Aerial View of Topsail Beach with pier and water tower in the back

13 Best Beaches in North Carolina for Families

Looking for the Best Beaches in North Carolina for Families?

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When we first moved to North Carolina in 2015, our first family weekend trip was to the beach.  I quickly realized just how many choices we had, which was both exciting and a bit overwhelming. To make it easier for you to pick the perfect spot, I’ve put together this guide to the best beaches in North Carolina for families.

From the untouched beauty of the Outer Banks to the lively beaches near Wilmington, each location has its unique charm, family-friendly amenities, and the promise of adventure for all ages.

Whether you’re eager to build sandcastles with your little ones, dive into the cool ocean waves, or explore coastal trails rich in wildlife, we’re here to guide you to the perfect spot for your family.

So, let’s embark on a journey to discover the best family-friendly beaches in North Carolina. Your next coastal adventure awaits!

Best Beaches in North Carolina for Families

Let’s dive into the best beaches; these are in no particular order.

1. Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach stands out as one of the best beaches in North Carolina for families seeking both relaxation and adventure. With its welcoming atmosphere and scenic beauty, this vibrant community offers a perfect mix of natural wonders and family-friendly activities, making every visit unforgettable.

A perspective of Carolina Beach from a wooden boardwalk, showing the natural dune landscape leading to a line of beachfront buildings under a clear sky.

Carolina Beach‘s shores are known for their soft sand, gentle waves, and wide-open spaces, ideal for children to play and parents to relax. The beach is lifeguard-protected during the summer months, providing extra safety for families enjoying the water.

In addition to the beach, you can enjoy the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, ranked as one of the best boardwalks in the country, which is a hub of activity featuring classic family entertainment, from amusement rides and arcades to shops and ice cream stands.

During the summer, the boardwalk comes alive with fireworks, outdoor movies, and live music, creating a festive atmosphere that’s hard to resist.

A bright aerial view of the Carolina Beach boardwalk area, featuring a Ferris wheel, various buildings, and a clear view of the sandy beach stretching into the distance.

Carolina Beach State Park offers a different kind of natural beauty just a stone’s throw from the beach. Families can explore hiking trails that wind through diverse habitats; here, you will find the Venus Flytrap, which is native to the region and grows wild in the park.

The park is also a fantastic spot for fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding, with equipment rentals available for those looking to try something new.

Where To Stay in Carolina Beach

📍Beautiful 4 Bedroom, Sleeps 12 – Experience unparalleled luxury at this newly-built 4-bedroom beachfront house, complete with an elevator for easy access across all levels. Enjoy private beach access, stunning ocean views from a top-floor master suite with a king-size bed, and three additional bedrooms (two with king beds and one perfect for kids). With a private beach walkway, ample parking, and beach chairs provided.

2. Nags Head

Nags Head captures the essence of a family beach vacation with its stunning natural landscapes and an array of activities that cater to all ages. This beloved Outer Banks destination combines the serenity of nature with the excitement of outdoor adventures, ensuring your family’s visit is both relaxing and filled with new discoveries.

Nags Head Beach NC

The beaches of Nags Head are celebrated for their natural beauty, sprawling for miles with soft, golden sand and rolling waves. These shores offer plenty of room for families to spread out, build sandcastles, surf, or simply soak up the sun. You will find lifeguard stations along the beach so you and your little ones can safely enjoy the water.

Nags Head is also home to the East Coast’s largest natural sand dune, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which is a must-visit. Families can fly kites, sandboard down the dunes, or take a self-guided tour to learn about the unique ecosystem. The park’s sunset views are unparalleled, offering a breathtaking backdrop for evening picnics.

Aerial view of Jockey's Ridge Dune State Park

Nags Head isn’t just about beach fun; it’s where history and learning come alive. The Bodie Island Lighthouse, easily accessible from Nags Head, provides a glimpse into the maritime history of the Outer Banks. Climbing to the top offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Additionally, the nearby Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills is an inspirational visit where families can learn about the birth of aviation.

Wright Brothers Visitors Center plane replica

Nags Head delivers a wide array of water sports and activities for families seeking adventure. From kayaking and paddleboarding in the sound to chartering a fishing boat or trying out parasailing, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the water. Many local outfitters offer lessons and rentals, making it easy for everyone to try something new.

Where To Stay in Nags Head

📍Oceanfront with Hot Tub and Rooftop Deck – Discover your beachside haven just a few steps from the sand. This 4-bedroom, 4-bath home offers oceanfront views, with a rooftop deck for panoramic vistas and a covered deck for shaded relaxation. Featuring two primary suites with attached baths and two additional bedrooms with hallway-access bathrooms, it’s perfect for sunrise coffees on the porch and sunset gatherings on the spacious rooftop. Underneath, unwind in the hot tub or relax in fun hammock chairs.

3. Emerald Isle

With its tranquil ambiance and stunning natural beauty, Emerald Isle offers a serene getaway for families seeking a blend of relaxation and oceanic adventures. This jewel of the Crystal Coast captivates visitors with its emerald-green waters and soft, sandy beaches, providing a picturesque setting for a family vacation that’s as relaxing as it is memorable.

Emerald Isle‘s beaches are renowned for their beauty and family-friendly atmosphere. The sandy shores are perfect for kids to splash around in the waves or for the whole family to enjoy a leisurely day beachcombing, building sandcastles, or playing beach games. The town’s commitment to preserving the coastline’s natural beauty ensures a clean, safe environment for family fun.

Emerald Isle Beach

Beyond the beach, Emerald Isle offers an abundance of outdoor activities that families can immerse themselves in as they enjoy the natural beauty of North Carolina’s coast. The Emerald Isle Woods Park provides a network of walking trails and a fishing pier, ideal for those who love to explore on foot or cast a line.

For a unique perspective of the island, families can rent bicycles and ride along the extensive bike paths that offer scenic views of the sound and sea.

For those seeking a thrill, the nearby water park and adventure courses promise a day filled with excitement and laughter. You will also find some great things nearby; the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is a short drive away and offers interactive exhibits and marine life encounters that educate and entertain visitors of all ages. 

North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores Jellyfish

Whether your family is into kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing, or jet skiing, there’s something here for everyone. Local shops offer rentals and lessons, making it easy for beginners to get started. For a memorable experience, take a family boat tour to explore nearby islands, spot dolphins, or catch a glimpse of the sunset over the water.

Where To Stay in Emerald Isle

📍Pet-Friendly, 3 Bedroom, Oceanfront Cottage – Experience ultimate beachfront bliss with direct access to the sand from your deck. This home features a solar-heated outdoor shower, beach gear, and a deck with rockers to enjoy ocean views, including playful dolphins and serene sunsets. The fully stocked kitchen and gas grill are perfect for making home-cooked meals as you enjoy complimentary beverages that await your arrival. This dog-friendly retreat offers comfortable sleeping arrangements for the whole family.

4. Kure Beach

Kure Beach offers a perfect escape for families looking to enjoy the quieter side of North Carolina’s coast. This small, serene beach town, nestled at the southern tip of Pleasure Island, is a hidden gem where families can experience the charm of a secluded beach community combined with engaging attractions and natural wonders.

Kure Beach‘s main attraction is its pristine, uncrowded shoreline, where families can enjoy the sun and surf in a more intimate setting. The clean, soft sand and manageable waves make it an ideal spot for young children to play safely and for parents to relax without the hustle and bustle of larger beach destinations.

Kure Beach Sand and ocean

Steeped in history and natural beauty, the nearby Fort Fisher State Historic Site offers a unique educational experience for families. Here, you can explore the remnants of a Civil War fort and learn about the area’s historical significance.

Also, the adjacent recreation area provides stunning oceanfront views and is a popular spot for fishing, picnicking, and simply soaking in the natural beauty.

Fort Fisher Boardwalk in Kure Beach NC

You’ll also find the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher here; it is a favorite among families for its engaging exhibits and hands-on experiences. With a focus on the marine life of the Cape Fear region, the aquarium offers interactive opportunities to learn about sea turtles, sharks, and other aquatic creatures, making for an educational and fun-filled day trip.

In addition, one of the oldest fishing piers on the Atlantic coast is in Kure Beach; the Kure Beach Pier is a landmark offering more than just fishing. It’s a place where families can enjoy the scenic views, grab a bite at the nearby restaurants, or simply take a leisurely stroll along its length. 

Kure Beach Pier

Where To Stay in Kure Beach

📍 2 Bedroom Beachfront Condo – This cozy beachfront condo features two bedrooms, two updated bathrooms, and a fully equipped kitchen adorned with local artwork for a touch of coastal charm. Enjoy ocean views from the master suite deck or dine al fresco on the main deck to the soothing sound of waves. Steps away from the beach and multiple outdoor pools, guests have access to an array of amenities, including a newly renovated indoor pool, fitness room, and sports courts.

5. Topsail Island

Topsail Island, a slender barrier island, is a hidden treasure for families seeking a blend of natural beauty, history, and leisurely beach life. With its miles of stunning beaches, intriguing local lore, and an array of outdoor activities, Topsail Island offers a tranquil escape where timeless memories await.

Aerial View of Topsail Beach with pier and water tower in the back

Topsail Island is renowned for its long stretches of soft, sandy beaches that offer a peaceful retreat from the busier tourist spots.

The island’s three distinct towns—Surf City, Topsail Beach, and North Topsail Beach—each provide unique beach experiences, from serene shorelines perfect for sunbathing and shell collecting to excellent spots for fishing and surfing.

The relatively calm waters make it safe for children to play and swim, creating an ideal setting for family beach days.

The island’s intriguing history, including tales of pirates and secret government operations, adds an element of adventure to your visit.

The Missiles and More Museum, located in Topsail Beach, delves into the island’s past, including its role in Operation Bumblebee, a post-World War II missile development program. This educational gem provides a fascinating outing for families interested in history and science.

Topsail Tower along the beach

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is a must-visit, offering families the opportunity to learn about sea turtle conservation and see the efforts being made to protect and rehabilitate these majestic creatures. Additionally, the island’s unspoiled natural areas are perfect for bird-watching, fishing, and exploring the diverse coastal ecosystems.

Families seeking a bit of adventure can enjoy a variety of water sports, including kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating. Surfing lessons and rentals are available for those looking to catch their first wave while fishing charters and pier fishing offer a slower-paced but equally thrilling experience.

Where To Stay on Topsail Island

📍Breathtaking 3-Bedroom Ocean Views – “Surf’s Up” is an allergy-friendly, pet-free beach cottage offering spectacular ocean views and classic charm. With lovely bathrooms, stainless steel appliances, and tasteful beach décor, it’s the perfect retreat for creating lasting memories. Located near Surf City and North Topsail Beach on a quiet street, it features three beautiful bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and an open-plan living area with a renovated kitchen (January 2023). Managed by attentive local owners, this clean and well-appointed home ensures a memorable beach vacation without pets or smoking allowed.

6. Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island, accessible only by ferry from Southport, North Carolina, offers an unparalleled experience for families seeking an exclusive retreat amidst pristine natural surroundings. With no cars allowed and transportation limited to golf carts, bicycles, and walking, this secluded island promises a unique blend of adventure, tranquility, and environmental conservation.

Bald Head Island

The island’s beaches are remarkably unspoiled, offering miles of soft, sandy shores perfect for everything from sunbathing and sandcastle building to shell collecting and sea turtle spotting. The absence of cars enhances the peaceful atmosphere, allowing families to relax and enjoy the natural beauty.

Bald Head Island is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, boasting a rich tapestry of ecosystems, including maritime forests, salt marshes, and tidal creeks. This diversity provides an excellent opportunity for educational exploration, with guided nature tours that reveal the island’s flora and fauna and conservation efforts, especially concerning sea turtles and birdlife.

Despite its tranquil vibe, the island offers many outdoor activities suitable for all ages. Families can enjoy kayaking through the marshes, paddleboarding in the calm waters, hiking along scenic trails, or exploring the island by golf cart. The Bald Head Island Conservancy offers programs and activities that engage visitors with the island’s natural and cultural history.

Bald Head Island

The iconic Old Baldy Lighthouse, the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina, provides a glimpse into the island’s past and offers breathtaking views from its top. A visit to Old Baldy is a must-do, offering both an educational experience and a chance to see the island from a unique perspective.

Bald Head Island’s limited access ensures that it remains uncrowded and serene, making it an ideal destination for families looking to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

Where To Stay on Bald Head Island

📍 Luxury Oceanfront 4 Bedroom Home – This updated home features three renovated bathrooms, fresh paint, ocean-facing bar seating, and direct beach access for a seamless vacation experience. It boasts a reverse floor plan with stunning ocean views and is centrally located for easy island exploration. Amenities include new bedding, smart TVs, high-speed internet, an elevator, and extensive decking. Guests enjoy a fully equipped kitchen, beach essentials, and optional BHI and Shoals Club memberships. Managed directly by attentive owners, this property ensures a memorable stay with every detail crafted for guest comfort and convenience.

7. Corolla & Carova Beach 

Corolla, nestled in the northernmost reaches of the Outer Banks, offers families a unique blend of wild beauty and accessible fun. Known for its wide, sandy beaches, historic landmarks, and the famous wild horses that roam freely, Corolla provides a picturesque backdrop for a family vacation filled with exploration and relaxation.

Wild Horse near Carova

Perhaps the most enchanting feature of Corolla is its wild Spanish Mustangs, descendants of horses that survived shipwrecks centuries ago. Families can embark on guided tours to observe these majestic animals in their natural habitat, making for an unforgettable experience that combines wildlife observation with local history.

Corolla’s beaches are renowned for their cleanliness, beauty, and family-friendly atmosphere. The soft sands and gentle surf create a perfect environment for children to play, swim, and learn to surf, with lifeguards on duty in designated areas during the summer months for added safety.

Sunrise at Corolla Beach

Offering panoramic views of the Currituck Sound, Atlantic Ocean, and beyond, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a must-visit. Families can climb the 220 steps to the top for a small fee, exploring the history and the area’s maritime heritage.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse view from Corolla Park

The Historic Corolla Park, home to the Whalehead Club, offers a glimpse into the area’s past with its restored 1920s-era mansion set on a vast, scenic property. The park also features the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, where visitors can learn about the region’s wildlife and coastal environment through interactive exhibits and programs. 

Where To Stay in Corolla 

📍Oceanfront 3 Bedroom with Hot Tub – Mother Ocean introduces “Ruggles” in the Outer Banks, an oceanfront gem with exceptional views, a private walkway, and beach access. Guests enjoy luxury amenities like sun decks, a hammock, and a hot tub. Features include cathedral ceilings, a fireplace, and a loft library, alongside a fully-equipped kitchen and master bath. The property encourages encounters with wild Spanish Mustangs and offers proximity to historical sites, dining, and music. Accommodations include ocean-view lofts, a master suite with a queen bed, living areas with fireplaces, and a kitchen, enhancing the serene vacation experience with both comfort and adventure.

8. Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry, private boat, or small plane, is a secluded gem within the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This remote island offers families a unique escape into a world where simplicity and natural beauty reign supreme. With its rich maritime history, picturesque landscapes, and laid-back atmosphere, Ocracoke is the perfect destination for families seeking an authentic beach experience away from the crowds.

Ferry from Ocracoke Island to Cape Haterras

Ocracoke’s beaches are consistently ranked among the most beautiful in the United States, offering miles of unspoiled sand and surf. The island’s remote location ensures that its beaches remain less crowded, providing a serene setting for families to relax, play, and explore the natural beauty of the Outer Banks.

Ocracoke is steeped in history, most notably as the favorite hideout of the infamous pirate Blackbeard. The island’s Pirate History is celebrated at the Ocracoke Preservation Society’s Museum, where families can learn about the island’s past and its significance in maritime history. The annual Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree is a highlight, bringing history to life with reenactments and festivities.

As one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the United States, the Ocracoke Lighthouse is a must-visit landmark. Although visitors can’t climb the lighthouse, its presence adds to the island’s charm, and the surrounding area is a lovely spot for picnics and photos.

Ocracoke Island Lighthouse

Ocracoke’s small village is the heart of the island, with a vibrant local culture that welcomes visitors. The community’s art galleries, local craft shops, and seafood restaurants offer a taste of island life. Live music and storytelling events are often held at local venues, providing entertainment that captures the spirit of Ocracoke.

Whether you’re exploring the island’s pirate lore, enjoying its pristine beaches, or simply relishing the quiet of a sunset over the sound, Ocracoke offers a peaceful retreat where family memories are made and cherished. 

Where To Stay on Ocracoke Island

📍Pony Island Inn – Their dedicated team offers top-tier lodging in Ocracoke, earning recognition among the island’s best places to stay. In 2023, Tripadvisor honored them with a Travelers’ Choice award, marking them among the top 10% of hotels worldwide. They ensure a stress-free visit with modern, clean rooms, suites, and kitchenettes. The Pony Island Restaurant next door provides breakfast options in season.

9. Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach, situated on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, embodies the quintessential family beach destination. Its soft, white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and friendly, welcoming community offer the perfect mix of relaxation, recreation, and adventure for families looking to create lasting vacation memories.

The main draw of Atlantic Beach is its beautiful coastline, featuring wide, family-friendly beaches that are ideal for sunbathing, swimming, and building sandcastles. The gentle waves provide safe conditions for children of all ages, while designated areas with lifeguards ensure a secure environment for everyone to enjoy the ocean.

The expansive Oceanana Fishing Pier stretching into the ocean, with a wide sandy beach in the foreground and a partly cloudy sky above.

A visit to Fort Macon State Park combines education with recreation, offering families a chance to explore a well-preserved Civil War fort with guided tours and reenactments.

Beyond its historical significance, the park boasts beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and picnic areas, making it a versatile destination for family fun.

Inside Fort Macon State Park, showcasing a grassy courtyard surrounded by old brick walls and mounted cannons on the fort's upper level.

Atlantic Beach’s boardwalk and pavilion area serve as the heart of the town, hosting concerts, festivals, and family-friendly activities throughout the year. This vibrant community space is perfect for enjoying ice cream, shopping for souvenirs, and soaking up the coastal atmosphere.

Atlantic Beach is a haven for anglers and boaters, with ample opportunities for fishing from piers, the surf, or on chartered deep-sea fishing trips. The town also features several marinas where families can rent boats to explore the surrounding waters at their own pace.

Where To Stay in Atlantic Beach

📍Beautiful 3-Bedroom Condo Oceanfront – The Dunescape Unit offers panoramic ocean views with luxurious amenities, including three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and exclusive beach access. Highlights include a fully-equipped kitchen, entertainment options, and on-site pools. Dedicated parking, luggage carts, and an elevator ensure convenience. 

10. Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, stretching over 70 miles along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, offers families an unparalleled experience of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and educational exploration.

This national treasure, known for its dynamic landscape, historic landmarks, and diverse wildlife, provides a unique setting for families seeking both relaxation and adventure in a pristine coastal environment.

The seashore’s expansive, undeveloped beaches are perfect for families looking to enjoy the natural beauty of the Outer Banks without the crowds. Here, you can find your slice of paradise, whether for sunbathing, shell collecting, or witnessing the majestic flights of shorebirds and sea turtles nesting on the beaches.

Dunes on Pea Island

Cape Hatteras is home to some of the most famous lighthouses in the United States, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. Families can explore this historic beacon, learn about the history and the role it played in maritime navigation, and even climb to the top for breathtaking panoramic views (as of this writing, it’s under renovation, and you cannot climb to the top, but you can explore the grounds).

Cape Hatteras Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream, offering opportunities to observe a wide array of coastal species in their natural habitat. The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, located within the seashore, is an excellent spot for birdwatching. Additionally, numerous nature trails wind through the maritime forests and salt marshes, providing a closer look at the island’s diverse ecosystems.

The National Park Service offers a variety of educational programs for visitors of all ages, including ranger-led talks and guided walks. The seashore’s visitor centers provide fascinating exhibits on the area’s natural and cultural history, enhancing the educational value of your family’s visit.

Pea Island Sign

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a sanctuary where families can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature. Its pristine beaches, historic landmarks, and abundant recreational activities make it an ideal destination for families seeking relaxation, adventure, and education. 

Where To Stay near Cape Hatteras National Seashore

📍4-Bedroom Oceanfront Home w/ Saltwater Pool – This charming oceanfront home in Avon’s quiet north end blends leisure with activity, offering a private saltwater swimming pool, a 6-person hot tub, and a Tiki bar with a 40″ outdoor TV. Features include a cabana half bath, ample parking, a fish-cleaning table, a gas grill, and two outdoor showers. Inside, enjoy a den with ocean views, a sofa bed, three bedrooms on the first level (including a master with a private bath), and a great room with deck access on the top level. The kitchen has bar seating, complemented by a convenient half bath and another master bedroom.  

11. Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach is a picturesque destination known for its vibrant community, clear waters, and a wide array of outdoor activities. This family-friendly beach town combines the charm of Southern hospitality with an active lifestyle, making it an ideal spot for families seeking relaxation and adventure by the sea.

The town’s beaches are beautiful, offering miles of clean, soft sand ideal for sunbathing, beach games, and leisurely strolls. The clear, inviting waters are perfect for swimming, with lifeguard stations providing safety for families during the busy summer months.

Aerial View of Wrightsville Beach NC looking north with Crystal Pier in the image

Wrightsville Beach is a haven for water sports enthusiasts. The area is famous for its excellent surfing conditions, with lessons and rentals available for all skill levels. Families can also enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and sailing in the Intracoastal Waterway’s calm waters, providing everyone with fun and fitness.

A popular activity for locals and visitors alike is walking, running, or biking around The Loop, a scenic 2.45-mile path that circles the heart of Wrightsville Beach. This paved trail offers beautiful views and a safe place for a family jog or leisurely bike ride, with playgrounds and parks along the way for kids to enjoy.

As a centerpiece of Wrightsville Beach, Johnnie Mercer’s Pier offers fishing opportunities and a chance to enjoy panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Families can spend the day fishing or simply walking along the pier to admire the scenery and watch surfers catch the waves below. It’s also a great place to come and watch the sunrises.

Johnnie Mercer's Fishing Pier Sunrise

Beyond the beach, Wrightsville Beach is close to other natural attractions and outdoor activities. Families can explore nearby state parks, take a boat tour to Masonboro Island Reserve, or even venture a short distance to historic Wilmington for sightseeing and exploring.

Where To Stay in Wrightsville Beach

📍New Construction Oceanfront Duplex – 4-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom oceanfront duplex on Wrightsville Beach’s tranquil south end, offering stunning ocean and waterway views. Steps from the beach, it features all-new furnishings, appliances, and décor. The duplex boasts an open-plan living area with spectacular views, a chef-friendly kitchen, and a large oceanfront deck. The master suite includes a King bed, a private bathroom, and a sound side porch. Other bedrooms offer queen and bunk beds, with additional sleeping on a pullout couch.

12. Ocean Isle Beach

Ocean Isle Beach embodies the quintessential family beach retreat. OIB is known for its gentle surf, wide sandy beaches, and tranquil atmosphere; this charming island offers a serene getaway for families seeking to unwind and create lasting memories together.

Ocean Isle Beach boasts seven miles of soft, sandy beaches that are perfect for families. The gentle waves and shallow waters provide a safe environment for children to swim and play while parents relax and soak up the Carolina sunshine.

The beach’s expansive width ensures there’s plenty of room for beach games, sandcastle building, and spreading out a picnic blanket.

Ocean Isle Beach NC Sunrise

Beyond the beach, Ocean Isle offers a variety of activities that appeal to all ages. The Ocean Isle Beach Pier is a favorite spot for fishing and taking in stunning ocean views. The island also features miniature golf courses, a public park with playground equipment, and an outdoor amphitheater that hosts concerts and events during the summer months.

The Museum of Coastal Carolina on Ocean Isle Beach provides families with interactive exhibits and programs about the region’s coastal environment and wildlife. The museum’s touch tank and displays on sea turtles, sharks, and local history offer a fun and informative break from the sun.

Ocean Isle is situated in a region rich with natural beauty and wildlife. Families can embark on eco-tours to explore nearby marshes, estuaries, and the Shallotte River, spotting birds, fish, and maybe even a dolphin.

The island’s proximity to several sea turtle nesting sites also offers a unique opportunity to learn about these creatures and conservation efforts.

Ocean Isle Beach NC one of the Best Beaches in North Carolina for Families

Where To Stay in Ocean Isle Beach

📍Oceanfront Condo with Easy Beach Access – This updated 2bd/2ba oceanfront condo offers everything for a perfect getaway, featuring oceanfront views from the balcony, living room, and primary bedroom, with easy beach access and a community pool available from mid-April to October. It’s fully equipped for convenience, including six beach chairs, a beach wagon, a margarita machine, a pack-n-play, a highchair, and a fully stocked kitchen. The condo is located on the top floor for unobstructed views and privacy. It sits on the quiet east end, promising a serene retreat.

13. Hammocks Beach State Park

Hammocks Beach State Park, located on the southern coast of North Carolina, is a pristine natural oasis that offers families an unparalleled outdoor adventure. Comprising mostly of Bear Island, a stunning barrier island accessible only by the park’s ferry service, private boat, or paddling, this secluded park is a haven for wildlife, unspoiled beaches, and tranquil beauty.

The park’s crown jewel, Bear Island, boasts miles of pristine sandy beaches perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and shell collecting. The absence of development on the island means families can enjoy a rare, untouched coastal environment where the sounds of the ocean and wildlife reign supreme.

Hammocks Beach State Park is renowned for its excellent paddling opportunities. Families can explore the marshes and waterways surrounding Bear Island by kayak or canoe, discover secluded coves, spot birds and marine life, and enjoy the serenity of the park’s natural landscapes. Rentals and guided tours are available, catering to beginners and experienced paddlers.

Hammocks Beach State Park Visitors Center

For families looking to immerse themselves fully in nature, Bear Island offers primitive campsites where you can fall asleep to the sound of the waves and wake up to stunning sunrises. Camping on the island provides a unique opportunity to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with each other and the natural world.

While Bear Island is known for its beaches, it also features trails that wind through dunes and maritime forests, offering families a chance to explore its diverse ecosystems. 

The park’s remote location and access restrictions mean that it remains one of the least crowded and most peaceful beach destinations in North Carolina. Families looking for a quiet day trip or an adventurous overnight stay will find Hammocks Beach State Park an ideal setting.

Where To Stay Near Hammocks Beach State Park

📍4 Bedroom Waterfront Home with Private Dock – Enjoy waterfront relaxation with a hot tub, TIKI torches, saltwater fishing, and swimming. This kid and pet-friendly home features a bunk house and is near beaches and Jacksonville. Offers panoramic views, boat access, and kayak rentals and is close to Downtown Swansboro. A shared dock is available; the host ensures a seamless stay.

Best Beaches in North Carolina for Families: FAQs

📌 What is the best beach in North Carolina for kids?
The best beach in North Carolina for kids is Carolina Beach for its family-friendly atmosphere and wide range of activities, including the boardwalk with amusement rides, a nearby state park for hiking, and summer programs specifically designed for children’s entertainment and education.

📌 Which NC beaches have the clearest water?
In North Carolina, the beaches with the clearest water are often found around the Outer Banks, particularly Cape Hatteras National Seashore, due to their remote location and lesser impact from river runoff, ensuring more pristine and clear ocean conditions ideal for swimming and snorkeling.

📌 Which NC beach is least crowded?
Ocracoke Island and Bald Head Island are less crowded because you need to take a ferry to the island.  You will also find Carova Beach to have fewer people due to only being able to access it by a 4×4 vehicle.  

Hammocks Beach State Park, specifically Bear Island, is another of the least crowded beaches in North Carolina. Accessible only by ferry or private boat, its remote, pristine beaches offer a tranquil escape ideal for families and nature lovers seeking solitude and unspoiled natural beauty.

📌 Which NC beach has the most to do?
Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach both offer a wealth of activities, making them top choices for those seeking variety. Wrightsville Beach’s ambiance, abundant water sports, and scenic paths are perfect for active visitors. 

Carolina Beach appeals to families with its lively boardwalk, state park, and regular summer events, including fireworks and outdoor movies. Both beaches cater to different preferences, ensuring plenty of options for entertainment and relaxation.

📌 Is Wrightsville Beach or Carolina Beach better?
Choosing between Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach depends on your preferences. Wrightsville Beach offers a more upscale vibe, abundant water sports, and a scenic loop for walking and biking. 

Carolina Beach provides a classic, family-friendly atmosphere with its boardwalk, state park, and summer events. Wrightsville is ideal for quiet relaxation and water sports; for family activities and a lively boardwalk, Carolina Beach wins.

Final Thoughts

From the serene stretches of Carova Beach near Corolla, where wild horses roam freely, to the bustling boardwalks of Carolina Beach, brimming with entertainment and smiles, the state’s shores cater to every family’s desire for the perfect beach day.

Whether your family thrives on the thrill of water sports at Wrightsville Beach or prefers the educational escapades available at Hammocks Beach State Park, there’s a slice of coastal paradise waiting to enrich your lives with unforgettable memories. Each destination promises sun-soaked leisure and invites you to connect with nature, history, and the vibrant local culture.

As you plan your next family getaway, remember that North Carolina’s beaches stand ready to welcome you with open arms and endless possibilities. The cadence of the waves calls for adventure, while the sun-warmed sands beckon for moments of peace, guaranteeing that every visit will carve unforgettable memories into the fabric of your family’s journey.

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