16 Best North Carolina Beaches Close to Virginia

Virginia is home to many great beaches, particularly around Virginia Beach, the Northern Neck, and Eastern Shore. 

You can also venture further south to the North Carolina coast to find even more great beaches for some fun in the sun! 

Many of these beaches can be reached within an hour or less of Virginia, which makes them the perfect summer escape. 

North Carolina beaches have something for everyone! You can go surfing, surf fishing, fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, jet skiing, sailing, diving, and much more!

Beyond the beaches, North Carolina has some incredible historic sites, sunken ships, museums, lighthouses, aquariums, parks, and nature preserves, as well as plenty of fabulous golfing, shopping, and restaurants.

Below are my top recommendations for the best North Carolina beaches close to Virginia. 

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Top photo by Cam Bradford on Unsplash.


Table of Contents


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A Map of North Carolina Beaches Close to Virginia


Outer Banks Beaches

Outer Banks (frequently abbreviated OBX, particularly on bumper stickers!), is your top beach spot along the coast of North Carolina! 

It actually refers to a long string of barrier islands and beaches that runs from Sandbridge Beach in Virginia Beach, VA, to Hatteras Island in North Carolina.

Most of the beaches listed below are technically part of the Outer Banks. 

OBX is a very popular summer destination in the mid-Atlantic. It is home to great beaches, boardwalks, nature reserves, historic sites, and much more. It even marks the birthplace of aviation at Kitty Hawk, NC!

Getting There

You can reach the Outer Banks by car. From Norfolk, Virginia, just take I-464 to VA-168, which becomes US-158.

You can also reach the beaches by plane. Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, VA is the nearest airport. It is about an hour and a half drive from the airport to the northern Outer Banks. 

You can also reach the Outer Banks by ferry. You can take a car ferry between Ocracoke and Hatteras. Learn more about the ferry schedule online. 


Corolla Beach and Carova Beach

Where To Stay:
Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks/Carolla
(Click to Book)

Corolla Beach and Carova Beach are destinations you don’t want to miss. They are home to wild horses! The horses are descendants of Spanish mustangs brought to the Americas 500 years ago. You can book a guided tour to see the horses. 

There are 20 miles of unspoiled coastline at Carolla and Carova Beach. It’s a perfect destination for relaxing with a book on the beach or enjoying a peaceful stroll. 

You can find pretty much every kind of water activity there too, including surfing, paddle boarding, parasailing, kiteboarding, jet skiing, and kayaking through the Currituck sound. 

Corolla Beach also has plenty of land activities, including excellent golfing, plus trails for bicycling, walking, and running. You can also go off-roading in a 4×4 along the beaches.  

The area is also home to the historic Currituck Beach Lighthouse, which dates back to 1875. 


Duck

Where To Stay:
Sanderling Resort
(Click to Book)

Duck is located south of Corolla and north of Southern Shores. It earned its name due to the popularity of duck hunting in the early 20th century. 

Duck has more of a local residential feel than other parts of OBX. There is a one-mile boardwalk, which is a convenient way to travel between shops and restaurants in town. 

Duck is famous for delicious Duck Donuts, and so you’ll definitely want to stop by and pick some up! 

Duck has plenty of water activities like standup paddleboarding, kayaking, and sailing. There are also trails for hiking, biking, and running. 

Duck is also a popular spot for yoga and spas. It’s the little town that has something for everyone! 


Nags Head

Where To Stay:
Holiday Inn Express Nags Head Oceanfront
(Click to Book)

Nags Head is one of the most popular beaches in North Carolina. It is packed with all of the amenities you could need, including great restaurants, an outlet mall, boutiques, surf shops, and much more. 

Jockey’s Ridge State Park is located nearby. Within the 426-acre park, you can go hiking, hang gliding, and kite flying. You can even go sandboarding down the largest natural living sand dune on the East Coast!

Another major attraction in Nags Head is the Outer Banks Fishing Pier. The popular fishing spot is open 24 hours and doesn’t require a license to fish. You can rent rods at the nearby pier house. 

You can also visit nearby Roanoke Island, which was the famous site of the lost colony and one of the earliest European settlements in the Americas. The island is also home to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and North Carolina Aquarium. 

Some of the top local restaurants in Nags Head include Sam & Omie’s, which dates back to the 1950s; Tale of the Whale; and The Dunes Restaurant. For all-day breakfast and southern food, check out Grits Grill. 


Coquina Beach

Where To Stay:
Holiday Inn Express Nags Head Oceanfront
(Click to Book)

Coquina Beach is located to the south of Nags Head. The beach is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which means there is no commercial development along the shoreline. This makes it a great, quieter alternative to some of the other busier beaches like Nags Head. 

You can access the beach by four-wheel drive or on foot. Note that you will need to get a permit for off-road driving. 

Coquina beach is a popular destination for surf fishing, which is especially popular in spring and fall. It’s also a great place for beach combing and shelling. You can find a number of unique clam shells, coquinas, moon snails, and sea glass along the beaches. 

You can also enjoy water sports like surfing and bodyboarding at Coquina. 


Kitty Hawk

Where To Stay:
Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk
(Click to Book)

Kitty Hawk is the famous site associated with aviation pioneers the Wright Brothers. They actually flew their first test planes at nearby Kill Devil Hills, which is only about 4 miles away. You can find numerous public beach access points in Kitty Hawk Beach. 

For nature lovers, you can also visit Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve. The reserve is 1,824 acres in size and includes trails for biking and hiking, as well as places to go canoeing and paddle boarding. 

At nearby Kill Devil Hills, you can visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which includes exhibits on the history of aviation, plus a reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer: the first plane in flight! 


Hatteras

Where To Stay:
Pony Island Inn
(Click to Book)

Hatteras is part of the Cape Hatteras National Shoreline on Hatteras Island. It’s one of the longest islands in the continental United States. It’s also one of the narrowest islands, with many parts only a mile or less wide. 

The island has 50 miles of coastline and is much quieter than other parts of the Outer Banks. It features sprawling water views of the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Pamlico Sound to the west. 

There are seven villages dotting the island, as well as a number of fabulous beaches, including Frisco Beach and Avon Beach. 

The island beaches are a great spot for surfing due their location. Kiteboarding is another popular activity. 

Hatteras Island is also a great location for windsurfing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, parasailing, and jet skiing. 

You can also book a boat tour or even go on a stunning, sunset horseback riding tour among the sand dunes and expansive shorelines. 

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is located to the north of Hatteras and is home to migrating birds. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is another major attraction on the island. 


Emerald Isle

Where To Stay:
Islander Hotel & Resort
(Click to Book)

Emerald Isle is located further south along the North Carolina coast. It’s a popular family destination for fishing, paddle boarding, jet skiing, kitesurfing, and more water sports. 

One major attraction is the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier, which is a popular fishing spot, as well as a great spot to take in the gorgeous water views. 


Pine Knoll Shores

Where To Stay:
The Inn at Pine Knoll Shores
(Click to Book)

Pine Knoll Shores is located just to the east of Emerald Isle and to the west of Atlantic Beach. It is another great beach location, with miles of pristine white sandy beaches surrounded by lovely oak and cedar trees. 

The community is mainly comprised of vacation rentals by the beach, which makes it a perfect, secluded summer escape. 

Pine Knoll Shores is also home to the popular North Carolina Aquarium, where you can see sharks, sting rays, otters, sea turtles, and penguins! 

Nature lovers can also visit the 265-acre Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area. There are several great hiking trails, and lots of wildlife to see, including river otters, rabbits, gray foxes, turtles, egrets, and ospreys. 


Topsail Beach

Where To Stay:
Saltwater Suites at Topsail Island
(Click to Book)

Topsail Beach is located on Topsail Island. It is south of Emerald Isle and about 40 miles north of Wilmington. 

One of the best places to visit nearby is the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. It is located in nearby Surf City. The center rescues and rehabilitates injured sea turtles in the area. Visitors can volunteer at the sea turtle hospital or take a guided tour. 

For history lovers, you can visit the Missiles and More Museum to learn about the World War II history of the region. 

Other top activities include fishing off of the Surf City Ocean Pier or going kayaking. 


Kure Beach by Beth Desrosiers on Unsplash

Wilmington Beaches

Further south along the North Carolina coast, you will find the city of Wilmington, which is home to a number of the best North Carolina beaches. 

Getting There

You can reach Wilmington, NC by plane or car. The closest airport is Wilmington International Airport (ILM). You can also drive to Wilmington via I-95 and then I-40.


Carolina Beach

Where To Stay:
Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Carolina Beach Oceanfront
(Click to Book)

Carolina Beach is located just 15 miles from Wilmington. It is near Cape Fear River and Carolina Beach State Park. 

There is a cute seaside boardwalk to explore, plus plenty of water sports like stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and surfing.

Carolina Beach is one of the best beaches in North Carolina for families. They have music and seafood festivals for a fun time throughout the year. 

Nature lovers will have plenty to explore at Carolina Beach State Park. The park covers 761 acres and has hiking trails, a marina, and camping sites. 

There are also lots of local wildlife to spot, such as sand crabs, foxes, deer, rabbits, tree frogs, ibises, and egrets. You can even find the carnivorous Venus flytrap within the park. 

Carolina Beach has many more parks to visit, including Freeman Park and Carolina Beach Lake Park. 


Bald Head Island

Where To Stay:
River Hotel of Southport
(Click to Book)

Bald Head Island boasts 14 miles of lovely beaches to enjoy near Wilmington. You can go kayaking, sailing, kiteboarding, fishing, and more!

Bald Head Island has much more than water activities. It’s also home to a championship golf course.

For history lovers, you can pay a visit to Old Baldy Lighthouse, which was actually commissioned by Thomas Jefferson! It’s also the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina. You can climb up 108 steps to the top of the lighthouse. From there, you’ll be treated to lovely views of the surrounding Cape Fear River estuary.

While visiting the lighthouse, you can also stop at the nearby Smith Island Museum of History, which is home to various artifacts from the history of the lighthouse.


Wrightsville Beach

Where To Stay:
Holiday Inn Resort Lumina on Wrightsville Beach
(Click to Book)

Wrightsville Beach is another popular beach located just east of Wilmington, NC. The beach is especially popular with surfers, surf fishers, and beachcombers.

Another major local attraction is Wrightsville Beach Park, which has a playground, basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball pits, a softball field, and benches. You can even take an outdoor yoga class at the park.


Kure Beach

Where To Stay:
The Lighthouse at Kure Beach
(Click to Book)

Kure Beach is another fabulous beach destination just 18 miles from Wilmington. One of the major sites near the beach is the Kure Beach Fishing Pier, which is the oldest pier on the east coast!

Some of the most popular activities at Kure Beach are fishing (especially off of Kure Beach Pier), kayaking, paddle boarding, surf fishing, and surfing. You can also go diving at the site of the shipwreck of The Condor, which is a sunken Blockade Runner ship. 

You can also stop by Ocean State Park, which is a large public green space with a playground, a walking path, and a pavilion for concerts and weddings.

Kure Beach is also home to the Fort Fisher State Historic Site, where the largest land and sea battle of the Civil War was fought.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a perfect stop for the whole family. It is home to sharks, rays, eels, loggerhead sea turtles, a rescued bald eagle, and a rare albino alligator.


Learn about more things to do in Eastern Virginia!