Last Updated June 21, 2019 6/21/2019

6 Best North Carolina Beach Towns to Visit This Summer

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There’s no better way to enjoy the summer than a relaxing trip to the beach. Between the ocean waves, the sandy shores, the quaint shops and the delicious food, a beach vacation is the perfect way to unwind and have fun with your family. So, why not head to North Carolina while the weather’s still warm and check out one of their many adorable beach towns? Whether you prefer a quiet, remote escape or a getaway at a top beach hotel, the Tarheel State has the perfect beach town for you.


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Surf City and Topsail Island Topsail Island
Topsail Island

Surf City and Topsail Island

Although Surf City and Topsail Island are technically two different places, you can visit both in one fell swoop because the tiny town of Surf City is sandwiched between North and South Topsail. When you enter the area via the infamous swing bridge that connects the mainland to the island, you are dropped right into the center of Surf City – a quaint, little beach town with a unique mix of old-fashioned shops and modern amenities. There are new shopping centers that offer everything from Italian food to an urgent care office. But, you’ll also find gift shops that date back to the 1970s and a diner that’s been serving up fresh food and 22 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream for the past 25 years. Enjoy a day on the uncrowded beaches and then have some authentic Coastal Carolina cuisine at one of the island’s restaurants.

Carolina Beach Carolina Beach
Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach

Located about one hour to the south of Topsail Island is another popular beach town – Carolina Beach. This small, eclectic town is one of the most laid-back beaches in the area and is where you want to go if you want to have a beach vacation that is both fun and unforgettable. As their motto, “Stay Original”, implies, the town is all about being free-spirited down to Earth. Besides a beautiful and relatively uncrowded beach, you’ll also find a colorful vintage-style boardwalk complete with an old-school arcade, hiking trails at the Carolina Beach State Park and charming beach hotels. Enjoy paddle boating on the lake or go fishing off of the Carolina Beach Pier.

Wrightsville Beach Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach

On the opposite end of Wilmington, just about 30 minutes from Carolina Beach, is Wrightsville Beach. Although it is a little more crowded here, there is still a classic, laid back Carolina vibe throughout the island town. Here, you’ll find everything from retro beach bars to upscale oceanfront restaurants, with plenty of open beaches and crystal blue waters to enjoy in between. There’s also a wide variety of accommodations available in Wrightsville, whether you prefer the comfort of a residential bungalow or the amenities of a full-scale resort.

Hatteras Island You can get away from the hustle and bustle at the relaxing beaches of Hatteras Island.
You can get away from the hustle and bustle at the relaxing beaches of Hatteras Island.

Hatteras Island

Located in the famous Outer Banks of North Carolina, Hatteras Island is the perfect destination if you are looking to leave all the “hustle and bustle” of your normal life behind. The island, which covers almost half of the entire length of the Outer Banks, offers endless stretches of beach that have been uninterrupted by commercial construction. You’ll find amazing views, pristine sand dunes and plenty of nature to enjoy, as well as a variety of coastal restaurants and a handful of “mom and pop” type shops.

Bald Head Island Old Baldy Lighthouse, Bald Head Island
Old Baldy Lighthouse, Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island

If you really, really want to get away from it all, then you need to take a trip to the inviting area of Bald Head Island, a barrier island that does not allow cars and is only accessible by a ferry. That’s right, if you really want to leave it all behind, you can do just that here, including your car. Just park it at the marina in nearby Southport, board the ferry and ride for 20 minutes until you reach the pristine beaches of Bald Head. Because there are no cars, everything here is accessible by foot or bicycle, including a variety of charming restaurants and shops, golf courses, a spa and more.

Sunset Beach Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

With a name like Sunset Beach, it’s hard to go wrong. In fact, the long stretches of endless sand and beautiful, serene sunsets garnered the area a spot on National Geographic’s list of the “21 Best Beaches in the World”. Although you won’t find any boardwalks, high rise hotels or commercial attractions here, you will find plenty of beach for relaxing, taking a walk or collecting seashells. There is also one very popular tourist attraction in the area – the Kindred Spirit mailbox. This lone mailbox that stands in the middle of an uncrowded area of the beach has been visited by people from all over the world, who leave their thoughts and wishes inside the mailbox for the next visitors (and the Kindred Spirit) to find.

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