It’s that time again: Time for that beach vacation you look forward to all year. Located just 30 minutes from Wilmington, Carolina Beach is one of the most popular coastal destinations in North Carolina and beyond. You’ll find a variety of lodging options, restaurants and activities to satisfy the whole family. Read on for our guide to the ultimate summer to-do list at Carolina Beach.

STAY in a full-service oceanfront hotel, or vacation rental perfect for groups and budgets of any size.

  • Hampton Inn & Suites CBIf you’re looking for a convenient, full-service hotel where you can rest your head, check into the new Hampton Inn & Suites Carolina Beach Oceanfront. Located next to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, this hotel is in a prime location with an outdoor oceanfront pool, tiki bar, fitness center and more. This will be the hotel’s first summer season!
  • If you’re traveling with a larger family, consider a vacation rental for that “at home” feeling. Choose between quaint 1950s-era beach cottages, single-family homes, or spacious vacation homes with beachfront access and private pools. Carolina Beach’s many vacation rental companies are ready to help you find the right escape for your group.

EAT at local island favorites to fuel up from sunup to sundown.

  • Seafood boil from Cape Fear Boil CompanyBreakfast: 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.
  • Lunch: Check out the Cape Fear Boil Company for a traditional “Coastal Low Country Boil.” They can either bring a full spread of jumbo shrimp and spicy andouille sausage to you, or provide you with a “Best Pot To Go” to eat on the beach.
  • Dinner: For a polished but casual dinner, head to Havana’s where you’ll enjoy favorites like Cha-Cha Salmon, Fat Daddy Crab Cakes and Shrimp & Grits under the twinkly lights of three outdoor dining areas. Set in a 100-year-old beach house, this restaurant is also the perfect spot to watch the fireworks during the Fireworks by the Sea and Boardwalk Blast (see below for more info on that).
  • Britt's Donut Shop on the Carolina Beach BoardwalkDessert: For one (or two) of the best donuts you’ll ever eat, make your way to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk and check out Britt’s Donut Shop. Since 1939, Britt’s has been one of the most beloved spots on the Boardwalk. The hot, delicious and handmade glazed donuts have been nationally recognized as some of the best.

DO family-friendly activities during the day and into the night.

  • Seize the day: First, visit the 761-acre Carolina Beach State Park for miles of hiking trails and access to some of North Carolina’s best fishing spots. There is also a marina and fuel dock for boaters and campsites for those who wish to spend a night outside. Later, paddle your way around Carolina Beach Lake Park – an 11-acre lake and park with picnic areas, walking paths, a playground and more. Rent a paddleboat and take in the view with your loved ones. Then, teach the kids how to cast a line from the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, a family-owned and operated pier with a tackle shop and small restaurant.
  • Fireworks by the Sea and Boardwalk BlastConquer the night: It’s not officially summer at Carolina Beach until the weekly Fireworks by the Sea and Boardwalk Blast series begins! Carolina Beach hosts a spectacular show on the Boardwalk every Thursday evening Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. This free live music event, featuring different bands each week, culminates with a spectacular fireworks show on the beach. If you can’t get enough live music, head to Seawitch Café & Tiki Bar for local performances Tuesdays through Sundays. The food and drink specials are unbeatable, and so is the music.

With so many great places to stay, delicious food to eat and exciting things to do at Carolina Beach, you’re sure to enjoy a special summer vacation!