No matter your age, Carolina Beach is the perfect beach getaway for good eats, fun in the sun and beautiful views. From Baby Boomer to Millennial, we’ve curated the perfect day for your generation at Carolina Beach.
Continue reading for our ultimate, all-ages guide to exploring Carolina Beach:
Start your morning by taking in scenic views of Carolina Beach. With a variety of accommodation options to choose from, you’ll be sure to find your island escape. Wake up to the sounds of the sea at the Beacon House Inn Bed & Breakfast, a vintage 1950s boarding house offering warm Southern hospitality and amenities like on-site massages and artisan breakfasts. Or, opt for a one- or two-bedroom suite at Atlantic Towers to enjoy the oceanfront breeze or relax by the indoor heated pool. Start your day with a classic Southern breakfast at Kate’s Pancake House, one of the most popular breakfast spots on the island. Fuel up for the day with signature favorites like their homemade biscuits and delicious themed pancakes, like Smores or Caribbean Pleasure.
Meander through the Island Greenway – a new 10-foot-wide paved path perfect for a leisurely stroll – on a sunrise walk. You can also take a bike ride along the path through town with a rental from Pleasure Island Rentals. To explore all that the island has to offer, take your four-wheel-drive vehicle to nearby Fort Fisher State Recreation Area for a drive along the shore.
For novice and advanced fishermen alike, hop aboard a fishing charter to experience an inshore, nearshore, offshore or even deep-sea fishing adventure. Afterward, stop by Latella Gelato for sweet treats like gelato, smoothies, pastries and more.
There’s nothing better than enjoying a tasty seafood dinner while spending time at the coast. Come savor the best of the sea at Michael's Seafood Restaurant, where the signature award-winning Clam Chowder and “Build Your Own” steamer pots are top-rate. Or, choose a Caribbean- or Polynesian-inspired dish from the eclectic menu at Salt Fish Restaurant and Tiki Bar. For elite craft cooking with elegant Southern hospitality, Surf House Oyster Bar & Surf Camp is a well-known farm-to-table restaurant specializing in sustainable food sourced from local farms and rivers. The unique menu includes offerings from Crab Hushpuppies with Old Bay Aioli to Roasted Duck topped with a hot honey citrus glaze, all perfectly paired with a cocktail or small-batch spirit.
To end the day with a sweet treat, find a wide range of homemade ice creams, Italian ices, gelatos and more at Island Ice Factory, or dig into an Irish-inspired delight like The Tummy Trembler at Celtic Creamery.
At Carolina Beach, you’ll find a variety of lodging options on the island fit for any size family and budget. The Hampton Inn & Suites Carolina Beach Oceanfront offers the perfect beach retreat for families, located next to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk with direct beach access. During a cool fall evening, kick back around the fire pit at the Tiki Bar while enjoying a bite or beverage. Or, opt for a private getaway at one of our island vacation rentals for a stay tailored to your needs. For a morning treat, satisfy your sweet tooth with a creation from Wake and Bake Donuts, where you’ll find unique twists on the breakfast favorite like the Wake N Bacon featuring maple glaze and bacon crumbles.
The best way to explore Carolina Beach is by water! Navigate the Cape Fear River while getting in a light workout by taking a kayak or stand-up paddleboard tour through Carolina Beach’s island waters with Paddle NC. Experience the beauty of the salt marsh ecosystem and glide through nature and history along the same waters that played a role in the golden age of piracy and the American Revolution.
Looking to explore by land instead? Walk or bike along the dog-friendly lake path at Carolina Beach Lake Park, an 11-acre lake and park featuring a playground, picnic shelter and gazebo perfect for a leisurely picnic lunch. You can also spend your day exploring the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher to discover stunning exhibits of marine life and aquatic ecosystems, along with outdoor gardens and a new bald eagle habitat. To help protect guests and staff, the aquarium is operating at a limited capacity – be sure to purchase tickets online to secure your spot!
For the perfect lunchtime bite, stop by Gulfstream Restaurant. Serving a wide range of daily specials to both locals and visitors for generations, choose from a selection of classic Calabash seafood and new, creative favorites like Mahi Tacos or Cajun Pasta. Or, if you’re looking for something with a bit of spice, try Carolina Smokehouse’s family barbecue recipes that have been featured on both PBS and the Food Network. Dine on their Boardwalk patio or upper deck to take in fantastic ocean views.
Enjoy a light snack and libation in the evening for two at Hurricane Alley’s, an oceanfront bar and grill with two levels for ultimate views. Or top off the night, choose from over 4,050 ice cream flavors at Squigley’s for a fun after-dinner family treat. For the ultimate sweets paradise, stop by Scoopin’ Yummies to sample Zeno’s saltwater taffy, penny candy, a cotton candy bar and more!
Millennials and Younger
Spend your vacation resetting and unwinding with all of the relaxation and wellness options Carolina Beach has to offer. Choose from a variety of full-service hotels and motels for accommodations with serene beachfront views and amenities. Located directly on the beautiful beachfront, the Courtyard Marriott Carolina Beach Oceanfront is here to help you relax and recharge.
Start your day saying “namaste” to the sun and waves with one of Salty Dog Yoga & Surf’s pop-up beach yoga classes. After finding your Zen, keep the good vibes going by visiting Carolina Beach’s Island Wellness Market, a healthy lifestyle boutique where you can stock up on essential oils, gluten-free and vegan snacks, or a variety of other natural health and beauty products. Don’t forget to grab some of their locally made kombucha from the tap to improve your digestion and detoxify!
Whether by land or by sea, getting active while on vacation is both easy and enjoyable with a wide range of activities to explore. Visit Carolina Beach State Park for nearly nine miles of trails perfect for hiking, walking or running, where you’ll also discover a variety of distinct animal and plant life along the way. A trip to Carolina Beach is not complete without hitting the water. Try “hangin’ ten” with the pros of Carolina Beach. Cut through waves and feel the sea beneath your surfboard during a surf lesson with Tony Silvagni Surf School. Learn with a group or sign up for a personalized experience with private surf lessons.
For those looking to explore under the waves, dive deeper and see firsthand coral reefs or fossil ledges with the Carolina Beach Scuba crew, specializing in charters that guide you to explore sunken shipwrecks, hunt for fossilized Megalodon shark teeth and more. Whether you’re new to scuba diving or a seasoned pro, they also offer scuba instruction. Afterward, stop by Hang Ten Grill located next to the Carolina Beach Lake Park for a casual but delicious lunch of traditional favorites like nachos, burgers, fries and more .
Relax in the evenings with a fresh coastal meal and tropical cocktail at The Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar. Enjoy the sea breeze while dining on the patio and gazing at views of the North Carolina shoreline. Havana’s is a “polished casual” spot set in a more than 100-year-old beach cottage with signature dishes like Fat Daddy Crab Cakes and Coca-Cola Steak Tips that can be enjoyed in one of three outdoor dining areas. For vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free options, try Soul Flavor Kitchen & Bar where each dish is crafted completely in-house with the freshest possible ingredients. Finish the night right by grabbing a local brew at dog- and family-friendly Good Hops Brewery, where you can sit outside and sip on a Hoppertone Double IPA.
Need more trip ideas? Read our roundup of fall things to do in Carolina Beach.