North Carolina is renowned for its breathtaking natural beaches, with a significant portion of the coastline remaining undeveloped. Along the coast, there are many charming coastal towns and hidden treasures waiting to be explored. In this article, we have compiled a list of the top ten North Carolina beach towns, so keep reading to discover them all.
10 Best Beach Towns in North Carolina
Edenton, nestled on the Albemarle Sound, is undoubtedly the finest beach town in North Carolina. The town is a serene retreat with a population of 4,391 people. It has a rich history of more than 300 years, serving as the first Colonial Capital of North Carolina. You will be mesmerized by the town’s many historic buildings and homes which now house bed and breakfasts, shops, and restaurants. The Chowan County Courthouse, built-in 1767, is a local landmark and a must-visit attraction. Another unique feature of Edenton is the cypress trees that grow in the water, many of which are between 500 to 2,000 years old.
Nags Head, situated along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is a charming beach town with a population of 3,182. It is an ideal spot for families looking for a fun-filled vacation with its mini golf, numerous restaurants, and serene beaches. Nags Head is home to a variety of outlet malls and beach shops, including the Historic District and Gallery Row. Additionally, the town boasts of several fishing piers, with Janette’s Pier being the most popular. This enormous pier stretches out 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, offering visitors a unique fishing experience. You might catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish, triggerfish, sea mullet, croakers, pigfish, and several species of shark if you decide to cast your line.
Located in Brunswick County, near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Southport is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful coastal towns in North Carolina. The population of Southport, as of the 2020 census, was 8,396, but during summers, the town’s population swells up to 30,000 to 50,000 people. Southport has gained popularity for being a favorite spot of many local movie production companies based in Wilmington. One of the highlights of Southport is its restaurants built on the water, providing easy boat access and adding to the town’s charm.
Duck is a charming and distinctive town located along the coast with a small population of only 758 people. It is well-known for its quaint and local atmosphere, as it does not have any big box stores. What makes Duck even more special is its remarkable mile-long elevated boardwalk that stretches over the water, linking several local boutiques, restaurants, and bars. It is an amazing experience to walk on the boardwalk, which is a unique and exciting way to explore the town.
In addition to enjoying the beach, there are plenty of other activities to partake in while visiting Duck, North Carolina. Take a peaceful stroll along the boardwalk and cast a line for some fishing, or try your hand at crabbing in the nearby sounds. For those who prefer to explore on land, the six-mile Duck Trail offers a picturesque route for cycling. And for music lovers, the annual Duck Jazz Festival is not to be missed, taking place every October during the second week.
Kitty Hawk, situated north of Kill Devil Hills, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful towns on the North Carolina coast. Its picturesque beaches with golden sand are ideal for taking leisurely walks and admiring the breathtaking scenery. Most of the town’s attractions, including family-friendly restaurants, mini-golf courses, museums, and beach shops, are conveniently located along the highway, making it easy for visitors to explore the area.
Orville and Wilbur Wright’s invention of the airplane in Kitty Hawk marks a significant moment in history. The town is recognized as the birthplace of flight, and to the south lies the Wright Brothers National Memorial as a reminder of their groundbreaking achievement.
Carolina Beach, situated close to Wilmington, is renowned for its picturesque beaches and stunning beachfront patios. One of the major attractions of this beautiful place is the iconic Carolina Beach Boardwalk, which is popular for its vintage appeal and offers a plethora of exciting activities such as carnival rides, an arcade, a carousel, and tempting ice cream shops. In the summer season, the boardwalk comes to life with Thursday night firework displays and live music concerts featuring a diverse range of talented musicians.
Carolina Beach is renowned for being one of North Carolina’s top surfing destinations, boasting vast and velvety sandy beaches.
Carolina Beach is an ideal place to visit whether you are a surfer or just looking for a peaceful day at the beach.
If you’re looking for an exciting beach destination, Wrightsville Beach is the perfect place to visit. This beautiful location offers a wide range of activities, including surfing, paddle boarding, and kayaking. In addition, there are plenty of attractions to explore nearby, such as the History Museum and the Coastal Education Center. For those who love fresh produce, the farmers market is a must-visit during the summer months, running from May to September. Wrightsville Beach is conveniently located just a short drive away from Wilmington, making it easily accessible. Don’t miss out on the chance to watch the sunset from Crystal Pier, one of the most popular gathering spots in the area.
Calabash is a delightful town that boasts of its delicious food and charming ambiance. The town proudly declares itself as the “Seafood Capital of the World,” and rightfully so, with the plethora of restaurants offering mouth-watering seafood delicacies. Apart from the delectable dining options, Calabash also provides an array of shopping opportunities with a diverse range of retail stores to choose from.
During the summer, every Tuesday, the town park becomes a hub of activity with a free concert featuring bands that play a diverse range of musical genres. Adding to the festive atmosphere, vendors from the nearby area sell a variety of delicious treats, including handcrafted ice cream and mouth-watering dishes.
Nestled between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, Oak Island is a picturesque destination situated on the southern coast of North Carolina. As a part of the Brunswick Island chain, it boasts stunning white sandy beaches that showcase the natural beauty of the area. It takes only about 45 minutes to reach Oak Island from Wilmington, and it’s just a quick boat ride away from Southport. Whether you prefer fishing at the pier or venturing out into the deep sea on a charter boat, Oak Island offers plenty of opportunities for anglers. But what truly sets it apart is the laid-back and peaceful atmosphere that permeates the town, making it an ideal location for those looking to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Avon, a charming beach town in North Carolina, is a perfect destination for budget-conscious travelers looking for a peaceful vacation. Situated on the Outer Banks, it boasts of easy accessibility to some of the top tourist attractions along the coast. Though the town is mainly dotted with retail stores and restaurants on the highway, its magnificent beach and nearby attractions make it a preferred choice among vacationers seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Avon Pier is a well-known hangout spot for locals and tourists alike. For a mere dollar, you can take a leisurely stroll along the pier and marvel at its remarkable zigzag walkway. The panoramic views of the coastline from this vantage point are nothing short of awe-inspiring. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of surfers riding the waves alongside the pier on days when the swells are high. Additionally, Avon Pier is a favorite spot for fishing enthusiasts, especially those looking to reel in some big drum fish.
North Carolina Beach Towns: The Bottom Line
North Carolina’s beach towns are a popular destination for many, thanks to their stunning scenery and laidback vibe. Unlike other destinations that boast massive, crowded boardwalks and hordes of tourists, North Carolina’s beaches have remained relatively undeveloped. This has helped preserve the natural beauty of the area and maintain its low-key atmosphere.
The ideal Carolina coastal beach town for you will ultimately depend on what you’re looking for. If you’re seeking lots of entertainment options, towns like Southport or Wrightsville may be the best fit for you. However, if you’re in need of some serious relaxation, Avon and Oak Island might be more your speed. Regardless of your preference, rest assured that each town offers its own unique culture and rich history to explore.