Where North Carolina and the Atlantic meet, 300 miles of pale sand line the water’s edge to create a vacationer’s heaven on Earth. Here, we’ve rounded up the best beach resorts and hotels this peaceful paradise has to offer.
Photo: Michael DeFreitas/Getty Images
Where the Tar Heel State greets the Atlantic Ocean, 300 miles of barrier island beaches sprinkle the coastline (perhaps the most known being the collection of islands that make up the Outer Banks), creating a vacationer’s heaven on Carolina's eastern shore. Series of quiet stretches of sand make up larger, unspoiled territories—the Outer Banks, Brunswick Islands, and Wilmington, to name a few. Along Wrightsville Beach and Ocean Isle Beach, beach bums can be found relentlessly riding the surf, while quaint little beach towns, like Southport, lure visitors and full-time residents alike to meander their charming seaside avenues. Off the southernmost coast of North Carolina, the Brunswick Islands (popularly explored by kayak) play host to hundreds of bird species. The natural splendor that is North Carolina's coast is worth a gaze, whether on a weekend getaway or a summer vacation. Here, we’ve rounded up the best beach resorts for your southern stay.
Photo: Joshua McClure
Once the site of stately hotels—The Seashore and The Ocean Terrace—Blockade Runner continues to uphold its coastal heritage in the most family-friendly, laid-back fashion, but with a cool retro-hip look in the lobby and poolside spaces. With harborfront and oceanfront suites, the resort can offer sweeping vistas of the bustling boats or the calm open ocean—take your pick.
Sprawling beach chairs and bright blue umbrellas line the sandy shore, as attendants provide rental services for lounging back in them. For beach-goers in search of a more adventurous beach experience, watersports like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, and sailing are conveniently available on the property—certified instructors included. A brief one-mile walk down the sandy beach will land you at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier—the only concrete fishing pier in the state (and the only pier that charges a small fee for a stroll down it).
Photo courtesy of Sanderling Resort
When it comes to a luxury vacation experience on the Outer Banks, Sanderling Resort knows how to deliver. Situated along the wide, private beaches (but narrow mainland) of Duck—a stretch of North Carolina’s northernmost coastline—the elegant beachfront resort offers Atlantic Ocean views from nearly every angle.
Kimball’s Kitchen serves up world-class local seafood dishes (and world-class Currituck Sound views), while the Sandbar provides beach bites and specialty cocktails for visitors longing to perch, well, slightly closer to the sand. Make the getaway complete with a visit to the spa, and soothe your soul further with a Beach Sunrise yoga session.
Photo: Will Page
With 169 balcony rooms overlooking the Atlantic, Shell Island Resort—the only all-ocean-facing, all-suite stay on the island—fronts 3,000 feet of sweeping sand and surf.
Indulge in fresh fare—from seafood to steaks—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Shell Island Restaurant and Oceanfront Lounge. For a more casual approach, grab a bite (and a happy hour cocktail!) at the poolside bar and grill. Afterward, rent a surfboard to ride the waves, or hop on a bike to cruise the town. Or simply return to your shaded beach chair with a Tiki drink in hand.
Photo: Emily Chaplin
Ocean Isle Beach
With enough retro charm to wow the simplest of lodgers, The Winds Resort is a quaint, family-owned slice of paradise nestled on North Carolina’s southern coast. Choose from one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites that overlook tropical flora and grassy dunes, or opt for the grandeur of three-, four-, and five-bedroom cottages with Atlantic Ocean views.
Turquoise pools, beach cruisers and breakfast buffets abound, but the poolside Tiki bar is the shining beacon of the resort property—a true siren call to all guests with a desire to pull up a bar stool, sip on a boozy beverage, and sway to the sounds of the surf.
Photo courtesy of Sea Trail Golf Resort & Convention Center
Nestled on 2,000 acres among three world-class golf courses, Sea Trail Resort’s tight-knit community feel can’t be beat. You also can’t beat its ideal blend of golf courses and stretches of sand (a short five-minute drive from the resort). With private suites and vacation rentals, families or golf groups can linger for a weekend or a month.
And golf isn’t the only active option here. Horseback riding, kayaking, deep sea fishing, and yoga and Zumba classes are also available to keep you busy. When mealtimes roll around, country club-style dining at Magnolia’s Restaurant and Brassie’s Pub (the more laid-back of the two) serve up scrumptious bites of Southern cuisine and cold beverages. Kick back poolside, golfcart-pathside, or beachside—the best of every vacation world.