NC Beach Vacations – Sand, Sun, and Summer Fun

Topsail Island Aerial ViewThere are many things North Carolina does well. Beaches, as it happens, are at the top of the list. Some of the country’s most beautiful beaches call North Carolina home. If you’re planning a beach vacation or thinking about it, you really need not look any further than these four impressive beaches in the state of North Carolina. Any one of these beaches can easily be a one-stop vacation destination where you can enjoy  sunning in the sand, dine beneath the stars, play golf, swim, fish and enjoy moonlit seaside strolls in the wee hours of morning. Of course, our favorite is Topsail Island which is actually composed of 3 separate beaches and the first beach we’ll talk about.

Beaches at Topsail Island, North Carolina

The beaches at Topsail are truly beautiful in an untouched, natural sort of way. On the north end of the island we have North Topsail Beach and on the south end of the island is the town of Topsail Beach. Sandwiched in the middle of the island is Surf City. These beaches aren’t overcrowded like so many east coast beaches and the focus here is on simple pleasures rather than frills and finery. The history of these waters is long and storied with rumors of pirates and pirate treasures abounding. The lore holds that pirate ships would lie, hidden by tall sand dunes, in wait for merchant ships that crossed the water filled with various goods. After a while, merchants caught on and began looking for the tops of ships behind the dunes—which is where the name: Topsail Island originates. Devoted treasure hunters are still searching for Blackbeard’s gold buried in these sands.

Before World War II people could only access the island by boat and during the war, the U.S. Navy with Johns Hopkins University dredged the waterway, built roads, and piped in fresh water to the island which is where the United States Space Program got its start. Between the years of 1946 and 1948 there were more than 200 rocket launches from the island. Afterwards, the island was sold to the public with many of the original structures intact and that was when things really started happening on this wonderful little island.

The residents of the Island want to stick close to its small-town roots and are dedicated to that end. There are only about 3500 full-time residents on Topsail Island but during the summer tourist season, the island population grows to nearly 35,000 people who frequent local gift shops, restaurants, fishing piers, motels, etc. You can read more about Topsail Island’s demographics here. Topsail Island is also home to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center along with the Missiles and More Museum.

There is plenty to do with charter fishing boats nearby and convenient access to the mainland where there are day spas, shopping malls, and other entertainment opportunities. Area golf courses provide the challenge and fun that golfers love and the beaches and clear Atlantic Ocean are the main course for your vacation. Watersports are the name of the day for families interested in a little fun in the sun. There are plenty to enjoy here including: paddle boarding, surfing, yachting, jet skiing, fishing, sailing, and kayaking.

Area restaurants provide delicious fare guaranteed to please any palate. The Island offers everything from fine dining to burgers and pizza but the seafood here is fresh and absolutely second to none so you’ll definitely want to plan a few meals around fresh local seafood. The Riverview Cafe and Ricks Restaurant and Sports Bar are a couple of our favorite places to relax and enjoy a great meal and good company.

Topsail Island is also a popular spot for destination wedding packages. With the beautiful white sand beaches and water as a backdrop, who wouldn’t want this to be the place to begin life as man and wife?

Long story short, the beauty of spending your vacation on Topsail Island is that you can really relax and get away from it all without necessarily leaving it all behind. You can still have access to all the modern conveniences without the hassles of traffic jams, crowds and the nine-to-five grind.

Want to get started planning your NC Beach Vacation? You can click the link and explore 400+ Topsail Island Vacation Rentals

Sunset Beach North Carolina

If you’re interested in a little more in the way of nightlife, amusement parks and other attractions for your vacation then Sunset Beach, with its close proximity to Myrtle Beach, may be more along the lines of what you have in mind. While this family-friendly beach community still allows you to get away and enjoy the beach, Myrtle Beach offers more in the way of nightlife, shopping and attractions like Alligator Adventure, Myrtle Beach Speedway, Alabama Theater, House of Blues, Ripley’s Aquarium and other attractions to enjoy during your stay on Sunset Beach. The crowds are bigger here and you can expect to trade some of the slower pace for more attractions, chain restaurants and shopping. Like Topsail Island, you’ll find plenty of championship golf courses nearby or sea charters for fishing or pleasure boating.

Myrtle Beach is a half hour ride from Sunset Beach but there are also attractions local to Sunset Beach. One of the most popular attractions is the Museum of Coastal Carolina Ingram Planetarium where visitors can help feed the animals or see the stars. It’s a popular destination and a great way to include a little bit of science and education in your vacation experience. History abounds in this part of the country and 40 minutes north on US Hwy 17 from Sunset Beach is the Battleship USS North Carolina. If you have never experienced a living history type of event this is one you won’t want to miss. History will literally come to life right in front of you as you hear the stories of the men who called this ship home.

Of course vacation isn’t vacation if you can’t have a little bit of fun on the side. At the House of Blues in nearby Myrtle Beach you can soak up a bit of culture while enjoying great food and excellent music. The Gospel Brunch on Sunday morning is an event that shouldn’t be missed. If you can’t wait until Sunday to enjoy a nice bite to eat, don’t forget to check out Sharky’s Waterfront Restaurant and Marina.

If you want something unique to experience during your time in Sunset Beach, NC try looking out for whales. Two species of whale that have been spotted here in recent months include the humpback whale and the right whale; both of which are endangered. Current estimates have the worldwide population of right whales at around 400 so this is a truly incredible and rare sight to behold.

Here is a 10 minute video of a camera mounted to a kite high above Sunset Beach. Enjoy!

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach is easily accessible from I-40. On one side of Wrightsville Beach is the Intracoastal Waterway and on the other is the majestic Atlantic Ocean. Surfers will appreciate the fact that this small seaside town was designated, by National Geographic, as one of the world’s best “surf towns”.

Family-friendly fun abounds in Wrightsville Beach and in nearby Wilmington. Golf is popular pastime here with several championship courses within minutes of the beach. Wrightsville Beach is also located 30 minutes from the the Brunswick Isles and just an hour or so from Myrtle Beach, often referred to as the Grand Strand, which features sixty miles of challenging championship level golf courses to choose from.

Here is a video of a short boat tour of Wrightsville Beach

If you’re interested in checking out the local culture during your vacation or need an interesting rainy afternoon pastime during your stay, you’re sure to enjoy the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History which not only explores the history of the people who call Wrightsville Beach home but also the events and occurrences that have shaped this island over the past 100 years such as hurricanes and societal changes.

Shopping on Wrightsville Beach is almost considered an Olympic sport with beach shots, specialty shops, surf shops, and countless small boutiques and vintage shops in between. You’ll find everything from specialty beers and wines to hammocks and ship models in addition to the general fare you’d expect to find while shopping in an island community such as this. Downtown Wilmington also has a multitude of shopping and great dining choices to enjoy and is just a few minutes from Wrightsville Beach. The bottom line is that there are plenty of ways to enjoy sand and sea when you plan your vacation at Wrightsville Beach.

The Outer Banks North Carolina

Perhaps the most famous of all North Carolina Beaches, The Outer Banks have much to offer anyone looking for an outstanding vacation experience. The spectacular sunsets you’ll experience here are worth the trip alone but they are only the beginning of what you’ll see and experience during your stay. Cape Hatteras is home to the tallest brick ch-lighthouselighthouse in the United States. The climb may be long and hard, but the view from the top is well worth the effort.

Ever heard the story of Roanoke? This story may be history but on Roanoke Island, it’s become living history. And, as of yet, the mystery remains. Perhaps you’ll be the one to solve it. This particular history is played out in dramatic faction at the Waterside Theatre in Manteo. It also happens to be the longest running outdoor drama in the U.S. and is performed nightly during the summer months. Speaking of history, ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of the Wright brothers? Here you can see the magic spot where the Wright brothers answered the question that had plagued mankind for centuries. Can men fly?

For yet another taste of history, be sure to check out Fort Raleigh National Historic Site which preserves the heritages of Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans who have called Roanoke Island home. You should also explore The Elizabethan Gardens which adjoins Fort Raleigh National Park and serves as a memorial to the lost colonists of Roanoke. Destination weddings on the beaches of The Outer Banks are also very popular among brides and grooms alike. Be sure to plan early if you’d like to have this experience during one of the peak months for these events however.

The great outdoors, sand, and surf draw people to The Outer Banks year after year and promises to keep them coming back for more. Whether it’s biking, bird watching, beach going, fishing, hiking, boating, water sporting or more that brings you to The Outer Banks we’re certain you’ll have a hard time passing up an opportunity to come back for more year after year.

Topsail Island VacationsAny of these North Carolina Beaches make excellent choices for your next vacation experience. Choose the beach that most suits your lifestyle and wishes in a vacation location. Whether you want laid back, relaxed and away from it all, or a busier place with more nightlife, people and things  to see and do, North Carolina has a beach for you.

If you think, like we do, that Topsail Island is one of the most beautiful places on earth and that you would like to spend a little time exploring all that Topsail has to offer this summer, then you can visit our website: or call us 800.762.3961 and let us help you plan a NC Beach Vacation that you’ll remember for a lifetime.