With spring break just around the corner, look no further than Carolina Beach for authentic, down-to-earth family fun. With spectacular views, local flavors and outdoor adventures, there is something for everyone at this laid-back island destination. Get inspired with these trip ideas the whole family, including hard-to-please tweens and teens, will love – and get ready to make spring break memories at a beach known for its good times and good vibes.
Adventurers can exercise their sea legs with activities on and around the water. Learn how to hang ten together by reserving a two-hour small group surf lesson with Odysea Surf School, which includes all the necessary gear. Tony Silvagni Surf School, led by Olympic gold medalist Tony Silvagni, also offers lessons and equipment rentals for wave-seeking surfers of all ages and skill levels.
Paddle out on the Cape Fear River and explore both nature and history with a guided kayak tour from Paddle NC. Kids and parents looking to build their kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding skills can take lessons, and confident paddlers can rent equipment to embark on their own adventures.
Experience sea life and wildlife with Island Time Water Tours on a 23-foot pontoon boat for excursions lasting from 90 minutes to a full day. The captains and skipper will keep the whole family entertained with area history while you try to spot dolphins, sea turtles and other local wildlife, or dock on an uninhabited island to search for seashells and other treasures. Then, wind down with Island Cruises' family-friendly narrated sunset cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway on a double-decker catamaran.
If relaxing beach days are more your speed, rent beach chairs and equipment from RentABeachChair. You can even schedule your equipment to be set up and waiting for you when you arrive on the beach each morning.
Adventure on land with activities and attractions for all ages and interests. Named one of the best boardwalks in America by Fodor’s Travel, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk features classic seaside family fun. Shop for unique memorabilia or play games in the arcade, a favorite of teens and tweens.
Take the family for a scenic hike at Carolina Beach State Park, filled with miles of trails and historic sites. Take the Flytrap Trail and keep an eye out for the rare carnivorous Venus flytrap, native only to southeast North Carolina. The park’s 761 acres are generally flat, making them accessible to nearly everyone, including most wheelchairs and strollers.
After exploring the trails, bring a picnic of fresh fruits, veggies and house-made food from The Veggie Wagon to Carolina Beach Lake Park and enjoy the lake, walking path, playground, gazebo and picnic shelter. Or, head to the north end of Carolina Beach and enjoy your picnic on the secluded beachfront of Freeman Park. Take in the ocean views as you hunt for shells, surf from the sand or four-wheel drive on the beach once you’ve purchased a permit.
Rent bikes from Pleasure Island Rentals and discover the island on two wheels along the 1.2-mile Island Greenway, a paved path that takes pedestrians and bikers safely through town with plenty of scenic spots. On your journey, stop and snap a family picture with one of the 14 current public art displays from the Carolina Beach Mural Project as the backdrop.
Favorite Family Foods
If one thing’s for sure, it’s that there’s no shortage of good eats in and around Carolina Beach. Start your day off on the right foot at Kate’s Pancake House and pile your plate high with pancakes, biscuits and other classic breakfast choices. Or, stop by Britt’s Donut Shop, opening for the season on March 31, for the best homemade glazed donuts around. It is frequently ranked as one of the top donut shops in the country, so make sure to taste one of their sweet treats for yourself!
Head to Havana’s for a casual lunch in one of three outdoor seating areas or to the teen-approved Nollie’s Taco Joint for some quirky skateboard decor and nachos, tacos, burritos, quesadillas and salads. Familiar with Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives? Dine at the Carolina Beach location of The Fork n Cork to see what Guy Fieri loved so much about the restaurant’s southern cuisine. Butts n Such is newer to the neighborhood but already popular for its comforting, old-fashioned country cooking and retro-casual setting.
Treat your family to a delicious dinner on the island. Carolina Smokehouse serves up amazing hardwood-smoked brisket, pork, ribs and chicken with a homemade barbecue sauce featured on PBS and the Food Network. Experience a traditional Lowcountry boil at your vacation rental with Cape Fear Boil Company’s to-go steamer pots.
Cool down with local ice cream from Celtic Creamery, which combines delicious Irish and American styles for something truly unique. Grab your favorite flavor or split one of their old-school sundaes served with different combinations of 22 fresh toppings. The Boardwalk’s Fudgeboat is the perfect place to pick up a sweet treat: Enjoy handmade fudge of all flavors, pralines, gourmet popcorn and more.
There’s no better way to stay at Carolina Beach than oceanfront. Wake up to the sights and sounds of the sea with a room or suite at the Hampton Inn & Suites Carolina Beach Oceanfront. Kids, teens and adults alike will enjoy the oceanfront pool and tiki bar (mocktails only for the younger guests, of course) with a fire pit, as well as direct beach access.
The Courtyard Marriott Carolina Beach Oceanfront offers beautiful ocean views right from your room. Kick back on your private balcony or unwind by the outdoor resort-style pool or indoor pool with a drink or snack in hand from the bistro. Both hotels are conveniently located near the Carolina Beach Boardwalk for easy access to all your favorite restaurants and things to do.
If you’re looking for the comforts of home while you’re away, there are many vacation rental options on the island. Find the ideal space for your family, whether that’s a cozy beach cottage, a single-family home with sunrise views or a spacious vacation home where teens will thank you for the extra privacy, complete with private pools and beachfront access. Rentals include all the conveniences of your own home and more, from fully equipped kitchens to fresh linens, with some even offering beach chairs and toys. Discover all the vacation rentals Carolina Beach has to offer and even more top places to stay in the area.
More Fun Nearby
There’s even more fun just around the corner. Take a quick trip to nearby Kure Beach to spend an afternoon at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, ranked one of the top aquariums in the U.S. multiple times over. Explore stunning indoor exhibits of aquatic environments and wildlife and stroll through the aquarium’s outdoor garden. Discover the aquarium’s newest additions, two loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings and a trio of Asian small-clawed otter pups.
Make this year’s spring break one to remember with Carolina Beach’s one-of-a-kind, family-friendly activities, attractions and accommodations. Fun-filled days in the sun await with entertainment for all, so plan your spring break today.