Carolina Beach is a gorgeous seaside town in North Carolina’s New Hanover County. With a year-round population of almost 6,000, this island paradise is the perfect place for a fabulous vacation or to start that blissful beach life that you’ve always wanted.
One of Carolina Beach’s most touted features is its award-winning boardwalk, named one of our nation’s Top Ten by both Food & Wine Magazine and USA Today. You can explore the area with your family on a rented surrey bike, buy a boogie board at one of the awesome surf shops and ride the waves, or play games and win prizes at the arcade. And of course there’s amazing food - from hot donuts to seafood steam pots, ice cream, fudge and so much more! If you’re looking for something a little different from the usual boardwalk pastimes, you can wander into Sheila Faye Politis’ Saltwater Surf Gallery, sign up for a Sip-and-Paint class, and go home with a one-of-a-kind souvenir to help you remember your awesome times at Carolina Beach forever. The paintings on the right, picturing the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, and a barreling wave are examples of the type of art you can create with Sheila; these are called Lights on the Pier, and Pe'ahi, respectively.
Carolina Beach State Park
If you’re into the more-scenic beach experience, Carolina Beach State Park is the place for you. Camp beneath towering trees, hike the white sand trails, admire the breathtaking views of the Cape Fear River, and marvel at the fascinating flora and fauna of the region. The park includes a visitor’s center with exhibits demonstrating the wonders of this natural environment; for example, it is one of the few places in all the world that you can find a Venus flytrap in the wild. But that’s not the only carnivorous plant you might come across on the island! Pitcher plants (pictured on the right) are also abundant.
Nature lovers will also enjoy the local sea turtles. The Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project helps to shelter and otherwise protect the endangered loggerhead turtle, which lay their eggs on the island. Volunteers locate and protect nests in vulnerable areas and help the babies either make their way to sea, if possible, or take them in until they reach the point at which they can safely be released. You can even adopt a turtle nest and the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project will send you updates and videos of the nest protected by your donation.
Nature meets history at Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum, the location of the largest land/sea battle of the Civil War. Wilmington was a vital Confederate port and Fort Fisher was the main line of defense for strategic Confederate trade routes starting in 1861. By the time of the second battle of Fort Fisher in January of 1865, the supply line through Wilmington was the last-remaining means of delivering provisions to Robert E. Lee’s army in Northwestern Virginia. It is often stated that the fall of Fort Fisher to the Union, and the subsequent fall of the Wilmington seaport was the effective end of the Civil War.
In addition to the exhibits and presentations in the museum, historical reenactments of the Battle of Fort Fisher are also periodically scheduled.
North Carolina Aquarium’s Fort Fisher location has a number of activities for all ages to enjoy. There is a 235,000-gallon saltwater tank, a rare albino alligator named Luna, and even the opportunity to pet a real-live shark! As if that’s not thrilling enough, there’s also the Butterfly Bungalow—an enclosed garden full of hundreds of beautiful living butterflies, as well as an outdoor garden crawling with life-sized, animatronic dinosaurs!!
The stretch of sandy beach known as Freeman Park is one of the most popular locations in Carolina Beach. Tourists and locals alike visit the park to fish, boat, crab, cast for minnows, swim, and even ride horses. Camping is allowed only with a permit, and reservations are required between April and September. Small fires are allowed as well, within limits outlined on the Carolina Beach city website.
From surf fishing to deep sea charters, this town has got you covered. The 700-foot, full-service Carolina Beach Fishing Pier is family owned and operated and features a tackle shop, grill, snack bar, and lounge. If you’re interested in competitive fishing, check out the Southeast King Mackerel Tournament, East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament, Carolina Fall Flatfish Tournament, Carolina Fall King Challenge, and the Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge, to name just a few.
Tony Silvagni, USA Surf Team gold medalist, calls Carolina Beach home. With a decade of surf coaching experience, Tony leads his team of instructors in coaching private and group lessons for kids and adults and at all levels of skill from beginners to advanced surfers.
Carolina Beach also features a Summer-long Boardwalk Film and Fireworks series and is home to NC’s largest beach music festival, the Carolina Beach Music Festival, just one of the popular live music events held in the area. Other major local events include the Salty Paws Festival (benefiting local animal rescues), the Pleasure Island Chowder Cook-Off, and the Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival. Top it off with sunset cruises and nature tours, an annual Christmas Parade, the Holiday Flotilla on the Intracoastal Waterway, and the busy and bustling weekend Farmer’s Market, and there really is always something to do at Carolina Beach. (Special thanks to Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage Carolina Beach agents Rick Rogge and Mary Lynn Blake for the use of their photos)