With a summer vacation to Carolina Beach, parents, kids, grandkids and everyone in between can get in on the fun at their own pace. You’ll feel right at home with accommodations ranging from cozy cottages to charming inns and full-service hotels. And now, thanks to the nonprofit Ocean Cure’s beach flooring, everyone has access to the beach, regardless of any physical limitations. Watersports and outdoor excursions, a vintage boardwalk and tasty food options set the ideal scene for your socially distanced family vacation in Carolina Beach this summer.
Many of the area’s lodging properties have adopted enhanced safety and cleaning protocols to offer comfort and ease of mind while traveling. Lodging properties, restaurants, attractions and other businesses also have the opportunity to participate in a new public health initiative that empowers businesses to help keep everyone safe as possible from COVID-19, Count on Me NC. Visitors are encouraged to look for certificates and Count on Me NC logos for assurance that businesses have completed the training.
Read on for eight unforgettable family memories to make during a one-of-a-kind trip to Carolina Beach:
Sea it All
Carolina Beach is surrounded by three bodies of water offering a range of activities fit for the entire family. Adventure seekers can learn how to shred a gnarly Atlantic Ocean wave with private lessons from Tony Silvagni Surf School or Odysea Surf School. Take the helm to explore the Intercoastal Waterway as captain of your own private half- or full-day pontoon rental from Carolina Beach Pontoon Rental. The Cape Fear River’s waters are perfect for catching largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish, and American and hickory shad. From novice to expert anglers, your family will have plenty of big fish stories to share after chartering a boat from the Carolina Beach Fishing Center and Marina.
Everyone knows the only bad part of a day on the beach is hauling your gear through the sand in search of the perfect secluded spot. When you sign up for Pleasure Island Rentals’ VIP experience for the day or your entire stay, they’ll set up your chairs, umbrella and table at an island location of your choosing and pick everything up at the end of the day. Or, take a break from sunbathing and hit the waves with boogie board, surfboard and stand-up paddleboard rentals from Pleasure Island Rentals. Tony Silvagni Surf School also offers a whole host of gear rentals, from coolers and wetsuits to kayaks and bikes.
On the Boardwalk
As one of America’s last remaining boardwalks on the East Coast, the kid-friendly Carolina Beach Boardwalk boasts colorful shops, sweet treats and restaurants offering grab-and-go bites for the beach. No visit is complete without stopping in for a sweet treat at the iconic Britt’s Donut Shop. Open since 1939, this cash-only, seasonal staple keeps it simple with a single recipe: hot and fresh glazed doughnuts.
Tour the Town
Exploring Carolina Beach is easy with two- or six-person golf carts from SunFun Rentals. Load the family up for a day of fun in the sun, or schedule time to see the sites with a personal guide – just be sure to set your clocks to island time. And if you’re looking for a more extreme type of fun, longer, off-road adventures are at your fingertips when you rent from a fleet of 4x4s. Rentals include passes to nearby Freeman Park and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.
On Two Wheels
The Island Greenway offers 1.2 miles of scenic trail for pedestrians, bicyclists and leashed four-legged friends. Take a leisurely stroll or pedal your way through the woods on this 10-foot-wide paved path. Perfectly suited for multi-generational excursions, Shore Break Bikes can set you up with bike rentals for most any terrain, including the greenway. Choose from beach cruisers, hybrids, mountain bikes, big tire or road bikes.
Feed your brain at Carolina Beach State Park, where you can learn about the variety of delicate ecosystems in this region. Embark on the Carnivorous Plant Hike to see Venus flytraps in their natural habitat, as you’re in one of the few places on earth they exist – they only grow natively within a 60-mile radius of Carolina Beach! The guides over at Kayak Carolina are trained interpretive naturalists, and so are the folks at Paddle NC. Contact either outfitter for details on water adventure options at the state park. For a more extreme scene, Mike Chappell Park offers 8,000 square feet of skating ramps, rails and bowls.
When it comes to food, Carolina Beach goes far beyond your typical beach eats. Dine on the dog-friendly patio at The Fork n Cork, the Carolina Beach location of the Wilmington staple where Guy Fieri devoured the now-famous Wellington bites on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Enjoy panoramic shoreline views from the patio or pier dining area at Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar while sipping on a cocktail paired with coastal cuisine – the kids can get their fix, too, with burgers or fried bologna and pimento cheese sandwiches. And at Carolina Smokehouse, you’ll come for the pit-cooked barbecue but stay for the views while dining on the outdoor Topside Deck. Chef Craig Love believes food is community at Surf House Oyster Bar & Surf Camp, where he sources 90% of his ingredients locally with a nod to the bygone culture of fish camps. Make a reservation to secure your socially distanced spot in the dining room, or order ahead for dinner on the go.
Carolina Beach offers a couple of island creameries sure to make your taste buds squeal. Get creative at Squigley’s Ice Cream and Treats, which touts more than 4,050 flavor combinations in its trademarked Squiggle treat. Or hailing from the other side of the Atlantic, Celtic Creamery serves the most velvety Irish ice cream in the region. Order the Tummy Trembler, which is plenty big for the whole family with six scoops of ice cream, eight doughnuts and a gigantic mix of other sweet toppings.
Carolina Beach is one of those places you won’t want to miss, and you’ll definitely never forget.
The memories may come and go like the tides, but your family will reminisce over its treasures long after the shores fade from your rearview.
If you're ready to visit now, find our itineraries for a perfect road trip to Carolina Beach.