23 Best North Carolina Beaches

Wondering about the best beaches in North Carolina or simply, North Carolina best beaches? The entire coast of North Carolina is filled with spectacular beaches that will make your next beach vacation one to remember. If you have never been to any of the North Carolina beaches or are looking for the NC beach vacation of a lifetime, we should be able to help you out with all these best beaches in NC. Whether you are looking for quiet beaches, family-friendly beaches, popular beaches, famous beaches, or cheap beaches in North Carolina, we have scoped them all out for you!

23 Best Beaches in North Carolina

1. Bald Head Island Beach

This NC beach is out on the island of Bald Head, which is a couple miles from the mainland and accessible via a ferry. There are a couple beaches on this island, but you will want to focus on both North Beach and South Beach.

Bald Head Island Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches
Credits: Tim Engleman, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

There are so many birds living on this island, so you will want to do some birdwatching when you are not laying on the sand. However, be careful as you wander around out in nature, because many fox and alligators live on the island as well.

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2. Atlantic Beach

Many people wonder if Atlantic Beach NC is part of the Outer Banks, and yes, it is part of the southern section of the Outer Banks. This is one of the popular beaches in North Carolina for families, because there are so many different amenities. If you love to fish, you will want to spend part of your time up on the fishing pier. However, there are four different walking trails near the beach, and you can wander along those whenever you want throughout your visit. You won’t need to worry about not having what you need for fun at this beach either, because there are many water sports equipment rentals available. Fort Macon State Park and Pine Knoll Shores are two destinations near this NC beach, and we recommend placing them both on your itinerary for your NC beach vacation.

3. Corolla Beach

Corolla Beach is also known as Currituck Beach and you will find it on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound. This is one of the secluded beaches in North Carolina and you will love the tranquility during your visit.

Corolla Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches

When you are not down at the beach, you can wander through the historic district or venture out to the lighthouse. Make sure you keep an eye out for the Spanish Mustang horses that roam this island, because they are always closer than you think. This is one of the best NC beaches to visit.

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4. Lifeguard Beach

Lifeguard Beach can be found out on Ocracoke Island, which makes it part of the Outer Banks. This is one of the safest beaches in North Carolina, but you will also love all the amenities that are located there. You can only reach this beach by boat or plane, but the extra steps of your journey will be worth it for the experiences you have during your beach vacation. This island is known as the old stomping ground for Blackbeard, who was a pirate. Therefore, you will want to explore the island and learn all about him and the rest of the history that took place there.

5. Topsail Island Beaches

There are three beaches on Topsail Island, and you will want to explore them all during your visit. The three spectacular beaches include Surf City, Topsail Beach, and North Topsail Beach. There is quite the history at these NC beaches, so don’t think your visit will be all about relaxing in the sand. The island got its name from the pirates who are said to have hidden behind the island and let their sails show from above.

North Topsail Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches
Credits: Maxwell Pearl, Flickr CC BY 2.0

One of the best things to do in this Carolina Beach is visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. However, you must also take the time to watch the stunning sunset from Serenity Point, which is on the southern end of the island. If you are looking for one of the popular North Carolina beaches, then you should visit these three beaches.

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6. Oak Island Beaches

There are plenty of beaches on this island and they are all considered some of the best southern North Carolina beaches. Oak Island has had a rough past, especially when a hurricane back in the 1950s practically wiped away the entire island. However, the area has come back strong and families love visiting. This nice beach in NC can get crowded during the months of June, July, and August, so you may want to avoid those months if you want a slightly more tranquil experience. A North Carolina beach vacation on Oak Island will have you boating, fishing, relaxing in the sand, and participating in so many different water sports.

7. Wrightsville Beach

There are so many things to do in this Wilmington, North Carolina beach and you will love all the action that takes place here throughout your visit. Out in the water, you can go kayaking, swimming, surfing, and scuba diving. If you prefer to stay on dry land, you can go golfing or hit the trails for a run.

Wrightsville Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches
Credits: Razvan Orendovici, Flickr CC BY 2.0

There are forty different ways to access this North Carolina beach, so make sure you check at least a few of them out during your visit. At the end of each day, you will love the nearby restaurants and bars, because you can easily grab a drink and something to eat, while listening to live music at the same time.

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8. Duck Beach

Duck Beach is one of the quiet beaches in NC and you will notice that there hasn’t been too much development there over the years. This beach is large, so there will always be room for you to sit and do a little people watching in between swims. You must walk along the shoreline to collect some seashells at some point during your beach vacation. While you will love spending time on this sandy NC beach at any time of the year, we recommend venturing down during the month of October when the Duck Jazz Festival is held.

9. Nags Head Beach

One of the best NC beach vacation destinations is Nags Head Beach. This North Carolina beach town is full of activities, but you can also have the downtime you desire. As you wander along the sand, you will see plenty of sand dunes, as well as multiple piers you can walk along and fish from.

Nags Head Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches
Credits: Ken Lund, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is a must-see, but make sure you check out the walking paths. One of the best things to do in this North Carolina beach is hang gliding and you will have ample opportunities to try it out. We recommend visiting this beach during the offseason, because you can easily take a four-wheel drive vehicle onto the sand during the months of October through April.

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10. Carolina Beach

One of the famous beaches in North Carolina is Carolina Beach and people have been flocking there since the 1800s. This nice beach in North Carolina has expanded over the years when it comes to touristy things to do. Therefore, a NC beach vacation there will include time shopping in the many different shops, dining at the local restaurants, and having some fun at the amusement park. When you are tired of the sand, you can wander along the trails over at Carolina Beach State Park.

11. Kitty Hawk Beach

This North Carolina beach town is quite famous, because it is where the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, lived. They were famous for flying and they had their first flight over at Kill Devil Hills back in 1903. After you have explored that important part of history, you can venture over to the golden sandy beach for some fun in the sun.

Kitty Hawk Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

This is one of the dog friendly beaches in North Carolina, so feel free to bring the entire family on this NC beach vacation. Hiking is possible over at the Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve, but you can also do a little kayaking there during your visit.

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12. Emerald Isle Beach

There are actually a couple Emerald Isle North Carolina beaches on this island, and you will want to check them all out during your North Carolina beach vacation. You will find this Atlantic Ocean beach on the western end of Bogue Banks and it is the perfect destination for families. While you can stay at one of the hotels in Emerald Isle, I recommend choosing a quaint rental for an authentic NC beach vacation experience. There are many antique shops on Emerald Isle, so you should be prepared to ship a few antiques back home after a day of shopping.

13. Kure Beach

One of the best family-friendly beaches in North Carolina is Kure Beach. Your entire family will love swimming, building sandcastles, boogie boarding, playing at the playground, and trying out your skills at disc golf.

Kure Beach
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

A trip over to the Fort Fisher State Historic Site is a must, so create a little free time on your itinerary to squeeze it in before you leave to return home. This beach has a top spot on our North Carolina beaches list.

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14. Jacksonville Beaches

These are some of the best beaches in North Carolina that are part of the Outer Banks. This North Carolina beach town is where the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast can be found. While you can learn a lot about the military, as well as history, at this NC beach, you will also have plenty of time to relax and have a little fun. Kayaking on the New River is amazing, so add that in between your walks through the memorial gardens. I recommend planning your visit for when the festivals are held in this NC beach town. The month of December is known for Winterfest, while it is all about the Jazz Festival in February.

15. Holden Beach

Holden Beach is one of the best North Carolina beaches and you will find it on Brunswick Island. This clean and quiet beach in North Carolina is usually void of crowds, but not of fun and thrills. You can easily spend days kayaking, surfing, swimming, boating, and fishing from this beach. Shrimp boats are always passing by this NC beach and you can watch them forever.


However, you may prefer to watch the antics of the dolphins or try to find the endangered loggerhead sea turtles that are known to show up on the sand occasionally. Beachcombing is popular on this beach and you can find many different shells that include augers, scallops, periwinkles, coquina clams, and oyster drillers.

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16. Shackleford Banks Beach

The wild horses that run on the sand of this NC beach is what draws many people to this stretch of sand. These horses have been roaming along the sand for more than four hundred years and it is possible to see at least two hundred different horses when you visit. If you want even more animal encounters, you can visit the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores to see otters and an albino sea turtle. Don’t forget to take a little time to relax on the sand of this beach and do a little swimming in the water. This may seem easy since you are on a NC beach vacation, but it is harder than it seems with all the other things you can do in the area.

17. Coquina Beach

You will love spending time at this North Carolina beach, because it is close to other beaches and beach towns like Kitty Hawk and Nags Head. This NC beach is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and not much of the area has been developed over the years.

Coquina Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

You must check out the shipwreck, Laura Barnes, which has been there since 1921. When you are finished with the shipwreck, you can do a little surfing, swimming, surf fishing, and body boarding.

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18. Carova Beach

Adventures are everywhere at this popular North Carolina beach. This is one of the public beaches in North Carolina that is secluded. There are very few paved roads in this part of the state, and you must utilize a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach this stretch of sand. However, once you arrive at the beach, you will find clean warm water, lots of wildlife, and enough space to do plenty of water sports. This is not a good beach in North Carolina for families, because there are no amenities or lifeguards. But that doesn’t mean you can’t check it out anyway.

19. Lake Lure Beach

You will think that with all the miles of Atlantic Shoreline, North Carolina wouldn’t need to have any other beaches in the state. You won’t be able to resist the sandy shoreline at Lake Lure though, so make sure it is on your list of things to do during a North Carolina beach vacation.

Lake Lure Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches
Credits: PublicDomainPictures.net

This beach is on a man-made lake and as you sit on the sand, you can look at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. There is twenty miles of shoreline, so you will always have a place to set your towels before you dive in the water for a swim. Families will love the on-site water park, especially the water slides. The beach house at this beach is where you can purchase all those items you forgot back home.

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20. Salvo Beach

Salvo Beach is in a small beach town in NC, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find any action there or at the beach. You will have easy access for many different water activities at Salvo Beach, but there are not as many amenities there like you will find at other NC beaches. The Salvo Day Use Area is where you will want to venture over to when you want to do a little kiteboarding or watch those who are out in the water doing it.

21. Frisco Beach

Some of the best swimming in North Carolina can be found at Frisco Beach. This is also the perfect beach if you want to camp during your NC beach vacation, because the Frisco Woods Campground and National Park Service Campground are not too far away.

Frisco Beach - Best North Carolina Beaches
Credits: Ken Lund, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the best things to do in this North Carolina beach is a flight tour, but you can also fill your days with mini golf and go cart riding.

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22. Canadian Hole Beach

This is one of the best North Carolina beaches for families and you will find this beach over on Hatteras Island. You will love swimming, paddleboarding, kiteboarding, and windsurfing at this beach. Watching the sun set is best done down by the Hatteras Lighthouse, but you may find your favorite spot somewhere else on the sand.

23. Harkers Island Beach

One of the best white sand beaches in North Carolina is Harkers Island Beach. Swimming is the favorite activity at this beach, but you can also check out the locals doing waterfowl decoy carving.

North Carolina Beach

This island has been disconnected from the rest of the Outer Banks for years, so do not be surprised to hear a different dialect spoken by the locals during your visit.

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These are the best beaches in North Carolina, and you will want to choose at least one of them for your NC beach vacation. It is so difficult to choose a favorite out of all these NC beaches near me, but after you have checked a few of them out, we are sure you will find your own personal favorite. Don’t stick to that NC beach though, because every one of these sandy stretches of sand has something special to add to all your future North Carolina beach vacations.

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