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The 7 Best Beaches in North Carolina

North Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse beaches on the East Coast. From serene, untouched stretches of sand to bustling seaside towns, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a quiet escape or a fun-filled family vacation, North Carolina’s beaches have you covered. Here are the seven best beaches in North Carolina, each offering unique attractions and experiences.

1. Wrightsville Beach

 Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, known for its wide sandy shores and crystal-clear waters. Located just a short drive from Wilmington, this beach is perfect for both relaxation and water activities. The surf here is excellent for both beginners and experienced surfers, and the calm waters of the Intracoastal Waterway are ideal for paddleboarding and kayaking. With a vibrant town offering great dining, shopping, and nightlife, Wrightsville Beach is a perfect destination for those looking to balance beach time with a bit of city life.

2. Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a stunning, 70-mile stretch of barrier islands offering some of the most pristine beaches in the state. This area is part of the Outer Banks and is renowned for its natural beauty and historical significance. Visitors can climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, explore the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, or simply enjoy the expansive, unspoiled beaches. The seashore is also a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, with opportunities to see sea turtles, birds, and other coastal creatures in their natural habitats.

3. Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle, located on the Crystal Coast, is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and stunning views. The beach’s soft, white sand and calm, warm waters make it perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Emerald Isle offers a variety of recreational activities, including fishing, boating, and biking along the scenic paths. The town has a laid-back vibe with plenty of vacation rentals, making it an ideal spot for a relaxing family vacation. Don’t miss a visit to the nearby North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for an educational and fun experience.

4. Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach combines a classic beach town feel with plenty of modern amenities and activities. Known for its lively boardwalk, which features amusement rides, arcades, and restaurants, this beach is perfect for families and those seeking a bit of entertainment alongside their beach time. The nearby Carolina Beach State Park offers excellent hiking trails and a marina for boating and fishing. The beach itself is wide and sandy, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and beach sports. During the summer, you can also enjoy free fireworks and concerts on the beach.

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5. Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is a series of barrier islands offering some of the most scenic and diverse beach experiences in North Carolina. This area is famous for its wide, sandy beaches, historic sites, and abundant wildlife. The Outer Banks is a paradise for adventure seekers, with opportunities for kiteboarding, windsurfing, and hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. History buffs will enjoy exploring the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the numerous historic lighthouses. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or a base for outdoor adventures, the Outer Banks has it all.

6. Topsail Island

Topsail Island is a tranquil, 26-mile barrier island offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle. Known for its beautiful, uncrowded beaches and relaxed atmosphere, Topsail Island is perfect for those looking to unwind. The island’s small towns, Surf City and North Topsail Beach, offer charming shops, restaurants, and piers for fishing and strolling. Nature lovers will appreciate the chance to see nesting sea turtles, and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center provides a fascinating and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

7. Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island offers a unique beach experience, accessible only by ferry and with no cars allowed on the island. This secluded destination is known for its natural beauty and serene atmosphere. Visitors can explore the island’s 14 miles of pristine beaches, maritime forests, and salt marshes. Bald Head Island is perfect for those looking to disconnect and enjoy nature, with activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, and hiking. The island is also home to the historic Old Baldy Lighthouse, the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina, offering stunning views from the top.


North Carolina’s coastline offers a diverse range of beach experiences, from lively boardwalks to secluded, natural escapes. Whether you’re a family looking for a fun-filled vacation, a nature enthusiast seeking wildlife encounters, or someone in search of peace and tranquility, North Carolina has a beach that will meet your needs. Each of these seven beaches offers its own unique charm and attractions, making North Carolina a top destination for beach lovers.