The Best Beach Towns in North Carolina

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By Stacker

June 16, 2023

North Carolina has more than its share of good beach towns, but which ones are the best? Here are the NC beach towns Stacker ranked as the best of the best.

Summer vacation has already begun for some across the U.S., and if Memorial Day is any indication, travelers should expect a busy summer season in 2023.

That weekend, largely considered the unofficial start of summer, the Transportation Security Administration screened 9.79 million people, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. And half of Americans say they will take a trip this summer, according to a survey from Deloitte, up from 46% in 2022.

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Trips abroad are spiking in popularity, as people try to make up for time lost during pandemic-era travel restrictions. However, as inflation makes travel more expensive, budget-conscious travelers are opting to cut costs by driving to their destinations and choosing to stay stateside. AAA expected 2 million more travelers on the road on Memorial Day weekend 2023 than on that weekend in 2022.

Beach destinations are popular this year, according to a survey from vacation-rental platform Vacasa, and outdoor recreation remains a top priority. Not only are beaches a great place to unwind and create family bonding moments, but they also boost people’s mental health.

So what makes a good beach town? Access to a beach, of course, but also plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to keep kids entertained, warm weather, and a long beach season.

Stacker crunched the numbers to find the best beach towns in North Carolina. To be considered a beach town, each city needed at least one beach on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National List of Beaches. The EPA list includes only beaches that are used recreationally and open to the public for free or for a fee; it has more than 6,000 beaches on the United States’ Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts and on the Great Lakes identified by states and tribes in response to the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000. The act requires states to report water quality monitoring to an EPA database.

Rankings were determined by a number of factors weighted by importance in the following order from most to least important: number of beaches monitored through the BEACH Act, the total shoreline of those beaches, access to beach-related businesses based on Census Bureau County Business Patterns, and Zillow median home prices.

There are 178 beaches monitored by the EPA in North Carolina, totaling 303.8 miles of shoreline.

Read on to get some vacation-planning inspo.

#25. Morehead City, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 3
– Length of listed beachfront: 1.1 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $359,584

#24. Oak Island, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 4
– Length of listed beachfront: 5.2 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 80 degrees
– Median home price: $507,911

#23. Harkers Island, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 3
– Length of listed beachfront: 1.3 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $335,550

#22. Newport, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 4
– Length of listed beachfront: 1.3 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 76 degrees
– Median home price: $294,879

#21. Washington, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 5
– Length of listed beachfront: 2.5 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 78 degrees
– Median home price: $216,764

#20. Rodanthe, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 2
– Length of listed beachfront: 5.4 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $562,484

#19. Hatteras, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 2
– Length of listed beachfront: 4.6 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $451,585

#18. Swansboro, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 3
– Length of listed beachfront: 3.0 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $314,751

#17. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 5
– Length of listed beachfront: 2.5 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 80 degrees
– Median home price: $558,401

#16. Southport, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 4
– Length of listed beachfront: 19.5 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 80 degrees
– Median home price: $383,184

#15. Buxton, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 1
– Length of listed beachfront: 5.9 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $429,957

#14. Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 9
– Length of listed beachfront: 1.9 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $475,014

#13. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 4
– Length of listed beachfront: 11.0 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $597,728

#12. Corolla, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 5
– Length of listed beachfront: 42.5 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 78 degrees
– Median home price: $834,625

#11. Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 8
– Length of listed beachfront: 20.5 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 80 degrees
– Median home price: $558,603

#10. Beaufort, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 10
– Length of listed beachfront: 1.7 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $366,193

#9. Kure Beach, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 6
– Length of listed beachfront: 6.2 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 80 degrees
– Median home price: $710,732

#8. Sneads Ferry, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 10
– Length of listed beachfront: 31.5 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $364,587

#7. Ocracoke, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 5
– Length of listed beachfront: 32.0 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $406,115

#6. Holly Ridge, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 6
– Length of listed beachfront: 11.8 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $322,102

#5. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 12
– Length of listed beachfront: 5.9 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 80 degrees
– Median home price: $1,322,625

#4. Salvo, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 5
– Length of listed beachfront: 26.4 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $579,070

#3. Emerald Isle, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 10
– Length of listed beachfront: 17.0 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $660,718

#2. Nags Head, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 15
– Length of listed beachfront: 20.7 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $646,313

#1. Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

– Number of beaches: 14
– Length of listed beachfront: 13.0 miles
– Average swim season length: 214 days
– Average county summer temperature: 79 degrees
– Median home price: $476,892

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