enjoy. There are no paved roads, but there are plenty of beautiful white sands to enjoy. Wild mustangs roam the shores on a regular basis and you’re allowed to explore on an ATV. Rent a vacation home here to spend the week, bring your best beach things to enjoy the shore, and you’ll have a relaxing great time. You’ll just need reservations up to a year in advance to make sure you get a spot at this fantastic beach.
Named after the clams that amass along the shore, this incredible destination along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore will make you think you’re in the tropics instead of North Carolina. The emerald seas are often calm, a rarity for the Atlantic, and the sands are golden, warm, and inviting. Go to fish, swim, or birdwatch and you’ll have plenty of space to yourself. Beachcombers have the chance to pick up sea glass, sand dollars, and other various shells as well.
- Kure Beach
Many come to this beach to visit the remnants of Fort Fisher, which is a relic from the Civil War. There’s also plenty of golf to enjoy and wildlife to meet during a stay here. The beach itself offers several water sports opportunities, including scuba diving, which makes it a unique opportunity to explore. You can also fish here or enjoy fresh seafood at one of the locally family-run restaurants. It’s particularly beautiful when the fog rolls in, but offers perfect opportunities all year long to visitors.
- Emerald Isle
A visit here almost feels like a visit to an old fishing village. The atmosphere is family friendly, but you won’t find the Atlantic seaside resorts here like you would at other beaches. Catch your quota of mackerel, trout, red drum, or wahoo and then bring it to your vacation home to grill it up fresh. Spend a sunrise walking along the beach, enjoying the coolness of a new day, and then enjoy snorkeling and sunbathing in the warmth of the afternoon sun.
- Harkers Island
Visiting the beaches here is like visiting a different country. The local population speaks with a very distinct dialect and duck hunting is on the agenda most days when the season is right. You’ll find boat building and decoy carving are common pastimes, but there are plenty of nature trails to hike along as well. The Cape Lookout lighthouse deserves some of your time, as does the sun itself if you want to get some sunbathing done.
The best beaches in North Carolina offer a little bit of everything. From your typical tourist locations to isolated beaches that have been barely touched for 250 years, you’ll be able to relax in the way that best suits you. Grab your beach things, make your way to this state, and you’re certain to have a great time.