The town of Carolina Beach is at the north end of Pleasure Island, which is part of a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina near Wilmington. Its extensive Atlantic Coast beaches, inland waterways, and nearby protected natural areas make it a perfect backdrop for a wide range of family activities. You can swim, sunbathe, play water sports, hike trails, and observe wildlife. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is full of fun things to do, and other fascinating attractions are not far away. Here are the top 10 things to do with kids once you find your Carolina Beach vacation rental.
1. Head for the Beach
Every vacation rental is near an access point to Carolina Beach’s 3-mile strand of a soft sand beach and clean ocean water. For your safety and convenience, numerous lifeguard stands, showers, public restrooms, and parking lots line the shore. Splash in the waves, soak up some sun, throw a Frisbee, or play beach volleyball.
2. Stroll the Boardwalk
A leisurely stroll along Carolina Beach’s famous boardwalk yields thrilling discoveries of exciting restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Get the kids a sweet treat at Britt’s Donuts or Squigley’s Ice Cream and Treats. Opportunities for play include a gaming arcade, mini golf, and an amusement park with a Ferris wheel and other rides. If you get tired of walking, you can rent a bicycle or a surrey bike that accommodates up to eight people. Special summer events include free evening movies at Carolina Beach Lake Park, the Beach Music Festival, and Fireworks by the Sea.
3. Learn to Surf
Carolina Beach is a renowned surfing location, and Tony Silvagni Surf School runs special surf camps for kids all summer long. Children not only learn the rudiments of this exciting water sport but also surfing etiquette and water safety. Watch your kids have the time of their lives as they learn to ride the waves like a pro.
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4. Paddle the Waters
Kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are great ways to explore the shoreline and inland waterways around Carolina Beach. Several outfitters rent watercraft and provide instruction so you and the family can set out on your own. Alternatively, you can join a guided tour to nearby Zeke’s Island, Bald Head Island, or Masonboro Island. The friendly, experienced guides are experts in local history, ecology, and wildlife.
5. Catch Some Fish
Carolina Beach vacation rentals are located near several great fishing spots. Walk to Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, pick up some tackle and bait at the tackle shop, and fish off the pier for flounder, bluefish, striped bass, and speckled trout. A few miles south is the long pier at Kure Beach, where you can catch Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. You do not need a permit to fish at either location. Surf fishing is also popular. For an unforgettable experience, take the family out on the open ocean on a deep-sea charter to fish for tuna, marlin, grouper, and sailfish.
6. Hike the Trails
Carolina Beach State Park on the west side of town has miles of hiking trails through pine forest and along the inland waterways. Keep your eyes open for the park’s famous inhabitant, the unique Venus flytrap, a carnivorous plant that eats insects. To the south, Bald Head Island has several beautiful nature trails through maritime forest and salt marsh at Bald Head Woods Maritime Forest Preserve.
7. Observe Wildlife
Vacations rentals at Carolina Beach provide your family with unique opportunities to observe wildlife. As you explore Carolina Beach State Park, watch for bald eagles, ospreys, great blue herons, snowy egrets, and pelicans. Masonboro Island to the north, accessible only by boat, and Bald Head Island to the south are nesting sites for green sea turtles and loggerhead turtles. Within the maritime forest on Bald Island, you can spot raccoons, opossums, and gray squirrels, as well as blue jays, cardinals, and other beautiful birds.
8. Relive History
Don’t miss the chance to explore the National Historic Landmark of Fort Fisher at Fort Fisher State Historic Site, which is just south of Carolina Beach. Known as the Gibraltar of the South, the fort played an important role in Confederate defense until the closing months of the American Civil War. A portion of the fort remains, along with a restored palisade fence and gun emplacement. The visitor’s center and museum features 3-D models of the fort and exhibits of weapons, clothing, flags, and other memorabilia. Other displays highlight local ecology and natural history.
9. Watch the Fish
The whole family is sure to enjoy the award-winning North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Its numerous galleries and displays focus mainly on freshwater and marine life from the local Cape Fear area. The freshwater exhibit includes catfish, perch, alligators, box turtles, and frogs. A special display highlights local venomous snakes. including cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes. Other galleries have tanks of octopuses, jellyfish, sharks, and moray eels. A touch pool allows children to handle plants and animals from shallow surf zones. The Exotic Aquatics Display and Pacific Reef Display show examples of sea creatures from around the world.
10. Visit the Lighthouse
The Bald Head Lighthouse, also known as Old Baldy, on Bald Head Island, is well worth a visit. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina. Its 5-foot-thick walls have withstood hurricanes, and you can climb up for a spectacular view of the island, surrounding waters, and nearby mainland. At the base of Old Baldy, check out the Smith Island Museum of History, which features displays on the history of the lighthouse and the island.
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