With barrier islands like the Outer Banks at your disposal, the family beaches in North Carolina are plentiful. Surfing, fishing, kite flying and beach combing will fill your days in these quiet coastal towns (and what’s more relaxing than that?). Check out our picks for the best family beaches in North Carolina.
1. Jockey Ridge State Park – Nags Head, NC
One of the best beaches for families in North Carolina is Jockey Ridge State Park, the tallest active sand dune system in the region. Climb the dunes, go for a hike, fly a kite, try hang gliding, and more at this picturesque park in the Outer Banks. The sunsets are especially noteworthy. Things to do in the surrounding area of Nags Head include ziplining at the First Flight Adventure Park and fishing at Jenette’s Pier. While there are a few motels in town and throughout the area, vacation rentals are the way to go.
Recommended Hotel: Colonial Inn Motel
There are numerous public beach access points at Carolina Beach, which is less than 30 minutes from Wilmington. Hamlet Avenue, Cape Fear Boulevard and Sea Oats Lane all offer families easy beach access, along with parking, restrooms and showers. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Families will love the soft sand and excellent surf at this family-friendly beach in North Carolina.
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Wilmington/Carolina Beach
3. Cape Hatteras National Seashore – Nags Head, SC
Another favorite in the Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras National Seashore promises endless family fun. Families can go camping or off-roading, and water sports such as fishing, boating and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (also known as the Bodie Island Lighthouse) are fun things to experience during your North Carolina Beach vacation. The fun doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down, either. Beach fires are permitted on the sand, so bring your favorite S’mores makings!
Recommended Hotel: Oasis Suites Hotel
4. Wrightsville Beach – Wrightsville Beach, NC
There are more than 40 public beach access points in Wrightsville Beach, many of which offer lifeguard patrol, restrooms and showers. Known for its surfing, kiteboarding, stand-up paddleboarding and other water sports, Wrightsville Beach is a family destination through and through. But if your family wants to simply swim and relax, this beach is ideal for that, too. Note that surfing is not permitted in front of lifeguard stands.
Recommended Hotel: Courtyard Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach
5. Kure Beach – Pleasure Island, NC
This family-friendly beach in North Carolina offers a small-town feel. Families will find the oldest fishing pier along the Atlantic Ocean here, plus a historic fort and an oceanfront park with a pirate-themed playground. There are six miles of beach to explore, and you’re likely to spot loggerhead sea turtles, pelicans, whelk shells, and sea stars.
Recommended Hotel: Courtyard Wilmington Downtown/Historic District
6. Topsail Island – North Topsail Beach, NC
This family-friendly North Carolina beach is a 26-mile barrier island situated south of the Outer Banks. Legend says the island got its name from pirates who hid behind the island with only their top sails visible. Fishing, swimming and surfing are big in Topsail, and leashed dogs are permitted on the beach year-round. Restrooms and parking can both be found at Sea Vista and the Davis Avenue beach access points, making it a great family beach in North Carolina. Families will mostly find vacation rentals on Topsail Island, but a day trip is easy if you’re staying in Wrightsville Beach.
Recommended Hotel: Blockade Runner
7. Bald Head Island – Bald Head Island, NC
More than 14 miles of shoreline beckon families on Bald Head Island, which is only accessible by boat and feels like a secret. Calm waters and wide sandy beaches can be found on South Beach, which is great for young swimmers. But if it’s waves you’re seeking, head to East Beach for boogie boarding and surfing. Every possible piece of beach equipment is available for rent here, too, including beach chairs, umbrellas, beach games, tents and more. There aren’t any traditional hotels on the island, so book a vacation rental instead.
Recommended Hotel: Riverview Suites
8. Currituck Beach – Corolla, NC
Located in the town of Corolla in the Outer Banks, this beach welcomes families… and horses! Herds of Spanish Mustangs have wandered freely here for decades, and your kids will love playing in the sand next to them. Hotels are limited here as—like most places in the OBX—vacation rentals reign supreme.
Recommended Hotel: The Inn at Corolla Light
9. Kill Devil Hills – Kill Devil Hills, NC
Located in the Outer Banks, the wide, white sandy beaches of Kill Devil Hills feature amenities such as parking, lifeguards, showers and restrooms, making it an ideal family beach in North Carolina. Boogie boarding, beach volleyball, swimming and sandcastles will fill your family’s beach day at Kill Devil Hills. Several casual restaurants are situated within walking distance of the sand, and when you need a break from the beach, make waves at the H2OBX Water Park in nearby Powells Point.
Recommended Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk