North Carolina Beach Sunset

North Carolina Beaches – Top 5 beaches for you to visit in 2020

Bustling cities, quaint mountain towns, lush forests, breathtaking mountains. All of these can be found in North Carolina, USA. Accordingly, NC has some of the best places to visit in the United States. However, it is most famous for its picturesque beaches. Let’s see what are the best North Carolina Beaches.

BookOnBoard’s Guide to North Carolina Beaches

North Carolina is located at the southeastern border of the USA. Also, it is right beside the Atlantic ocean. Consequently, the State of North Carolina has some of the most famous beaches for vacations. Planning which of these beach destinations is most suitable for your holiday can be a complicated task. No worries, though. Here, at BookOnBoard, we have prepared a comprehensive guide. So that you can easily decide which is the best North Carolina beach to enjoy with your family and pets.

Five best North Carolina Beaches

The coastline of North Carolina is full of picturesque beaches. For this reason, enjoying summer vacation in North Carolina is definitely a great option. The beaches here vary greatly depending upon how they are accessible or what amenities they offer.

List of top 5 beaches in North Carolina

  1. Outer Banks
  2. Carolina Beach
  3. Nag’s Head
  4. Wilmington
  5. Emerald Isle

Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is not a single beach, but a collection of beaches on multiple islands off the coast of North Carolina. Some of these beaches are pet-friendly. What makes these beaches most interesting is the variety of attractions you can find here. For example, you can find open-sea beaches, white sand beaches, state parks adjacent to beaches, shipwreck diving sites, to name just a few.

The islands are famous for sailing, boating, surfing, windsurfing, onshore and offshore fishing, jet skiing, jet boating, etc. Not only these, but you can also go for hang gliding in the Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Seabirds and turtles are abundant here, as well as crabs and other such species. In the Graveyard of the Atlantic, you can dive down to see wrecks of ships and U-boats. 

Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach is a town, park, and beach combination. As such, it offers tons of activities for tourists and vacationers. For example, you can go camping and drive on many of the beach spots like Freeman Park. The Carolina Beach State Park offers great fishing spots. Flytrap Trail is so named for the abundance of carnivorous plants on the hiking path. 

The main beach here is one of the many North Carolina beaches with boardwalk. Here you can enjoy many rides, restaurants, shops, and amusements. The nearby Pleasure Island is famous for its Blues and Jazz. You can also go surf fishing and watch many sea turtles there. The Lake Park offers serene and secluded campsite around the lake.

Nag’s Head

Arguably, this is the most famous beach in NC. It can be easily identified by the towering sand dunes here. There are plenty of beach activities here on the beach or on the boardwalks. The beach is pet-friendly, so you can bring dogs or go horse-riding here. The kids will love go-carting, ice cream shops, grassy fields, and unique playgrounds. 

Loads of vacation spots dot this popular North Carolina beach. There are other activities for your family here, too. You can go mini-golfing, go hiking in the many beautiful trails in the preserve, go for an aerial obstacle course in First Flight Adventure Park, enjoy the museum for Wright Brothers, etc. As a mainly pleasure and tourism city, Nags Head offers many beach houses, hotels, and beach condos for your vacation stay. Some of these beach hotels are also pet-friendly.


This is another tourism-oriented city on a North Carolina shoreline. Not only that, but it is also a port city. Wilmington is known as the gateway to many Cape Fear coastal beaches. Some of the beaches here have strong surf. That can awesome to watch and surf in! The numerous beaches and boardwalks here offer tons of beach activities for the whole family. 

Furthermore, the city itself contains a lot of tourist attractions. It is a historic city, with many antebellum buildings dotted throughout. The famous Riverwalk is lined with galleries, restaurants, and shops. The battleship USS North Carolina is moored at the port where it serves as a naval combat museum. In addition, many fearsome marine creatures beckon at the Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Couples must go for a romantic walk among the beautiful azaleas in the Airlie Gardens. 

Emerald Isle

With particularly scenic beaches, Emerald Isle is a part of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. The famous Bough Innet Pier here is great for fishing and outdoor activities as well. The Emerald Island Woods has plenty of golfing and sailing opportunities. You can enjoy multiple trails and campsites here as well. The EmeraldFest is an unmissable outdoor reggae and country music concert string in June.

The Emerald Isle has 12 miles of spectacular coastline. Accordingly, you have a good chance to find a secluded spot on the beach. There is only one resort here – the Islander. However, many private hotels and beachfront condos are available along the coast. Pet-friendly and mostly drivable, the beaches offer unspoiled white sand. And if you are lucky, you might even spot a dolphin or two! 

FAQs about North Carolina Beaches

When is the best time to visit the beaches in North Carolina?

April to August is the warmest here. Also, some of the attractions are open between March to November only. Which means, this will attract the most tourists as well. However, if you don’t mind a bit of cold and need cheap options, winter is not bad here as well.

Can I stay on the beaches in North Carolina?

There are plenty of beach hotels and resorts available in the region. The beach cities and towns host tourists in numerous beachfront houses and condos. Many of which are pet-friendly as well. Some of them offer parking, boat rentals, and other options as well. 

Can I drive on the North Carolina Beaches?

Unless specifically prohibited, you can drive on most beaches on the beaches here. You should only use 4×4 offroading vehicles, though. Keep in mind that there are rules about this even though you are not on the road. For example, you cannot drive on or between the dunes. Also, driving or parking on vegetation is strictly prohibited. On most beaches, the speed limit is 15 miles per hour unless you got a special permit. Offroading vehicles are also subjected to standard North Carolina driving laws. These include alcohol rules as well.

Vehicle Parking

About parking your vehicle, there are some rules as well. Most beach towns and cities offer paid parking spots. These can be free at night. You can park your vehicle for up to 24 hours only. Many of the less-crowded beaches have free parking. Further, most of the beaches deep in nature have no parking restrictions.

Can I take my dog to the beaches in North Carolina?

Dogs love beaches! The sand, the water, – and those horrible nose-pinching crabs! Most beaches in North Carolina are pet-friendly. However, some places only allow them at certain times. For example, the Carolina Beach town enforces pet visits on the beach only during October through March. Also, most places allow pets only during daylight hours. Many boardwalks do not allow dogs as well.

Pet rules on NC beaches

Furthermore, keep in mind that your pet wastes must be collected by you. If you are planning to take your dog to the beaches, be sure to keep plastic or paper containers used to clean up doggie wastes. You can be fined for not having your dog on a leash, or leaving the poor guy in a vehicle. The length of the leash matters too. On the most crowded vacation days, the leash must bot be more than 6 feet, while in lighter crowds you can use double that. If your dog is very well-trained you can then get a permit to unleash him on some beaches, Even then, you must remain within 30 feet of your four-legged friend.

Are there tour packages for North Carolina beaches?

Sure there are! There are many tours, trips, and adventures available on and around the beaches in NC. According to TripAdvisor, here are the top 10 tours in North Carolina beaches:

  • Paddle NC
  • Mahanaim Kayaking Day Adventures
  • Tony Silvagni Surf School
  • Sea Legs Pedal Club
  • Tasting History
  • Pleasure Island Rentals
  • Carolina Beach Pontoon Rental
  • Wilmington Jet Ski
  • Caught Up Fishing Charters
  • Odysea Surf & Kiteboard School
Will my kids love the North Carolina Beaches?

No doubt kids will love the NC beaches. In good weather, children always love the water and shores. The beach itself offers tons of children and family activities. For example, you can build a sandcastle with your little loved ones (be sure to pack figurines!). You can play some beach sports, bring a boogie board, play tic-tac-toe on the sand – the only limit is your imagination (and safety, of course). If nothing else, just running through the water can be a lot of fun!

Teens and pre-teens will love activities like learning to surf or to fish. The aquariums here offer tons of learning and marine life watching opportunities. The boardwalks have lots of fun amusement rides and ice cream shops for your child to relish. Older kids will thank you if you take them in adventurous activities like scuba diving, offroading, or jet boating. 

Furthermore, for kids who love nature, many trails and campgrounds in the many national parks around here will be a delight. Besides, if you can handle a kayak, taking your kid on one will always ensure great bonding and fun times. The beach cities often have many quaint, historic shops that little girls will just love. The war museums will instill awe in many kids and adults alike, as well.

Children safety in beaches

Please make sure you keep it safe with kids at the beach, though. Always check with local swimming advisor if the water id okay for kids to swim in. Do not go in the water 3 days after a heavy weather event. In hot weather, avoid sunburn with shirts and sunscreens. Stay hydrated as well. And don’t use floating toys in the ocean – they are only good at pools or other calm waters. Above all – of course – never leave your children alone on the beach.

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