In 2023, Carolina Beach offers something original to explore around every colorful corner. Infuse your year with island inspiration while scouting vibrant sights, traversing top-notch trails, revisiting classic attractions and joining one-of-a-kind events in a fresh coastal destination unlike any other.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2023
Larger-Than-Life Art Additions
In 2023, expect to see even more mural masterpieces pop up across our vibrant beach town. In addition to the 13 eclectic installations already adorning local businesses’ exteriors, the Carolina Beach Mural Project has several new murals slated for this year. The upcoming themes will celebrate native plants and the historic Shoofly Train that used to transport visitors from Wilmington to the island, along with other facets of Carolina Beach’s story and spirit. Take a self-guided tour with this map – and a new interactive mural aerial video experience to come later this year. While exploring the area, you might even witness a brush-wielding painter working his or her magic on a new mural in an unexpected place!
A Hybrid Bar and Coffee Shop Hotspot
Carolina Beach’s food and drinks scene recently welcomed The Vault Coffee and Pour House. This former bank building (hence the name!) transformed into a locally owned hybrid drive-thru coffee shop and indoor beer and wine gathering place. Located a short drive from the shore, it’s an essential stop for caffeinating en route to catch a beach sunrise. Later in the day, The Vault serves a variety of beverages, including 16 rotating local craft beers on tap. Their wine vault holds an impressive curation of wines to take home or try while lounging in their laid-back seating area.
Hiking, Biking and Paddling for “Year of the Trail”
North Carolina (aka, the Great Trails State) declared 2023 as the “Year of the Trail,” and our scenic seaside town offers diverse landscapes to traverse. The 761-acre Carolina Beach State Park boasts 8.5 miles of hiking along nine trails, including two ADA-accessible options, lined with fantastic flora and fauna: wildflowers, wetlands grasses, coastal forests, fiddler crabs and more. This year, the park plans to add a bog garden where visitors can learn about indigenous carnivorous plants before following the Venus Flytrap Trail. Park rangers also lead weekly nature hikes along the Flytrap Trail and share their knowledge of the park’s plant and animal inhabitants. Another Carolina Beach State Park highlight, Sugarloaf Trail leads trekkers to an otherworldly 50-foot sand dune. The stunning view earned it a spot on the Men’s Journal “Best Running Trails with Scenic Views in America” list.
Additional land trails include Carolina Beach Lake Park’s walking path and the town’s Island Greenway, which connects family-friendly bike and pedestrian routes through off-street trails, parks and scenic wooded areas with paved pathways. Those seeking a watery route will enjoy paddling through our trail of waterways and estuaries. Kayaks or stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) are rentable through local outfitters, including Paddle NC, Pleasure Island Rentals and Tony Silvagni Surf School, whose namesake owner is a watersports pro ranked as a top-ten longboard surfer worldwide in 2022.
The Iconic Boardwalk
The Carolina Beach Boardwalk continues to draw and delight visitors year after year – for more than 100 years and counting! It’s a step back in time that especially feels fresh in the summer with bustling crowds, unique shops and lively entertainment. This summer, you’ll find new amusement rides and family attractions to add to a fun- and nostalgia-filled day of arcade games and fireworks shows – plus a few Britt’s Donuts and Fudgeboat treats. New and returning visitors alike will see why Food & Wine Magazine and Budget Travel both ranked this outstanding attraction as one of the top boardwalks.
Three Surrounding Bodies of Water
Beyond the boardwalk-lined sand, Carolina Beach brims with ways to take to the open waters – whether the Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal Waterway or Cape Fear River. Seashell hunt, swim, surf and even surf fish along the secluded shores of Freeman Park. The town recently received $4M in funds supporting efforts to preserve more than 300 acres of the park's natural coastal space. This investment will yield long-term benefits by protecting Freeman Park’s wildlife habitats and an unspoiled coastal environment.
Events and Festivals Year-Round in 2023
Every season brings new celebrations to fun-loving and free-spirited Carolina Beach. The Boards Across CB Walk adds an artsy flair to local businesses in late winter. In spring, the buzzing Island Arts Festival celebrates coastal creativity in all forms, including visual, culinary and performing arts. The long-running Carolina Beach Music Festival starts summer on a high note, with attendees dancing in the sand. The season’s action heats up with Fireworks by the Sea and Boardwalk Blast, East Coast “Got-Em-On” King Mackerel Classic and other dynamic events. When the weather cools, you can count on festival fun during the Carolina Beach Dragon Boat Regatta and Festival in early fall and the Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla after Thanksgiving weekend. Check the full events list and mark your calendar for a full year of seaside celebrations!
Whether your itinerary includes exploring new offerings, trekking for “Year of the Trail” or revisiting well-loved attractions, brighten your year with a Carolina Beach vacation.