Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and historic Fort Fisher make up the idyllic stretch of oceanfront land known as Pleasure Island.
Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River, Carolina Beach attracts year-round residents and seasonal visitors who come for an intriguing variety of reasons in addition to the abundant sun and sand. Here are 8 great things to consider doing when you plan a trip to Carolina Beach.
1. Go Fishing
Numerous charter boats line up in the harbor at the end of each day to unload proud fishermen with their freshly-caught fish before making plans for the following day’s excursion. You can choose from a few hours to an entire day on the water, depending on what species of fish you’re hoping to reel in. Some of the most sought-after are grouper, snapper, king mackerel and black bass. Ask the boat captains. They’ll tell you what you need to do to ensure a successful day.
2. Cross the Bridge into Wilmington
Wilmington is back across the long bridge that you likely came over when you first arrived in Carolina Beach and only a half-hour away. It is a city full of history, entertainment options, restaurants, specialty shops, beautifully-preserved mansions and plantations to tour and a bustling River Walk where Market Street ends at Café Fear River. Enjoy a waterfront lunch at Elijah’s, find a new outfit at Ropa, but, by all means, save room and time for a cupcake at The Peppered Cupcake.
3. Stare at the Waves
After all, you do go to a beach town for the beach, don’t you? The long, sandy stretches of Carolina Beach feature large seashells and comfortable crowds. So, be sure to plan at least one day for staring at the waves, picking up shells, then staring (and maybe napping) some more. The hypnotizing ebb and flow of the ocean never cease to have a relaxing effect.
4. Eat Amazing Donuts
Britt’s Donut Shop on the Boardwalk consistently makes the list whenever anyone cites the best places in North Carolina to find donuts. Expect to stand in line, but the folks at Britt’s have a sound system for satisfying their customers promptly. One plus is that they only make one variety –classic glazed donuts that literally melt in your mouth. Take cash because they won’t accept credit cards. Britt’s is open from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. seven days a week. It’s a must-taste treat when you visit Carolina Beach.
5. Enjoy the Boardwalk
The Carolina Beach Boardwalk gives the whole town a vintage atmosphere. There are a few kitschy shops open during the daytime (taking advantage of the foot traffic to Britt’s Donut Shop), but most of the action happens as the sun begins to set.
Amusement rides and arcade games will excite the younger set, while some might enjoy surfing lessons at Tony Silvagni Surf School. Other food vendors offer pizza, snow cones, fudge, cotton candy, ice cream and gelato. The most popular attraction is the fireworks show held every Thursday at 9:00 PM in the summer.
6. Visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
Fort Fisher is only a few miles toward the end of the island from Carolina Beach, and its aquarium is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Anyone interested in understanding sea life or in preserving endangered species will find plenty of information at the Fort Fisher facility. From observing the habits of loggerhead turtles to petting a stingray, there are many interactive exhibits and tour programs that will excite both young and old.
7. Eat Fresh Seafood
The natural result of all those fishing charters is abundant seafood in the local restaurants. Some of the most popular eateries are Jack Mackerel’s Island Grill, Stoked, Michael’s Seafood Restaurant, Havana’s and The Deck House. Seafood will be prominent on each menu, but for those who don’t like seafood, never fear. Steaks, chops, chicken, burgers and sandwiches are offered, as well.
If you prefer a big meal in the morning, join the line of eager diners at Kate’s Pancake House. It’s an island tradition with large portions, friendly service and family-friendly prices.
8. Take the Ferry to Southport
Southport is a charming setting for movies, especially those based on the novels of Nicholas Sparks. In reality, several television shows and movies were filmed in Southport, and a tour can be arranged at the Visitors Center to see all of the famous sights.
A ferry departs from Fort Fisher every 45 minutes starting at 7:45 AM until 5:30 PM and is the quickest and most recommended way to get from Carolina Beach to Southport. Cost is $7 one way, and you can stay in your car if you wish.
Fishy Fishy Café is a popular eatery on the waterfront, and The Christmas House on Moore Street is worth a visit. Along with traditional decorations, many items combine a nautical theme with the holidays, and there’s a vast candy selection.
Carolina Beach is quaint, relaxing and almost undiscovered by the masses. Go and visit before the rest of the world finds it.
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