6 Great Beach Adventures in North Carolina to Explore This Summer

Cruise down the coast and explore some of North Carolina's best beaches and waterways.

When it comes to summer on the east coast, no state can boast to have the most natural and pristine beaches like North Carolina can. From the historic feel of the Outer Banks down to the vibrant Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina has some of the best beaches on the east coast, with far fewer crowds then most east coast beaches.  With top-notch fishing, killer surf, and hidden untouched waterways to explore, the east coast of North Carolina should be on any adventurer’s summer bucket list.

1. Wrightsville Beach

Boasting to be the original home to east coast surf, Wrightsville Beach has a long history of beautiful beaches and great surf. A lazy feel that bursts to life in the summer has made Wrightsville a popular destination for east coasters. But don’t worry to much about crowds, with a number of barrier island beaches just a few miles away, you’ll never run out of things to do. 

2. Freeman Park

Looking to cruise and spend the night on the beach? Freeman Park on Carolina Beach is the perfect place for this. Open year round, Freeman Park has a mile and a half of open beach to explore and camp on from summer to fall, just make sure that you have a 4x4 vehicle. Bring some tackle, firewood and a few friends and you have a perfect summer night.

3. Fort Fisher

Looking for something to do other than sitting on a beach all day? Fort Fisher is home to the historic fort, situated on the Cape Fear River, which was a confederate fort during the Civil War, and is also home to one of North Carolina’s best aquariums just steps away. Make sure to bring your camera too, with trails leading to both the ocean and riverside, as well as little light pollution at night, Fort Fisher makes an unbelievable playground for photographers in the summer.

4. Ocracoke Island

The Outer Banks are about as traditional as you can get, with Ocracoke Island being the hidden gem of OBX. Arriving via ferry, Ocracoke is a beautiful and natural beach town with signs of old North Carolina everywhere, including its iconic lighthouse. With nothing on the island except local businesses and miles of beach, this island makes a perfect summer camping destination, fit for anyone looking to slow things down a bit.


Photo: Angie Stidham

5. Carolina Beach State Park

Looking for a hike while hanging on the coast? Carolina Beach State Park offers countless miles of trails through coastal swamps as well as campgrounds for overnight visits and boat launches and a marina for anyone looking to get out on the water.

6. Hammocks Beach State Park

Looking to see the natural coastal environments that North Carolina is known for? Hammocks Beach State Park allows you to kayak through pristine waterways that are kept in their natural state to protect the valuable local ecosystems. Get up close and personal with oyster beds, miles of salt marsh, and more birds then you can count.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Robbie O'Donnell

Coastal Geologist // Photographer