North Carolina's Most Overlooked Beaches

Popular North Carolina beaches like Cape Hatteras are just the start to the state's many great beaches. Discover the coastline's most overlooked beaches, neither too remote nor too crowded.
By: Lisa Singh
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Photo By: NC Tourism - Bill Russ

Photo By: Josh Gates

Photo By: Cody Knewstub, flickr

Photo By: Bill Russ -

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Steve Hutchinson, flickr

Photo By: NC Tourism - Bill Russ

Photo By: Wilmington and Beaches CVB/ Chip Henderson

Photo By: Keith Allison, flickr

Carolina Beach

The beachside community is located in the southeastern portion of North Carolina, and offers mild temperatures and warm waters (from mid-April through November) due to its location 30 miles from the Gulf Stream. The climate makes Carolina Beach a great location for water sports such as pier fishing, deep-sea fishing and body surfing.

Paragliding in the Outer Banks

Of the many fun activities to do in the Outer Banks, paragliding is one of them, especially at Corolla or Carova beaches. Our own Josh Gates, host of Expedition Unknown, recently visited the Outer Banks during the filming of Blackbeard's Hidden Gold.

Corolla Beach

Kick back in a vacation rental home like this one along Corolla Beach, located at the northernmost end of the Outer Banks. Corolla attractions include shopping (almost all shops are locally owned and operated), fishing (including puppy drum, sea mullet and croaker), and wild horse and beach jeep tours. Other beach attractions include Whalehead Club and the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, one of seven North Carolina lighthouses.

Topsail Beach

Take the boardwalk down to the ocean at Topsail Beach. This quiet beach community of 500 residents is located on the southernmost tip of Topsail Island, a 26-mile barrier island off North Carolina’s coast. The beach comes with a laidback vibe (high-rise development is prohibited here). It’s also a great place to find some of the best conch seashells on the East Coast that wash up after a storm, particularly in the late summer or early fall. 

Cape Lookout

See wild mustang horses at Cape Lookout National Seashore. The protected area comprises 3 barrier islands -- on Shackleford Banks is where you’ll see the horses. Take a ferry from nearby Harkers Island, and explore the undeveloped islands that await. In addition to horse watching, enjoy fishing, shelling, camping, climbing and touring historic villages, Cape Lookout and Portsmouth Village.

Oak Island

Enjoy a stroll along a fishing pier on Oak Island. The seaside town, on a barrier island near the southeastern tip of North Carolina, has 65 public beach accesses, as well as many other access points to the Intracoastal Waterway and the Davis Canal, making it a great location for fishing, boating and kayaking. Golf lovers can swing by Oak Island Golf Club, built by golf course designer George Cobb in 1962.

Holden Beach

No building can be taller than 35 feet on Holden Beach. That spells a more relaxed vibe in this seaside town, located on the southern tip of North Carolina. Visitors can enjoy shell hunting, golf (more than 100 golf courses lie within an hour’s drive), water skiing and boating, as well as popular local events such as the North Carolina Oyster Festival.

Sunset Beach

In 1981, an artist planted this mailbox on the west end of Sunset Beach, a small beach town in the far southern portion of North Carolina. In the years since, travelers have placed their thoughts, prayers, poems and drawings in the mailbox. Some see it as a place to purge their thoughts and start anew; others as a way to connect with strangers.

Hammocks Beach State Park

At twilight, the sky turns purple at Hammocks Beach State Park -- 1,145 acres of land that consists mainly of Bear Island along the Southern Outer Banks. Take a 15-minute ferry ride or kayak over to the state park, pitch a tent behind the dune line, and enjoy time to yourself, as well as ample opportunities for fishing. Puppy drum, flounder, trout and blue fish are frequent catches.

Kure Beach

Kure Beach is big on family-entertainment. Swing by the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher for live exhibits on bamboo sharks, loggerhead sea turtles and an albino alligator named Luna. Discover Civil War history at Fort Fisher State Historic Site, where the war’s largest land-sea battle occurred.

Indian Beach

You’ll find Indian Beach in the Southern Outer Banks (a.k.a. Crystal Coast). Tucked within lush maritime forests, the laid-back beachside community has 92 residents, and plenty of opportunities to see marine wildlife. Turtle hatchlings of leatherback, green and loggerhead species reside on the shore. Out at sea, sightings of bottlenose dolphins, sometimes up to 20 in a pod, are common.

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