Parents, kids, grandkids and everyone in between can experience classic seaside fun at their own pace during a Carolina Beach vacation. This laid-back destination’s accommodations range from cozy cottages to charming inns and full-service hotels, ensuring visitors feel right at home upon arrival. Free beach wheelchairs and nonprofit Ocean Cure’s beach mats, available seasonally, ensure the beach is accessible for all. Watersports and outdoor excursions, a vintage boardwalk and tasty food options set the ideal scene for your family vacation in Carolina Beach.
Discover eight unforgettable family memories to make during a one-of-a-kind trip to Carolina Beach:
The only downside of a beach day is hauling your gear through the sand in search of the perfect spot. Fortunately, Pleasure Island Rentals’ VIP experience takes convenience to the next level by providing delivery, setup and pickup for two lounge chairs, a beach umbrella and a beverage tray table. Make a reservation for drop-off at your preferred island location, and let the shop handle the rest! 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 range of gear rentals, from coolers and wetsuits to kayaks and bikes.
On the Boardwalk
As one of the East Coast’s last remaining ocean boardwalks, the vintage Carolina Beach Boardwalk boasts colorful shops, seasonal amusement rides, sweet treats and restaurants, including grab-and-go bites for those who want to maximize beach time. No visit is complete without stopping by the iconic Britts Donut Shop. Since opening circa 1939, this cash-only, seasonal staple has kept it simple with a single, scrumptious offering: freshly glazed doughnuts. After one bite, you’ll understand why Yelp named Britt’s among the “Top 100 U.S. Donut Shops.”
Extend the fun into the evening each summer by attending Fireworks by the Sea & Boardwalk Blast. This free, family-friendly event series kicks off the Friday before Memorial Day, then occurs every Thursday evening until the final show, which is held the Friday before Labor Day. Jam out to live tunes at the Gazebo stage and enjoy a colorful fireworks display from your beach blanket. Planning a trip during the off-season? Game it out at the old-school Carolina Beach Arcade, peruse eclectic 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 gnarly waves with private lessons from Tony Silvagni Surf School or Odysea Surf School. Take the helm to explore the Intracoastal 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 during the Boardwalk’s weekly fireworks show!
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’s storied past with a Historic Boardwalk Tour, offered seasonally by the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Spot landmarks, hear the island’s history and sample your way through some of the best local eateries with Tasting History Tours. The company’s Carolina Beach Mural Tour maps out many of the vibrant public artworks on display through the Carolina Beach Mural Project.
On Two Wheels
The Island Greenway offers more than a mile of off-street trails, parks and scenic areas for pedestrians, bicyclists and leashed four-legged friends. Take a leisurely stroll along the route or embark on a multi-generational biking excursion with beach cruisers from Pleasure Island Rentals, offering tandem bikes, children’s bikes with training wheels and more. Rentals come equipped with helmets, locks and baskets.
In 2023, North Carolina (aka, the Great Trails State) is celebrating the “Year of the Trail,” and our scenic seaside town offers diverse landscapes to explore. Take in the fresh air and discover coastal habitats along Carolina Beach State Park’s nine hiking trails. Keep an eye out for the rare, indigenous plant predator along the Venus Flytrap Trail. Join a Saturday morning ranger-guided hike to learn about the famous Venus flytrap and other native carnivorous flora. Reserve guided water adventures at Carolina Beach State Park through Kayak Carolina and Paddle NC, both of which host eco-tours led by trained interpretive naturalists. Mike Chappell Park’s skating ramps, rails and bowls offer thrill-seekers a more extreme outdoor scene.
Carolina Beach dining far exceeds your typical beach eats. Good times and great food await at Lazy Pirate Island Sports Grill. Grab a table outside and enjoy a friendly game of cornhole or volleyball as the little ones play in the pirate ship bounce house. Savor 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 alongside fish tacos or a Calabash platter. The kids can get their fix, too, with burgers or fried bologna and pimento cheese sandwiches. And at Carolina Smokehouse, you’ll come for the hardwood-smoked brisket with homemade barbecue but stay for the ocean views while dining on the outdoor deck.
Carolina Beach’s island creameries will satisfy your sweet tooth. Get creative at Squigley’s Ice Cream & Treats while choosing from more than 4,050 possible flavor combinations. Hailing from the other side of the Atlantic, Celtic Creamery serves velvety Irish ice cream. Share the Tummy Trembler, a heaping treat with six scoops of ice cream over a split banana, hot doughnuts and a mix of other sweet toppings.
Carolina Beach is one of those places you don’t want to miss, and you definitely won’t forget. Vacation days may come and go like the tides, but your family will reminisce on your good times in Carolina Beach long after the shore fades from your rearview.