Nags Head Beach NC

Closest Beach to Raleigh NC | 15 Amazing Options

Looking for the Closest Beach to Raleigh NC?

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Located in the heart of North Carolina, Raleigh is a vibrant city known for its rich history, cultural attractions, and bustling urban scene. However, for those seeking a refreshing escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, the allure of the beach can be irresistible. 

Fortunately, despite being nestled inland, Raleigh is within reach of several beautiful coastal destinations, offering the perfect opportunity for residents and visitors alike to soak up the sun, feel the sand beneath their toes, and immerse themselves in the coastal charm. 

In this article, we’ll explore the closest beach to Raleigh NC, unveiling a serene coastal paradise just a short drive away that promises to satisfy your longing for a beachside retreat.

The list is sorted from closest to furthest distance; now, let’s dive into the closest beach to Raleigh NC.

The closest Beach to Raleigh NC

1. Wrightsville Beach

Distance: 131 miles | Time: 2 hr

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.  

Closest Beach to Raleigh NC is Wrightsville Beach. Kids playing on Beach

You will find access to shopping, restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and spas if you are looking for more than just beach days.  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. 

Wrightsville Beach Pier

The pier extends out 1,200 feet from the shore, and you’ll even find a 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.  This is a great option and the closest beach to Raleigh NC.

Stay at the Sandpeddler Inn & Suites | Wrightsville Beach |
Min Walk away from Beach.
Wrightsville Beach

2. Surf City

Distance: 132 miles | Time: 2 hr 10 min

Surf City, situated on Topsail Island, stands as one of the three captivating communities that grace this coastal haven. During your visit to this picturesque destination, be sure to explore the renowned Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Center and revel in the sheer beauty of the surrounding beaches.

Surf City NC

Surfing enthusiasts will find themselves in paradise, as Surf City boasts favorable conditions for riding the waves. For those looking to enhance their skills, the surf school is a must-visit, offering lessons to help you master the art of surfing.

Surf City Pier

Adding to its intriguing history, Topsail Island served as a missile testing site for the U.S. Navy after World War II. Many visitors flock to the island to tour the Missiles and More Museum, where they can delve into the fascinating details of Operation Bumblebee. 

A beloved landmark in Surf City is the iconic Surf City Pier, which serves as a fantastic spot for fishing or simply savoring the breathtaking views. As night falls, the pier becomes beautifully illuminated, creating an enchanting atmosphere for night fishing enthusiasts.

Surf City Pier Things to Do in Surf City NC

3. Topsail Beach 

Distance: 138 miles | Time: 2 hr 15 min

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.  

Serenity Point Topsail Island NC

Some say Blackbeard’s treasure is still buried here somewhere.  Currently, there are two ways to get to the island. Today, access to this historical island is easy with two bridges: 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

4. Carolina Beach 

Distance: 141 miles | Time: 2 hr 15 min

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. 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.

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.

If you want to get out and enjoy 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.  Here’s a fun fact: The park is home to the Venus flytrap, which is a carnivorous plant.  

Book your Stay with Beach Access | Close to Everything | Carolina Beach
“The property was clean and well stocked. Everything we needed was there. it’s close to almost everything and most especially the beach.” ~ Jennifer
Carolina Beach

5. Kure Beach

Distance: 144 miles | Time: 2 hr 15 min

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.  

Closest Beach to Raleigh NC | 15 Amazing Options

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

Kure Beach

6. Hammocks Beach State Park

Distance: 140 miles | Time: 2 hr 20 min

Hammocks Beach State Park presents a unique and tranquil getaway that can only be reached by boat or ferry, with the latter being unavailable from November until the end of March. For those seeking an adventurous experience, kayak rentals are available, allowing you to personally explore the wonders of this natural haven.

Hammocks Beach State Park Kayaks

Nature enthusiasts will be captivated by the park’s diverse landscapes, including sprawling salt marshes and captivating swamp forests, providing ample opportunities for bird watching and immersing oneself in the serene surroundings.

An added delight awaits as sea turtles grace the shores of Hammocks Beach State Park to lay their precious eggs, offering a chance to witness these majestic creatures while kayaking along the waters. 

If you wish to extend your stay and fully embrace the park’s allure, primitive camping is permitted, allowing for an immersive overnight experience surrounded by nature’s splendor. While there are no fees to access the park itself, please note that fees are applicable for the use of the ferry or boat launch.

Pets are welcome within the park and at designated campsites, ensuring that your beloved companions can also partake in the natural wonders of Hammocks Beach State Park.

Hammocks Beach State Park

7. Oak Island

Distance: 162 miles | Time: 2 hr 25 min

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! 

Oak Island Beach

The island is also very pet friendly, as leashed pets are allowed year-round. In addition, for you history lovers, make sure to check out the Oak Island Lighthouse, which was completed in 1958 and was the last lighthouse to be constructed in NC. They allow visitors nine and up to take a guided tour year-round.  

Oak Island with Lighthouse

8. Holden Beach

Distance: 166 miles | Time: 2 hr 30 min

Holden Beach is another small beach town, great for a quiet vacation. Located in the southern part of the NC shore and is 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 Intracoastal 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, before 9 am and after 5 pm between May 20th and Sept 10th.  

Stay at the Pet-Friendly Second Row House Steps to Holden Beach!

“We were amazed at how organized everything was in the house. The thoughtfulness was remarkable, including all of the little gifts and amenities. The house was roomy and amazingly close to the beach for a non-beach front house.” ~ Myles
Holden Beach

9. Ocean Isle Beach

Distance: 174 miles | Time: 2 hr 35 min

30+ Great Things to Do in Ocean Isle Beach NCOcean Isle Beach is a small town with amazing white sand beaches and lots of local attractions, events, and activities happening.

Ocean Isle Beach NC Sunrise

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. 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.  

Ocean Isle Beach
Whole WATERFRONT House with Dock | Ocean Isle Beach
The 3-bedroom holiday home, with four living rooms with a flat-screen TV, a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and an oven, and one bathroom with a hair dryer.

10. Emerald Isle 

Distance: 145 miles | Time: 2 hr 40 min

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.   

Emerald Isle

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. Built in the 1950s, it has been rebuilt several times due to storms.  It’s one of the longest piers on the NC coast at 1,000 ft long! 

Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier

11. Atlantic Beach

Distance: 151 miles | Time: 2 hr 40 min

Atlantic Beach is a beautiful barrier island nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound. With its endless sandy shores, this beach destination is a paradise for everyone. Get ready for beach fun galore! Build sandcastles, collect seashells, and feel the refreshing ocean breeze on your face. 

Don’t forget to try your luck fishing on the pier or kayaking along the sparkling waters, where you might spot dolphins. When hunger strikes, satisfy your cravings at the local seafood joints serving up the freshest catches. And if you’re up for an adventure, visit the nearby North Carolina Aquarium or explore the historic Fort Macon State Park.

Atlantic Beach

12. Sunset Beach

Distance: 177 miles | Time: 2 hr 40 min

Would you like to experience one of the top 21 Best Beaches in the World, according to National Geographic?  Sunset 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 positioning. 

Make sure to check out the 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.   

Stay at the Sunset Inn
“The location was convenient with a few minute walk to the beach, the room was spacious, the breakfast was delicious, and the staff was very friendly and accommodating. We especially enjoyed the screened private balcony complete with Carolina rocking chairs overlooking a lovely marsh area with views of the sunset.” ~Lynn
Sunset Beach

13. Bald Head Island

Distance: 168 miles | Time: 3 hr 10 min

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 on the island at South Beach. It’s a beautiful sand beach that’s great for all ages. 

Bald Head Island

14. Nags Head

Distance: 197 miles | Time: 3 hr 11 min

Nags Head is a charming coastal town located in the beautiful Outer Banks of NC. With its breathtaking beaches and rich history, Nags Head offers a perfect getaway for families and beach lovers alike. 

Outer Banks NC Beach in Nags Head

Prepare to be amazed by the expansive sandy beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. Play beach games, or simply relax under the warm sun. Nags Head is a paradise for water enthusiasts, too! Try your hand at surfing the Atlantic waves or go for a refreshing swim in the ocean.  

Beyond the beach, Nags Head has a fascinating history to explore. Visit the iconic Nags Head Woods Preserve, a natural haven with scenic trails perfect for hiking and birdwatching.

Nags Head Beach NC

For a glimpse into the past, check out the Bodie Island Lighthouse or the Roanoke Island Festival Park nearby, where you can step back in time and learn about the area’s rich heritage.

Bodie Island Lighthouse lit up

South Carolina Ocean Beaches

15. Myrtle Beach

Distance: 181 miles | Time: 3 hr 

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, with lots of hot spots for live music and dancing.      

Stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Myrtle Beach Oceanfront
“I loved how the hotel was directly on the beachfront. Everything was so close and convenient during our stay.” ~Shantesica
Myrtle Beach SC

Closest Beach to Raleigh NC: FAQs

📌 How far of a drive is Raleigh from the beach?
The closest drive to the beach from Raleigh is about 2 hours to Wrightsville Beach.

📌 Is Raleigh or Charlotte closer to the ocean?
Raleigh is more centrally located in NC and closest to the ocean.  Here is our guide for beaches closest to Charlotte, NC.

📌 How far is Raleigh, North Carolina, from the Outer Banks?
Depending on which part of The Outer Banks you are traveling to, it will take you just over 3 hours to reach Nags Head, NC.  

📌 Is Myrtle Beach close to Raleigh?
Myrtle Beach is approximately 3 hours away from Raleigh, NC. 

📌 Is Raleigh a coastal city?
Raleigh is inland and not a coastal city. 

Other Beaches Near Raleigh, NC

Virginia Beach, VA: 202 miles | 3 hr 20 min
Kitty Hawk, NC: 206 miles | 3 hr 45 min
Corolla, NC: 229 miles | 4 hr 15 min
Cape Hatteras, NC: 242 miles | 4 hr 20 min
Ocracoke Island, NC: 275 miles | 6 hr (Ferry Ride Needed)
Folly Beach, SC: 289 miles | 4 hr 30 min
Isle of Palms, SC: 292 miles | 4 hr 30 min
Hilton Head Island, SC: 317 miles | 5 hr
Tybee Island, GA: 342 miles | 5 hr 30 min

Final Thoughts

As we conclude our exploration of the closest beach to Raleigh NC, you can see you have lots of wonderful options. Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure seeker, or simply craving some relaxation by the sea, the nearby beaches offer an idyllic setting to satisfy your desires.

From the picturesque shores of Atlantic Beach, where the Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound converge, to the charming coastal town of Nags Head, with its expansive beaches and rich history, you have an array of options to choose from.

No matter which beach you select, you can expect to be greeted by breathtaking natural beauty, warm sands beneath your toes, and the soothing sounds of crashing waves. Embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in a world of outdoor activities, from swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing to surfing, fishing, and kayaking.

So, pack your beach essentials, load up the car, and embark on a memorable journey to the nearest coastal paradise. Leave behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life as you immerse yourself in the tranquility and natural wonders that await you.

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