Best Beaches in North Carolina

Millions of visitors head to North Carolina’s beaches every year to rent palatial estates and charming beach bungalows along the state’s best beachfront areas. Pack your swimsuit for a visit to the best beaches in North Carolina.

Video: North Carolina's Best Beaches

Pack your swimsuit for a trip to the best beaches in North Carolina!

North Carolina's Best Beaches


Pack your swimsuit for a trip to the best beaches in North Carolina!

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
LoneRangerImage / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Stretching for 72 miles along the Atlantic Coast on the Outer Banks, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a skinny strip of barrier islands from Nags Head to Ocracoke Island. The beach’s hallmark high, sandy dunes front frothy surf perfect for swimming, beachcombing and body-surfing. Visitors can climb up 248 steps to the top of the nation's tallest lighthouse -- towering at an impressive 196 feet -- for a spectacular view of the seashore. And as of April 2013, visitors will find a brand new lighthouse climb on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore: The Bodie Island Lighthouse, which dates back to the 1870s, has opened for climbs for the first time in its history, and stands 156 feet tall and has 214 steps (compared with 196 feet and 248 steps for Cape Hatteras Lighthouse).

  • 1401 National Park Dr
  • Avon, NC 27915 US
Bald Head Island
Ron Chapple Stock / Ron Chapple Studios / Getty Images Plus

Leave behind your car and board a ferry for idyllic island life on the 12,000-acre Bald Head Island at the southernmost point of the cape islands along the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. On this peaceful island filled with private residences and beach rentals, there’s little more to do than spend lazy days exploring 14 miles of beach, interspersed with a round of golf, a hike through the maritime forest or a visit to historic Old Baldy Lighthouse.

Emerald Isle
mcolligon / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In the southern Outer Banks, Emerald Isle is the crown jewel of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. The island is sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean on the south and the Bogue Sound to the north making for calm, crystalline waters perfect for wading and frolicking in the surf. Set off on a coastal boat tour in search of dolphins, local birds and a glimpse of wild ponies on the barrier islands.

Wrightsville Beach
Frank Boellmann / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Just east of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach offers crystal-clear waters, kiteboarding lessons and beachcombing on 5 miles of seashore. Scuba enthusiasts flock to the area to explore any of the 200 wrecks that sit on the ocean’s floor off the coast at Wrightsville’s sunny shores.

The Hot List

Explore America’s most stunning scenery.
Join the conversation on Social Media!
Stay updated on the latest travel tips and trends.
Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Travel Channel in your favorite social media feeds.

gulf coast, shoreline, naples beach, florida
Next Up

Top 10 Beaches in Florida

Take advantage of the Sunshine State's best beaches.