8 Great Things to Do in Carolina Beach, North Carolina


Are you in search of the perfect getaway, but don’t know where to start? Check out Carolina Beach, North Carolina, a gem full of incredible activities and attractions. From kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding to shopping for antiques in one of the multiple local stores – there’s something new and exciting waiting around every corner. Take a chance on some fun in the sun with these 8 great things to do in Carolina Beach, located between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River.

Fun Fact: Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and historic Fort Fisher make up the idyllic stretch of oceanfront land known as Pleasure Island.


1. Go Fishing

Numerous charter boats line up in this North Carolina 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 to 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.

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.

Photo from Elijah’s website.

3. Admire 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.

Be sure to plan at least one day for admiring the waves, collecting shells, and maybe even napping. The hypnotizing ebb and flow of the ocean never cease to have a relaxing effect on me.


4. Eat Amazing Donuts at Britt’s

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.

A plus is that Britt’s only makes one variety —the 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 AM to 10:00 PM seven days a week. It’s a must-taste treat when you visit Carolina Beach.

Photo from Britt’s Donut Shop IG page.

5. Enjoy the Carolina Beach 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 PM in the summer.

Photo from Tony Silvagni Surf School website.

6. Visit the North Carolina Aquarium

Fort Fisher is only a few miles toward the end of the island from Carolina Beach, and its amazing North Carolina Aquarium is open daily from 9 to 5. Anyone interested in understanding sea life or in preserving endangered species will find plenty of information at the Fort Fisher facility. Early ticket sales are encouraged as they do sell out often.

From observing the habits of loggerhead turtles to petting a stingray, there are many interactive exhibits and tour programs at the NC Aquarium that will excite both young and old. The otters may be the star of the show at this North Carolina facility.

Good to Know Accessibility Items: Wheelchairs are available on a first-come-first-served basis, and cannot be reserved in advance. Personal wheelchairs and ECVs are permitted for use on Aquarium grounds. For guest safety, please set ECVs to walking speed. Sensory backpacks, in partnership with KultureCity, can be check out at Visitor Services. Sign language interpreters are available (upon request) with two weeks advance notice. 

Photo from NC Aquarium website.

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.

Photo from Fishy Fishy Cafe website.

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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This article was originally published by Connie Pearson in 2019. It has been updated partially in 2023 by staff.

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