Carolina Beach is a fantastic place to visit year-round. There are so many things to do in Carolina Beach it’s quite easy to fill up every day of your vacation, plus the city of Wilmington is nearby!
Going to college in Wilmington and having family in Carolina Beach we try to make our way back to the North Carolinian coast every year. When we do, here is what we do in Carolina Beach.
Fun Things to do in Carolina Beach!
For many who come to the coastal town, they have one thing on their mind – fishing. There are many ways you can go fishing in the Carolina Beach area. However, before you start, make sure you have a fishing license to do so legally.
There are two exceptions to a fishing license that is if you’re fishing from a pier that charges a fee to fish or if you’re on a charter fishing boat (both carry special commercial licenses that cover you). Here are some of the best ways to go fishing at Carolina Beach:
- Surf Fishing from the beach.
- Fish in Snow’s Cut and from Carolina Beach State Park.
- Deep Sea fish with a charter boat from Carolina Beach or Wrightsville Beach.
- Cast a line off of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, or Johnny Mercer Pier.
- Hop on the Winner Gulf Stream Fishing cruise
- Take your own boat of course!
Disc Golf in Carolina Beach
Disc Golf is one of the great Carolina Beach activities to enjoy! The Wilmington area has four disc golf courses, and they’re all free to use. All you need is a disc which you can pick up for $10 at several shops around the area.
You can find them at Outdoor Provisions, surf shops (CB surf), Dicks Sporting Goods, and a bunch of other places.
Here are four disc golf courses around Carolina Beach and Wilmington:
- North Regional Park, Castle Hayne: This course is on the PDGA, and it’s the best course in the area. It has 18 holes and many challenging par 4 and 5 holes. It’s prone to mud when there is fresh rain, but it’s terrific on a chilly day.
- Joe Eakes Park, Kure Beach: This is my favorite course because it’s a full 18 holes and has a few challenging holes. What makes it the best for me is it’s all in a coastal forest with sand fairways. The weather is reliable with plenty of water close by, but it also gets windy!
- Arrowhead Park: 18 hole par three disc golf course. There are plenty of hills that make for fun elevation changes and it’s in a beautiful little park.
- Good Hops Brewing, Carolina Beach: This is the most straightforward course with all of the holes at par 3. It’s also on the breweries property so you can legally pick up a craft beer inside and play while drinking. AWESOME!
Kayak around Zeke’s Island
One of Cameron’s favorite things to do in Carolina Beach is to kayak around Zeke’s Island. Zeke’s Island is an NC Coastal Reserve only accessible by shallow water boats.
Once there you will be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of the coastal marshlands. It’s a great opportunity to see all the biodiversity of Wilmington. There is a boat ramp at Federal Point – adjacent to the Zeke’s Island site to launch from.
I would recommend taking a cooler and some chairs for relaxation once there. I wouldn’t recommend crossing the old civil war wall that leads out to the island. Cameron once got caught out there during high tide and it wasn’t a good day – his sister hopped away with 26 stitches in her knee from oyster shells.
Visit Fort Fisher Aquarium
The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a place where kids and adults alike can visit and learn about marine life. It’s one of our favorite things to do in Carolina Beach.
Unlike some of the mega aquariums around the United States, the Fort Fisher aquarium is a real research center and not a cash cow. The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a member of the 230 accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
They have a number of exhibits and shows open every day of the year, so no matter what day you visit you’ll be sure to have a good time. It’s here that you can also meet the rare albino alligator named Luna and a rescued bald eagle named Maverick. They also have an awesome butterfly garden in the Spring and Summer. This is one of the best Carolina Beach attractions.
Have a Night Out at the Beach Bars!
While there are beach bars at both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, but my absolute favorite place to enjoy the beach nightlife is at Carolina Beach. During the summer a vivacious crowd can be found at the numerous bars around the island.
The beach bars at Carolina Beach feel much more “beachy” to me than at Wrightsville where the college crowd hangs out. Kure Beach is also lovely, but it is much quieter than Carolina. We’re Carolina Beach regulars so here are our favorite bars in Carolina Beach.
- Fat Pelican: This doesn’t only make our list of favorite bars in Wilmington, but the world. It’s eclectic, packed with character, and just crusty enough to make it the perfect dive bar. We love the crowd as there is no age limit here (21+ mind you) and you’ll find every walk of life.
- Crush & Grind: We love the atmosphere here as its all about craft beer and wine in a modern atmosphere. The owner also makes some fantastic coffee – try out the cold brew! ***Update: Post Hurricane Florence the location was destroyed. We will update if the owner reopens.
- Tiki Bar & Grill: On a beautiful day it’s impossible to beat sitting on the remains of a pier and enjoying a cold drink. The only negative for us is the price with $5 beer cans and $12 cocktails (We’re not in NYC!).
- Sea Witch: Live music on the weekends and awesome tiki bar feel. They have a large open courtyard and often draw a crowd in the summer.
- The Last Resort: This little bar sits right on Carolina Beach Ave, and you can’t miss it!
- Nollies Taco Joint: There probably isn’t a better bar food than tacos.
Hunt for a Venus Flytrap at Carolina Beach State Park
Carolina Beach State Park is one of my favorite places in Carolina Beach to watch the sunset every day. We spent a month here in 2018 and spent almost every evening in the park. Besides sunsets, it also provides a good platform to fish from and launch your boat into the Cape Fear River.
Besides that, we like to come here and enjoy a hike through the woods beneath the fantastic trees. Sugarloaf Dune is also a point of interest here that is worth checking out. They also have beautiful shaded campsites here for campers and RVs.
Oh yea and Carolina Beach is also home to the Venus flytrap! That’s right it is home to one of the most famous carnivorous plants in the world and one of the only places you can find it in the wild.
Catch a Baseball Game
While the Carolinas have no Major League Baseball team, there is still a collegiate summer baseball league here. The Wilmington Sharks play at Legion Stadium during the summer, it’s only a 20 minute or so drive from Carolina Beach and makes for a great evening because. Thirsty Thursdays are the best time to watch. $1 draft beers – no joke.
Take a Boat to Masonboro
Masonboro Island state protected land and the entire island is undeveloped. It’s an amazingly beautiful area and one of the last places you can truly experience an untouched coast. Believe it or not, but the mouth of the Cape Fear River and Wilmington is one of the most biodiverse spots in the continental United States – and highest on the East Coast!
Eat a Britts Donut
Everyone and I mean everyone who lives in Wilmington raves about Britt’s Donuts in Carolina Beach. Now I’ve never really been much of a donut fanatic, but I can confirm that Britt’s Donuts are delicious.
They’ve perfected the glazed donut, and besides coffee and milk, it is the only thing they sell. Come in the summertime and you’ll likely be waiting in line to try one. Don’t expect to pay with a credit card here. If you feel like mixing it up, head to Wake N’ Bake donuts for some amazing original creations. Eating a donut here is one of the best things to do in Carolina Beach.
Slurp Down Fresh Oysters
Are you an oyster fan? Well, you’re in one of the best places to slurp down on them in Carolina Beach. Shuckin’ Shack is an oyster institution that must be visited while in Carolina Beach. It’s right on the main strip, and you can’t miss it as there is usually a line of people out the door in the summer!
Beach Yoga with Salty Dog Yoga
Don’t think that just because you’re on vacation you have to give up things like yoga. Salty Dog Yoga is right in Carolina Beach and offers daily classes at their studio. That’s not the best part though! Almost everyday they head to the beach for beach yoga, and even host some amazing workshops and retreats at the beach. You’ll have to check their schedule for times that work for you.
Have a Beer at Good Hops Brewery
One of the best ways to spend a nice Spring, Summer, or Autumn day with family is at Good Hops Brewery. Good Hops is a neighborhood craft brewery right in Carolina Beach. They have indoor and outdoor seating, plenty of craft brews AND a small disc golf course. They are dog-friendly and provide the perfect setting for a cold one with people you love.
Enjoy the Beach!
Obviously, one of the best things to do in Carolina Beach is to enjoy the beach! There are miles and miles of coastline just waiting to be explored. My favorite time to head to the beach is April, May, and September when the crowds die down.
Please always pick up after yourself while at the beach. Every morning the locals go out and pick up all the trash left from tourists. It’s very heartbreaking to see people disregard someones home and the environment. Also – remember that cigarette butts are one of the most harmful things to the coast. They don’t disintegrate. Read more about how to be a sustainable traveler.
Where To Stay in Carolina Beach?
Hampton Inn & Suites Carolina Beach Oceanfront
This is the newest hotel on Carolina Beach and has a modern interior. We haven’t stayed here, but have popped in to grab a coffee and have a drink on their back deck. Looks nice and they have great reviews. The hotel is located right on the boardwalk so your steps away from the beach.
The vast majority of people head to the coast here and use a vacation rental service – if resorts are your thing this isn’t the place for your vacation.
Cameron’s family runs a few Airbnb’s in Carolina Beach. They are amazing, a good value, and his mom even has the Superhost status. Check them both out here and here. After Hurricane Florence the beach condo received extensive flooding, it’s still standing but needs a renovation – should be open for 2019 summer.
Plan and Pack for Wilmington
Get a Travel Credit Card
How do we travel so much and avoid going broke? Well, we have many travel rewards credit cards. How many? Over 20, to be exact. If you’re a responsible credit card user, I highly recommend looking at these travel rewards credit cards and earning points and miles for your purchases.
Book a Tour
Sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do the work!
For any day trip to the Wilmington beaches, you’re going to want some cold drinks. After we throw our bathing suits on it’s the first thing we pack up. Traditional coolers are heavy and pain on the beach so we use a portable travel cooler like the Hopper Flip when we’re on the beach.
It claims to keep your drinks fresh for up to three days, while we’ve never tested that feature out – one day at the beach and drinks are always frosty cold. If you want to pack a more while still being portable, the Hopper Flip is an excellent investment. Yeti products are great for the beach since they are leakproof, resistant to mildew and punctures, durable, and are entirely portable. Many of their coolers have closed cell rubber insulation and robust zippers. If you want to check out some other great coolers, you can view them here.
This all depends on where you’re heading to the beach, but a portable Bluetooth speaker is great to have when you’re in a group. We travel with a small BOOM speaker and take it with us when it feels appropriate. We say this because it’s often best to leave it at home on small secluded beaches so not to annoy anyone else with your music — no one’s that good of a DJ.
Of course, what you wear all depends on where you live! For those heading to Wilmington in the Spring or Fall, you may want something a little warmer. For those days we always reach for a warm fleece jacket.
Patagonia’s Synchilla Snap T Pullover fleece is the best fleeces for the beach in our opinion. The fleece has a classic relaxed cut that has a timeless look for a walk on the beach or evening bonfire. It’s a double-sided fleece that provides plenty of warmth while remaining soft and comfortable.
No matter what you will need a beach bag when heading to the beach. This is to throw in anything like towels, a book, a speaker, sunglasses, snacks, and sunscreen. As full-time travelers, we often use our daypacks for trips to the beach since a tote is unnecessary.
However, a classic tote that everyone has in their closet is a great option for those on short trips or live close to the beach. They also travel well as they can fold flat and lie in your luggage. For family beach goers I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this one.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Wilmington. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco-friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
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