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    With more than 300 miles of coastline, North Carolina is a top beach vacation destination for families and couples alike. Explore traditional lighthouses, experience wildlife in its natural habitat, dine on delicious local seafood or just enjoy a day lounging on sandy shores for a great getaway.

    Choose from one of the many family-friendly beach towns or remote and relaxing islands for a vacation to remember. All of the beach destinations in North Carolina offer their own small-town charm paired with unique coastal experiences.

    1

    Nags Head

    Enjoy Southern charm at its finest in this popular Outer Banks destination

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    Nags Head is one of the most popular vacation spots on North Carolina’s outer banks. Located between Kitty Hawk and Rodanthe, this expansive beach features high sand dunes, plenty of water activities, and the iconic Jeanette’s pier, which is a great spot for fishing.

    For an afternoon of adventure, head over to Jockey’s Ridge State Park and hike one of their great scenic trails or enjoy a relaxing bike ride on designated paths. While you’re there, make sure to check out one of the most iconic spots on Nags Head – the Bodie Island Lighthouse. It was built in the late 1800s and boasts beautiful expansive views of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

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    Kitty Hawk

    Relax by the sea in this famous and historic town

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    Kitty Hawk is in the outer banks of North Carolina that was made famous as the home of the Wright brothers. Located just north of Nags Head, this dog-friendly beach makes for a relaxing destination for a waterfront family vacation.

    It’s easy to find free parking at one of Kitty Hawk's beach access points. There’s plenty of space on the sand to camp out for a fun day in the sun. If you’re a fan of aviation, make sure to stop by the Wilbur Wright Memorial where you can learn all about the Wright brothers’ first flight and the history of aviation in America.

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    3

    Emerald Isle

    Bring the family for a day of fun in the sun at this high-energy beach

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    Emerald Isle (also known as Emerald Island) is one of the most popular beach destinations for families on the East Coast. Located on the Crystal Coast section of North Carolina, it has 12 miles of expanse beaches –great for catching rays and enjoying a relaxed summer day by the water.

    Families love this beach for its amenities and kid-friendly activities. For a great day on Emerald Isle, begin your morning with a long walk along the shore, take advantage of public grills while enjoying lunch at one of the many picnic pavilions. You can end the day with some fun at mini-golf.

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    4

    Carova Beach

    Discover wild horses roaming the shores at this remote beach

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    Carova Beach, located at the very top of North Carolina’s shoreline, is one of the most pristine beaches in the state. Popular for the many wild horses roaming the sandy shores, it's a beautiful remote beach destination ideal for a relaxing and unique vacation experience. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, this is an awesome option in North Carolina.

    Because Carova has kept its laidback charm throughout the years, this unique destination is often a favourite for birdwatching and those looking for wide-open spaces. There are no restaurants or gas stations nearby, so make sure to grab food and essentials at a market on your way in.

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    Atlantic Beach

    Soak in the sun at this busy beach town along the Crystal Coast

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    Atlantic Beach is a busy coastal town just 12 miles away from Emerald Isle in North Carolina. This awesome vacation destination is famous for its family-friendly atmosphere, delicious seafood restaurants, and great boutique shopping.

    If you’re a history buff, head over to Fort Macon State Park, which has a restored Civil War fort. For the animal lovers, spend a few hours at the North Carolina Aquarium, which is at the centre of the island. Whether you’re looking for a great spot on the sand to spend your day or some fun activities, Atlantic Beach offers a variety of options that appeals to all types of beach vacationers.

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    Carolina Beach

    Hang out with the whole family on the historic wooden boardwalk

    Carolina Beach is a favourite spot along the coast of North Carolina known for its historic wooden boardwalk, expansive state park, and iconic Ferris wheel. Located near the Cape Fear River, this beach is an easy drive from Wilmington.

    Along the boardwalk, you’ll find ice-cream parlours, boutique shops, and plenty of restaurants. It also has an amusement park with carnival rides and games, making it a great place to bring the whole family. If you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe, head to the Carolina Beach State Park, where you can enjoy an afternoon hike and even check out the rare Venus flytrap.

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    Topsail Island

    Take advantage of 26 miles of sandy shores on this unique island

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    Topsail Island is a unique vacation destination in North Carolina that’s famous for its 3 main beach areas along its expansive coastline: Topsail Beach, North Topsail Beach, and Surf City. You can either access the island by car from 1 of the 2 bridges or get there by boat.

    One of the most unique experiences on the island can be found at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. If you time it right, you might even be able to spot a loggerhead sea turtle laying eggs by the dunes. For one of the best sunsets in North Carolina, head to Serenity Point at the southern tip of the island.

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    Ocracoke Island

    Pay a visit to the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina

    Ocracoke Island offers 13 miles of pristine beaches, making it a great destination to enjoy a day on the ocean. The island is accessible by boat or plane and the most popular way people visit Ocracoke is on the free ferry from Hatteras Village. When you’re not enjoying the water, try delicious local cuisine at one of the many seafood restaurants or peruse boutique shops and pick up some unique souvenirs.

    Many people who come to the shores of North Carolina love to visit the 7 historic lighthouses. For an awesome photo op on Ocracoke Island, head to their picturesque lighthouse, which is the oldest one still standing in the state today.

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    9

    Wrightsville Beach

    An oceanfront town famous for its water sports and lively night scene

    Wrightsville is a popular destination in North Carolina for active beachgoers. Located just 6 miles east of Wilmington, this oceanfront town is one of the easiest beaches to get to for out-of-towners. Active vacationers flock to Wrightsville since it’s well known for water sports such as surfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.

    If you’re looking for a more relaxed vacation, Johnnie Mercer’s Pier offers great fishing and Airlie Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden ideal for an afternoon stroll. At night, Wrightsville Beach comes alive as many of their bars and restaurants offer live music and tasty local seafood.

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    10

    Bald Head Island

    Escape the hustle and bustle on this peaceful island

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    Bald Head Island is an excellent destination for a tranquil beach vacation. With no cars allowed, the best ways to explore the 14 miles of serene coastline is by golf cart, bicycle or foot. This peaceful island has 3 main beaches: North Beach, West Beach and South Beach, all with their own unique charm.

    Throughout the island, you’ll find an abundance of sea turtle nests and some of the most laidback restaurants in the state. Even though the vibe is very casual, there are still plenty of activities available. Active vacationers can golf at the Bald Head Island Club's 18-hole golf course, kayak along the coast, or take a long walk through one of their many hiking trails.

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    Victoria Zelefsky | Dálkahöfundur

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