Located on the Cape Fear coast at the northern end of Pleasure Island, one of North Carolina's barrier islands, just south of the historic city of WIlmington, Carolina Beach (year-round poulation just over 5,000) is bursting with exciting events and things to do apart from the great beach, with swimming, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and more. And here are eight of them, for fantastic family fun when the weather's warm (generally June through September).



On the Boardwalk, Boardwalk

It's been called one of the USA's top beach boardwalks, and now is the spot to hang out both day and night for its restaurants, bars, ice cream and other shops, arcade, rides, and live music in the evenings (and don't forget the fireworks show, every summer Thursday at 9 pm).

10853589477?profile=RESIZE_930xSeaWitch Tiki Bar


Hit the Beach Bars

One of the North Carolina coast's top hotspots for beach nightlife (livelier than nearby Kure Beach and "beachier" than Wrightsfille), with myriad cool bars and clubs (all 21-plus, where all are welcome), and these are my favorites:

The Fat Pelican - Fun, quirky, full of character, and just "crusty" enough to qualify as a dive bar (and by the way voted best dive bar in NC and among the top 25 in the USA).

Crush & Grind - A more contemporary environment with wine, craft beer, and great cold-brew coffee.

Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar - Perched on its own little pier, with a full menu; nice (if a little pricey for Carolina Beach) drinks; and live-music acts on Thursday nights.

SeaWitch Tiki Bar With a big open courtyard, this spot (above) is also known for its great live music. 




Gone Fishin'

Angling is a great lure (so to speak) for lots of Carolina Beach's visitors, looking to snag saltwater species including flounder, bluefish, bluefin tuna, Spanish and king mackerels, mullets, sheapshead, and North Carolina's famous red and black drum. Buy a pass and cast a line off the old wooden fishing pier (above) or sign on to the many charters for deep sea and nearshore fishing.




Toss off some Disc Golf

This sport, played by throwing a Frisbee-like plastic disc toward a basket, is pretty popular hereabouts, with one disc golf courses in Carolina Beach - Trinity at Good Hops Brewing - and three more in the Wilmington region, all free to use (a ll you'll need is a disc, sold for around $10 at some local stores).


10853611262?profile=RESIZE_930xRobert Couse-Baker


Kayak Zeke's Island

This lagoonlike, 1,635-acre coastal marshland reserve in Kure Beach is only accessible by shallow-water boats. It's also a great place for birdwatchers, who'll spot black-bellied plovers, short-billed dowitchers, dunlin, white ibis, and great blue herons, black ducks, among mallards, among other species.



Gape at the Fishes - and More - in a Cool Aquarium

Also in Kure Beach, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is one of the area's most popular attractions, welcoming the public as well as being a serious scientific research facility. Marine critters from the North Carolina coast as well as the seas of the world are featured, and you'll also meet seven adorable Asian small-clawed otters, as well as Luna, a rare albino alligator, and Maverick, a rescued bald eagle. In the spring and summer there's also a fantastic butterfly garden.

10853647297?profile=RESIZE_930xBeatriz Moissez


Hunt for Venus Flytraps at Carolina Beach State Park

I love watching the sunsets at this state park and hiking its magificent pine and oak forest; we spent practically every evening at the park between 2018 and 2021. There are hundreds of beach pathways to explore, and 50-foot-high Sugarloaf Dune is well worth seeing for its spectacular views of the Cape Fear River. Cabins and tent sites are available for overnighting. And yes, this is also one of the few spots in the world where you can find the renowned carnivorous Venus flytrap in the wild. Open wide!



Hang Ten, or Take a Gnarly Surfing Lesson or Two

The waves of the Cape Fear coast attracts lots of surfers, and there are also plenty of surf schools (and the gentler waves of summer are ideal for beginners) like the Tony Silvagni Surf School (above) and Odyssea Surf and Kiteboard School. Prime surfin' USA! Do keep in mind, though, that the ocean is no joke, and it can be pretty deadly if you don't understand what you're doing.

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