Beaches & Islands - 12 min read

15 Best Family Beaches in North Carolina

Town and Tourist

Town and Tourist, Updated October 1, 2022

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Summer days in North Carolina can get really hot. There’s no better way for you and your family to cool down than going for a swim. This might have you wondering if there are any good family beaches in North Carolina.

If you want to spend the day on the beach, there are many great family-friendly beaches within this state. North Carolina has 300 miles of coastline, making it an ideal summer destination. Whether you want to spend the day swimming or watch the sunset at night, you won’t be disappointed by the beaches in North Carolina.

Are you planning to travel to North Carolina over the summer months? This is the page for you. We’ve made a list of the top 15 family-friendly beaches in this state. Keep reading to learn more about them.

Best Family-Friendly Beaches in North Carolina

1. Duck Public Beach

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The Town of Duck has one of the best public beaches in North Carolina. Not only is Duck Public Beach, but it’s also made the list of Top 15 Beaches in America. This is one of our top pick beaches for families, especially if you have young kids.

Duck Public Beach is open with a lifeguard on duty from May through October. It’s constantly praised for being one of the safest beaches in this state. Many parents feel more comfortable knowing that there’s an extra pair of eyes watching the water.

This beach also has a red flag system. If there are times when the water isn’t safe for swimming, these flags will be used to let visitors know.

It’s impossible to get bored spending a summer’s day on Duck Public Beach. There are so many fun activities, such as paddle boarding, parasailing, jet skis, and more. However, many people are content just to lay on the beach and enjoy the beautiful view.

2. Nags Head

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Nags Head is one of the most well-loved beaches in North Carolina. Not only is it family-friendly, but it’s also accessible for handicapped people.

A lot of people in North Carolina agree that Nags Head has some of the most beautiful scenery. Tourists are able to capture stunning photographs and create great family memories on this beach.

There’s something magical about this beach. People enjoy coming here early in the morning and during the evening to see the sunrise and sunset. If you’re lucky enough, you may even see a dolphin sighting.

If you’re looking for an exciting day on the beach, there are plenty of fun activities at Nags Head. You can enjoy kiteboarding, surfing, kayaking, or a leisurely walk on the boardwalk. There are even some stunning nature trails to explore more of North Carolina on this beach.

Related Read: Best Time to Visit North Carolina

3. Emerald Isle

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If you’re looking for a cozy beach to visit with your family in North Carolina, you should visit Emerald Isle. The shoreline of this beach expands for over 12 miles with beautiful scenery the entire way.

This beach is a common place for locals to go fishing. You can often see people enjoying the day on their boats hoping to catch a bite. A highlight of this beach is the Bogue Inlet Pier, which opens in the spring. If you don’t have access to a boat and still want to fish, this is one of the top spots to go.

There are plenty of attractions and accommodations close to the beach. Tourists can book a stay at a nearby hotel, and enjoy dining at a restaurant along the coastline. There are also many great souvenir shops as well.

4. Topsail Beach

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Topsail is one of the most historical beaches in North Carolina. This is one place to go if you want to soak up more of the state’s culture while also soaking up the sun. This beach usually isn’t as crowded as other beaches on our list, which is appealing to a lot of travelers who just want some peace and quiet.

All tourists need to experience the sunset at Serenity Point if they get a chance to visit Topsail Beach. This is one panoramic view that has to be seen in person. There are also many other neat things to see on this beach. If you go at the right time of year, you may spot loggerhead sea turtles laying eggs on the shore.

Historical buffs can also check out nearby landmarks to learn more about Topsail’s history during World War II.

5. Wrightsville Beach

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Wrightsville Beach has something for everyone, no matter the age group. To begin with, this beach has clear turquoise seas, just like a postcard image. It’s best known for its surfing culture. Whether you’re an expert surfer or it’s your first time hitting the waves, this beach is the top spot to go in North Carolina.

There’s also a lot of activity going on around the beach as well. You can visit a number of nearby restaurants, hotels, and retail stores. Wrightsville also has a very active nightlife, so you can continue to have fun after the sun has gone down.

This beach has a lot of great attractions. Some of the top-rated things to do here are visiting the water bird sanctuary, going scuba diving, checking out the historic square, and going for a scenic walk/ drive.

6. Sunset Beach

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While there are many beautiful beaches across the state of North Carolina, we can’t go without mentioning Sunset Beach. The name of this beach says it all. While most beaches throughout North Carolina are south-facing, this beach has its own unique position, which adds to its scenic value.

Out of all the beaches in North Carolina, Sunset Beach has the most peaceful setting. The name gives it away that this location has one of the most stunning sunsets you will see in the state.

Over the years, Sunset Beach has become a popular tourist destination. Once someone visits this beach during the summer months, they can’t settle for anything less. However, the other months are worth a visit too. From the end of autumn to early fall, early risers can watch the sun rise over the water. They can also see it set over the water in the evening as well.

Related Read: 19 Best East Coast Beaches For Families

7. Bald Head Island South Beach

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Do you want to give your family a completely different type of beach experience? Then you need to head to Bald Head Island next time you’re in North Carolina. This beach is such a relaxing oasis that you will never want to leave.

One of the most unique things about this island beach is that you can’t get there by car, bike, or bus. If you don’t have a boat to travel there, you will need to take the ferry. Once you arrive there, it’s well worth the travel. Bald Head South Beach is the quietest beach in North Carolina.

Many tourists like to stay overnight at this destination. There are some very cozy accommodations to choose from, with the River Hotel of Southport being a top choice.

Are you wondering how to get around on this island? Since there are no cars, you can walk or ride a bicycle. There is also the option to rent a golf cart.

8. Carolina Beach

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Are you looking for a beach in North Carolina that’s just as much fun for kids as it is for adults? We need to introduce you to Carolina Beach. This beach is one of the most popular beaches with a wide assortment of attractions.

There is a boardwalk at Carolina Beach that will keep you busy for hours. When you’re not relaxing on the beach or swimming, you can check out the nearby amenities. There’s a carnival with amusement park rides and games that provides excitement for people of all age groups.

If water activities are more your style, this is also a great beach for surfing. Your kids can take lessons from Tony Silvagni Surf School. Another fun thing to do is take a hike along Flytrap Trail to see wild Venus flytrap plants.

9. Corolla Beach

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A simple but beautiful spot to visit when you’re in North Carolina is Corolla Beach. We recommend this beach to families that are looking to get away from the busy city life and spend some quality (and quiet) time together. Corolla Beach is peaceful and usually free from large crowds.

This beach doesn’t rely on a bunch of attractions and amenities to get tourists to visit. Instead, it provides a place to get away from that kind of stuff and just enjoy the water. Most people come here just to enjoy time spent along the coast swimming and playing in the sand.

At the same time, you never know what you’ll see when relaxing on this beach. Tourists have been known to catch sightings of dolphins in the water and wild horses walking along the beach.

10. Hammock Beach State Park

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If you want to take your family camping in North Carolina, Hammock Beach State Park is one of the top places to visit. It is also one of the nicest beaches along the North Carolina Shore. It’s close to some of the best camping locations in North Carolina.

One of the things that’s appealing about this beach is that it’s underdeveloped. There aren’t retail outlets or restaurants. Instead, it’s just your family and nature (and maybe a few other families enjoying the beach).

Don’t get us wrong, this beach isn’t boring. You can still rent canoes, kayaks, or other water devices to have fun in the water. Parents can also rest knowing that this is one of the safest beaches in North Carolina. This is mainly because the waves are very gentle, allowing for a safer and kid-approved swimming zone.

Related Read: 25 Top Treehouse Rentals in North Carolina

11. Kitty Hawk Beach

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North Carolina is proof that not all beaches are the same. Yes, they have sand and water, but each beach has its own unique attractions. Take Kitty Hawk Beach for example. This beach has a stunning panoramic view, especially when the sun sets.

However, if you really go exploring this beach you can get a more authentic Outer Banks experience. Many people go on a hike in this area just to catch a glimpse of the local animals, like otters and turtles.

For days on the beach, you can enjoy paddle boating or kayaking, along with many other water activities. When you’re done on the water, there are many amenities close by this beach as well, including some great seafood spots.

There is a selection of great places to stay nearby, including beachfront vacation homes, hotels, and RV campgrounds.

12. Holden Beach

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If you want to go on a beach vacation in a small town, Holden Beach is a pleasant spot to visit. This beach is a peaceful location that doesn’t have the city crowds but still has the city beach fun.

There are many fun activities to keep your family busy while you’re here. You can rent equipment nearby for surfing and kayaking. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, there are some great spots at Holden Beach for birdwatching. There are several great spots to cast a fishing line. You can even enjoy a bike ride on some nearby trails.

Holden Beach is even within walking distance of many amenities. You can enjoy a selection of delicious maritime restaurants or visit a local gift shop.

13. Kure Beach

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Kure Beach offers a nostalgic feeling to tourists who visit this area. It’s home to one of the oldest fishing piers along the Atlantic Coast.  This is a very historical beach, and tourists love to visit the nearby Fort Fisher State Historic Site to learn more about this town’s past.

One of the great things about Kure Beach is that all summer long there are many family-friendly events. If you plan on visiting, always check the municipality’s calendar to see what’s going on while you’re in the area.

Diving exhibits are very popular at this beach. There is also a nearby aquarium where tourists can see live animals, like alligators and sea turtles. However, many people simply enjoy grabbing an ice cream cone from the Kure Beach concession stand and enjoying the sunset.

14. Kill Devils Hill Public Beach

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With a name like Kill Devils Hill, you wouldn’t expect this place to be family-friendly. However, this is one of the most charming beaches in the state. A lot of people like coming here because the beach has everything they need. There are public washrooms with restroom facilities and showers on site.

The parking lot is close by, so you can bring everything you need for the day and not have to worry about how you will bring it onto the beach.

There are so many fun activities on this beach as well. Group volleyball is always a popular activity. The kids love using the boogie boards and surfboards, and parents love relaxing around such beautiful scenery.

Related Read: 75 BEST Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

15. Atlantic Beach

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Our list of top 15 family-friendly beaches in North Carolina isn’t complete without Atlantic Beach. Between the beautiful shore and the friendly locals, there are so many reasons families fall in love with this beach.

One of our favorite features of this beach is that it’s the host of many summer music festivals. Live music makes a day on the beach even more enjoyable.

This beach is another great spot to go fishing, especially along the Oceana Fishing Pier. It’s also another destination where you may see sea turtles coming to shore to lay eggs. With so many beautiful sights, it’s difficult to get bored at this beach.

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