Carolina Beach offers something original to explore around every colorful corner. Experience one of the top boardwalks in the country, a scenic state park, eclectic murals, one-of-a-kind events, miles of beautiful beach – and all kinds of people united by their love of good times. Additionally, Carolina Beach is just a 30-minute drive from Wilmington, named one of the “Best Small Cities in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler.
Year-Round EVENTS and FESTIVALS
Celebrations abound in fun-loving, free-spirited Carolina Beach. The Carolina Beach Music Festival starts summer on a high note, and the weekly Fireworks by the Sea and Boardwalk Blast heightens the season’s excitement. The festivities continue with the Carolina Beach Dragon Boat Regatta and Festival in early fall, the Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla after Thanksgiving weekend, followed by the Island of Lights Festival through the New Year’s Eve Celebration.
CRUISES And TOURS
Gather your travel crew for a Sea Legs Pedal Pub ride – and pedal to propel the boat through the area’s scenic waters. Kayak along the waterways with Paddle NC on a guided eco-tour. The 761-acre Carolina Beach State Park boasts top-notch fishing spots and 8.5 miles of hiking trails. Join one of the park’s ranger-led hikes to learn about the area’s ecology, including the rare Venus flytrap. Bike, run or walk through off-street trails, parks and scenic areas along the paved Island Greenway. On a walking Tasting History Tour, sample local cuisine and get a taste of the laid-back beach town’s culture and history. Join the Carolina Beach Boardwalk’s seasonal Historic Boardwalk Tours to learn more about one of the East Coast’s few remaining seaside boardwalks.
VINTAGE EXPERIENCES FOR NEW GENERATIONS
The past and present collide happily at Carolina Beach, an ideal destination for multi-generational travelers. Named among the country’s best by Fodor’s Travel, the vintage Carolina Beach Boardwalk is a step back in time that feels fresh with bustling crowds, unique shops and summer delights, including new seasonal amusement rides. Several present-day attractions salute the past, from the Boardwalk to the Carolina Beach Music Festival to beach motels with modern amenities.
PARKS And ECO-ADVENTURES
Carolina Beach invites you to get outdoors and experience good times in scenic surroundings. Tony Silvagni Surf School, whose namesake owner ranked as a top-ten longboard surfer worldwide in 2022, offers rentals and lessons for all ages. You can also find gear and expert instruction through Odysea Surf School and other local outfitters. Rent a boat from Carolina Beach Pontoon Rental for a self-guided cruise. Take your four-wheel drive vehicle for a ride on the beach at Freeman Park Recreation Area after securing the required permit. At Carolina Beach State Park, discover diverse flora and fauna along the Flytrap Trail and Sugarloaf Trail, also known for its 50-foot sand dune.
Carolina Beach is the ultimate all-ages-welcome destination. Families return year after year thanks to kid-friendly finds like the vintage Carolina Beach Boardwalk, surfing and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) lessons and seasonal events. Water tours and cruises bring history and science lessons to life for young minds. They’ll love learning about legendary pirates on a Pirate Adventure Cruise with Island Cruises and searching for fossils on an Island Time Water Tours charter to Shark Tooth Island. Located nearby on the island, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher features fascinating kid-friendly marine life exhibits.
Since its first installation in 2020, the Carolina Beach Mural Project has collaborated with artists to create themed murals illustrating the island’s history, culture and originality. Over a dozen murals are complete and more are on the way. One of the newest installments, artist Brian Lewis’ “Tribute to Carolina Shag,” pays tribute to Ocean Plaza, a former Carolina Beach dance pavilion, and Malcolm Ray "Chicken" Hicks, a pioneer of the dance craze. Upcoming murals include "Cape Fear's Captain,” celebrating the area’s 19th-century Shoo Fly Train, and "Formative Flora,” highlighting native plants and pollinators. In addition, Tasting History Tours now offers a new guided tour highlighting murals throughout town. Check out our tour map for mural locations, artist information and more.
Dining at Carolina Beach goes beyond typical beach fare. Yelp named Island Burger & Bites North Carolina’s best cheeseburger and ranked Britt’s Donut Shop and Wake N Bake Donuts as two of the “Top 100 U.S. Donut Shops.” Carolina Smokehouse serves noteworthy barbecue featured on Food Network. Soul Flavor Kitchen & Bar brings to life the flavors of the South. Salt Fish Restaurant and Bar serves Caribbean-influenced dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. Sample some of the island’s best cuisine with Tasting History Tours.
Millennial travelers will find authentic experiences in Carolina Beach. Enjoy delicious cuisine served at trendy, non-chain restaurants like Nollie’s Taco Joint – then sip the best local craft brews at Good Hops or The Vault Coffee and Pour House. Toast to good times at the High Tide Lounge & Tiki Bar on the Carolina Beach Pier. Snap post-worthy photos of colorful murals and otherworldly Venus flytraps. Dance to live music while making new friends at one of Carolina Beach’s live music venues.
Experience nightlife at Carolina Beach by visiting local favorites such as the Fat Pelican, voted as one of “The 32 Diviest Dive Bars in America” by impulcity.com, thanks to its legendary walk-in cooler and a bar made from a boat. Sip a beachfront beverage at Hurricane Alley’s on the Boardwalk. Groove to live music at The Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar – named one of “America’s Best Beach Bars” by Thrillist.com – and SeaWitch Café & Tiki Bar, which both feature a regular lineup of live entertainment starting in the spring each year.
TAKE A ROAD TRIP
With an array of attractions and accommodations in an easily accessible destination, Carolina Beach is perfect for a convenient, laid-back road trip. Travelers from in-state or nearby states can recharge in a full-service hotel or vacation rental. Choose from a variety of activities and attractions. Spend time in nature at parks and eco-trails, stroll the seaside Carolina Beach Boardwalk, then embark on a self-guided mural tour before sipping unique libations by the water.
With several pet-friendly inns and vacation rentals, Carolina Beach makes bringing along your four-legged friend easy. From April 1 to Sept. 30, leashed dogs are allowed on the beach daily before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. During the off-season (Oct. 1 to March 31), leashed dogs are allowed on the beach at any time. Freeman Park allows dogs off-leash anytime throughout the off-season. Carolina Beach State Park offers a dog-friendly camping area with miles of hiking trails to traverse with your pup. Unwind at Good Hops, a dog-friendly and family-owned brewery.