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Small Beach Towns in North Carolina – 11 Top Spots To Visit in Summer [Fun Beach Activities!]

Small Beach Towns in North Carolina

North Carolina’s coastal towns are great for beach vacations for a number of reasons. With its extensive coastline, there are dozens of islands and coastal towns from which to choose, offering a variety of experiences from historic, tree-lined streets to bustling beach scenes and activities for the whole family. It makes me wonder, what are the best small beach towns in North Carolina?

So, what are the best small beach towns in North Carolina? Here are 11 of the best: 1. Wrightsville Beach; 2. Wilmington; 3. Duck; 4. Kitty Hawk; 5. Edenton; 6. Emerald Isle; 7. Beaufort; 8. Calabash; 9. Oak Island; 10. Avon; 11. Morehead City

Best small towns in North Carolina

Key Takeaways:

  • When choosing a small beach town in North Carolina, there are a variety of beaches to consider.
  • Hiking trails are available in many small beach towns in North Carolina.
  • It is known for its food and is rightly nicknamed the ‘Seafood Capital of the World’ due to its vast selection of restaurants.
  • Oak IslandOak Island is an ideal spot for a beach getaway in North Carolina.
  • If you’re looking for the best beaches for surfing in North Carolina, Wrightsville Beach and Atlantic Beach are two top contenders.

The Outer Banks are a popular destination, but there are numerous other options for those who want a quieter or more off-the-beaten-path experience. The fresh ocean breezes and cool waters provide a refreshing escape from the heat and humidity of summer, and many of the towns have been attracting visitors since the early 1800s. Of course, the delicious food and local attractions are also a huge draw. With all these features, it’s easy to see why North Carolina’s coastal towns are ideal destinations for relaxing beach vacations. I’m going to cover this and a whole lot more. Stay tuned and keep on reading!

The 11 Best Small Beach Towns in North Carolina to Visit in Summer

1. Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach is one of the best small beach towns to visit in the summer.

The wide beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation create the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing and enjoyable vacation.

The town also offers a variety of activities and attractions to keep visitors busy all summer long.

From shopping and dining to watersports and fishing, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

The town is also home to a fishing pier, boat ramps, and a playground, making it the perfect spot for families to take in the stunning views and have fun.

The locals are friendly and welcoming, giving visitors a sense of small-town charm.

The beaches are well maintained, with lifeguards on duty during peak season, and the surf culture is strong with multiple surfing and SUP events happening throughout the year.

Wrightsville Beach is ideal for a weekend getaway or a longer summer vacation.

2. Wilmington

Wilmington is a great small beach town to visit in the summer, offering something for everyone. With a wide, clean beach, the perfect place to relax in the sand, a picturesque Riverwalk, and a vibrant atmosphere thanks to the nearby University of North Carolina campus, Wilmington is an ideal destination for anyone looking for a little summer fun. The town offers a range of attractions, including the Wilmington Railroad Museum, a great place for kids, and the historic Bellamy Mansion.

– Wrightsville Beach is a short drive from Wilmington and offers crystal blue waters and great surf
– Hatteras Island is nearby for adventure seekers, providing opportunities for exploring and outdoor recreation
– Wilmington serves as the perfect summer beach getaway with numerous activities and attractions available

3. Duck

Duck, North Carolina is a great small beach town to visit in summer for its peaceful and scenic atmosphere. It is a low-key and local town with a population of only 758, so it is free of noise and congestion of the city. Visitors can enjoy the serenity of Duck’s natural beauty, with majestic trees and homes lining the streets. The town also hosts the Duck Jazz Festival each year.

– The town of Duck is located on the Currituck Sound, offering beautiful beaches and unique wetlands for kayaking
– Duck focuses on local, independent businesses instead of big box stores
– It provides a relaxing escape from the daily grind
– The town is only a 5.5 hour drive from Charlotte, making it a great summer weekend getaway
– Duck is an ideal destination for those seeking a peaceful retreat

4. Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk is a great small beach town to visit in North Carolina for a variety of reasons. First, the town is historically significant as the birthplace of flight, where the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Visitors to Kitty Hawk can visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial and learn more about this historic accomplishment.

Not only is Kitty Hawk historic, but it also has a vibrant culture. With family restaurants, mini golf courses, museums, and beach shops, there is something for everyone. Additionally, there are many beach access points, and surfing is a popular year-round sport.

  • Kitty Hawk features the stunning Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve
  • Visitors can participate in hiking or biking at the reserve
  • Sandy Run Park provides a change of pace with its twisty waterways
  • Exploring Sandy Run Park offers a chance to spot local wildlife

Kitty Hawk accommodation ranges from vacation rental units to locally owned restaurants and stores. With its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and many attractions, Kitty Hawk is the perfect small beach town to visit in North Carolina.

5. Edenton

Edenton is a great small beach town to visit in the summer for many reasons.

Located on the Albemarle Sound and Edenton Bay, this town has been around for over 300 years and has a rich history to explore.

The waterfront is absolutely stunning with its cypress trees ranging from 500 to 2,000 years old.

Visitors can take advantage of the trolley tour that departs from the Visitor Center and get a closer look at the town’s amazing highlights such as the Colonial Waterfront Park with its 1866 Roanoke River Lighthouse and kayak rentals.

Furthermore, the historic homes and buildings have been transformed into bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and shops, making it perfect for a weekend getaway.

History buffs will find plenty to explore in the town’s Colonial-era architecture such as the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse, the Penelope Barker House, and the Edenton State Historic Site House.

Edenton also has many fantastic outdoor activities like fishing off the Chowan River Fishing Pier and exploring the tree-lined avenues, scenic parks, and walkable streets.

All in all, Edenton is the perfect beach town to visit in the summer for its rich history, beautiful waterfront, and plenty of outdoor activities.

6. Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle is a great small beach town to visit in North Carolina because of its unique natural beauty and proximity to the Gulf Stream. The warm waters, gorgeous green hue and abundance of marine life make it an ideal spot for scuba diving. Visitors can also stay in Sound of the Sea, one of the best places to stay in the area, and enjoy delicious meals at The Trading Post.

The 12 miles of pristine shoreline at Emerald Isle can be easily accessed by the several beach access points with public amenities.

  • Swimming, boating, fishing, and scuba diving are popular here.
  • Emerald Isle is the perfect destination for those who like calmer and less crowded beaches.
  • In addition, there is plenty to explore in town, from a classic row of shops to a children’s water park.
  • With its low property taxes, low home prices, and high standard of living, Emerald Isle offers the perfect combination of relaxation and fun.

7. Beaufort

Beaufort, a charming small beach town in North Carolina, is surrounded by water on three sides and features a rich maritime history. Its lively downtown area offers entertainment and amenities for all ages, while harbor tours provide opportunities to see dolphins and coastal landscapes.

Attractions include the Rachel Carson Reserve for wildlife viewing and the North Carolina Maritime Museum, showcasing treasures from Blackbeard’s sunken pirate ship. Hungry Town Tours presents various walking and biking tours, exploring historical sites, architecture, and local cuisine. The Beaufort Historic Site delves into the region’s 18th and 19th century history, making this coastal town an ideal destination for relaxation and exploration.

8. Calabash

Calabash is a charming small beach town in North Carolina, making it a great destination. It is known for its food and is rightly nicknamed the ‘Seafood Capital of the World’ due to its vast selection of restaurants. Shopping is also a pleasure in Calabash, and you’ll find a wide range of retail stores to choose from. Furthermore, every Tuesday during the summer months, the town park is alive with a free concert featuring bands of various genres, and delicious treats from vendors.

– Plenty of outdoor activities are available near Calabash
– Golfing, dolphin cruises, and deep-sea fishing are popular options
Seafood restaurants like Captain Nance’s Calabash Seafood Restaurant and Dockside Seafood House are must-visit places
– Callahan’s of Calabash offers the largest selection of gifts in North Carolina

At sunset, the Calabash River is a sight to behold, making it the perfect place to view the beautiful colors of the sky. Overall, Calabash is an idyllic beach town providing something for everyone, from relaxation to adventure.

9. Oak Island

Oak Island, North Carolina, is a perfect destination for a beach escape, offering more than just beach access. The quaint town boasts 65 public beach entry points, 40 nature observation spots, six boat launch sites, and an array of other activities. Adventure seekers can enjoy the popular kayaking options, with nearby rental facilities available for this and other watersports.

  • Oak Island offers various activities and attractions
  • Quaint shops and restaurants are available for visitors to explore
  • Tranquil Harbour Restaurant and Bar serves delicious seafood
  • Kai Joe’s is known for its tasty burritos
  • Watching a sunset from the Point is a popular activity
  • The Oak Island Lighthouse offers views of the water, Bald Head Island, and Old Baldy Lighthouse

In short, Oak Island is a great beach town to visit in North Carolina, offering a wide range of activities, attractions, and accommodations, all with a low-key, relaxing atmosphere.

10. Avon

Avon, North Carolina is an idyllic small beach town perfect for a summer getaway. With its stunning beach and pier, it is the perfect spot for a day of relaxation. Take the zigzag walkway out to the pier for breathtaking coastline views, and don’t forget to watch surfers catching waves near the pier.

For a unique experience, you can also visit the iconic Cape Hatteras lighthouse just eight miles south of town, or head north to the tri-cities of Waves, Rodanthe, and Salvo where you can watch kiteboarders soar across the waves. Shopping and dining options abound in Avon, with retail stores and casual beach restaurants.

Accommodations are mostly in elevated beach houses that can be rented, or you can stay in a hotel just south in Buxton. All in all, Avon, North Carolina is the perfect spot for a summer getaway!

11. Morehead City

Morehead City is a great small beach town to visit in the summer due to its lovely waterfront, vibrant outdoor atmosphere, and abundance of activities. Located on the Crystal Coast, Morehead City is a picturesque coastal town with breathtaking views of the beaches and mountains. The downtown waterfront is a great place to go for a leisurely stroll and admire the boats that cruise the harbor. There are also various restaurants with fresh, local seafood for visitors to enjoy.

For those who love the outdoors, there are numerous local attractions such as Jaycee Park, the Sugarloaf Island, and the Calico Creek Boardwalk. Nature enthusiasts can also explore the Promise Land Trails and The Fish Walk. Plenty of festivals and events throughout the summer, such as the Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament and the North Carolina Seafood Festival. Shopping is also popular in Morehead City, with thrift shops, big box stores, and shopping plazas.

With its unique attractions, spectacular views, and abundant activities, Morehead City is an ideal destination for a fun and memorable summer vacation.

What to Consider when Choosing a Small Beach Town in North Carolina To Visit?

1. Small Beach Towns In North Carolina: Attractions

Small beach towns in North Carolina offer an array of attractions for all types of travelers. From the lively downtown of Beaufort, named “America’s Coolest Small Town” by Budget Travel Magazine, to the quaint harbor of Edenton, there’s something for everyone. Enjoy the 18th-century homes and tree-lined streets of Emerald Isle, explore the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Kitty Hawk, or try your luck at the casinos in Wrightsville Beach. There are also plenty of outdoor activities to explore such as kayaking, fishing, and boating in the Outer Banks, or surfing and nightlife in Atlantic Beach. No matter what type of vacation you’re looking for, you’ll be sure to find something to enjoy in North Carolina’s beach towns.

2. Small Beach Towns In North Carolina: Activities

Small beach towns in North Carolina offer a variety of activities, including surfing, sailing, kayaking, golfing, exploring maritime forests, visiting public beaches, biking, and enjoying water sports. There are also plenty of opportunities for fishing both offshore and inshore, as well as chances to see rare species of plants. There are also a wide range of restaurants, bars, and surf shops to explore.

3. Small Beach Towns In North Carolina: Beaches

When choosing a small beach town in North Carolina, there are a variety of beaches to consider. Each beach offers its own unique atmosphere, depending on what type of vacation you are looking for.

– Wrightsville Beach and Nags Head provide classic beach vacation experiences
– Oak Island offers nightlife and surf shops
– Atlantic Beach is a quiet spot for relaxation
– Kitty Hawk, Emerald Isle, and Edenton are ideal for remote escapes
– Carolina Beach is a family-friendly destination
– Duck is perfect for a peaceful and quiet atmosphere

Finally, if you’re looking for the best of both worlds, Beaufort is the perfect choice with its combination of vibrant cities and charming towns. Wilmington, which is the largest city in North Carolina, is also an excellent option. No matter what you’re looking for in a North Carolina beach town, there’s something for everyone.

4. Small Beach Towns in North Carolina: Lighthouses

When choosing a small beach town in North Carolina with a lighthouse, there are several features to consider. Firstly, the town should have a preserved landscape of salt marshes, tidal creeks, scrubby, subtropical forest, 14 miles of pale sands, and an old lighthouse. Secondly, the town should be within a two-mile radius of the North Carolina coast, south of Wilmington, and have streets that electric carts and bicycles can travel. Additionally, the town should offer vibrant cities, charming towns, and a breathtaking landscape. Lastly, it should feature delicious food and a variety of amenities so that visitors can truly enjoy their stay.

5. Small Beach Towns in North Carolina: Hiking Trails

Hiking trails are available in many small beach towns in North Carolina. One of the most popular trails is in Carolina Beach, where you can hike through the Carolina Beach State Park and discover the rare Venus Fly Trap species in bloom during May.

– Paddling is the best water activity for beachgoers
– Biking is a popular activity in beach towns
– Wrightsville Beach, Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Emerald Isle, Edenton, Duck, and Beaufort are known for hiking trails
– These towns feature unique landscapes like forests and sandy beaches
– Trails often pass through historical sites and offer ocean views

6. Small Beach Towns in North Carolina: Fishing

When looking for the best fishing towns in North Carolina for small beach towns, Holden Beach, Carolina Beach, Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Emerald Isle, Edenton, Duck, Wilmington, and Beaufort are all excellent choices.

Each town offers its own unique attractions, such as paddling and kayaking in the Intracoastal Waterways in Holden Beach, fishing off of the Holden Beach Fishing Pier, hiking through the Carolina Beach State Park and seeing rare plant species like the Venus flytrap at Carolina Beach, fishing off of Janette’s Pier in Nags Head, visiting the many restaurants and shops in Kitty Hawk, or biking through Atlantic Beach.

All of these beach towns offer something for everyone, no matter what their interests may be.

7. Small Beach Towns in North Carolina: Boating

When choosing a small beach town in North Carolina for boating, there are several factors to consider.

Oriental, for example, is known as the sailing capital of the state and has a deep connection to the water.

It has a Town Beach for quick beach fun as well as access to nearby Atlantic Beach.

Duck is another great option, offering sailing, kayaking, and other outdoor adventures on its expansive beach.

Holden Beach is a great option for families, with its water activities, dolphin play, and festivals.

Avon is also a great choice for boaters, with its beautiful pier, access to the Outer Banks, and a variety of restaurants. Atlantic Beach perfectly balances peace and quiet and nightlife, with its bars, restaurants, and surf shops.

When making your selection, consider the type of boating you would like to do, the type of amenities you would like to have access to, and the atmosphere you are looking for. These beach towns have something special to offer, so choose the one that best fits your needs.

8. Small Beach Towns in North Carolina: Camping

When it comes to choosing a small beach town in North Carolina for camping, there are a few things to consider. Campers looking for a more outdoorsy experience should consider the Outer Banks, which has several excellent campgrounds for tenters and RVs.

For those looking for a peaceful beach oasis, Atlantic Beach is the place to go. This quaint town offers a large selection of bars and restaurants and plenty of public beaches to enjoy. Duck is another great option, with 11 acres of maritime forest to explore and watersports like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.

For a more lively experience, Wrightsville Beach is the place to go. This coastal town offers plenty of activities, such as boardwalk shops, a local pier with rides, and a bustling nightlife. Other great beach towns that offer a range of things to do include Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Emerald Isle, Edenton, and Carolina Beach.

No matter what your interests, there is a beach town in North Carolina that can offer the perfect camping experience. With so many great options to choose from, it’s easy to find the perfect spot for a summer getaway.

9. Small Beach Towns in North Carolina: Sightseeing

When visiting the small beach towns of North Carolina, there is an abundance of sightseeing attractions to explore. On the Outer Banks, visitors can explore the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and the Lost Colony outdoor drama. The battleship USS North Carolina, the Airlie Gardens, and the Cape Fear Botanical Garden are popular attractions in Wilmington. The historical Duck Town Park is great for outdoor recreation in Duck.


What Beaches Are the Best for Surfing in North Carolina?

When searching for the best surfing beaches in North Carolina, Wrightsville Beach and Atlantic Beach are the top choices. Situated a short distance from Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach boasts crystal blue waters and excellent surf conditions.

– Visitors can take surfing lessons, windsurf, or paddleboard at North Carolina beaches
– Wrightsville Beach and Atlantic Beach are top choices for surfing
– Wrightsville Beach is located near Wilmington and has crystal blue waters
– Surfing conditions at Wrightsville Beach are excellent
Activities at Wrightsville Beach include surfing lessons, windsurfing, and paddleboarding

Atlantic Beach, located on a beautiful barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound, is also a great spot for surfers. This area is known for its abundance of public beaches, rich history, and steady swell, making it an ideal spot for surfing. Finally, Surf City on Topsail Island has a laid-back vibe, great views of the beach, and plenty of anglers to watch. All of these beaches are perfect for a surfing trip in North Carolina.

What Attractions Can You Find in North Carolina’s Beach Towns?

North Carolina’s beach towns boast a variety of attractions, including historic 18th-century homes, tree-lined streets, vibrant beach scenes, and family-oriented activities. Visitors can relish pristine beaches, untouched landscapes, and the refreshing waters of the Atlantic Ocean and sounds. Numerous restaurants, shops, fishing charters, and boat tours are available for exploration. Other attractions feature museums, golf courses, and lighthouses, while nature enthusiasts can observe diverse wildlife such as migratory birds, sea turtles, and dolphins. Additionally, some of the nation’s top boardwalks, festivals, and events can be found in these coastal towns.

Are There Any Events or Festivals in North Carolina’s Beach Towns?

There are several events and festivals in North Carolina’s beach towns. For example, Atlantic Beach hosts the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in June, and Morehead City hosts the North Carolina Seafood Festival in September and October. These events allow visitors to explore the region’s rich history, enjoy the beautiful beaches, and sample delicious seafood.

What Is the Coast of North Carolina Known For?

The coast of North Carolina is a beautiful region. It offers scenic beaches and charming coastal towns. Visitors can enjoy various activities like swimming, surfing, and exploring historical sites.

What Are the Beach Towns North Carolina?

Beach towns in North Carolina are popular vacation spots. They offer beautiful sandy shores and various recreational activities. Some notable towns include Wilmington, Outer Banks, and Emerald Isle.

What Are Some Coastal Towns of North Carolina?

North Carolina features numerous coastal towns. These towns provide picturesque landscapes and various recreational activities. Some popular destinations include Wilmington, Nags Head, and Beaufort.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the best towns in North Carolina offer an unparalleled blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and economic opportunity. These towns, each with its own unique charm and character, foster a sense of community and belonging that is truly remarkable. The diverse landscapes, from the picturesque mountains to the serene coastal shores, provide a canvas for a myriad of outdoor activities and adventures. Additionally, the vibrant arts scene, rich history, and thriving culinary offerings make these towns the ideal places to call home or to visit as a tourist.

One cannot help but be inspired by the potential these towns hold for residents and visitors alike. These North Carolinian gems demonstrate that the best towns are not only defined by their economic success or population size, but also by their ability to nurture creativity, innovation, and a strong sense of community. In these spaces, we can find the heart and soul of the Tar Heel State, inviting us to ponder our sense of place and belonging in this ever-evolving world.