Surf fishing and fishing on the pier; NC fishing license required
Lifeguards can advise on safe swimming areas
Lifeguards on duty during daylight hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 7 days per week
Leashed pets are allowed on the beach before 9 AM and after 5 PM from April 1st through September 30th and at all times during the other months
Fishing, Swimming, Stand-up Paddleboarding, Surfing, Shelling
Restrooms, Showers, Boardwalk
Free to access on foot; 4WD vehicles on the beach must purchase a permit for $50 per day from April 1st through September 30th and $30 per day from October 1st through March 31st
Parking is available near the beach for $5/hour or $25/day from March 1st through October 31st or $2/hour or $10/day from November 1st through February 28th/29th
Coquina Beach (North Carolina)
Also referred to as Carolina Beach, Wilmington Beach is located off the North Carolina coast on Pleasure Island. It's one of a few beautiful sandy beaches on the island's coast and offers tons of enjoyment for visitors. In this guide, we'll share everything you need to know about Wilmington (now known as Carolina) Beach.
If you're looking for a fun beach town on the Atlantic coast, you'll love it here! Whether you're taking a vacation with the whole family, going on a romantic getaway, or taking a solo trip, there's something for everyone in this relaxed beach town. Especially during the summer, it's home to tons of activities and events, making it one of the best beaches in Wilmington, NC.
About Wilmington (Carolina) Beach, NC
The beach and town are located off Cape Fear on Pleasure Island. It used to be a small community that provided a buffer between the town of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. In 2000 that changed when Carolina Beach incorporated Wilmington.
Today, Wilmington is a port city with three beach communities: Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach. Carolina Beach is what used to be referred to as Wilmington Beach. They all offer a fun, scenic beach experience with lots to see and do. Wilmington/Carolina Beach is also a popular spot for beach activities and local events.
Whether you're a local looking for something to do or planning a vacation to the North Carolina coast, you can find many exciting attractions.
When you step on the shore, dunes and gentle waves greet you. You'll also find opportunities for water sports, picture-perfect views, and white sands perfect for sunbathing and shelling. While we do recommend checking the water conditions before you arrive, here are some activities you can enjoy:
- stand-up paddleboarding
You'll find several surf shops and schools, kayak tours, and boat rentals along the beach.
Note: To fish in North Carolina, you'll need to obtain a fishing license. More on that here.
Other Outdoor Adventures
Other outdoor adventures around Wilmington make it an even better place for nature lovers! Here are some other things to do outdoors near the beach:
- Trails End Park: a waterfront area with a pier, boat ramp, and picnic tables.
- Carolina Beach State Park: a large park with a campground, hiking trails, and a marina.
- Shark Tooth Island: a nature preserve filled with shark's teeth.
- Airlie Gardens: various gardens with walking trails.
Carolina Beach Boardwalk
Wilmington/Carolina Beach is most known for its expansive boardwalk, where visitors love to check out the rides and ocean views. You can also find snack stands, restaurants, and tiki bars on the boardwalk. You can shop for beach gear, souvenirs, clothes, home decor, and more, too.
The boardwalk also holds many events like regular live music, annual music festivals, holiday events, and fireworks. Check out the event schedule here.
Since the beach faces east, it's the perfect spot to catch unmatched sunrise scenery so be sure to bring your camera! We recommend heading to their pier for this, although the beach also offers a magical panorama.
Pair exciting beach activities with local events for the perfect vacation or staycation. Wilmington, NC holds tons of events, especially during the summer months.
There's something for everyone, from surf competitions and fun runs to the popular Carolina Cup and paddleboard races! We recommend checking out the Carolina Beach Music Festival, one of the longest-running beach music festivals, at least once.
Dining and Shopping
We recommend indulging in Wilmington's fantastic dining and shopping scene when your beach day is over. While you can find various restaurants and shops throughout the city, our favorite experiences are in downtown Wilmington or the Wilmington Riverwalk. They both offer excellent food and shops all in one place year-round.
The Riverwalk spans almost 2 miles along the Cape Fear River. It was also voted America's Best Riverwalk, and it's easy to see why. It's lined with markets, art galleries, boutiques, and cafes. There's also a marina at the end of the boardwalk for vessels, a concert venue, and nice waterfront restaurants.
Be sure to check out the Conlon Pier off of the boardwalk if you're looking to catch some fish!
Getting To and Around Wilmington, NC
It's easy to visit Wilmington, North Carolina by car, plane, or boat.
If you're flying to Wilmington, you'll head to its international airport. To make your way down to Wilmington/Carolina Beach, you'll take the main road, US 421, straight to the beach.
Many boaters also enjoy going to Wilmington. This is an excellent option as there are many marinas in the area.
It's easy to travel around Wilmington by car. As for traveling around Pleasure Island, you can easily get around by boat, with many ramps along the coast. You can also use the ferry service to go between Southport and Fort Fisher. This is a cool experience for a scenic boat ride or taking a day trip.
Where to Stay
If you're taking an extended trip to Wilmington/Carolina Beach, there is no shortage of accommodations in and near Wilmington. You can find many hotels, inns, and vacation rentals along the beach or away from the beach. Nature enthusiasts can also find places to camp.
Here are a few of our favorite places to stay:
- The Beach House: a conveniently-located, relaxed hotel by the ocean.
- The Savannah Hotel: a simple hotel with an outdoor pool and tiki bar.
- Carolina Beach State Park: a state park with campsites for tents and RVs, along with camp cabins for rent.
We love visiting Wilmington/Carolina Beach! It's a beautiful destination, with clean sand and water, and has many fun beach activities to enjoy.
It's fun to play in the ocean during summer when the weather is warm, even though the water is a bit cool. It's one of the most fun-filled beaches in North Carolina, with swimming, fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, shelling, and more.
It's also a great beach for those simply looking to relax. It's easy to spread out on the beach, sunbathe, and read a good book. It's also a good spot for building sandcastles and taking a stroll along the shore.
It's also comforting that lifeguards are patrolling the beach. They're on duty during daylight hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 7 days per week. While the waters are generally safe for swimming and enjoying water sports, lifeguards seem to always be aware of current conditions to inform visitors.
There are also ample amenities at the beach, making it easy to spend several hours. These include showers, restrooms, and a boardwalk with various shops, activities, and restaurants.
You can find more restaurants, shops, and activities close to the beach, including the popular Riverwalk. Other attractions and activities include horseback riding and the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
As you can see there is so much fun to be had and experiences for all kinds of beachgoers to appreciate!