Carolina Beach lies at the north end of a long narrow barrier island in North Carolina known as Pleasure Island. Its miles of clean white sand beaches are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. You can fish from a pier or charter a boat and head out to the open ocean. Nearby parks offer opportunities for hiking, cycling, and wildlife observation. Museums provide fascinating and educational glimpses into the history of the area. Here are some of the best locations for vacation rentals in and around Carolina Beach.

1. The Town of Carolina Beach

Vacation rentals in Carolina Beach are just a step away from white sands and clean waters. The town has a famous boardwalk that is perfect for a summer stroll to enjoy its shops, restaurants, arcade, and amusement park. Adjoining the town to the west is Carolina Beach State Park with its miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, marina, and stands of carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap. On the north side of the island, Freeman Park is a beautiful undeveloped stretch of sand dunes and sea grass where you can swim, fish, or collect shells.

2. Kure Beach

The town of Kure Beach faces white sand and open ocean about a mile south of Carolina Beach. Next to its Ocean Front Park is the oldest fishing pier on the U.S. East Coast. Just south of Kure Beach is Fort Fisher State Historic Site, which includes the Fort complex, a visitor’s center, and a museum. The Fort Fisher State Recreational Area is a nesting site for sea turtles, and wind surfers often ply the waters of its lagoon. Fort Fisher also hosts the North Carolina Aquarium, a large complex that includes exhibits of alligators, venomous reptiles, and fish and other aquatic creatures from around the world.

3. Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island lies just off Pleasure Island at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. To get to its village, you take a ferry from the town of Southport. The island has few cars, so residents and visitors rely on bicycles and electric golf carts to get around. It’s 14 miles of wide sandy beaches are prime nesting areas for sea turtles. The area is also fantastic for bird watching, as it attracts numerous species of gorgeous birds such as great blue herons, snowy egrets, white ibises, brown pelicans, and bald eagles. To explore the island, you can hike its nature trails and kayak along its creeks.

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4. Caswell Beach

The town of Caswell Beach faces three miles of wide sandy beach on the east end of Oak Island at the mouth of Cape Fear River. You can take a tour to the outside balcony at the top of the Oak Island Light House for a spectacular view of the ocean and the surrounding countryside. Caswell Beach is also known for its excellent 18-hole golf course at the Oak Island Golf Club. Because forests and marshlands surround the town, you can often catch glimpses of local wildlife such as deer, raccoons, foxes, beavers, and the occasional bear.

5. Southport

The town of Southport lies at the mouth of the Cape Fear River opposite Bald Head Island. The pleasant Southport Historic Riverwalk follows the river bank past Southport City Pier and Southport Waterfront Park through scenic marshes and a maritime forest to the Southport Marina. The Marsh Walk is a wooden boardwalk that leads further off into the saltwater marshes bordering the river. Kayaking Cape Fear River and nearby Blackwater Cypress Swamp is a popular activity. The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport offers a fascinating look at local maritime history, including pirates, the Civil War, shipwrecks, and hurricanes.

6. Boiling Spring Lakes

Boiling Springs Lakes sits in a beautiful location surrounded by 50 natural and man-made lakes. The town gets its name from a spring that pours out millions of gallons of pure fresh water every day. Popular activities including swimming, fishing, and boating on the freshwater lakes. The 6,000-acre Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve adjoins the town. Trails through the preserve allow visitors to view its lovely orchids, carnivorous plants, and numerous species of birds.

7. Oak Island

The beach town of Oak Island lies on the west side of its namesake island. The 10 miles of unbroken, uncrowded beaches offer an ideal setting for relaxed swimming and sunbathing. The town has two marinas, two fishing piers, and numerous beach access points. You can try your hand at pier fishing, surf fishing, and deep sea fishing. The town’s restaurants are renowned for their seafood cuisine, especially the local blue crab and shrimp.

8. Myrtle Grove

Myrtle Grove lies a few miles north of Carolina Beach. It’s vacation rentals offer convenient access to Masonboro Island, which is just offshore. This large undeveloped barrier island has a variety of natural habitats, including long stretches of pristine beach, sand dunes, tidal flats, salt marshes, and maritime forests. It’s a haven for sea turtles and sea birds. Only reachable by boat, the island is a perfect place for hiking, swimming, surfing, boating, and fishing.

9. Wrightsville Beach

North of Carolina Beach and due east of the city of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach includes a portion of mainland and two small islands. Among the popular activities along its four mile stretch of white sand beach are swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, and surfing. The adventurous can go scuba diving to explore sunken offshore shipwrecks. The outer island’s 2.5-mile scenic loop is perfect for strolling or jogging.

10. Wilmington

Vacation rentals in the port city of Wilmington have convenient access to the coastal beaches as well as a wealth of cultural and recreational opportunities within the city itself. The historic downtown area has a famous riverfront walk. Among the city’s numerous museums are the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, the Wilmington Railroad Museum, and the USS North Carolina Memorial, which is set on the decorated World War II battleship. Known as Hollywood East, Wilmington hosts Screen Gems Studios, the site of the filming of many famous movies and TV shows.

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