Best Beaches In North Carolina For Families

A family sitting on the beach in North Carolina.

Expect natural beauty, tasty food, and lots to do with kids at these best beaches in North Carolina for families! Whether it’s surfing the waves, spotting wild horses along the shore, or simply enjoying quality time together by the sea, there are so many ways to experience this East Coast gem. From the Outer Banks in the northern part of the state to the Wilmington Area, soft sand and calm waves create the perfect backdrop for building sandcastles, playing beach games, and soaking up the sun. Plus, North Carolina is known for its family-centric attractions, including water parks, aquariums, and nature preserves, providing endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. If you’re wondering about the best beaches in North Carolina for families, keep reading to plan your next family beach vacation! 

Best Beaches In The Outer Banks For Families

When it comes to the best beaches in North Carolina for families, there’s one destination that truly stands out: The Outer Banks! This string of barrier islands features miles of pretty coastline dotted with charming towns and plenty of kid-friendly activities. Keep reading to learn more!

Ocracoke-Hatteras

A view of Ocracoke Beach in Hatteras, Outerbanks, one of the best beaches in North Carolina for kids.
Photo Courtesy: Outerbanks.com

Ocracoke and Hatteras are both barrier islands located along the Outer Banks, accessible to one another by ferry. As two of the best beaches in North Carolina for families, they are known for their stunning shorelines, maritime history, and outdoor adventures. 

Families visiting Hatteras can explore the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, home to towering sand dunes and beaches ideal for kite flying and shell collecting. One popular option with lifeguards is Frisco Beach, which is peaceful and features plenty of space. Canadian Hole is also popular for windsurfing. For a bit of history on the area, visit the Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center. On the northern end of Hatteras Island, there’s also the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, where kids can spot sea turtles. Not to mention the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which features a 257-step climb to the top! 

​​In Ocracoke, kids can learn about the island’s rich maritime history at the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum, featuring exhibits on pirates, shipwrecks, and local culture. They’ll love climbing the Ocracoke Lighthouse, one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the nation, for panoramic views of the island! Ocracoke also has 16 miles of beaches, including its namesake beach, which isn’t usually crowded and has warm water. 

Emerald Isle

On Emerald Isle, a man flies a kite in the distance on a clear day.
Photo Courtesy: Angie Reedy

Emerald Isle is a popular destination for vacationers looking to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the North Carolina coastline. Located on the southern Outer Banks, it’s situated on Bogue Banks, a barrier island along the Crystal Coast. 

There are miles of beautiful beaches with soft sand and gentle waves for kids. One of the most popular ones is The Point, located on the island’s westernmost tip. It’s ideal for fishing, surfing, or simply watching a gorgeous sunrise and sunset. Water sports enthusiasts can indulge in kayaking or paddleboarding in the calm waters of Bogue Sound. At Emerald Isle Woods Park, you can hike along nature trails and enjoy a picnic. Don’t miss the chance to visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores! If kids need to burn some energy, there are also various playgrounds nearby, like Blue Heron Park. 

More Beaches In The Outer Banks For Families

From the calm waters of Corolla Beach to surfing at Kitty Hawk or Kill Devil Hills Beach, there are plenty of other beaches and beach towns in the Outer Banks for families. Duck has a small-town feel, a cute beach, and is home to the famous Duck Donuts. Nags Head, located in the central Outer Banks, is also popular with families. History buffs can see the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Or, tour the area’s local lighthouses. Kids will love sliding down the super-tall sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Or, take a 4×4 Tour in Corolla featuring wild horses with companies such as Corolla Wild Horse Tours, Wild Horse Adventure Tours, and Bob’s Wild Horse Tours. Then, enjoy more family fun at Paradise Golf & Arcade

Where To Stay In The Outer Banks With Kids

Accommodations in The Outer Banks usually depend on which town you’ll be staying in. Provided by agencies such as Twiddy and OBX Lodging, rental homes are usually more popular than resorts. There are also more than 50 local agencies in addition to sites like Airbnb and VRBO. However, if you’re really craving a resort experience, we recommend the Sanderling Resort, Oasis Suites Hotel, TownPlace Suites Kill Devil Hills, and Hilton Garden Inn Kitty Hawk

Best Beaches Near Wilmington, North Carolina For Families 

The Wilmington area boasts some of the most family-friendly seaside destinations in North Carolina! From bustling boardwalks to serene oceanside escapes, keep reading to learn more!

Topsail Beach

A view of the ocean and water in Topsail Beach, one of the best beaches in North Carolina for families.

Topsail Beach is the perfect place for a family getaway in North Carolina! Around an hour north of Wilmington, it strikes the ideal balance between outdoor activities, educational attractions, and natural beauty. It’s the southern part of the larger Topsail Island, which also consists of North Topsail Beach and Surf City. 

Topsail Island stretches for more than 26 miles, and there are multiple public access points to reach the beach, including one in North Topsail Beach, which is a popular spot for fishing. Little ones will delight in splashing or trying their hand at boogie boarding. Plus, Topsail Beach is a great place to look for fossilized shark teeth! For some educational fun, head to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, where kids can learn about the conservation efforts to protect endangered sea turtles. The Missiles and More Museum has fascinating exhibits on the island’s rich maritime history, including relics from World War II. 

Bald Head Island

An aerial view of Bald Head Island, one of the best beaches in North Carolina for families with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island is surely one of the best beaches in North Carolina for families! Located near the city of Wilmington, this small, remote island offers endless opportunities for adventure and fun-filled memories for the whole family.

Families can spend a day relaxing on one of the kid-friendly beaches, like South Beach, which has wide shores perfect for stretching out and lounging. Or, check out the Old Baldy Lighthouse, where children can climb the stairs and learn about the island’s maritime history. You can also take a guided nature tour through Bald Head Island Conservancy to discover the island’s diverse wildlife, including turtles, birds, and marine creatures. Rent bicycles and explore the island’s scenic trails, spotting deer and other wildlife along the way. For a unique experience, families can kayak or paddleboard through the marshes and tidal creeks. 

Kure-Carolina Beach

An aerial view of umbrellas and beachgoers at Kure Carolina Beach, one of the best beaches in North Carolina for families with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Visit North Carolina

Kure and Carolina Beach are two cute coastal communities that boast lots of things for families to do together. Offering a laidback and low-key experience near Wilmington, which is around a half hour away, they’re certainly one of the best beaches in North Carolina for families! 

In Kure Beach, families can visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher to learn more about local marine life. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the historic Fort Fisher State Historic Site, where kids can learn about Civil War history and explore the fort’s remains. The eponymous Kure Beach also offers calm waters and is rarely crowded like other beaches in North Carolina. Kure Beach is also home to Ocean Front Park, featuring a boardwalk, playground, and oceanfront bench swings. 

In Carolina Beach, families can walk the Carolina Beach Boardwalk and enjoy classic amusement rides, arcade games, and sweet treats like cotton candy and ice cream. Or, take a stroll along the scenic Carolina Beach State Park trails, perfect for birdwatching and spotting native wildlife. For an adventure, rent paddleboards or kayaks and explore the calm waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, or take a surfing lesson on the ocean waves. 

Wrightsville Beach

Kids playing on Wrightsville Beach, one of the best beaches in North Carolina for families with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Wrightsville Beach

Considered one of the best beach towns on the East Coast to visit with kids, Wrightsville Beach is located just a short drive from Raleigh (around two hours) and Wilmington (15 minutes) and offers everything you need for a fun and relaxing beach vacation. 

Kids will delight in the array of water sports available at Wrightsville Beach, from kayaking and paddleboarding to surfing. There are various public access points along the shore where families can access the beach. Plus, the town is home to some great attractions for kids, like the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, which offers self-guided walking tours. Or, for younger kids, drive to nearby Wilmington to visit the Children’s Museum of Wilmington. Families can also go fishing off Johnnie Mercers Pier. Or, check out The Loop, a two-and-a-half-mile hiking and birdwatching trail that also features a playground. 

Where To Stay In Wrightsville Beach With Kids

If you need somewhere to stay in Wrightsville Beach with kids, look no further! The town has a wide range of accommodations, from camping and RV sites to hotels and vacation rentals. If you’re looking for a typical resort experience, check out Blockade Runner Beach Resort. Or, Holiday Inn Resort Lumina On Wrightsville Beach. For home rentals suitable for larger families, check out Vrbo

Happy Travels!

A heart in the Sand at Jockey's State Park in California.
Photo Courtesy: North Carolina State Parks and Recreation

We hope you liked this list of the Best Beaches in North Carolina For Families! From The Outer Banks to Wilmington, this East Coast state has miles of beautiful shoreline and plenty to do with kids. Enjoy your next family beach vacation! 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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