Amazing Beaches Near Wilmington (Which One is the Best?)

Last Updated on September 8, 2021

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There really is almost too much to explore around Wilmington, also known as North Carolina‘s Port City. While you’ll find Hollywood magic, rich history, and tons of great restaurants here, we love exploring the beaches near Wilmington first and foremost.

After all, this area hosts some of the best beaches in North Carolina and we’re here to dig into each one. Thanks to family-friendly activities and things to do for everyone, these three beach communities (Carolina, Kure, and Wrightsville) are more than just beautiful sand and surf!

Let’s dig into each one and spotlight our favorite ways to enjoy our time at the beach! At the end, we’ll explain which one is best based on our many personal experiences in this area.

This post is part of our series on awesome places to visit in Eastern North Carolina. Many of these beaches near Wilmington appear in our guide covering the best things to do in North Carolina.

Beaches Near Wilmington

In case you’re looking for a place to stay, we’ve got you covered with some great Airbnbs in Wilmington, too!

Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach is the most popular of the beaches near Wilmington. Beautiful and family-friendly, its boardwalk well-known for food and shopping.

Many of the events, restaurants, and activities in Wilmington will likely be found at Carolina Beach.

Things to Do in Carolina Beach

Of the beaches near Wilmington, Carolina Beach is certainly the busiest.

With a paint scheme comprised of light pastels and bright whites, Carolina Beach has a vintage vibe that pairs well with North Carolina summer.

The Boardwalk at Carolina Beach is home to endless food stands, including North Carolina institution Britt’s Donuts. Dozens of music events and festivals use the Boardwalk as a backdrop each year, drawing in large crowds to the busiest beach in North Carolina. 

Get outdoors at Carolina Beach by taking surfing lessons and biking along the Greenway. Also, there are 761 acres at Carolina Beach State Park, one of our favorite parks and places to go hiking in North Carolina!

For recommendations on where to eat in Carolina Beach, check out our Wilmington Restaurant guide. We also have great recommendations for beach house rentals near Wilmington here.

Kure Beach

On the other hand, Kure Beach maintains a much slower pace compared to Carolina Beach. The emphasis in the Kure community (pronounced cure-ee) is to escape back to nature.

In addition to less crowded beaches, you’ll also find the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast in Kure.

Things to Do in Kure Beach

Fort Fisher things to do in Wilmington

Travelers will find the Civil War-era Fort Fisher State Historic Site, which includes a six-mile protected shoreline, to be an educational visit. The site is where the Civil War’s largest Amphibious Battle occurred and features an accessible museum and scenic trail that leads to the remains of the fort.

Diving from Fort Fisher is another popular endeavor at Kure Beach.

Just 700 yards off the coast are the remains of the blockade runner, Condor. The Condor was said to be one of the fastest ships but is now one of the best-preserved Civil War blockade runners in the world.

natural area at North Carolina Aqaurium at Fort Fisher Wilmington

Families vacationing to Wilmington beaches can enjoy sharks, otters, and stingrays at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher while in Kure Beach. With both freshwater and saltwater exhibits and a touch tank, the Aquarium is one of our favorite kid-friendly things to do on Wilmington’s beaches

For recommendations on where to eat in Kure Beach, check out our Wilmington Restaurant guide.

Wrightsville Beach

Known for its higher-end beach houses and accommodations, Wrightsville Beach was named one of the world’s best surf towns. Here, you’ll find many more boutiques, fresh seafood restaurants, and water sports, as well as five miles of wide, sandy beaches and beautiful views. 

Things to Do in Wrightsville Beach

Because it’s so well known for surfing, our number one recommendation on what to do in Wrightsville is to surf, of course! For those who have never surfed before, try paddle-boarding on the Intracoastal Waterway

Intracoastal waterway Wilmington Beaches

Fishing is also a popular activity in Wrightsville Beach. Cast a reel off Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, the only concrete fishing pier in North Carolina.

It’s also an excellent location to just kick back and enjoy a view of the water. 

Johnnie Mercier Pier Wilmington Beaches

From Wrightsville Beach, travelers can take a day trip to Masonboro Island Reserve, an isolated and protected beach, via a local boat company like Wrightsville Scenic Beach Tours. We were hosted for a ride and had a wonderful time.

On Masonboro Island, more than 5,600 acres of unspoiled beaches, salt marshes, and tidal flats await. The shelling and birdwatching at Masonboro are extraordinary, and don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for dolphins! 

Wrightsville Beach

If you’re looking to tug on your heartstrings, then you must visit the Wrightsville Beach Mailbox. The Mailbox is located on the beach in front of Shell Island Resort and contains letters, notes, and words of encouragement left by strangers.

Stop by and leave a note for a loved one, or enjoy some of the stories left by lovers prior. 

Wrightsville Beach Brewery is here, too. It’s one of our favorite breweries in Wilmington, if not all of North Carolina!

Which of these Beaches Near Wilmington is the Best?

Carolina Beach access Wilmington Beaches

We hope you get to explore these amazing beaches near Wilmington! Our personal favorite is Kure Beach for the relative quiet it provides. However, we love popping over to Wrightsville Beach for the gorgeous water (and great food) and Carolina Beach for a doughnut and stroll on the boardwalk.

As you’ll see, each beach town has a uniquely different vibe, but they all offer incredible restaurants and plenty of things to do. Whether you are soaking up nature in Kure, enjoying a music festival in Carolina Beach, or surfing the waves at Wrightsville, you’re going to enjoy your time at these beaches near Wilmington!

If you’re familiar with the area, which is your favorite and why? In case you haven’t visited yet, which of these beaches near Wilmington are you going to visit first? If you have questions or fun experiences to share, please feel free to post them here or in our Facebook Group!

More Things to Do in Wilmington

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