blue waters lap onto white sand beach

7 Of The Best Beaches In North Carolina

North Carolina is home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. It’s known for its wide, white sand beaches and crystal waters. Embrace the laid-back approach to life while catching some rays in this coastal state. It boasts  300+ miles of coastline, so there’s a lot of ground to cover. To help pick where to spend a sunny day, we’ve narrowed it down to seven of the best beaches in North Carolina.

Best Beaches in North Carolina

1. Emerald Isle

This family-friendly beach is 12 miles of clean waters, glittering sand, and a relaxed atmosphere. It also has a popular fishing pier, which is also a lovely spot to take a walk if you want to stretch your legs. As the name suggests, the waters shine a lovely emerald green – Emerald Isle is very close to the Gulf Stream, producing this beautiful colour. It’s the perfect place for snorkelling and spotting little fishes. Or, hop on a kayak and explore more of the beach and its surroundings.

emerald isle north carolina

2. Shackleford Banks

Said to have some of the clearest waters in North Carolina, Shackleford Banks is a beautiful and wild island. Several ferries depart from Downtown Beaufort a day, so it’s easy enough to get there. Once you’re there, you’re transported to another time where wild horses run free. You’ll want to take your beach towel or a chair because you certainly won’t be able to rent a sun lounger here. It’s stripped back, with its shores covered with scallops and crabs. Pearly white sand lies beside the crystalline waters, a wonderful swimming spot. If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to catch the majestic sight of the horses running into the sea.

shackleford banks north carolina

3. Wrightsville Beach

If you’re looking for somewhere with enough to keep you entertained for the whole day (or longer!), then Wrightsville Beach has everything you could want. Not only is there a lovely beach with bright white sand and crystal clear water, but there’s also scuba diving, kayaking, surfing, golf courses, and so much more. There are several points for showers, so you can wash off the salt and freshen up before heading to one of the area’s restaurants and bars for fresh seafood and live music.

4. Corolla Beach

This is another place where you can be in amongst rugged nature and wild horses, which are said to descend from colonial Spanish horses. You won’t find these in any other parts of the world, and watching them live freely is incredible. Its wide beach is perfect for lounging around all day before taking a dip in the crisp Atlantic ocean when the summer sun bakes down. There’s so much natural beauty around and lots of ground to explore. Although you feel far from civilisation, there are plenty of restaurants around to grab some fresh seafood or beachside hotels to rest after a day in the sun.

wild horses corolla beach north carolina

5. Cape Hatteras

The ocean waves, the salt marshes, unspoiled beaches – nature lovers will adore Cape Hatteras. Not to be confused with Hatteras Village, this nearly 70-mile beach was actually the nation’s first national seashore, home to abundant wildlife. During nesting season, visitors get the chance to spot wild sea turtles in their natural habitat. And the beach is perhaps most famous for its black and white striped lighthouse – the view from the top is stunning, just book your slot and enjoy the vistas.

6. Oak Island

Oak Island itself is the epitome of a quaint, sleepy beachside town, with pastel-coloured houses dotting the seafront. It might be a popular family-day-out location, but the expansive sands mean there’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out. There’s plenty to do including fishing off one of the two fishing piers, kayaking, exploring the nearby area, or simply swimming and relaxing. If you do fancy exploring a bit further out, a 12-mile drive will take you to Southport. A Walk to Remember, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Safe Haven, amongst other films, were shot here.

7. Topsail Beach

This beach is a sanctuary for sea turtles, which you can easily spot in the clear waters. Topsail gets its name from an old tale – years ago, pirate ships would hide behind the cove with just their topsails showing. Today, it’s a seaside haven. If you’re looking for a chilled day, where all you do is sit on the beach and enjoy the expansive views, this is the beach for you. Be sure to catch the sunset at Serenity Point for an unforgettable view.

north carolina topsail beach

Aleyna Yilmaz

Aleyna loves learning about a culture through its food, whether that's closer to home or being out there in the world. She’s always happiest when experiencing somewhere new, but her base in Manchester is a close second. A blend of her love of writing, food, travel, and culture has naturally led her to travel writing full time.

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