1. Wrightsville Beach
This beach is a favorite among the locals and easily one of the most popular beaches in the area. It’s located on a barrier island separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway which is less than 30 minutes from downtown Wilmington.
This quaint beach town has plenty of seaside shops and restaurants including a fantastic pier to take a walk down to watch the sunset. If your adventurous side is craving more than just a walk on the beach, check out the watersports that are offered here. Both rentals and lessons are available for many sports including kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, and more. This is a perfect beach destination for having a relaxing beach day or bringing the whole family along to have fun.
2. Masonboro Island
Only accessible by boat, this unique barrier island is home to dozens of wildlife species. You can opt to charter a boat for the day or take the ferry to the reserve, where you’ll witness the natural habitats of sea turtles, birds, and more. Sandwiched between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, Masonboro Island is the largest untouched barrier island on the North Carolina coast. While visitors can only access specific trails, there are more than eight miles of undisturbed beach to explore. If you decide to venture out to the island, be sure to bring supplies as there are no facilities on Masonboro.
3. Figure Eight Island
Figure Eight Island has long been heralded as “North Carolina’s Best Kept Secret,” and it’s easy to see why. Quietly located close to all the Cape Fear area’s attractions, but truly in a world all its own, this pristine beach vacation destination is the perfect retreat for any visitor who believes that privacy, relaxation, and stunning natural scenery is what an ideal Cape Fear getaway is all about. The Figure Eight Island beaches are perfect for shell hunting, simply because of their isolation. Head to the quiet northern and southern edges of the islands, close to the inlets, for an opportunity to find whelks, sand dollars, coquinas, scallops, and olive shells.
4. Carolina Beach
Named one of the Ten Best Boardwalks by Food and Wine Magazine, Carolina Beach Boardwalk is known to host live music events and dozens of festivals each year. In the summer, you can attend art and music festivals as well as barbecue competitions and more. Aside from exploring the boardwalk and swimming in the beautiful water, visitors love going on the amusement park rides and touring the aquarium.
5. Kure Beach
Kure Beach is a great place for people traveling with children because of its proximity to the aquarium and outdoor playset near the beach. Historians will also love this area as they can pay a visit to the Fort Fisher State Historic Site. Walk along the shore until you reach the trail that surrounds this Civil War-era fort. Don’t forget to take a stroll on the pier, known as the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast. In this area, you’ll find the Kure Beach Ocean Front Park & Pavilion, where many festivals and events are held.