North Carolina is home to miles of remarkably pristine beaches, in addition to being the birthplace of modern aviation, the tobacco industry, and of course, Krispy Kreme Donuts. From the Outer Banks, southwards towards Cape Lookout National Seashore, and concluding with Wrightsville beach, the beaches of North Caorlina are well known to tourists up and down the east coast for their remarkable beauty, excellent fishing and surfing, and overall relaxing atmosphere. While most of the beaches in North Carolina are definitely worth visiting, this guide will point out the ones that can’t be missed.
The Outer Banks
In the 18th century, the roughly 100-mile long string of sandbars, dunes, and islands that make up the Outer Banks were once viewed as nothing but a navigational hazard, as they claimed countless ships, prompting sailors to give the area the nickname “the graveyard of the Atlantic”. In fact, it was because of its dangerous reputation that pirates like Blackbeard took safe haven there. However, things have changed substantially in the 21st century, as the once remote Outer Banks are now connected by a series of bridges and ferries, and are populated by a diverse collection of small coastal towns that thrive off of summer tourism.
That being said, the area offers a wide variety of tourist activities. For example, Cape Hatteras, home to the enormous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, is a prime tourist destination. One can visit the lighthouse, travel over to the near by town of Kill Devil Hills (this is where the Wright Brothers took flight for the first time,) or camp and hike through some of the nearby marine forests. If you feel the need to get your feet wet, beaches like Nags Head, Rodanthe, Hatteras Island and Corolla offer excellent fishing, snorkeling, and swimming. In addition, the Outer Banks are one of the more popular destinations for surfers on the East Coast, as the areas numerous beach breaks offer up a variety of challenging but very rewarding peaks. Be aware though, that the area is plagued by strong winds, so if the surf is blown out, you can always try windsurfing or even kite boarding.
South of the Outer Banks
South of the Outer Banks, things tend to mellow out a bit, as the beaches in this area carry the reputation of being very tranquil. Sunset beach, which boasts of having “the most beautiful three miles of coastline in North Carolina,” is comprised of sand dunes, exquisite flora and fauna, and the quaint town of Sunset beach. During the summer, the town does liven up a bit, as the local Sunset beach bar provides a nice nighttime scene. The area is also home to a wildlife refuge, as endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtles and Wood Storks call the area their home. In addition, if you’re looking for a happening restaurant and bar scene, single-family beach condominiums and shopping in addition to great water activities, check out Wrightsville Beach, just five miles east of Wilmington. All in all, North Carolina has some wonderful beaches, and it is easy to see why it such a popular tourist destination.