best north carolina beaches

The 11 Best North Carolina Beaches You Must Visit

The East Coast has many great beaches to explore, relax, and enjoy life. However, it cannot get better than visiting some of the best North Carolina beaches. These beaches have history, a plethora of activities, and great views. Here are 11 of the best North Carolina beaches you must visit at least once.


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Cape Lookout National Seashore

Cape Lookout
Cape Lookout
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With 56 miles of beach that span across many of the barrier islands, Cape Lookout National Seashore has a lot to offer. People can relax on the beach, go on a tour with kayaks and canoes around the islands, or even climb up to the top of the lighthouse. In addition, there are lodges to stay at and even 100 feral horses roaming the grounds. So when looking for the best beaches in North Carolina, Cape Lookout should be on your list. 

Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle
Emerald Isle
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

One of the best family-friendly beaches in North Carolina is Emerald Isle. Families return year after year for this priceless line of coast that offers amenities such as grills, showers, and pavilions to sit, relax and enjoy. Go up the coast to Indian Beach and Pine Knoll to visit the North Carolina Aquarium if you are bored. There is so much to do, see, or even relax at Emerald Isle.

Nags Head

Nags Head
Nags Head
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

It is located in the central Outer Banks in Nags Head. You can venture out to the boardwalks, explore the shops, enjoy the beautiful beaches, and do some hang gliding. Probably best known for Jockey’s State Park, the largest sand dune on the Atlantic Coast. It is also very close to where the Wright Brothers started their adventure into aviation.

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach
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Located east of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach is known for its water activities. It is two islands that Shell Road connects, and the activities give families and people many things to do. You have paddle boarding, kayaking, and surfing that can help fill that need to be in the water. Wrightsville is also well known for having the second-oldest Yacht club in the nation. So, come and enjoy the beaches in North Carolina at Wrightsville.

Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island
Bald Head Island
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Bald Head Island brings about relaxation to those in need. It has no cars, so most people use golf carts, bikes, or walk on foot to go from place to place. The beaches are pristine, and many people cannot avoid dipping their toes in the water or taking a relaxing walk. It also has fantastic golf courses where you can play a relaxing game. So take some time to rest on Bald Head Island

Topsail Island

Topsail Island
Topsail Island
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Animal lovers rejoice in coming to Topsail Island. Loggerhead sea turtles arrive in droves from May to August to lay eggs. The animals are not the only thing people come for. On this 26-mile stretch of coastline, people can surf, fish, explore, and do some jet skiing along the waves. If you get bored, you can search for pirate treasure, which legend has it; the name comes from this island being a popular place for pirates to stop. 

Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras
Cape Hatteras
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Hatteras is known for having pristine beaches that stretch over 70 miles along the North Carolina shore. You can even visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is known as the tallest brick lighthouse in America. You can make reservations to climb to the top. If you go in the summertime, you can also observe sea turtles laying their eggs. It is an excellent place to make some memories. 

Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach
Carolina Beach
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Carolina Beach offers a classic promenade full of restaurants, bars, arcades, bike rentals, and even an amusement park for many to enjoy. The boardwalk is not only what makes Carolina Beach a place to go to, but the nearby Carolina Beach State Park offers hiking and the opportunity to see the original Venus fly trap plants. 

Oak Island

Oak Island
Oak Island
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Oak Island is a small bustling town north of Myrtle Beach. There are miles of sandy beaches, piers for fishing, and many boating activities to keep people occupied. It is a superb place for families to relax and enjoy the beach.

Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach
Atlantic Beach
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Atlantic Beach is located on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, one of the most developed beaches in North Carolina. It hosts many activities for families to enjoy. It is close to the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Activities include biking, watersports, and even charter fishing trips. If you like sea turtles, the turtles will come between May and August to lay eggs.

Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Located in the Northern Part of the Outer Banks sits Kitty Hawk. It is exceptionally well known as the place where aviation literally took off. The Wright Brothers flew their first airplane on the beaches of Kitty Hawk. Though it is famous for aviation’s first flight, the town still has that small-town charm. There are many places to visit, like the extensive wooded forests, the many different seafood restaurants, BBQ joints, and even some ice cream. Enjoy the charming feel of Kitty Hawk.

Time For North Carolina Beaches

If you are searching for a special place to spend several days to a week at the shore, there is no better place than to choose the beaches of North Carolina. There are beaches with many water activities, great restaurants and entertainment, hiking, and even sea turtles laying eggs. The Outer Banks may be famous for various beaches, but many more are available along the North Carolina coast. So, take a look and book a trip.

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Steve Cummings is the founder of the personal finance blog The Frugal Expat. As a traveler and expat, he has learned a lot about how to save money, live frugally, and invest for the future. His mission is to help people in saving, investing, reaching financial independence, and traveling.

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