On the southern coast of North Carolina, Carolina Beach and nearby Kure Beach are less commercially developed than many other beach towns in the Southeast and offer a relaxed, family-friendly vibe. Both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach deliver a classic beach town experience, with lovely stretches of sand and fishing piers.
01 of 13
Visit a Different Beach Every Day
Both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach are staffed with lifeguards from Memorial Day through Labor Day and offer restrooms and concessions. Also in Kure Beach, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area offers miles of unspoiled beach and is a great place to hunt for seashells, sea urchins, fossils and starfish. A designated swimming area is staffed with lifeguards from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
02 of 13
Enjoy a Classic Seaside Boardwalk
Named as one of America's top 10 boardwalks by Food & Wine and Budget Travel magazines, Carolina Beach Boardwalk offers seaside amusement rides, classic arcade games, and weekly summer fireworks. There are also a splash pad park, cool-off stations, historical and educational kiosks, and swings.
03 of 13
See an Albino Alligator
The Travel Channel has named the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher as one of the best aquariums in the U.S. Highlights include the touch tank where kids can feel a live bamboo shark, a Dolphin Discovery experience, a butterfly exhibit, an interactive 3-D Whale Quest game and Luna, the aquarium’s beloved albino alligator. Kids can burn off any excess energy at Adventure Reef, an outdoor play zone.
04 of 13
Discover Ocean Front Park
Open since 2013, the Ocean Front Park in Kure Beach has transformed the town's beachfront. The public seaside green space features a boardwalk, playground, swings, rain gardens, oceanfront benches and public restrooms. Kids ages 3 to 6 can play in the “tot lot” playground with its giant pirate ship, fish and turtle. Summer family programming includes weekly concerts, fairytale storytelling, and turtle talks, where kids can learn about the sea turtles with the local Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
05 of 13
Have Breakfast at Kate's
At least once while you're in Carolina Beach, start the day off right with a hot stack of pancakes from Kate’s Pancake House. This local favorite serves southern breakfast favorites like pancakes, waffles, French toast and more in a family-friendly setting.
06 of 13
Catch a Fish Off an Ocean Pier
Catching fish off an ocean pier is fun and inexpensive for kids and adults alike. Built in 1923, the Kure Beach Fishing Pier may be one of the oldest piers on the Atlantic coast. This no-alcohol-allowed pier features outstanding fishing and gives kids the chance to see miles of coastline without having to perch atop mom or dad’s shoulders. The pier also has an arcade with classic games and for the little ones who deserve a sweet treat on a hot day, ice cream is easy to find. You can rent a rod and reel for just $5 per person.
Carolina Beach's family-run full-service 700-foot pier offers a small snack shop as well as a tackle shop where you can rent equipment inexpensively.
07 of 13
Learn to Surf
From April through September, Tony Silvagni Surf School runs surf camps with a 2:1 student to teacher ratio. Campers receive hours of professional surf instruction and learn about water safety and surfing etiquette.
08 of 13
Learn About Local Wildlife
Take a hike with a park ranger and learn about the carnivorous plants that grow at Carolina Beach State Park. Plants that bite back include sundews, bladderworts, butterworts, pitcher plants and the Venus flytrap. Kids ages 6 to 12 can participate in a Junior Ranger program that explores North Carolina's natural heritage. Open year round. Carnivorous Plant Hikes offered most weekends.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
09 of 13
Visit a Civil War Fort
During the Civil War, the Confederacy built what was to become the largest and most important fort in the South and two major battles were fought here. You'll find a fully functional replica of a seacoast cannon and can take a quarter-mile walking loop to encounter underground bunkers.
10 of 13
Catch an Outdoor Movie
11 of 13
Pedal a Surrey, Chopper or Deuce Coupe
For a fun way to get around, Wheel Fun Rentals offers surreys, mountain bikes, beach cruisers, tandems, as well as choppers, quad sports, and deuce coupes.
12 of 13
Try a Britt's Donut
Founded by the Britt and Wright families in 1939, this donut shop has long been the cornerstone of Carolina Beach's boardwalk area. The nostalgic favorite is famous for its classic glazed donuts. Open mid-April to October.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
13 of 13
Make Your Own Squigley
With more than 4,000 flavors of homemade ice cream, Squigley's is a legendary must-stop on any family beach getaway. A “squigley” is soft serve style ice cream blended with a variety of mix-ins. Kids can pick from a wide selection of flavors and ingredients to invent their own unique squigley creation. Open Easter to Halloween.