The start of summer and everyone in the center and western half of the state of North Carolina (and nearby areas) longs for a getaway to the beach. While there are plenty of options out there, Carolina Beach is a favorite of many, with plenty of places to stay directly on the beach, allowance of cars on some beaches, and ease of access.

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What can you expect if you go and what should you do during a weekend in Carolina Beach? Here are 12 things to keep you busy and entertained!

beach with water and sea grass in the front towards the end of the day

1. The Beach

This is the main draw to the aptly named “Carolina Beach.” The beach is wide. Sand castles (and other sand structures) easily build in this sand. It can get windy at times, so watch your beach umbrella! But between the sandbar puddles, little children can play safely while parents enjoy laying out or bodyboarding. Four-legged companions are permitted on a leash before 9 am or after 5 pm during the summer.

view of older fishing pier from underneath - with sand and ocean

2. Fish off the Fishing Pier

Nothing is more traditional than fishing while you’re at the beach. While you can fish from the beach, the perfect spot is on the fishing pier located at the north end of the island just before Freeman Park. Access to the pier is limited to business hours and is accessed through a small store where you’ll pay a small fee per rod. If using a basket, signs direct visitors on what to do if they accidentally capture a turtle. This is a great activity for young and old alike.

Looking for tours to take nearby? We’ve been happy with our Viator options:

wooden pier with palm trees to the right

3. Walk along the Boardwalk

A center of activity in town, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk has been named as one of the Top Ten Boardwalks in the country by Food & Wine magazine. A variety of shops and small eateries attracts beachgoers. During the summer, carnival rides, weekly fireworks, and outdoor concerts entertain visitors. Rent a Surrey bike so your family can get around the sites.

flight of beers on a hop shaped board on a black metal table

4. Enjoy a cold brew at Good Hops

If you’ve read my blog a few times, you’ll know that I love visiting a good local brewery. Enjoy a cold brew while playing a round of disc golf in the adjoining grounds. Or just sit and relax while drinking your favorite type of beer on draft. Order a flight of four 4oz pours, and beers can be ordered in 8 oz or pint sizes as well. Not a beer drinker? No worries as wine is also on the menu! Check out other nearby craft breweries here.

close up of venus flytrap plant

5. See the Venus Fly Trap in its natural habitat

Yes, that’s right, this little carnivorous plant grows naturally in the Carolina Beach State Park. While parks can be found in many places, how many can boast that these plants grow wild? Not many! There’s even a brewery in Wilmington which helps to spread the word about the dangers faced by this delicate plant. Stop by the Visitor’s Center to find how to locate this little plant, or join the flytrap tours led most weekend days at 10 am during the popular seasons. Don’t get too close as touching or removing them is a felony!

hand holding a glazed donut with people in background

6. Eat a glazed donut at Britt’s

A local tradition that attracts the tourists as well, Britt’s, located at the Boardwalk, sells freshly made glazed donuts at $1 each. The line is long unless you go later in the day, at which point they may have sold out for the day. While I’m not usually a fan of glazed donuts, these were light and airy and melted in my mouth.

Pro Tip: There are a few stools at the counter. If you sit at the counter and eat at least one donut, you can take the rest to go. We stood in line for 45 minutes before two stools became available. Even then, we were finished eating our donuts before the people we had been behind of in line got to the order counter.

donut with sign describing Tally My Banana stuffing

7. Or eat a fancy donut at Wake N’ Bake

Located in the Food Lion shopping center as you enter the island from the north is Wake N’ Bake. Winners of the Donut Showdown on the Cooking Channel in 2017, a bite of their marvelous creations makes you realize how awesome they are at their craft. Offerings like the Samoa (like the Girl Scout cookie), PB Get Bizzy (peanut butter and chocolate), to the Tally My Banana, each combination made it clear these weren’t “just donuts.” Warning though – the donuts are fancy and you’ll feel a sugar rush for hours afterward!

basket of fries, fried shrimp and hush puppies

8. Enjoy live music at the Seawitch Cafe

Dog-friendly (on the patio) and with live music during the summer season (and most weekends before then), you can’t go wrong with a visit to this local tiki bar. The nightlife is off the charts. Offering a variety of foods, from salads to burgers to light seafood, the shrimp basket was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. If you have a pup with you, expect lots of attention from both servers and guests and their own water bowl.

very large pizza

9. Enjoy a pizza at Michaelangelo’s

If you’ve got a big crowd to feed, you can’t go wrong with The Godfather sized pizza! Serving New York style pizza and the usual accompaniments (wings, salads, strombolis), make sure you order before 10 pm and take it home with you (or better yet, have it delivered!). After a long day in the sun, you’ll be drained and no one will want to cook.

basket of tortilla chips with three salsas

10. Enjoy tacos at Nollie’s Taco Joint

A simple eating establishment featuring good food, good local beer, and good service. Start off your meal with homemade seasoned tortilla chips, choosing the Salsa Trio Sampler or The Full Monty (three salsas plus guacamole plus queso!). We found two tacos each hit the spot, though heartier appetites may prefer to order three. Weather permitting, ask to be seated on the patio!

burrito

11. Eat a burrito at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn

Popular with locals and tourists alike, Flaming Amy’s earns great reviews. Affordable and delicious, it has been named as one of the 33 best burrito restaurants by Thrillist. Self-described as hot, fast, cheap and easy, their menu offers a selection of combinations or make your own. If you like spicy food, try the Flaming Amy with chipotle peppers, fresh jalapenos, and Flaming hot salsa (among other things) and your favorite grilled protein, you won’t regret it!

beach with sand in the foreground and ocean and sky in back

12. Camp on the beach at Freeman Park

Want to park your four-wheel-drive vehicle on the beach and sleep in a tent? Freeman Park is the perfect location. It is a perfect setting for families, couples and groups. We visited at least annually with the boys’ Boy Scout troop. Just know both your driving ability and your vehicle or you’ll need to call a special tow truck to get you out. Parking, showers, and bathrooms are available at the beach entrance. Some port-a-potties are available towards the back of the beach as well for the convenience of visitors.

remaining stumps from old pier as waves hit beach

Location, location, location is what Carolina Beach offers to those of us who want to visit the beach. We stayed at a perfect location, a two-bedroom condo right on the beach. Check it out if you’re interested in a convenient place to stay. We were only three blocks from the fishing pier and Freeman park and about a mile walk to the Boardwalk. Schedule your visit to Carolina Beach soon!

If you’re in North Carolina, don’t miss a visit to Durham or foodie destination Kinston. If you’re traveling west, read about Concord or Charlotte as well!

Happy travels,

Annick, The Common Traveler

What to do while experiencing Carolina Beach in North Carolina. #carolinabeach

Planning a weekend getaway or vacation in Carolina Beach, NC? Here are 12 things to do and see that shouldn't be missed.