There are many attributes that make Wilmington, North Carolina one of the most-visited coastal towns on the East Coast as well as the prime shooting location for a wide variety of TV shows and movies. Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons is the area’s spectacular beaches that draw visitors back time and time again.
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to spend the day enjoying some beachside fun or you're seeking somewhere to quietly bask in a golden sunset, here are the four best beaches in Wilmington to visit.
Carolina Beach marries the scenic beauty of pristine shoreline with the fun adventures that come with a vintage boardwalk. Beachgoers can expect postcard-worthy sights along the beach as well as helpful amenities like public restrooms, outdoor showers, and foot-rinse stations at several of the beach’s access points.
From live music and events happening throughout the year to a variety of food stands and amusement rides, the renowned Carolina Beach Boardwalk has it all, making it the perfect place to end the day after spending hours on the beach. Other noteworthy attractions in the area include the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, a go-to for fishermen hoping to reel in the catch of the day, and an oceanfront tiki bar where visitors can find a cold drink and live shows featuring local bands. Also, whether you’re walking or riding, the town is easy to navigate.
Between Kure Beach Ocean Front Park & Pavilion, Kure Beach Fishing Pier (the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast), and daily ferry trips to nearby Southport, there’s absolutely no shortage of things to do or see at Kure Beach. The area’s wide variety of attractions appeal to many different interests.
History buffs will enjoy exploring the Fort Fisher State Historic Site, while families can spend the day learning about underwater creatures at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore different habitats and search for local wildlife on a guided kayaking tour of Zeke’s Island Reserve, and beach bums can sit back, relax, and take in the unspoiled beauty of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area's six miles of undeveloped shoreline.
Along with its expansive stretch of sun-soaked sand and clear blue water, Wrightsville Beach is well-known for its impressive waves that have been luring surfers for years. It also offers a number of other water sports, from paddleboarding and kayaking to swimming and deep-sea fishing charters.
For those looking for something a little more relaxed, there are a variety of scenic cruises to choose from. Also, several local shops and restaurants are within walking distance of the beach, making it easy for visitors to quickly grab a bite to eat or take a break from the sun to peruse the surf shops and boutiques. Wrightsville’s historic square—an area full of historic cottages turned into museums and businesses—is also nearby and worth exploring.
While Topsail Beach is located just under an hour’s drive from Wilmington, it’s certainly worth mentioning as one of the best beaches in the area. The beach is located at the southern end of Topsail Island, a 26-mile barrier island.
It's ideal for anyone who wants to spend a leisurely day at the beach without the crowds typically found on other beaches. Plus, with strict restrictions on high-rise development in the area, the beach has been able to keep its peaceful, family-friendly setting without the threat of too much commercialization. But don’t let the lack of large hotels and busy resorts fool you; there are plenty of delicious eateries and gift shops to explore in Topsail.
While the uncrowded beaches and small-town feel draw visitors to the area, Topsail Beach is also known for its fishing. Fishermen can cast a line off the Jolly Roger Pier and try their luck at reeling in a big catch, or they can charter one of Topsail’s deep-sea fishing boats and see what they can snag further from shore.