From the vibrant beach to colorful Boardwalk, Carolina Beach is a destination that deserves just as much time spent exploring as soaking up the sun. When visiting, you might be tempted to set up a beach chair and lounge your days away, but my advice is to do yourself a favor and embrace the “Carolina Beach way” through an interactive tour or waterway cruise. So many experiences await! Here are a few suggestions to help you decide which one is best for you. 

Water Tours

Getting out on the water elevates any beach trip. In Carolina Beach, you have the Intracoastal Waterway, Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean, with plenty of options to set sail on an adventure.

Think you have what it takes to be captain for a day? Carolina Beach Pontoon Rental offers an easy-to-operate pontoon that fits up to 12 people – with all you could need provided! Explore the Intracoastal Waterway or dock on a sand bar for a locals-only experience. You can choose from half- and full-day rental options.


If you’re seeking a more relaxed experience (that doesn’t require you to steer the ship), Island Time Water Tours includes a Captain and Skipper dishing out plenty of island history, and bonus points, you can bring your dog! 

Eyeing to reel in a big catch? Vonda Kay offers fishing excursions aboard the 72-foot boat.

If your day is chock full of events, catch the sunset with Island Cruises, offering a family-friendly narrated sunset cruise. The double-decker catamaran ensures a roomy experience for all aboard and of course, unique views from the upper and lower deck for spotting wildlife.


Nature Escapes

Home to diverse coastal habitats and situated on 761 acres, Carolina Beach State Park is as perfect for a stroll as it is a tour. The rare Venus flytrap is native to the area, and can be occasionally spotted along the state park’s Flytrap Trail. Join one of the ranger-led hikes offered each Saturday, or visit the park’s upcoming bog garden for a closer look. You’ll also learn about the surrounding coastal ecosystem. Make sure to bring your camera!


If you’re more into cruising, grab a bicycle from Pleasure Island Rentals and roll out on a self-guided tour passing notable locations and some noteworthy restaurants. Or, download a free map of the Island Greenway designated bike and pedestrian routes with off-street trails, parks and scenic areas.

Not far away in Kure Beach, Fort Fisher State Historic Site lets you meander the site of the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War – with plenty of history intact. Guide yourself along the winding, raised waterside path there, then hop down to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. If you’re truly feeling adventurous (and have four-wheel drive), I recommend driving on the beach of Fort Fisher State Recreation Area – talk about an unforgettable vacation!


Embracing Location

A trip to the beach is synonymous with fresh seafood. For an alternative to a sit-down meal, I suggest a Tasting History Tour. The guided, on-foot tour includes two options – the Signature Tour and History in a Glass. The Signature Tour lets you stroll the streets of Carolina Beach with stops at five to six of the island’s top restaurants. Or, sample local wines and distilled spirits while learning the island’s history with the History in a Glass offering.


As you explore, you might notice many colorful murals dotting buildings and landmarks – use this map for a self-guided tour to each of the 14 murals! Commissioned by different artists, no two are alike and these Instagram-worthy stops allow you to experience the local culture of Carolina Beach while embracing your artistic side. Tasting History Tours’ new Carolina Beach Mural Tour guides participants through town while highlighting the public art displays’ backstories, artists and mediums.

Afterward (and with your phone still ready for some Instagrammable moments), the seasonal Historic Boardwalk Tours (May 30 – Aug. 29) gives the “why” behind the “wow” of the noteworthy Carolina Beach Boardwalk that truly makes this beach town unique.