Wilmington Beaches: Best Places Along North Carolina’s Coast

Wilmington has long served as a gateway to some of the best beaches in North Carolina. The city operates as a port city, however thousands of people come here for fun in the sun. To know where to go, here are the top Wilmington beaches and what to expect.

Wilmington Beaches Guide: Where to Go and Things to Do

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Photo: iTrip Vacations NC Beaches

Carolina Beach

This laid-back spot welcomes everyone to kick back and relax. Experience a free-spirited community with miles of coastline and family-friendly attractions. One of the most popular, Carolina Beach State Park features access to Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean. At the park, visitors have access to hiking trails, a marina, boat ramps, a fishing deck and picnic areas.

From Wilmington: 13 miles south to Pleasure Island

Carolina Beach Activities

Beach-goers also enjoy strolling the boardwalk and fishing from the pier. Carolina Beach Boardwalk ranks among some of the best in the U.S., and has something for all ages. Shop for souvenirs with friends and family. Then pick local restaurants to try lunch and dinner menus. On select days, the boardwalk operates an amusement park and hosts weekly fireworks shows in the summer. In the off-season, guests enjoy holiday celebrations, an arcade and homemade goodies.

Those interested in hanging out at Carolina Beach have plenty of ways to enjoy the sand and sun. Rent kayaks and canoes, take surfing lessons, rent a boat, fish with experts, or simply pitch an umbrella and relax.

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Photo: iTrip Vacations NC Beaches

Kure Beach

Kure Beach is located south of Wilmington. Perfect for families with small children, Kure Beach offers a more secluded destination. Most come here to escape the hustle of daily life and visit historic attractions.

From Wilmington: 19 miles south, on the southern end of Pleasure Island

Kure Beach Activities

This area is home to some of the top attractions in North Carolina. Learn about the Civil War and the largest land-sea battle at Fort Fisher State Historic Site. Visitors are welcome to tour the grounds, interact with exhibits and explore the south’s largest earthen fort. Kure Beach also houses one of the oldest fishing piers on the East Coast, Fort Fisher Recreation Area and a WWII-era bunker.

When visiting, stop by North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, which cares for marine life and offers up-close encounters. Other must-try Kure Beach activities include strolling the pier and playing at Ocean Front Park, the area’s largest green space. Here, guests enjoy live shows, swings, restrooms and walking paths along the ocean.

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Wrightsville Beach

Active types love Wrightsville Beach. This destination offers access to water recreation activities as well as the state’s most accessible beach. The Wrightsville Beach community also promotes wellness and has a lively nightlife scene.

From Wilmington: 6 miles west, south of Figure Eight Island

Wrightsville Beach Activities

Ranked among the top Wilmington beaches, most come to this island to see crystal blue water and try water sports. During the day, visitors fish, surf, kayak and rent stand-up paddle-boards. To see it all, plan a sailing cruise or eco-tour through the island’s marshes or Intracoastal Waterway.

When not playing in the water, explore all this beach town offers. Wrightsville Beach has a history museum, boutiques and surf shops, and gathering hot spots. For live music anytime of year, head to The Palm Room. Sample local brews at Wrightsville Beach Brewery. In addition, visitors have access to waterfront bars and restaurants that serve good food and scenic views.

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Photo: iTrip Vacations NC Beaches

Other Wilmington Beaches: Bald Head Island

The greater Wilmington area also offers access to Bald Head Island, a quiet destination focused on relaxation and preservation. So much so, cars are not allowed on Bald Head Island. That’s right. Guests must travel via boat or ferry to the island, then get around on golf carts.

Once settled, explore Bald Head Island’s historic charm. Old Baldy, a.k.a. Bald Head Island Lighthouse, is the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina. The attraction is about a five-minute walk from the ferry landing, and visitors can schedule two-hour guided tours and visit the museum.

Bald Head Island Activities

In addition, the island has four beach areas: east, south, west and the lush Maritime Forest. For some local culture, tour the Village Chapel and see wildlife at Bald Head Island Conservatory. Other fun activities include golf, bicycling, boating, surfing and fishing.

It’s time to visit the best Wilmington beaches and escape! Book a vacation rental in North Carolina’s top beaches.