A sweeping aerial view of Carolina Beach, with the beach on one side and the town on the other, highlighting the density of buildings and the long, narrow strip of the beach.

Discover the 30+ Best Things to Do in Carolina Beach NC

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Located on Pleasure Island, Carolina Beach is a gem nestled along the North Carolina coast. This charming town is not just a beach destination; it’s a vibrant community where the sun, sand, and sea come together to create a unique atmosphere of relaxation and excitement.

At the heart of Carolina Beach lies its stunning shoreline, a seamless blend of natural beauty and leisurely beach life. The expansive, soft, sandy beaches are perfect for those sunny days when all you need is the sound of the waves and the warmth of the sun.

But Carolina Beach is more than just its picturesque coast. It’s a place where you can feel the pulse of a friendly and welcoming community. As you walk through the town, you’ll encounter colorful murals, cozy cafes, and local shops that showcase the creativity and spirit of the residents.

Throughout the year, there are so many things to do in Carolina Beach. It comes alive with a variety of events and celebrations that reflect the town’s love for fun and community. 

Things to Do in Carolina Beach NC

Let’s dive into the fun things to do in Carolina Beach.

1. Carolina Beach Boardwalk 

Address: Carolina Beach Ave S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The Carolina Beach Boardwalk, ranked as one of the top 10 boardwalks in the country by Food & Wine magazine, encapsulates the essence of classic seaside fun. A haven for families, the boardwalk brims with amusement rides, including a vibrant carousel and an exhilarating fun slide. 

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.

From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, the boardwalk transforms into a bustling hub of activity. The summer months are especially lively, with weekly fireworks and a concert series that add to the vibrant atmosphere. The seaside amusement park, complete with its assortment of rides, becomes the heart of summer excitement.

A wooden boardwalk gazebo with a roof covered in string lights, next to a beach with a view of tall grasses and a clear blue sky. The boardwalk is adorned with marine-themed decorations.

Beyond the seasonal festivities, the boardwalk hosts annual off-season events like Christmas by the Sea and the Island of Lights Festival, ensuring year-round allure which are more great things to do in Carolina Beach.

And no visit is complete without savoring the famous homemade treats. Britt’s Donut Shop, a longstanding tradition since 1939, offers unforgettable homemade donuts. Add to that the delights of ice cream and fudge and the scenic views from the seasonal Ferris wheel, and your experience at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk is sure to be memorable.

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

2. Carolina Beach State Park

Address: 1010 State Park Rd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

One of my favorite things to do in Carolina Beach for a day is to visit the Carolina Beach State Park.  This diverse park spread across 761 acres, is renowned for its unique ecosystem and engaging outdoor adventures.

The park’s most famous resident is the Venus flytrap, one of the world’s most unique carnivorous plants, native only to this region. Nature enthusiasts flock here to witness these fascinating plants in their natural habitat, especially along the Flytrap Trail, a must-visit for any park-goer.

The entrance to "Flytrap Trail" at a state park, marked by an informative kiosk and a wooden walkway that leads into a forested area.

Make sure also to check out the Sugarloaf Dune, a 50-foot sand dune located near the bank of the Cape Fear River; the trailhead starts near the marina parking lot.

A trailhead marked "Sugarloaf Trail" at a state park, with a dense forest background. A clear path invites visitors to explore the natural surroundings.

Carolina Beach State Park is a paradise for hikers and bird watchers, boasting a variety of trails that meander through distinct environments—from dense maritime forests to tranquil wetlands. Each path offers its own perspective of the park’s rich biodiversity and scenic beauty.

Camping enthusiasts can also enjoy the park’s well-equipped campground. With sites for both tents and RVs, visitors can choose their own way to experience the great outdoors.

3. Freeman Park 

Address: 1800 Canal Dr, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Freeman Park, nestled in the northernmost coastal region of Carolina Beach, is a paradise for those seeking a blend of adventure and natural beauty. Whether it’s for swimming, camping, fishing, boating, crabbing, or simply exploring, this park draws visitors with its stunning beach, diverse wildlife, and picturesque dunes adorned with majestic sea grasses indigenous to the region.

Access to Freeman Park requires a pass, available year-round for vehicles, with two options: daily access passes and annual permits. Daily passes, purchasable at the park’s entrance via a 24-hour pay station accepting both cash and credit cards, vary in price by season. From April 1 to September 30, the cost is $50 per day, and from October 1 to March 31, it’s $30 per day. During peak times, an attendant is on hand to assist.

While summer brings a lively crowd to Freeman Park, each vehicle generally finds its spot. In contrast, winter visitors often enjoy the tranquility of having the shoreline almost to themselves. This unique park offers an authentic coastal experience, reflecting the essence of Carolina Beach’s outdoor lifestyle.

An aerial view of a serene beach with a clear separation between the sandy shore and the blue ocean. A few people are visible, enjoying the solitude of the sparsely populated beach.

4. Beach Time 

Carolina Beach has 44 designated public beach access points and offers a welcoming stretch of sand for every visitor. 

Among these access points, Seahorse, Oyster Shell, and Sea Gull stand out for their ADA accessibility, providing wheelchair-friendly routes right to the beach’s edge. 

The entrance to "Seahorse" beach access, featuring a wooden boardwalk that leads to the beach. Informational signs provide safety and regulation details, with clear skies above.

Several of these access points are conveniently located along the bustling Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Public beach accesses that offer public restrooms and showers are available at these locations in Carolina Beach: Alabama Avenue, Texas Ave, South Carolina Ave, Ocean Blvd, Tennessee Ave, Sand Piper Lot, and Hamlet Avenue.

A beach access point named "Pelican," with wooden walkways and informative signs. Payment kiosks for parking are visible, along with trash receptacles and bike racks.

5. Carolina Beach Arcade 

Address: 103 Carolina Beach Ave N, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Step into a world where the classic sound of pinball machines blends seamlessly with the excitement of modern video games. The arcade features a wide range of options, from vintage arcade games that evoke memories of a bygone era to the latest in interactive gaming technology, ensuring there’s something to captivate everyone.

The arcade also offers the chance to win prizes, adding an extra layer of excitement to the gaming experience. Whether you’re racking up points on a classic skeeball machine or trying your luck at a claw crane game, the thrill of winning a prize is part of the arcade’s timeless charm.

A quiet scene at Carolina Beach with various storefronts including an ice factory and an arcade. The area is sunny and peaceful, with benches and street lamps lining the walkway.

6. Carolina Beach Lake Park

Address: 400 Lake Park Blvd S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Enjoy this picturesque and tranquil spot in the heart of Carolina Beach, which offers a peaceful respite from the bustling beachfront. This beautiful park, centered around a freshwater lake, is one of the area’s most scenic and versatile outdoor spaces.

The park is a haven for those seeking a quiet place to relax, read, or simply enjoy the natural beauty. The lake, surrounded by lush greenery and gently swaying trees, provides a perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll or a picnic with family and friends. The well-maintained walking paths invite visitors to take a gentle walk, jog, or bike ride while soaking in the serene views.

A sunny picnic area with covered tables set under a pavilion near palm trees, with a view of a calm lake in Carolina Beach, offering a place for relaxation and gatherings.

7. Carolina Beach Farmers’ Market

Address: 400 Lake Park Blvd S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The Farmers Market is active from May 20th to September 30th and provides a vibrant venue where local growers, producers, artisans, and crafters showcase their goods every Saturday from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Visitors can explore a rich array of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meats, baked goods, and natural soaps, all while enjoying live music. Located by the lake, the market also features a rotating selection of handmade items from artists and crafters. 

8. Carolina Beach Pier

Address: 1800 Carolina Beach Ave N, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, a quintessential wooden structure extending 700 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, stands as a testament to the resilience and charm of Carolina’s coastal architecture. 

Although the end of the pier is currently closed for repairs due to hurricane damage, its Tiki bar is open, offering a taste of the pier’s welcoming atmosphere. The pier, with its long columns of wood pilings and wide plank walkway that bears the marks of years of storms, invites visitors to experience a slice of classic Carolina beach life. 

Additionally, the pier serves lunch and dinner, with breakfast available on Saturdays and Sundays, making it a delightful spot for a meal by the sea. The Carolina Beach Fishing Pier is a beloved landmark, eagerly awaiting its return to full operation.

A picturesque wooden pier extending into the ocean, with waves gently breaking around its pillars. A white building with a red roof is situated at the entrance of the pier under a clear blue sky.

9. Diving for Shipwrecks 

The waters off Carolina Beach are rich with maritime history, marked by numerous shipwrecks that attract divers and snorkelers. Among these is the General Beauregard, a vessel grounded by the USS Howquah in December 1863, now resting in shallow waters near the shore. 

This area, known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, contains about 2,000 shipwrecks along the North Carolina coastline, earning a top spot in Scuba Diving magazine’s Readers’ Poll for Wreck Diving in North America. The wrecks include a diverse range from WWII vessels, British trawlers, and German submarines to a WWI gunboat, a late 18th-century schooner, and an early 20th-century luxury liner, presenting a unique underwater exploration of history.

Carolina Beach Scuba is a full-service dive shop in Carolina Beach. It offers a range of scuba services, including gear sales, scuba instruction, and dive charters. They specialize in diving expeditions to explore shipwrecks, spearfishing, and hunting for fossilized Megalodon teeth. Their charters take divers to popular local shipwrecks, artificial reefs, and coral reefs.

10. iEscape Rooms

Address: 100 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

iEscape Rooms offers an immersive live entertainment experience with a variety of escape room games. These games challenge participants to find clues, solve puzzles, and escape within 60 minutes. 

Additionally, they feature a unique live Game Show experience where teams compete in various television-style game shows. It’s an ideal destination for family-friendly activities, team building, and celebrating special occasions. 

11. Kayaking and Paddleboarding 

Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular activities in Carolina Beach, offering a great way to explore the area’s scenic waterways. Whether you’re gliding through tranquil marshes or along the picturesque coastline, these activities provide both relaxation and adventure. 

You can enjoy the serene beauty of the surroundings, encounter local wildlife, and get a unique perspective of the beach and its natural environment. It’s a fantastic opportunity for both beginners and experienced paddlers to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Carolina Beach.

12. Tony Silvagni Surf School 

Address: 107 Charlotte Ave, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Tony Silvagni Surf School in Carolina Beach offers a range of surfing and water activities. They provide surf lessons, paddleboard lessons, and kayak tours, catering to different skill levels. The school is run by Tony Silvagni, a professional surfer with a wealth of experience and accolades.

In addition to lessons and tours, the school offers equipment rentals, including surfboards, paddleboards, kayaks, and beach gear. If you are looking to add something new that you haven’t tried before, surfing is a great thing to do in Carolina Beach.  

A colorful beach rental shop under a clear blue sky, featuring a sign that congratulates "Tony" for ranking 5th in the world. Surfboards and beach gear are visible, emphasizing a vibrant coastal vibe

13. Island Book Shop 

Address: 100 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Island Book Shop in Carolina Beach is a charming local bookstore that is open seasonally. The store boasts a diverse selection of both new and used books, including beach reads, local interest titles, and a variety of children’s books. This bookstore provides a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, perfect for book enthusiasts looking to discover their next great read.

14. Go Biking on the Island Greenway

Address: Many Access Points

The Island Greenway is a scenic network of off-street trails, parks, and beautiful areas interconnected with designated bike and pedestrian routes. It offers a safe and enjoyable environment for biking, walking, jogging, and other activities. It is an ideal spot for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the natural beauty of Carolina Beach. 

15. Fishing

The area offers a variety of fishing experiences, from surf fishing on the beach to deep-sea fishing charters. Anglers can expect to catch a range of species, such as flounder, redfish, speckled trout, grouper, sailfish, and marlin. With its rich marine life and beautiful coastal scenery, Carolina Beach is an ideal destination for fishing enthusiasts.

16. Lazy Pirate Sports Grill and Axe Throwing 

Address: 701 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The Lazy Pirate Sports Grill in Carolina Beach offers a unique experience combining dining with axe throwing. Their axe-throwing facility provides an adventurous and fun activity suitable for groups and individuals. It’s a great way to enjoy some competitive sport while relishing delicious meals at the grill. 

17. Federal Point Historic Preservation Society

Address: 1121 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is dedicated to preserving the history of the Federal Point area, including Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Fort Fisher. It features museum exhibits, a research library, archives, and a gift shop, all dedicated to the area’s rich heritage. 

Open to the public on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; the center welcomes individuals and groups to explore the unique history and culture of Carolina Beach and its surrounding areas.

The Federal Point History Center, a single-story building with a blue roof and wreaths on the windows, surrounded by trees, indicating a place of historical significance.

18. Go Boating 

Address: Carolina Beach Boating Access, 220 Annie Dr, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Address: Carolina Beach State Park Boat Ramp, 1020 State Park Rd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The Snow’s Cut Boat Ramp and Carolina Beach State Park Boat Ramp are two key boating access points in Carolina Beach. Snow’s Cut, located on Annie Drive, offers five launching lanes, a separate site for kayaks and canoes, and ample parking, including spaces for vehicles with trailers. It provides access to the Intracoastal Waterway and the Cape Fear River. 

The Carolina Beach State Park Ramp, found on B Road, features two launching lanes, a hand launch area for kayaks, and parking facilities. It is situated on the Cape Fear River, with seasonal kayak, boat rentals, and pontoon rentals available nearby. Here, you will find boat charters as well, such as Reel Teal Charters, Keep The Sea Inshore Charters, and Capt Charlie’s Adventures.

19. Mike Chappell Park

Address: 501 Dow Rd S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Mike Chappell Park, a 10-acre facility in Carolina Beach, offers a variety of recreational amenities. It features tennis and basketball courts, playground equipment, a dog park, and fields for baseball, softball, and soccer.

Additionally, the park houses the Carolina Beach Skate Park, an 8,000-square-foot area with ramps, rails, and bowls for skateboarding. Open daily from dusk until 11:00 pm, the park is a popular spot for both local residents and visitors. 

A close-up of a sign for Mike Chappell Park, set among greenery, indicating a recreational area with a clear blue sky in the background.

Drinks and Restaurants in Carolina Beach NC

In addition to all the great things to do in Carolina Beach, here are some of the best restaurants and places to check out.

✅ Britt’s Donuts
Address: 13 Carolina Beach Ave N, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ Good Hops Brewing
Address: 811 Harper Ave, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The front of Good Hops Brewing, a local brewery in Carolina Beach, featuring a green and orange façade with flags flying, inviting visitors to enjoy craft beers.

✅ The Fat Pelican
Address: 8 Lake Park Blvd S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ Crush & Grind
Address: 7 Harper Ave, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ SeaWitch Cafe
Address: 227 Carolina Beach Ave N, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ The Veggie Wagon
Address: 608 Lake Park Blvd S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

"The Veggie Wagon" local island market, a green-painted store offering various local goods under a clear sky. American flags and signage indicate a friendly, local business atmosphere.

✅ Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar
Address: 1211 Lake Park Blvd S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ The Last Resort 
Address: 600 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ Malama Cafe
Address: 108 Cape Fear Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

A delicious-looking sandwich cut in half, displaying layers of meat, cheese, and greens, on a white plate placed on a wooden table with a blue patterned backdrop.

✅ Shuckin’ Shack
Address: 6 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ Michael’s Seafood Restaurant
Address: 1206 N Lake Park Blvd A, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ Wake N Bake Donuts
Address: 1401 N Lake Park Blvd #46, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ Kate’s Pancake House
Address: 102 Lake Park Blvd S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ Salt Fish Restaurant & Tiki Bar
Address: 718 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ The Sandspur
Address: 103 Lake Park Blvd S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

✅ Four Hounds Distilling
Address: 1202 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The storefront of Four Hounds Distillery and Tasting Room, with a large black sign featuring white illustrations of four dogs. The entrance is simple and inviting, with a wooden bench outside.

✅ Island Bagels
Address: 1328 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Things to Do near Carolina Beach NC

Here are some more great things to do near Carolina Beach.

✅ North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
Address: 900 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach, NC 28449

At the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, visitors can explore this nearby North Carolina aquarium’s underwater wonders like the 235,000-gallon Cape Fear Shoals, housing sand tiger sharks and a sea turtle. It features interactive exhibits such as the Coquina Outcrop with stingrays and anemones.

The aquarium is home to unique species like an albino alligator and emphasizes conservation through exhibits like the Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings. Its Caribbean Corals habitat showcases a crucial marine ecosystem. 

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher Sign

✅ Fort Fisher State Historic Site
Address: 1610 Fort Fisher Blvd S, Kure Beach, NC 28449

Visiting Fort Fisher State Historic Site is an immersive journey into Civil War history. This pivotal Confederate fortress was the last major coastal stronghold of the Confederacy. The site features remains of the fort’s earthworks, allowing visitors to connect with the past.

A new visitor center, opening in summer 2024, will offer interactive exhibits for a deeper historical understanding. The tranquil beaches and marshes surrounding the site provide a serene backdrop, reflecting on the resilience and complexities of history.

Fort Fisher Boardwalk in Kure Beach NC

✅ Kure Beach
Address: 601 Fort Fisher Blvd S, Kure Beach, NC 28449

Kure Beach is a short drive away and is known for its multiple public beach accesses, offering distinct experiences of the shore. From Access #344 along the boardwalk, there are various entry points to the beach, complemented by oceanfront bench swings. Lifeguards are present from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The south end, quieter and more secluded, has access points leading to less crowded beaches. Fort Fisher State Recreation Area at the southern tip features nearly 6 miles of protected shoreline, complete with amenities like picnic areas and restrooms, making Kure Beach ideal for a blend of relaxation and seaside adventure.

Kure Beach Sand and ocean

✅ Day Trip to Wilmington

Wilmington, a short trip from Carolina Beach, offers a mix of history, culture, and urban energy. The historic Riverwalk features boutiques, galleries, and waterfront dining with Cape Fear River views. Visitors can explore beautifully preserved antebellum homes and the Battleship North Carolina. The city also has a vibrant arts and culture scene, including theaters and museums.

Wilmington Riverwalk

✅ Private Charter to Masonboro Island

Head to Wilmington nearby and enjoy a private charter that sails offshore for about two hours, then returns via Banks Channel along the southern end of Wrightsville Beach. This journey provides stunning views of Masonboro Island Reserve and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a wonderful way to explore the area’s natural beauty and marine environment. 

✅ Day Trip to Southport

Drive down to Kure Beach, then take the Fort Fisher ferry to Southport. It is a scenic journey across the Cape Fear River, offering relaxing views. In Southport, visitors can explore historic streets with shops and cafes, reflecting the town’s maritime heritage. The ferry ride itself is an enjoyable part of the experience.

Old Brunswick County Jail

✅ Oak Island Lighthouse
Address: 300a Caswell Beach Rd, Oak Island, NC 28465

The Oak Island Lighthouse, constructed in 1958 with distinctive concrete-reinforced walls, is one of the newest in the U.S. Offering tours to the top, it provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Located in the serene Caswell Beach area, it’s an ideal spot for a peaceful day trip. The lighthouse is not only a historical landmark but also an integral part of maritime navigation in the region. Nearby beaches add to the attraction, making it a must-visit destination.

Oak Island Lighthouse

Annual Events in Carolina Beach NC 

Here are some fantastic events that are happening that you can add to your things to do in Carolina Beach.

✅ Battle of Fort Fisher Event

East Coast Shag Classic | Jan 25 – 28, 2024

✅ Carolina Beach Street Arts Festival | May 2024 TBD

Carolina Beach Music Festival | June 1, 2024

✅ Carolina Beach Wine & Beer Walk

​​Where To Stay in Carolina Beach NC

📍Hampton Inn & Suites Carolina Beach Oceanfront – A modern hotel offering comfortable accommodations with stunning ocean views. It features amenities such as an outdoor pool, complimentary breakfast, and free WiFi. Located conveniently close to the boardwalk and local attractions, it’s an ideal choice for those seeking a beachfront stay. 

An aerial shot over a beachfront hotel with a pool and adjacent beach area, with the sprawling town of Carolina Beach in the background, illustrating a popular coastal destination.

📍Golden Sands Oceanfront HotelThe Golden Sands offers a comfortable beachfront experience with amenities like an indoor and outdoor pool, a private balcony, and a fitness center. Its oceanfront location provides easy access to the beach and nearby attractions.

Carolina Beach NC: FAQs

📌 What is the best month to visit Carolina Beach?
Depending on what you are looking for, the best month to visit Carolina Beach is typically in May. This month offers pleasant weather, fewer crowds, and the start of many local activities and attractions. However, if it’s a full beach experience with water activities you are searching for, visiting from June through August may be best for you.

📌 Is Carolina Beach swimmable?
Carolina Beach is swimmable, with clean waters and well-maintained beaches. The presence of lifeguards during peak seasons ensures a safer swimming experience. However, it’s always recommended to check local conditions and advisories before swimming.

📌 Is Carolina Beach worth a visit?
Carolina Beach is worth visiting for its beautiful beaches, family-friendly atmosphere, and variety of activities. From its boardwalk and state park to local events and water sports, it offers something for every traveler.

📌 Is Carolina Beach a party beach?
Carolina Beach is family-oriented, but many also enjoy the late-night fun, music, and nightlife.

📌 Can you drive out on Carolina Beach?
You can drive on certain parts of Carolina Beach, specifically in designated areas of Freeman Park. This area allows for four-wheel-drive vehicles, offering a unique beach driving experience. (details on that were included further above in the article).

📌 Is parking free in Carolina Beach?
Parking in Carolina Beach is generally only free if you visit during the off-season. There are designated public parking areas, including metered spots and pay-to-park lots, particularly near the beach and popular tourist areas. 

Final Thoughts

Carolina Beach is a vibrant coastal town offering a mix of relaxation and adventure. Its stunning beaches, lively boardwalk, and diverse activities make it a perfect getaway. The boardwalk features amusement rides, events, and iconic treats like Britts Donuts

The Carolina Beach State Park offers nature trails and unique plants like the Venus flytrap. Freeman Park, known for its natural beauty, allows beach driving. With various public beach accesses, a rich selection of restaurants, and nearby attractions like the North Carolina Aquarium and historic sites, Carolina Beach caters to all interests, making it an ideal coastal destination. 

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