Trip Ideas

Find cool and original things to do with these trip ideas that will keep you curiously entertained. Here is just a sampling of things to do to experience North Carolina's most authentic beach vacation from the past with a modern twist.

ONE-OF-A-KIND EVENTS

Annual events and festivals at Carolina Beach include the Carolina Beach Music Festival (June); Boardwalk Film and Fireworks Series (June through August); Carolina Beach Dragon Boat Regatta and Festival (September); and the Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival featuring nationally recognized artists (October).

MUSIC & ART LOVERS

Music lovers flock to Carolina Beach to enjoy the sounds of local bands, traveling musicians and popular music festivals. Signature events include the Carolina Beach Music Festival – one of the country’s longest running music festivals and the biggest and only music festival held on the beach along the North Carolina coast – and the Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival, which is typically headlined by Grammy Award-winning artists.

In the summer, don’t miss the Carolina Beach Street Arts Festival, a celebration of visual, culinary, and performing arts at the beach! Artist vendors from around the region showcase their fine arts and crafts and demonstrate their creative processes from iron pouring and blacksmith techniques. Artistic performances include comedic dueling pianos, jazz bands, salsa dancers with salsa dancing lessons and much more!

CAROLINA BEACH BOARDWALK

Ranked as one of the top 10 boardwalks in the country by Food & Wine magazine and USA Today, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk features classic seaside family fun with shops, food and nightlife entertainment for the whole family. Try ice cream at Krazy Kones or the fudge at The Fudgeboat. Shop for souvenirs and treasures of all shapes and sizes, from boogie boards to surf wear. The boardwalk is also home to seaside amusements and special events like the Fireworks and Concert series during the summer and Christmas by the Sea during the holiday season. Dine on seafood steam pots and pizza from the only oceanfront rooftop deck at Hurricane Alley’s. And don’t forget about the famous Britt’s Donuts served hot, fresh, and in one variety only — glazed — since 1939. Burn off the calories after all of the ice cream, fudge and donuts on a surrey bike ride big enough for the whole family at Wheel Fun Rentals.

LANDMARK ATTRACTIONS ON THE ISLAND

The island is home to two of North Carolina’s landmark attractions, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and the Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum. Learn about sea life at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher – named as one of the Best Aquariums in the U.S. by the Travel Channel. Visit the top of the aquarium’s largest exhibit, the Cape Fear Shoals and get a bird's eye view of this 230,000 gallon tank as sharks, a sea turtle, moray eels and other fish swim below on an Extended Behind the Scenes Tour. Come face-to-face with a loggerhead sea turtle. Meet Luna, a rare albino alligator. Climb and play on Adventure Reef and find fossilized shark teeth and other treasures in Shark Tooth Creek. Touch sea stars, horseshoe crabs and more in the aquarium’s touch tank!

Brush up on your Civil War history at Fort Fisher, site of the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War. Walk the quarter-mile trail that encircles the remains of the fort on the river side of the highway and see a restored cannon located on top on one of the batteries and Civil War artifacts in the museum.

PET FRIENDLY

Bring your four-legged friend with you during your next trip to Carolina Beach. Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach from October 1 - March 31 and before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. from April 1 - September 30. Dogs are always welcome at Freeman Park, and during the off-season (October 1 - March 31), dogs are allowed to play off-leash. Another great place to take man’s best friend is Carolina Beach State Park, a dog-friendly secluded camping area with miles of hiking trails perfect for off-road adventures with your pooch. You can also search lodging options that are pet-friendly on the places to stay page (use Amenities dropdown).

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES, CRUISES AND NATURE

Try your hand at kayaking in the ocean, fishing in the surf, or catching some waves from atop a surfboard during your visit to Carolina Beach. Explore the waters around Carolina Beach with a cruise around the island or with a fishing trip. There are plenty of opportunities to get out on the water, ranging from sunset cruises and nature tours to fishing charters. Charter a deep-sea or in-shore charter from the Carolina Beach Fishing Center and Marina or rent a vessel from the Winner Party Boat Fleet for reunions, weddings or any other celebration that comes to mind. Kids will get an outdoor adventure thrill from soaring through the air at the 8,000 square foot Carolina Beach Skate Park located in Mike Chappell Park, complete with ramps, rails and bowls.

The 761-acre Carolina Beach State Park – one of the coast’s most popular destinations and one of the only places in the world indigenous to the Venus flytrap – is home to a marina that provides access to great fishing, a secluded camping area and more than six miles of hiking trails. Traverse a variety of distinct habitats, including a scenic white-sand trail leading to an overlook with gorgeous views of the Cape Fear River.

Visitors also flock to the area in the fall as the Loggerhead sea turtle nests scattered along the shoreline began to hatch. This threatened species is protected by the Endangered Species Act. Each summer local citizens, such as the volunteers for the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project, work day and night to help hatchlings return to the ocean. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher in nearby Kure Beach is an excellent place to see a live baby sea turtle. Each year, the aquarium nurtures a handful of hatchlings that have been rescued from doomed nests, and then releases them the following year.

DIVERS WELCOME

Dubbed the Graveyard of the Atlantic, North Carolina’s 300-mile coast may be familiar to history buffs, but the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) located at the nearby Fort Fisher Historic Site, works hard to educate the general population about North Carolina's maritime history as a whole. The UAB maintains records of over 5,000 documented shipwrecks and records on everything from wooden dugout canoes to the iron-hulled blockade runners and classic steamboats that once sailed the Atlantic. One famous shipwreck in particular, the “Condor” Civil War Blockade Runner was recently dedicated as the first North Carolina heritage dive site. The Condor ran aground in 1864 and became the fate of the famous Confederate spy, Rose Greenhow. The Condor is available for all dive enthusiasts to explore from June to November each year as it rests in 25 feet of water, 700 yards off the shore in front of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Dive into maritime history and find charters to take you and your crew on an underwater adventure of a lifetime.

ROMANTIC ESCAPES & TRAVEL WITHOUT KIDS

Check into a beach cottage, hotel, or bed-and-breakfast inn; some offering amenities such as massage packages and chocolates and champagne upon arrival.

From young professionals to empty nesters, fall is a perfect time to book a beach getaway here. With kids back in school, visitors traveling without kids can enjoy less crowds, mild temperatures and more affordable lodging rates in the off-season.

Less crowds also means less waiting at island restaurants and bars, and even more space to spread out and relax on the beach. Travelers can experience nightlife like a true local by visiting favorites such as the Fat Pelican. Groove to the tunes from local and regional bands at The Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar and Seawitch Café & Tiki Bar, which feature a lineup of live entertainment well into the fall.

GIRLFRIENDS GETAWAY

Whether it is a birthday party, bachelorette party, reunion of old friends or just an all-girls escape, Carolina Beach is the perfect getaway destination.

Known as a beach destination that’s a little out of the ordinary, do something different than the traditional spa experience. Enroll in a Boardwalk yoga class located in the heart of the Carolina Beach Boardwalk area, directly across from the beach. Learn to surf in a safe and fun environment at an all-women surf camp. Tony Silvagni, Gold Medalist for the USA surf team, is the owner of Tony Silvagni Surf School at Carolina Beach. The friendly surf community and prominent sandbars at Carolina Beach make it the perfect place for beginners to catch their first waves. Every weekend during May through September, Tony Silvagni Surf School holds weekend surf clinics just for women. Boards and equipment are provided to all students.

If you want to blend in a little of the traditional girlfriend experiences, shop unique retail/dining areas along Carolina Beach Ave., Lake Park Blvd. and Cape Fear Blvd., for nautical gifts at the Checkered Church and a collection of treasures from jewelry to decor at The Mermaid Castle, just to name a few.

Get “squiggled” at Squigley’s Ice Cream and Treats, serving over 4,050 flavors of homemade ice cream and specialty desserts. Then dance off the calories aboard a moonlight dance cruise with Winner Party Boats.

GUYS GETAWAY

Fun-filled adventure from deep-sea fishing excursions to 4x4 fun to surf camps beckon!  The waters surrounding Carolina Beach are home to some of the best offshore and inshore fishing in the area, and the Carolina Beach Fishing Center and Marina is a great place to begin your fishing excursion where knowledgeable charter captains will get you and your party right in the middle of the action. Deep-sea charters reach the Gulf Stream quickly in pursuit of marlin, tuna, dolphin, king mackerel, grouper, snapper, and sailfish. In-shore fishing charters find flounder, red drum, trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and more. Whether you're an experienced fisherman, a first-timer or a group just looking for a memorable boating excursion, the Carolina Beach Fishing Center and Marina has what you're looking for. For those in search of competition, Carolina Beach hosts numerous tournaments throughout the year.

Find 4x4 fun at the North end of Carolina Beach. Freeman Park is where visitors and locals can take 4x4’s onto the beach, have a bonfire, look for endangered loggerhead sea turtle tracks and even camp overnight for the full effect of the surf and stars. Permits are required for all 4x4s and are available through the Town of Carolina Beach. 

Surf’s up at Carolina Beach. Tony Silvagni Surf School holds weekend surf clinics just for the guys. These 2-day long camps run Saturday and Sunday and boards and equipment are provided to all students.

NIGHTLIFE

Experience nightlife at Carolina Beach by visiting local favorites such as the Fat Pelican, an island bar that includes a legendary walk-in cooler, a surfing cow on the roof and a bar made out of a boat. You can also groove to the tunes from local and regional bands at The Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar—named one of “America’s Best Beach Bars” by EndlessVacation.com—and Seawitch Café & Tiki Bar, which feature a regular lineup of live entertainment starting in the spring each year.

HOLIDAYS

Escape the ordinary holiday traditions for the coastal holiday season at Carolina Beach. The centerpiece of the holiday season is the Island of Lights Festival. The festivities kick off the day after Thanksgiving with the Light Up The Lake ceremony featuring festive fish, dashing dolphins and sparkly seashells and culminate with the New Year’s Eve Countdown, featuring a giant-lighted beach ball drop.  Other events include the not-to-be-missed Holiday Flotilla on the Intracoastal Waterway with a parade of decorated boats. Watch the competition as they cruise from Snow's Cut to the Carolina Beach Boat Basin and back.

WINTERING AT THE BEACH

Carolina Beach becomes a different kind of beach during winter. Cast off the winter's gray days for a sunshine stay. It's the perfect time to visit for fewer crowds, mild weather and great outdoor activities. Carolina Beach State Park is a great place to get outdoors and hike along seven miles of trails with a variety of habitats and animal life. Sample flights and pours of beer at Good Hops Brewing where you and Fido can relax or challenge some friends to disc golf in the back. Visit the nearby North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher to see and interact with over 2,500 animal residents and explore with ecology programs and events like a Behind the Scenes tour or guided canoeing adventure, or hike the grounds of Fort Fisher State Historic Site, where the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War took place.