On a summer vacation to Carolina Beach, parents, kids, grandkids and everyone in between can get in on the fun at their own pace. You’ll feel right at home with accommodations ranging from cozy cottages to charming inns and full-service hotels. Free beach wheelchairs and nonprofit Ocean Cure’s beach flooring, available seasonally, ensure that everyone has access to the beach, regardless of any physical limitations. Watersports and outdoor excursions, a vintage boardwalk and tasty food options set the ideal scene for your family vacation in Carolina Beach.
Read on for eight unforgettable family memories to make during a one-of-a-kind trip to Carolina Beach:
Everyone knows the only bad part of a day on the beach is hauling your gear through the sand in search of the perfect spot. Sign up for Pleasure Island Rentals’ VIP experience for the day or your entire stay, and they’ll set up your chairs, umbrella and a beverage tray at an island location of your choosing and pick everything up at the end of the day. Or, take a break from sunbathing and hit the waves with boogie board, surfboard and stand-up paddleboard rentals. Tony Silvagni Surf School also offers a whole host of gear rentals, from coolers and wetsuits to kayaks and bikes.
On the Boardwalk
As one of America’s last remaining boardwalks on the East Coast, the kid-friendly Carolina Beach Boardwalk boasts colorful shops, sweet treats and restaurants, including grab-and-go bites for anyone who wants to maximize beach time. No visit is complete without stopping in for a fried cake from the iconic Britts Donut Shop. Open since 1939, this cash-only, seasonal staple keeps it simple with a single recipe: hot and fresh glazed doughnuts. To extend the fun into the evening, make plans to attend Fireworks by the Sea & Boardwalk Blast, Thursdays during the summer until the final event the Friday before Labor Day. Planning a trip during the off-season? Game it out at the arcade, peruse souvenirs or grab a to-go slice (or a whole pie) from Fentoni’s Pizzeria.
Sea it All
Carolina Beach is surrounded by three bodies of water offering a range of activities fit for the entire family. Adventure seekers can learn how to shred a gnarly Atlantic Ocean wave with private lessons from Tony Silvagni Surf School or Odysea Surf School. Take the helm to explore the Intercoastal Waterway as captain of your own private half- or full-day pontoon rental from Carolina Beach Pontoon Rental. The Cape Fear River’s waters are perfect for catching largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish, and American and hickory shad. From novice to expert anglers, your family will have plenty of big fish stories to share after chartering a boat from the Carolina Beach Fishing Center and Marina. Hop aboard the double-decker catamaran with Island Cruises for a family-friendly narrated cruise. Or, take matters into your own hands during a family outing with Sea Legs Pedal Pub. A minimum of four pedalers is required for this 90-minute water adventure. You can even time your tour to take place during the weekly fireworks show at the Boardwalk!
Tour the Town
Exploring Carolina Beach is easy with two- or six-person golf carts from SunFun Rentals. Load the family up for a day of fun in the sun. Or, get a healthy dose of steps with a walking tour. Learn all about the Boardwalk with a seasonally offered Historic Boardwalk Tour. On a Tasting History Tour, see historical landmarks, hear the island’s history and taste your way through some of the area’s best restaurants. They even offer a “History in a Glass” drinks-only tour for the 21-and-over crowd.
On Two Wheels
The Island Greenway offers 1.2 miles of scenic trail for pedestrians, bicyclists and leashed four-legged friends. Take a leisurely stroll or pedal your way through the woods on this 10-foot-wide paved path. It is perfectly suited for multi-generational excursions, and Pleasure Island Rentals can set you up with beach cruisers for the whole family. Options include tandem trike bikes and a child’s bike with training wheels, and each rental comes with helmets (children’s sizes too), locks and baskets.
Feed your brain and get a breath of fresh coastal air at Carolina Beach State Park, where you can learn about the variety of delicate ecosystems in this region. Embark on the Venus Flytrap Trail to see the rare carnivorous plants in their natural habitat, as you’re in one of the few places on earth they exist – they only grow natively within a 60-mile radius of Carolina Beach! Park rangers lead hikes along the handicap accessible trail on Saturdays at 10 a.m. The guides at Kayak Carolina are trained interpretive naturalists, and so are the folks at Paddle NC. Contact either outfitter for details on guided water adventure options at the state park. For a more extreme scene, Mike Chappell Park offers 8,000 square feet of skating ramps, rails and bowls.
When it comes to food, Carolina Beach goes far beyond your typical beach eats. Dine on the dog-friendly patio at The Fork n Cork, the Carolina Beach location of the Wilmington staple where Guy Fieri devoured the now-famous Wellington bites on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Enjoy panoramic shoreline views from the patio or pier dining area at Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar while sipping on a tropical cocktail or cold local beer paired with coastal cuisine. The kids can get their fix, too, with burgers or fried bologna & pimento cheese sandwiches. And at Carolina Smokehouse, you’ll come for the hardwood-smoked brisket with homemade barbecue but stay for the views while dining on the outdoor Topside Deck.
Carolina Beach offers a couple of island creameries sure to make your taste buds squeal. Get creative at Squigley’s Ice Cream and Treats, which touts more than 4,050 flavor combinations in its trademarked Squiggle treat. Or hailing from the other side of the Atlantic, Celtic Creamery serves the most velvety Irish ice cream in the region. Order the Tummy Trembler, which is plenty big for the whole family with six scoops of ice cream over a split banana, eight hot doughnuts and a gigantic mix of other sweet toppings.
Carolina Beach is one of those places you don’t want to miss, and you’ll definitely never forget. The memories may come and go like the tides, but your family will reminisce over its treasures long after the shore fades from your rearview.