North Carolina is a gorgeous state. It is one of the original thirteen colonies and became the twelfth state in 1789.
North Carolina is located snuggly between South Carolina and Virginia and geographically the state is divided into three main sections. These three sections are the Coastal Plain, Piedmont and the iconic Appalachian Mountains.
Coming up, we will break down the different geography of North Carolina’s beaches and shores and help you discover all the beaches of North Carolina have to offer its visitors and residents.
Throughout this area, you can find incredible wetlands, swamps, hidden coastlines and a boatload of magic for you to discover.
The Coastal Plains
The Coastal Plains is where we are going to focus our energy because this write up is all about North Carolina beaches. The Coastal Plain is composed of the Outer Banks and the Tidewater region. The Outer Banks are Bodie, Hatteras, Ocracoke, Portsmouth and the Core Banks.
The Outer Banks is made up of three capes – Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. The Outer Banks reaches more than 175 miles along the coast of North Carolina.
The Tidewater area of the Coastal Plains is the area made up of near sea level along the coast of North Carolina. The major rivers and streams in the area empty into the sounds and the ocean and there are seven sounds in this vicinity.
The seven sounds that make up Tidewater are Pamlico, Albemarle, Currituck, Croatan, Roanoke, Core and Bogue Sounds. There are also many wetlands in the area including The Great Dismal Swamp.
The Great Dismal Swamp is a series of swamps strewn from Virginia all the way to Georgia.
Top 7 Beaches in North Carolina
1. Bald Head Island
Fourteen miles of pristine beaches, an acclaimed seaside golf course and a mirage of cute coastal beach rentals make up the immaculate Bald Head Island.
Transportation on Bald Head Island is limited to golf carts, bikes or your feet. The lack of cars and traffic on Bald Head Island is one of the reasons why Bald Head Island is one of our favorite North Carolina beaches.
You can only reach Bald Head Island by passenger ferry or private vessel. The island features 12,000 acres with 10,000 of those being untouched beach areas, marshland and maritime forest preserves. Bald Head Island is the southernmost North Carolina’s cape island, featuring the iconic Cape Fear.
A huge piece of the magic Bald Head Island holds are the fact that the sun rises and sets over the Atlantic Ocean each day. Enjoy equally beautiful sunrises and sunsets from the comfort of your rental vacation’s back porch. The weather at Bald Head is a subtropical climate and the northernmost point in the United States where the sabal palm grows naturally. The weather is typically mild throughout the year and features four seasons for visitors to enjoy.
2. Emerald Isle
Emerald Isle is one of the most popular and beauty-filled North Carolina beaches. The Western most thirteen miles of the Bogue Banks barrier island of the Southern Outer Banks was purchased from Mrs. Anita Fort Maulik of Philadelphia in 1954. The total purchase price was $350,000 and was offered by seven investors from the Red Springs area of the Southeastern part of the state.
This section of coastline is now known as the iconic Emerald Isle. Emerald Isle offers wonderful options when it comes to accommodations, recreation and public access for its residents and visitors. You can rent kayaks, play volleyball and take the kids to play on the public playgrounds. There is even The Emerald Isle Parks & Recreation Department offers a wide variety of activities, programs and services for everyone on Emerald Isle
There are special events planned, live music shows and community building activities that residents and visitors alike can participate in. Emerald Isle is located about two and half hours from Raleigh, North Carolina and welcomes plenty of solitude and activities. The Isle offers funky shops, cozy restaurants and cafes, swimming, fishing, surfing, scuba diving and so much more.
Hatteras Island is an unincorporated village in Dare County, North Carolina. The island features one of our favorite stretch of north Carolina beaches and there is just so much to do and enjoy in the area. Hatteras Island is known as a wonderful spot to fish and vacation. Hatteras Island was originated by the Hatteras Indians and offers an interesting history.
There is so much to do when it comes to being active in Hatteras Island, including surfing, fishing, sightseeing, beaching, horseback riding and so much more. The famed Hatteras Island Lighthouse serves as one of the iconic landmarks on the island and it is not a trip to Hatteras without a good old-fashioned climb in the lighthouse.
Canadian Hole is one of the most serene and quiet stretches of beach on Hatteras Island. The waters of the Pamlico Sound are ideal for swimming, wading, windsurfing and kite boarding. There is also the Buxton Coastal Reserve, an area of maritime woodland full of incredible wildlife including precious Bald Eagles sightings. There are also lots of hikes for those looking to get active while enjoying time on Hatteras Island.
4. Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach is one of the most iconic North Carolina beaches. Wrightsville Beach is located just east of Wilmington and is part of the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area. Wrightsville Beach is composed of four miles of long beach island, an interior island name Harbor Island and pockets of commercial property situated on the mainland.
Wrightsville Beach offers immaculate beaches for you to enjoy, swim and play on. There is an unlimited amount of recreational and outdoor activities to partake in including stand up paddle boarding, sailing, kite surfing and more. The Wrightsville Beach Museum of History is a great place to spend a few hours and soak up knowledge regarding the history of this iconic North Carolina beach town.
Wrightsville Beach offers a multitude of quirky shop, delicious restaurants and places to spend your lazy vacation days at. The Noni Bacca Winery is located just down the road in Wilmington. The Johnnie Mercer Pier is a wonderful area of the beaches where you can hang, swim and meet new friends. Enjoy a freshly brewed beer and amazing seafood dinner at Wrightsville Beach Brewery. Crystal Pier is also a very frequented place in the area offering amazing beachside fun and relaxation.
Ocean Isle Beach is a small seaside town located in Brunswick County, North Carolina that offers some incredible beaches whether you are looking to move or just visit.
Ocean Isle Beach was incorporated in 1959 as a town located as part of the Myrtle Beach metropolitan area. Ocean Isle Beach is snuggly situated at the southern end of North Carolina’s Atlantic shoreline.
Ocean Isle Beach offers five miles of coastline, ranging from Tubbs Inlet on the west to Shallotte Inlet on the east and a section of the mainland to the north along North Carolina Highway 904.
This North Carolina beach town is known as the “Gem of the Brunswick Islands.” The island is connected to the mainland by a modern bridge traversing amazing masses of marshlands and savannas.
Family fun has been happening at Ocean Isle for generations and you will find that the area offers the perfect mix of low-key relaxation and family adventure.
Plan a visit to The Museum of Coastal Carolina to check out sea life or spend a day at the award-winning Silver Coast Winery. Ocean Isle Beach Park offers tennis courts, playgrounds, and a multi purpose sports field for the public to enjoy.
Ocean Isle Beach is the perfect getaway if you are looking to explore North Carolina beaches to all their glory.
Ocracoke Island is the answer if you are looking to unlock the magic of North Carolina beaches.
From renting a chartered boat to fish secret spots to biking along the piers, Ocracoke Island has something for you and your vacation crew.
Ocracoke Island is snuggly located on the southern tip of the Outer Banks. The expansive nature of the beaches is owned by the National Park Service and offers extremely pristine and peaceful beaches to enjoy.
Take a walk to the Ocracoke Lighthouse is a perfect daytime stroll and offers awesome views and a slice of North Carolina history. The island is filled with incredible wildlife and plant life including native oyster beds, massive live oaks and sandpipers.
The Ocracoke Island visitor center offers incredible resources for visitors and residents alike and the customer service is undeniably friendly when it comes to making the most of your trip to Ocracoke Island.
The island is ideal for biking, strolling or renting a private boat to charter to Blackbeard’s secret coves of days old. Some of the best beaches on the island include Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Springer’s Point Preserve and Ocracoke Beach.
7. Nags Head
Nags Head, North Carolina, is an area of North Carolina’s Outer Banks that is widely known for its beaches yet rich history and tradition.
Nags Head is filled with activity, relaxing scenery and outdoors recreational for both its residents and visitors. It is well known among North Carolina beaches because it has the highest concentration of watersports outfitters, miniature golf courses and go-kart tracks. Spend your days participating in activities you have not partaken in since you were your kid’s age.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park is one of the most iconic things to do on Nags Head and features the largest sand dune on the east coast. A must do of your trip to Nags Head is watching the sunset from the top of the sand dune.
There are three traditional Outer Banks fishing piers – Nags Head Pier, Outer Banks Pier and Jennette’s Pier. There is much fishing to be had in Nags Head and people love to charter a boat to be taken to the best fishing spots in the area. Dolphin watching is a wonderful past time of vacationers at Nags Head and there are many to be seen in the area.
Just Beach It
North Carolina beaches offer some spectacular fishing, beaching and enjoying life.
There are so many amazing beaches that make up this spectacular state’s coastline and we hope this guide broke down some of our favorites.
From the historic fishing town of Nags Head to the iconic Bald Head Island, there is a beach dedicated to every beach lover here.
Wrightsville Beach is located close enough to Wilmington, North Carolina. This makes for a very easy day trip or week trip for North Carolina residents or those who have never even been to the state before.
North Carolina offers a rich history, colorful culture and massive amount of pristine beaches to enjoy.