Secrets of Carolina Beaches
We reveal the secrets of a few beaches in North Carolina and South Carolina. Find out which beaches we recommend for families, history buffs, kite boarders and hang gliders.
Summertime is beach time for more than 10 million travelers headed annually to points south and east in search of the surf. But before you point the car toward Florida, consider vacationing along the 500 miles of coast in the Carolinas.
North Carolina Beaches
More than half of North Carolina’s coast is concentrated in the Outer Banks, a series of barrier islands divided into 4 regions ideal for nature excursions, family reunions, destination weddings and fishing trips.
Take Flight, Go Airborne
Nearby Kitty Hawk may be famous for the Wright Brothers’ first flight, but for vacationers looking to catch some air of their own, Nags Head boasts the world’s oldest hang-gliding school and the tallest sand dune in the eastern United States at Jockey's Ridge State Park. Adventuresome visitors can hang glide from one of the dune faces or sand board in the fall and winter months.
Secluded Lux Life
At the northernmost point, Corolla is for the discerning vacationer looking for secluded luxury. Developed in the 1980s, Corolla is North Carolina’s last beach frontier, giving it a very clean and modern feel. Visitors may rent one of the 3,000 available “mansions by the sea,” where higher-end properties can have up to 23 rooms and rent for up to $23,000 a week. For a unique experience, rent a vacation home just outside of town, where the wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs roam free in a sanctuary accessible only by 4-wheel drive.
Beach for Nature Lovers
The 50-mile-long region of Hatteras Island encompasses 7 towns and villages, including the town of Hatteras on the southernmost end. The rustic, gritty landscape of the island has very few franchises and attracts visitors looking for nature -- nothing but dunes, sand and ocean. Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the largest track of undeveloped beach on the East Coast and the first national seashore in the country. Visitors can pitch a tent in the National Park Service’s campground area and sleep right on the shore.
South Carolina Shores
Take Ocean Highway 17-South into the Palmetto State for almost 200 miles of golden sands along the Atlantic Ocean.
Surf and Turf
The central part of the Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach is a beach destination for those looking for an active family vacation. The seaside city has a boardwalk complete with shopping, a Skywheel, an amusement park and nightlife … plus the area boasts more than 100 golf courses.
Blissful Beach Memories
If the last thing you want on vacation is the bustle of activity, Pawleys Island, 30 minutes away from Myrtle Beach, is the idyllic and blissful step back in time for those looking to recreate childhood memories or create new ones for young family members. The self-proclaimed “arrogantly shabby” town is one of the oldest vacation communities on the East Coast and has welcomed visitors since the 1700s. Before you leave, purchase an Original Pawleys Island Rope Hammock, a tradition of craftsmanship that dates back to the 1800s, and take the memory of Pawleys Island home with you.
Kite Boarder's Paradise
While most tourists know Charleston for its historic homes and international cuisine scene, just 20 minutes from downtown is Sullivan's Island, one of 4 beaches near the peninsula. The backdrop of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Gold Bug, the island is a haven for kite boarding, with brightly colored sails dotting the sky as dozens of water-sports enthusiasts hang in the balance of the wind and sea.
Hilton Head, the first eco-planned destination in the United States, is one of the nation’s top 10 family-friendly beaches. Accommodations range from luxury resorts to beachfront villas and hotels, and the island is home to 24 golf courses, 300 tennis courts and 8 marinas, plus hundreds of boutiques, art galleries, major department stores and specialty shops. The award-winning Inn at Palmetto Bluff is ranked #5 in family resort vacations by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Readers’ Choice Awards and #4 in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Hotels for Families in the Continental United States.
Florida’s East Coast Beaches
We share the best beaches on Florida's East Coast. Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
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