Restaurants in Duck NC beach view

Closest Beach to Charlotte NC + 25 Incredible Options

Looking for the Closest Beach to Charlotte NC?

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Today, we are discussing where is the closest beach to Charlotte NC is.  North Carolina has some of the best beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. We have visited most of them and honestly cannot pick a favorite, we have so many good beaches in North Carolina.

You might automatically think of The Outer Banks when it comes to the North Carolina coast.  To access these barrier islands, it’s quite a journey to travel from Charlotte; it’s well worth the trip, but let’s talk about other options you can explore today for beaches closest to Charlotte NC. 

If you are here for just the ocean beaches, click here to jump to that section
Otherwise, we are going to start below with the lake beaches first.

The closest lake beach near Charlotte NC

Ramsey Creek Park on Lake Norman in Cornelius, NC is the closest to Charlotte. Lake Norman is the largest manmade freshwater lake in North Carolina, with over 500 miles of shoreline, located 20 miles north of Charlotte.   

Lake Beaches near Charlotte NC

Ramsey Creek Park

Distance: 21 miles | Time to Drive: 30 mins

Ramsey Creek Park is a 46-acre waterfront park that is open to everyone. During the summer months, the park does charge an entrance fee.

Here, you will find one of the only public swimming areas on Lake Norman.  In addition, you can launch a boat and enjoy their fishing pier, playground, picnic shelters, and nature trails. 

The beach is open Wednesday through Sunday in the summer from May until Labor Day between the hours of 11 am and 7 pm.  Lifeguards are on duty during these times as well.

At the beginning of the summer, they are only open on weekends until mid-June usually.  No dogs are allowed on the beach. However, they are allowed in other locations in the park as long as they are leashed. They also have a dog park to enjoy as well. This is an easy day trip from Charlotte NC

Entrance Fees
County Residents are $5 per Weekday or $10 per Weekend day per car
Season Beach Pass is $52 for county residents and $77 for non-county

Parking is very limited and busy.  Arrive early.  During the holidays, they provide a free shuttle from Northcross Park and Ride Lot in Huntersville NC. 

Address: 18441 Nantz Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Jetton Park (no swimming)

Distance: 21 miles | Time to Drive: 30 mins

Jetton Park is also nearby, but the beach does not allow swimming.  But maybe you are just looking for a great place to have a picnic and a beautiful view!  This is your place! 

Address: 19000 Jetton Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

Jetton Park Beach at Sunset
Jetton Park Beach at Sunset

Blythe Landing Park (no swimming)

Distance: 19 miles | Time to Drive: 30 mins

This is a fantastic spot to launch your boat onto Lake Norman.  They have six boat launches and several floating piers.  In addition to the boat launch, you can enjoy their playground, picnic area, and sand volleyball courts.  

Address: 15901 NC 73 HY, Huntersville, NC 28078

Lake Norman State Park Beach

Distance: 40 miles | Time: 50 mins

At Lake Norman State Park, you will find the second swimming beach available on Lake Norman.  The beach area has lockers, showers, and concessions available during the open season.

The beach has lifeguards available between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and when they are on-site, they do charge a small fee to swim, they only accept cash at the beach, or you will have to go over to the Visitors Center and use a card.  Pets are not allowed at the beach.

Address: 759 State Park Rd, Troutman, NC 28166

Lake Norman State Park Beach
Lake Norman State Park Beach

Buddle Creek Swim Area on High Rock Lake 

Distance: 64 miles | Time: 1 hr 5 mins

At the Buddle Creek Swim area, you will find a designated swim area on High Rock Lake. High Rock Lake is the second largest lake in North Carolina and is less crowded than Lake Norman.

The beach area is covered in pebbles, so prepare accordingly. They have a roped-off area for swimming.  The swimming area is not super large but a great place to still hang out. 

No pets are allowed at the beach.  They offer portapotties but no full restroom facilities.  No lifeguards on duty.

Address: 2882 Holloway Church Rd #2754, Lexington, NC 27292

Lake James State Park

Distance: 90 miles | Time: 1 hr 30 mins

If you are looking to spend time at one of the prettiest lakes in North Carolina, Lake James is your place!  Located on 6,000 acres and 150 miles of shoreline, it’s a great lake for swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, and more!  Lake James State Park is North Carolina’s largest waterfront State Park. 

The swim area is open from May 1 until September 30 between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm daily.  They do charge a small fee for swim passes. 

Seasonally they have a concession stand available and a bathhouse available.  The swim passes start at $4/day for children and $6/day for adults.  You can also purchase an annual pass for $90/year.  

Address: 7321 NC-126, Nebo, NC 28761

Falls Lake State Recreation Area 

Distance: 155 miles | Time: 2 hr 30 mins

Falls Lake State Recreation Area is about 15 miles east of downtown Durham. During the months of April, May, and September, they charge an entrance fee per vehicle on the weekends. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the entrance fee per vehicle is charged daily. Outside of those times, it is free to use.

You will find trails here that are part of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail system as well.  You will find swimming areas in Beaverdam, Rolling View, and Sandling Beach.

The most popular swim area is the Sandling Beach area which has a restroom facility, outdoor shower, playground, picnic shelters, and grills available. The fee to access is $7/vehicle, or you can choose to purchase an annual pass at $90. 

Address: 13300 Creedmoor Rd, Wake Forest, NC 27587

The closest ocean beaches near Charlotte NC

Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is the closest beach to Charlotte NC, in regards to distance traveled.  Wrightsville Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Sunset Beach, and Oak Island would all have similar drive times if you want an ocean beach. 

Ocean Isle Beach NC Sunrise
Ocean Isle Beach NC

If you are wondering how far Charlotte is from the beach, it will take you a minimum of 3 hours and 40 minutes to drive to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina as well.

First, let’s break down the closest beach options to Charlotte NC in general.  

North Carolina Ocean Beaches

Ocean Isle Beach

Distance: 194 miles | Time: 3 hr 30 mins

Ocean Isle Beach is a small town with amazing white sand beaches and lots of local attractions, events, and activities happening. In addition to the beach, you can stop by the Museum of Coastal Carolina, have some family fun at River Country Mini Golf, and adventure at The Swamp Park Zip Line and ATV Center.  

Ocean Isle Beach NC

Take a walk out on the Ocean Isle Beach Pier, and you can also stop by the Carolina School of Surf and take some surfing lessons.  

Here is a great place to stay right on the oceanfront.  

Holden Beach

Distance: 202 miles | Time: 3 hr 30 mins

Holden Beach is another small beach town, great for a quiet vacation. Located in the southern part of the NC shore.   Recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of the best family beaches in the country.

Come here to enjoy the relaxing beach, build some sand castles, fly kites, or simply just relax in your beach chair.  You’ll find fewer crowds as well. 

You can also enjoy the Intracostal Waterway and bring your kayak or paddleboard while searching for dolphins or watching the shrimp boats cruise by. 

Holden Beach is pet-friendly anytime between Sept 11th and May 19th, also, before 9 am and after 5 pm from May 20th and Sept 10th.  

Book your stay here with amazing views of the Intercoastal Waterway.

Sunset Beach

Distance: 191 miles | Time: 3 hr 30 mins

Would you like to experience one of the top 21 Best Beaches in the World by National GeographicSunset Beach is for you, with incredible sandy beaches and natural wonder.  Since this beach faces East, why is it called Sunset Beach? 

Fun little fact: From late fall to early spring, you can actually watch the sun rise and set over the water due to the island’s position.

Make sure to check out Sunset Beach Pier and enjoy some fishing.  Or head out to Bird Island and explore the 1,200 acres.  Are you a fan of astronomy? 

Make sure to make a visit to the Ingram Planetarium and enjoy a show at the SciDome Sky Theater.   

Here is a great condo just 10 minutes away from the Sunset Beach Pier, located near golf courses and pool access. BOOK HERE

Sunset Beach Fishing Pier : Things to Do in Sunset Beach NC

Oak Island

Distance: 207 miles | Time: 3 hr 35 mins

If you want a popular family beach location spot, Oak Island is a popular spot!  Enjoy access to mini-golf, ice cream, and more.  They have more than 60 public access points for the beach, two fishing piers, and several locations to launch your kayak or boat. 

They have local shops and restaurants to enjoy.  Oak Island is a popular spot for finding diverse amounts of sea shells, too! 

The island is also very pet friendly, as leashed pets are allowed year-round.  In addition, history lovers should make sure to check out the Oak Island Lighthouse, which was completed in 1958. It was the last lighthouse to be constructed in NC.  Guided tours are available year-round for visitors aged nine and up.

Aerial View of Oak Island with the Lighthouse in the background
Oak Island

Wrightsville Beach

Distance: 208 miles | Time: 3 hr 40 mins

Wrightsville Beach is located about 9 miles from Wilmington, NC, and is known for its beautiful blue water. Southern Living named it in their Top 10 “South’s Best Beach Towns.” 

It’s one of the most accessible beaches in NC and a very popular location for beachgoers. Here, they are known for world-class waves and surfing.  You will find access to shopping, restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and spas if you are looking for more than just beach days. 

Aerial View of Wrightsville Beach NC looking north

Lots of water sports can be enjoyed here as well. Stop by Johnnie Mercers Pier for some fishing or just to take in the amazing views. The pier extends 1,200 feet from the shore, and you’ll even find a grill (restaurant) and restrooms there.

Leashed dogs are only allowed on the beach from October 1 through March 31.  From April 1st through September 30th, dogs are allowed on the beach prior to 9 am and after 5 pm.  

Check out the Sandpeddler Inn & Suites in Wrightsville Beach, it’s a minute walk away from the beach.  

Johnnie Mercer's Fishing Pier Sunrise
Wrightsville Beach

Carolina Beach 

Distance: 212 miles | Time: 3 hr 45 mins

Come enjoy a laid-back beach vibe along the coast, located about 15 miles from Wilmington, NC.  The beach hosts many amazing events throughout the year, including the Carolina Beach Music Festival which is the only music festival held on the beach in NC. 

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.

You will also find their nationally recognized vintage boardwalk.  The boardwalk was ranked in the top 10 boardwalks in the country by Food & Wine magazine.  They also have amazing restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. 

Next to the boardwalk, you can also ride the nearly 100-ft-tall Carolina Beach Giant Ferris Wheel.  If you want to get out and enjoy more nature, make sure to take a hike in the Carolina Beach State Park.  The park is 761 acres and has miles of hiking trails.

Make sure to hike out to the 50-ft Sugarloaf dune if you go.  A fun fact, the park is home to the Venus flytrap, which is a carnivorous plant.  

Book your stay on the beachfront here in Carolina Beach before it books up!

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Kure Beach

Distance: 215 miles | Time: 3 hr 50 mins

Kure Beach Sand and ocean
Kure Beach

Kure Beach is the home to the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast. The pier is 700 ft long and was built in 1923.  If you are a history lover, this is your beach. 

Here, you will find Fort Fisher State Historic Site, which is the largest earthen fort found in the South. Today, only about 10% of the fort remains. Fort Fisher is also home to the North Carolina Aquarium. 

Off the coast of Kure Beach is a popular place for SCUBA divers with over 200 shipwrecks found here, including The Condor, a Civil War-era Blockade Runner whose site is even marked with buoys. 

Fort Fisher

At Fort Fisher, you will find 6 miles of beach that are undeveloped and are popular spots for sea turtles to nest.  Near Fort Fisher, you will find a ferry to return to the mainland as well.  

Fort Fisher Ferry Entrance

Bald Head Island

Distance: 217 miles | Time: 4 hr 30 mins

Here at Bald Head Island, you will find a retreat away from all.  You can only reach the island via private boat or ferry.  No cars are allowed, and you can only use bikes or golf carts.  Bald Head Island is home to one of the largest sea turtle nesting sites in NC. 

You will also find the oldest standing lighthouse here for NC, Old Baldy, which was constructed in 1817.  It’s a stout brick lighthouse with a 108-step climb to the top, and is totally worth it for the views!

The ferry is about a 20-minute ride from the mainland, which departs in Southport, NC.  Come enjoy a beautiful day at South Beach on the island. It’s a beautiful sand beach that’s great for all ages. 

Surf City

Distance: 228 miles | Time: 4 hr

Surf City is located on Topsail Island and is one of 3 communities located there.  While you are here, make sure to visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Center and enjoy the beautiful beaches.  You will find good conditions for surfing here as well. Be sure to check out the surf school where you can get lessons. 

Topsail Tower along the beach

After WWII, the U.S. Navy used the island as a missile testing site, and many people come to tour the Missiles and More Museum here as well and learn about Operation Bumblebee.  Another loved landmark is the Surf City Pier, which is a great place for fishing or just enjoying the view.  The pier is lit at night, so you can do some night fishing.     

Surf City Pier Things to Do in Surf City NC

Topsail Beach 

Distance: 234 miles | Time: 4 hr 10 mins

Topsail Beach is the smallest of three communities that are located on Topsail Island (pronounced “Tops’l”). Some say the name comes from when pirates roamed this area and hit their boats in the channel between the mainland and the island.  You would only be able to see their top sail on the boat.  Some say Blackbeard’s treasure is still buried here somewhere. 

Jolly Roger Pier Topsail Beach NC

Currently, there are two ways to get to the island: one on the north and a new bridge that replaced the swing bridge leading to Surf City.  Topsail is a place where sea turtles come to nest and lay their eggs, usually between April and September. Topsail is known for its turtle conservation efforts.   Come enjoy their beautiful beaches and explore the history.  

Topsail Beach NC
Topsail Beach

Emerald Isle 

Distance: 271 miles | Time: 5 hr

Emerald Isle is located on the Bogue Banks.  Come enjoy their white sand beaches and incredible crystal clear waters on the Atlantic Ocean.  This is a tiny beach town that transforms in the summer, welcoming over 50,000 tourists per week during the summertime. 

Here, you can also take surf lessons, enjoy the beach, and collect some amazing sea shells, as well as explore the history of Fort Macon State Park and its role in American history.  

Fort Macon State Park Fort

There are plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore here, too.  Like many of the other destinations, visit the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier, which offers amazing views of the ocean.

It was built in the 1950s and has been rebuilt several times due to storms.  It’s one of the longest piers on the NC coast, stretching 1,000 feet over the ocean! 

Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier in Emerald Isle
Emerald Isle

Hammocks Beach State Park

Distance: 260 miles | Time: 4 hr 35 mins

Hammocks Beach State Park is only accessible by boat or ferry, and the ferry is closed between November and the end of March.

You can also rent a kayak and explore it yourself.  This is the place to go if you love nature.  You can explore the salt marshes and swamp forests, plus enjoy some birdwatching while you are at it. 

The sea turtles also visit here to lay their eggs, so you might see one swimming if you are out kayaking.  If you want to stay overnight, they do allow primitive camping as well.

There are no fees to access the park itself, but there are fees to use the ferry or boat launch.  Pets are allowed at the park and campsites.  

Other Ocean Beaches Near Charlotte NC

South Carolina Ocean Beaches

⛱️ Myrtle Beach
Distance: 175 miles | Time: 3 hr 40 mins

Myrtle Beach attracts high tourism and is a big beach vacation destination.  In addition to their 50 miles of beautiful beaches, you will find a beachfront boardwalk, lots of restaurants, and the country’s tallest Ferris wheel, the SkyWheel. 

If you are looking for a quiet beach, this is not your place unless you come during the off-season!  If you are looking for a mix of fun and beach, this is your place!  They have lots of activities to choose from.  Party seekers love the evenings here, which have lots of hot spots for live music and dancing.      

Stay near all the attractions at this beautiful Hilton Vacation Club in Myrtle Beach

⛱️ Folly Beach
Distance: 219 miles | Time: 3 hr 40 mins

Folly Beach is located on Folly Island, which is only 12 square miles.  Located just 15 minutes from downtown Charleston, you can enjoy 6 miles of beaches.  Locals refer to their little corner of the world as the “Edge of America.”  

Closest Beach to Charlotte NC + 25 Incredible Options
Folly Beach

⛱️ Isle of Palms
Distance: 221 miles | Time: 3 hr 40 mins

Here in the City of Isle of Palms, you will find 6 miles of incredible beaches that are great for swimming, relaxing, fishing, and more! It’s a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina and less than 20 minutes from Charleston.  Here you will find world-class resorts, golf, restaurants, and spas. 

They were even voted #6 for the Top 10 North America Islands by Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards.  They have more than 50 access points for the beach, and the county park even offers beach chairs and umbrella rentals.  This is a very dog-friendly beach as well; leashed dogs are allowed all year round.    

⛱️ Hilton Head Island
Distance: 247 miles | Time: 4 hrs

Hilton Head Island is a very popular location for travelers.  They have even been ranked the #1 island in the Continental US by readers of Travel+Leisure Magazine, plus many other recognitions.  Every year, between May and October, sea turtles visit the beaches on Hilton Head Island. Make sure you learn how you can help preserve these endangered loggerhead turtles. 

In 2022, the turtles made 423 nests here.  Sea turtle hatchlings use the light of the moon to get to the ocean, so if you are staying on the island during those months, make sure you turn off all lights at night so nothing is visible from the beaches.  The light can be confusing and make it impossible to get to their sea home.  

On the island, there is so much to do; choose from watersports, golfing, shopping, tennis, spa resorts, nightlife, and more! 

Stay right on South Forest Beach in Hilton Head Island

Georgia Ocean Beaches

⛱️ Tybee Island, GA
Distance: 270 miles | Time: 4 hr 25 mins

Another barrier island, but this time in the state of Georgia.  It’s a small island near the city of Savannah, GA.  It is known for its 3 miles of wide sandy beaches, including South Beach, Mid Beach, North Beach, Back River Beach, and Little Tybee Beach.

South Beach is considered the downtown area of the island; here, you will find lots of shops, restaurants, and the Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion. 

If you would like to explore some history on the island, then head to North Beach, where you will find a rich history dating back to the 1800s.  They have Georgia’s tallest and oldest lighthouse, a museum, and several Forts that serve as coastal defense systems.     

Stay right on the Beach here

Outer Banks NC Beaches

In the Outer Banks NC you will find some of the most amazing beaches as well in North Carolina.  The popular barrier islands called The Outer Banks are a chain of narrow islands that cover the area just south of Virginia and run parallel to the coast of North Carolina.

They are called barrier islands because they create a barrier between the mainland and the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s an amazing way to protect the mainland from storms.   We’ll be doing another post on these beaches, so stay tuned.  

Restaurants in Duck NC Beach Side
Sunrise at the Beach in Corolla NC in the Outer Banks

Final Thoughts

You cannot go wrong when it comes to beaches near Charlotte NC; which one from our list of Closest Beaches to Charlotte NC will you choose?

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