With its pastel-colored sunrises and extraordinary white sand, Carolina Beach is one of the most beautiful spots on the North Carolina coast. At this coastal town, weathered fishermen cast off from the pier while families play in the rolling surf. Whether your vacation rental in Carolina Beach is next to the water or tucked away in town, you’ll never be far from the city’s wealth of attractions and outdoor adventures.

1. Sunbathe in Style

Get your trip off to a relaxing start with a day on Carolina Beach. Don’t bother with a blanket; instead, rent a plush beach chair and umbrella from Pleasure Island Rentals. Staff members set up your equipment at the spot of your choosing, so it’s ready and labeled with your name when you arrive.

2. Go Surfing

See why Carolina Beach is one of the most popular surf spots on Cape Fear with a surfboard rental from the Tony Silvagni Surf School. If you’re new, or you need guidance, the school also offers private and group lessons. For large groups, the Surf Party option includes wetsuits, surfboards, and one instructor for every two guests.

3. Fish From the Carolina Beach Pier

Cast for bluefish and flounder from the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier. The bait shop at the end of the pier has everything you need to get started, so you don’t need to worry about packing bait. Pack snacks, or enjoy a meal at the family-owned restaurant.

4. Kayak the Coast

Explore the Atlantic coast or the calmer Cape Fear River aboard a kayak. If you’re a confident paddler, rent a boat from local outfitters including Kayak Carolina and PaddleNC. For those newer to the sport, both shops provide instruction and guided tours of local hot spots such as Zeke’s Island and Shark’s Tooth Island.

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5. Walk the Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Feel the vintage beach vibe on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Take a spin on the carnival rides, play traditional arcade games, and stay for the weekly evening fireworks in the summer. For the full Carolina Beach experience, stop in to the venerable Britt’s Donuts for a generously glazed, homemade pastry.

6. Learn to Paddle Board

Stay active on your vacation with a stand-up paddle boarding lesson from Paddle NC. Friendly instructors teach you basic strokes on calm water, so you can feel confident paddling on your own after a single lesson. Afterward, rent a board to work on your skills at Carolina Beach State Park.

7. Go Hiking at Carolina Beach State Park

Wander through the coastal forest on seven miles of hiking trails in Carolina Beach State Park. The flat, well-maintained paths are easily accessible for kids, so the whole family can enjoy the peaceful wilderness setting. For an in-depth look at the local ecosystem, join one of the park’s ranger-led guided hikes, which focus on topics such as carnivorous and poisonous plants.

8. Try Local Craft Brews

Sip on a locally brewed craft beer at the Good Hops Brewing taproom. Here, the experienced brewers create small-batch recipes from local produce. Try the flagship Boardwalk Brown Ale, or ask the bartender for the latest on-tap offerings.

9. Visit the Aquarium

Watch an albino alligator in action at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. This spooky creature is just one of the amazing animals on display; feed a bamboo shark, watch glowing jellyfish sail through a dark tank, or visit with staff as they tend to eels and stingrays.

10. Go Deep-Sea Fishing

Take a wild open-ocean fishing adventure with a deep-sea charter. Head to the Carolina Beach Fishing Center and Marina to book a tour with companies such as Blue Marlin Fishing Charters and Batson Charter Boats. During the trip, your experienced boat captain navigates to hot spots for enormous tuna, king mackerel, and grouper.

11. Visit Fort Fisher

Stone walls rise high above your head at Fort Fisher, a Civil War-era structure located a few miles south of Carolina Beach. Watch restored cannons being fired in the Shepherd’s Battery, and learn about the fort’s thrilling past on the historic walking trail. Inside, don’t miss the 16-foot fiber-optic battle map, which narrates the fort’s terrifying final battle in 1865.

12. Try Pedal Boating

Get out on the water with a pedal boat in Carolina Beach Lake Park. Wheel Fun Rentals offers two-person and four-person pedal boats, each designed for easy operation. Explore the shoreline of the 11-acre lake at a leisurely pace, and stop off or a picnic or a playground visit along the shore.

13. See an Outdoor Movie

After your pedal-boating trip, stay at Carolina Beach Lake Park for a free outdoor movie. Set up a blanket or chair on the lawn and watch a family-friendly film under the stars. The event is free and runs each weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

14. Ride in a Surrey

Enjoy a hilarious adventure in a unique surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals. These pedal-powered vehicles operate like a bicycle but feature comfortable seats, steering wheels, and a roof canopy for shade. Load up the family and ride along the beach for a memorable afternoon.

15. Design Your Own Ice Cream

Design your perfect soft-serve ice cream flavor at Squigley’s; with dozens of mix-ins and flavors to choose from, you can make more than 4,000 different combinations. The restaurant also serves a selection of pre-mixed flavors and has a menu that includes favorites such as banana splits, milkshakes, and salt water taffy.

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