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With over 12,000 miles of coastline, it’s no wonder that people flock to the beaches of North Carolina every summer. However, for Tar Heels who like peace and quiet on their beach vacation, popular spots like Nags Head might feel a little overwhelming, especially in the height of summer—not to mention the challenges of booking reservations at hotels and restaurants or finding beachside parking when the crowds are at their peak.

Not to worry! One of the great things about planning a North Carolina beach getaway is that you have plenty of options to choose from. The North Carolina coast has plenty of little-known and less-crowded beaches where you can enjoy sun, surf, and plenty of space for you and your family. Here are some of North Carolina’s least-crowded beaches for you to start planning your summer adventure.

Ocracoke Beach

Photo courtesy of Visit Ocracoke, North Carolina

Arr! Many North Carolinians know about the history of piracy in their state, but far fewer visit this former pirate hideout, now one of North Carolina’s least-crowded beach gems. With high ratings on TripAdvisor, you might be surprised that Ocracoke isn’t more crowded, but its secluded location on Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry, keeps this beach feeling private even in the height of tourism season. Although there are restaurants and places to stay, Ocracoke is largely a place to enjoy peaceful natural surroundings and clean, quiet stretches of coastline. No wonder Blackbeard himself was a regular!

Frisco Beach

Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Looking for a seaside retreat to get away from it all? Consider Frisco Beach. With waters warmed by the Gulf Stream, and natural surroundings maintained by the National Park Service, Frisco Beach offers all the natural beauty of the Outer Banks. Due to its relatively remote location on the southern end of Hatteras Island, Frisco Beach is one of the lesser-known of North Carolina’s beaches, keeping it a quiet hidden gem, with the small town of Frisco offering restaurants, lodging, and a campground.

Indian Beach

Photo courtesy of Town Of Indian Beach via Facebook

Located smack in the middle of the coastal Island of Bogue Banks, Indian Beach bills itself as “The Hidden Gem of the Crystal Coast.” With a local population below 300 residents as of 2020, the town of Indian Beach is a remote slice of sea and sand—at times more like a private beach than a public one! Visitors to Indian Beach can take advantage of many rental properties, from cozy cottages to high-rises, and depending on the time of your visit, you might even meet some new additions to the local sea turtle population!

Topsail Beach

Photo courtesy of Town of Topsail Beach, North Carolina via Facebook

Like the sound of a beach escape with history? Consider Topsail Beach, located on Topsail Island and not too far from Wilmington. For centuries, Topsail Island was accessible only by boat, making it a pirate haven in the 1700s, but when the U.S. Navy used the island for weapons development under Operation Bumblebee in World War II, they partnered with Johns Hopkins University to build a highway to the island that’s accessible to this day! If you visit Topsail Beach, expect to enjoy uncrowded, pristine beaches; local military history; and family-friendly seaside arcades.

Holden Beach

Photo courtesy of Town of Holden Beach via Facebook

Located in the southeastern corner of North Carolina near Myrtle Beach, Holden Beach prides itself on being a great place for families. A pristine beach and cozy small town with mild weather nearly year-round, Holden Beach is a tranquil place where kids can make all the noise they like playing by the sea! Intrepid seaside explorers can collect shells, then enjoy a meal of tasty local seafood at one of the nearby restaurants.

Ocean Isle Beach

Photo courtesy of Town of Ocean Isle Beach

Another gem of southeastern North Carolina, Ocean Isle Beach is also in the Brunswick Islands, just north of Myrtle Beach. An affluent seaside community in a town known for its spectacular sunsets, visitors to Ocean Isle Beach can enjoy pristine white sands, warm seas, and a laid-back vibe. After you’ve enjoyed the beach, consider checking out a local winery, golf course, or the Museum of Coastal Carolina

Oak Island Beach

Photo courtesy of Town of Oak Island

On the southern end of North Carolina’s coast, Oak Island Beach offers 65 different coastal access points—more than any other seaside community in the state! The variety of options means it’s easy to find quiet spots to relax and enjoy Oak Island Beach at any time of year. If you’re looking for a little more action in your trip to the shore, Oak Island Beach also offers opportunities for snorkeling and sailing (just remember to follow all safety protocols).

Emerald Isle Beach

Photo courtesy of Town of Emerald Isle, NC via Facebook

For family-friendly beachside relaxation on Bogue Banks, Emerald Isle Beach prides itself on an all-ages environment with rental properties and hotels to suit all needs. Emerald Isle’s island location makes it a bit more out-of-the-way than many North Carolina beaches while still providing a seaside town with family-friendly attractions like the Salty Pirate Water Park to explore in addition to enjoying the sea.


READ MORE: 7 Summer Vacation Destinations to Check Out in North Carolina