Carolina Beach - Wilmington Weekend Escapes

Beach Towns In North Carolina

Summer is the ideal time of year to plan a family getaway to explore some spectacular ocean side retreats found along the coast of North Carolina.  One of the best beach towns in North Carolina can be found just 30 minutes away from the chic seaport town of Wilmington.  Carolina Beach, established in 1857, is a nostalgic beach town that reflects the 1950’s and is the only beach in the state that still has a boardwalk to enjoy stepping back in time.  At one point in the history of this quaint beachside resort, the island was only accessible by water when in 1866 a steamship began transporting vacationers down the Cape Fear River to Snow’s Cut.  Subsequently, a high-rise bridge was built over Snow’s Cut connecting the island to the mainland.  Today, the town is flourishing with travelers who have chosen to make this island oasis an annual escape and the population is growing making this location the ideal spot to search for beachfront homes in the Wilmington NC real estate market.

Carolina Beach is located on an island called “Pleasure Island” on the southern end of North Carolina’s coastline. It is a part of the Atlantic coast’s intercoastal waterway where the tip of the peninsula is located between the Cape Fear River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  Here is where this fabulous beach is found.  There is rich history associated with this quaint ocean town.  Originally the region was inhabited by the Tuscarora Indians who existed by hunting game and cultivating vegetables.  After the Tuscarora war which lasted from 1711 to 1715, the Indians where driven off the land allowing the first settlement to surface on the western shore of the Cape Fear River called Brunswick Town.  Not long after, another small town developed on the eastern side of the river called Newtown.  Newton grew as a major shipping port and today is known as Wilmington.  Civil War battle sites at nearby Fort Fisher reflect the turbulent history of the region when Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia strived to keep the port of Wilmington open to blockade runners who supplied goods to Confederate armies inland, the battle ended in 1865.

It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th century that Carolina Beach saw dramatic growth as a “beach resort town”.  The opening of the Oceanview Hotel in 1929 was the impetus for getting visitors to stay on the island offering great waterfront views and running water which was considered a luxury at that time.  Back in the days of “surf bathing”, other buildings developed including a power station, school, and a large pavilion for big band entertainment helping to put Carolina Beach on the map as the “go to” beach on the coast of North Carolina.  Amazing regional seafood restaurants began to surface, and word began to spread quickly amongst discerning travelers.  The boardwalk was built and as they say, “build and they will come”.  Tourism started to rise as city dwellers discovered the luxurious lifestyle that was offered at the seaside resorts that popped up throughout the area offering the perfect weekend retreat.  Folks began to flock to the town to soak up the sun in the sand while enjoying the festive environment found at Carolina Beach and the population started to grow.  Today, there are 5,600 residents.  This town is indeed a happening place to live and provides the perfect place to escape reality and shop for the affordable beachfront homes that can be found on this exclusive island called “Paradise”.

In 1946, the Carolina Beach fishing pier was built due to the exceptional prey offered in the waterways surrounding the beach.  After being destroyed by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, the pier was rebuilt and stoically remains today. This is one of the best place for anglers to drop the line and is still one of the favorite pastimes enjoyed here.  In addition to great fishing, the beach offers a bevy of outdoor adventures to enjoy.  Swimming, surfing, boating, bird watching, sunset strolls, shelling or simply relaxing while soaking up sun are ways to spend the days on this incredible beach found on the coast of North Carolina.  In addition to the beach activities, this town caters to “fun-ness” throughout the year.  

One of the premier entertainment centers found here is the world-famous Carolina Beach Boardwalk that has been noted as “one of the best boardwalks in the country” by USA TODAY.  This adventure brings back all the fond memories of growing up and can be enjoyed by folks of all ages.  The Ferris wheel is iconic, the sweet treats are delicious, the music invites dancing under the starlit nights, while the aromatic senses are overwhelmed with the superb dining venues that feature some of the freshest seafood in the country.   Shopping for beachwear and souvenirs is always fun and the outdoor tiki bars provide the perfect spot to people watch while sitting on this historic stretch of beachfront frivolity.  Here are a few points of interest:

  • The Carolina Beach Amusement Park is a great place to take the kids (or the kid within) to enjoy thrill-seeking rides including a Ferris Wheel, carnival games and fair food or just a place to cool off maybe win some prizes while testing your skills.  Miniature golf, go-carts, waterslides, bumper cars and an arcade provide hours of fun for the family. The park is open Sunday through Thursday 5 to 11pm, Friday and Saturday, 5pm to 12am Memorial Day until Labor Day.
  • Want to explore the region by a Surrey?  Wheel Fun Rentals on the boardwalks offers Surry Bikes for rent.  Self-guided tours are also available to visit the nearby Kure Beach and the historic Fort Fisher.
  • Surfing is a popular sport on Carolina Beach.  If you are a novice, lessons are available at the Tony Silvagni Surf School.  Tony is a world champion surfer and Olympic gold medal winner.  Rentals are also available here for surf boards, beach chairs, umbrellas, etc.
  • Boat, kayak, surfboard and bicycles rentals are also available in the town center allowing visitors the chance to explore this beachside paradise by land or sea.

When it comes to eateries, the options on Carolina Beach are endless.  Looking for some fresh seafood?  Try the Shuckin’ Shack for some of the best local catch of the day.  Frank’s Pizza offers some great food when you got the craving for this Italian delicacy.  Nothing beats authentic North Carolina barbecue, try the mouthwatering dishes offered at the Carolina Smokehouse which has been featured on the Food Network known for their hardwood-smoked brisket, pork, ribs and chicken accented with homemade BBQ sauce.  It is a little known fact that Elvis still thrives on Carolina Beach.  At least he has been sighted at Pop’s Diner where the owner Darrell Rackley pays tribute at this trendy 1950’s eatery.  Great food, juke box music and lots of fun for eating breakfast, lunch or dinner at reasonable prices.  For a true gourmet hot dog, Jack’s Retreat Beer Garden and Dog House is the place to enjoy locally crafted beer while diving into a “Carolina Dog”.  With an impressive outdoor beer garden this place is open to four-legged companions and located near the boardwalk with late night hours.

Searching for a hot cup of java?  The Crush and Grind is the place to get some of the best local gourmet coffee, they also serve craft beer and premier wines throughout the day.  Grab a cup and head to the beach for a majestic sunrise while enjoying another beautiful day at Carolina Beach.  Another place to embrace early morning or any time of day is Britts Donut Shop which is a landmark on the boardwalk opened back in 1939 and still one of the local favorites for melt-in-your-mouth donuts made fresh daily. Britts is only open during the season from mid-April through October, be advised, cash only.  There are lots of places to get sweet treats on the boardwalk, from snowcones to gelato, so no worries in finding a refreshing ice-cold dessert after a fulfilling day at the beach.  One place to visit just off the boardwalk is Squigley’s Ice Cream & Treats which offers over 4,000 ice cream flavors along with a gift gallery above the ice cream parlor offering some impeccable jewelry pieces.  Come stop shop and enjoy the wide array of dessert options and impressive creations of fine gems found at this 22-year establishment open from Easter through Halloween.  Looking for a taste of Ireland, then head to the Celtic Creamery that features authentic Irish ice cream and treats to satisfy even the most discerning palate.  Choc-a-holics love The Fudgeboat for the best creations of handmade butter and cream fudge, one of the favorites, “Red Velvet Fudge” is now offered year-round.  In addition to fudge, dipped pretzels, roasted nuts and chocolate covered strawberries make great gifts or the perfect ending to a perfect day while sipping champagne watching the sunset on Carolina Beach.

When the sun sets over the Atlantic Ocean with herons, ibises and egrets gracefully wading through the shallow waters, life doesn’t end there.  There is an active nightlife for those who want to celebrate life by sharing cocktails at one of the tiki bars that set the mood on this island oasis.  Have a refreshing libation by the fire pit at a warm and inviting tiki bar found at the Hampton Inn & Suites called “Leaping Lizards”.  Want some live music and ocean breezes?  Try the deck Hurricane Alley’s Taphouse overlooking the Boardwalk.  Another great spot to watch a glorious sunset is the Seawitch Café known for their awesome drink specials, excellent cuisine and live music Tuesday through Sunday during the summer.  Try one of the local favorites which is “The Steam Pot” filled with locally resourced crab clusters, oysters, shrimp, potatoes and corn on the cob.  Bring the dog as the outdoor patio is “pet friendly”.  It is the place to unwind and dance the night away after spending another quality day at Carolina Beach.  If you want to hang out with the locals, try a “Boardwalk Bum” cocktail at Buzz’s Roost.  And if dive bars are your thing, venture to the Fat Pelican just steps away from the boardwalk where there are over 350 beer selections.  The bar has the distinguished honor of being recognized as “One of the Best Dive Bars in America”.

While Carolina Beach is captivating year-round, there are extracurricular activities that take place during the summer months to keep both residents and visitors entertained.  Plan to attend some of the events that make this beach distinctive from any other found along the North Carolina coast.

Fireworks by the Sea & Boardwalk Blast is an exciting summer event that attracts families and thrill-seekers to the historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Did you know every Thursday night at 6:30pm, live music sets the mood at the Gazebo stage followed by a spectacular fireworks display at 9pm?  This is one of the highlights for locals and tourists celebrating summer, Pleasure Island style.  Come dance the night away and enjoy this FREE family friendly evening on Carolina Beach.  The event is every Thursday now through August 31st.

Movies at the Lake is held every Sunday from 9pm to 11pm at Carolina Beach Lake Park.  This event is FREE to the public.  The next starlit movie will be held July 1st featuring Wonderstruck.  Bring a chair, blanket and picnic basket to take part in this family friendly event.  The movies run throughout the season with the last show screening on September 2nd.  Here is a listing of the movies that will be featured this season:

Finding Dory - July 15th
View from a Blue Moon - July 22nd
Coco - July 29th
The Emoji Movie - August 5th
Ferdinand - August 19th
Glee the Concert Movie - August 26th
Paddington 2 - September 2nd

The Sounds of Summer is another freebie for folks to enjoy from now until August 30th.  This weekly event offers great musical talent from a wide variety of artists.  The concerts start at 6:30pm and ends at 9:30pm and are held at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk Gazebo.  This is a great way to enjoy some incredible performers while dancing under the stars at Carolina Beach.  Here is the lineup for this summer season:

  • Justin Cody Fox - July 12th
  • The Cut - July 19th
  • Trainwreck - July 26th
  • Jack Jack 180 - Aug 2nd
  • The Other Guys - Aug 9th
  • Zion Roots - Aug 16th
  • Painted Man - Aug 23rd
  • Phantom Playboys - Aug 31st

FAMILY NIGHT is another FREE event that is offered on Carolina Beach from now until August 14th.  Every Tuesday night from 6:30pm to 8:30pm families are invited to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk Gazebo where there several fun activities for kids offered weekly.  There is a bounce house, live entertainment, crafts, face painting and lots of festivities to entertain the entire family.  Here are the entertainers scheduled for this year:

  • No Sleeves Magic:  July 10th, July 24th and August 7th
  • Mr. Scooter:  July 17th and August 14th
  • Lynn & DJ Dave:  July 31st
  • Broccoli Brothers Circus:  August 7th

There is always something going on at Carolina Beach, exploring the scenery and breathing fresh sea air is enough to stimulate the senses and the desire to become a resident making this the perfect place to shop for a beachfront home at one of the best beaches in North Carolina.

THE FARMERS MARKET is highly popular with locals and is a favorite spot to buy the best and freshest locally grown produce, seafood, meats, wine and regional cuisine while listening to live music on the shoreline of Carolina Beach Lake.  This market is open every Saturday from 8am to 1pm and provides the perfect place to mingle with neighbors and find some incredible values while supporting the community of merchants who thrive in the region. The market stays open through August 29th and is the place to be seen on Saturday mornings.

Carolina Beach State Park provides all the amenities to enjoy boating, fishing, camping, hiking and some amazing bird exploration.  There is a marina with an affordable boat launch and dock slips for overnight dockage as well as leases for storage from 6 to 12 months.  The marina offers access from the Cape Fear River to the Intracoastal Waterway providing access to some incredible fishing destinations.  Camping is a fun way to bond with the beautiful environment found at this amazing park.  There are 83 campsites that are nestled beneath the towering pines with some amazing hiking trails that meander along the river and into the lush forests that surround the grounds.  Bird watching is highly popular here as there are hundreds of species that inhabit the region including the Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Black Vulture, Pelican, Loon and even a Bald Eagle has been spotted here.  Horticulturists love exploring the landscaping that houses a wide variety of local plant species.  The Venus flytrap is one rare carnivorous plant that thrives in the park making this a highly popular tourist attraction.  The visitor’s center has a unique exhibit and is a great place to start this adventure found near Carolina Beach.  With beautiful beaches and the Carolina Beach State Park it is no wonder home shoppers are discovering this prime piece of Wilmington, NC real estate.

Sea Turtle Talk at Carolina Beach State Park Visitor Center is a stimulating overview on the endangerment of sea turtles that nest on the beaches throughout the area from May through October.  It is very informative and a great way to help preserve the species.  The talk is FREE to the public and is offered every Wednesday from now through August 29th.  

Freeman Park is another beach access point found on the undeveloped northern stretch of Carolina Beach and is known as the place to go swimming, surfing, fishing, camping and shell hunting.  The park is preserved with a strict litter-free policy and visitors are responsible for removing their own trash.  Camping is allowed as are 4WD vehicles.  This is a popular beach to explore for both tourists and locals.

Carolina Beach has become a popular weekend retreat for Wilmington residents and is the place to escape “city life” especially during the summer months.  Driving through this historical seaside village, folks are taken back in time when they recall family vacations when they were kids and the experience brings back the fond memories of yesteryear.  The town has impeccable charm and features some amazing amenities that is drawing home shoppers to investigate the affordable Wilmington NC real estate found in the beachfront homes at Carolina Beach. There are a variety of unique architectural styles to choose from ranging from modest cottages to upscale single-family estates.  The interesting blend of Dutch Colonial, Mission, Art Deco and Art Moderne buildings give this beach location exceptional appeal.  The beachfront motels offer a wide selection of accommodations for visitors and the Carolina Beach experience is well worth the journey.

Summer provides the perfect time to visit the quaint historical yet captivating town of Carolina Beach and explore beachfront homes or homes nearby. If you're learning about the area for the first time, ask for our complimentary Wilmington relocation information. It's our pleasure to help!

Share This

Add Comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <br> <p>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Share This
Stay informed about the latest news.
A behind the scene look at what's happening in 'real time' keeping you informed.