The Best Beaches in North Carolina
Two miles of golden barrier-island sands lounge between Bogue Sound and the ocean. Visitors can also wander along the old-school pier, then grab chowder, spicy shrimp, and Key lime pie at a crab shack.
Bear Island, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro
Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Harkers Island
Take a three-mile boat ride to dramatic barrier islands – part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore – popular for shelling, fishing, birding, and camping. The lighthouse area remains a standout, balancing a pristine beach with a bathhouse.
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The northernmost reaches of the Outer Banks are home to North Carolina's state horse: the colonial Spanish mustang. Visit these spirited animals with the experts who manage them: the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (all proceeds benefit the herds).
Rare for the East Coast, south-facing beaches allow for both sunrise and sunset views from the same lounger! Swim in the Atlantic, then stroll 10 minutes cross-island for tranquil views of Bogue Sound.
Jennette's Pier, Nags Head
Clean, wide, well-tended beaches–with free parking–lure both surfers and beach babies to the sands surrounding this iconic fishing pier. The partially wind-powered, Platinum LEED-certified structure shelters a North Carolina Aquarium outpost.
Jockey's Ridge State Park, Nags Head
Old Lighthouse Beach, Hatteras Island
This golden stretch of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers a heady mix of wind- and water-sports, plus top-notch shelling. Surfers especially prize the big breakers: a reminder of the area's "Graveyard of the Atlantic" maritime history.