Content Produced in Partnership with Carolina Beach
Family vacations are notoriously hard to plan. The kids need constant entertainment to avoid boredom and bickering, while mom and dad need a place to escape the grind. Inevitably, there are few locations that satisfy everyone. But Carolina Beach in North Carolina is one of those unicorn destinations. With miles of pristine coastline and plenty of activities to boot, here’s why this little slice of paradise is heaven for the whole family.
For the Kids
For daytime activities, watersports are in no short supply at Carolina Beach. Get an adrenaline rush on a paddleboard or take a surf lesson from renowned Olympic Gold medalist Tony Silvagni. For fun on dry land, the whole family can go for a spin on 4x4s right on the beach at Freeman Park. If you’re looking for a bit of marine education, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, located nearby on the island, was rated one of the Best Aquariums in the United States, according to Trip Advisor. Get a bird’s-eye view of the 235,000-gallon tank as sharks, sea turtles, moray eels, and other fish swim below on a behind-the-scenes tour. You can meet Luna, a rare albino alligator, or play on Adventure Reef in search of fossilized shark teeth and other treasures. Touch sea stars, horseshoe crabs, and other creatures in the aquarium’s touch tank.
For the Parents
Whether you manage to steal a moment of solitude or bring the whole clan, cruising around the island on a chartered boat or fishing vessel is the quickest way to melt your cares away. Listen to the lap of the waves, and feel the salty sea breeze on your skin as you serenely smile at your loved ones. After the kids are fast asleep, it’s time for the parents to sneak out for a nightcap. The Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar was named one of “America’s Best Beach Bars,” while Seawitch Café & Tiki Bar features a regular lineup of live entertainment starting in the spring. Or, if you simply want to sip on a cold one, the HopLite Pub and Beer Garden offers a laid-back atmosphere to familiarize yourself with the local pub scene.
For the Whole Family
The boardwalk offers summer nostalgia at its best. You’ll find iconic amusement rides, snacks, and sensory overload in all the right ways. (Pro Tip: Plan your trip around the weekly fireworks and concert series during the summer months.) Be sure to snag a sweet treat at Squigley’s Ice Cream & Treats, which offers more than 4,000 decadent creations customized to your liking. When the kiddos are ready to refuel, the Lazy Pirate at the Boardwalk is a favorite family restaurant, which offers classic comfort food with a side of volleyball, cornhole or ladder golf. You’ll need the energy for a group bike ride on a tandem or Surrey bike. For a bit of American history, you can follow the same routes the Civil War troops used more than 100 years ago or stick to the scenic waterfront paths. As the sun starts setting, end the day with a round of miniature golf or catch an outdoor movie (Sundays during the summer) at the 11-acre Carolina Beach Lake Park. It’s the perfect spot to cap off a perfect evening with the family.
Bonus: Fun with Fido
One of the hardest parts about traveling is leaving your four-legged family members at home. At Carolina Beach, Fido is welcome to vacation too. During the offseason (October 1 through March 31), dogs are allowed off-leash at Freeman Park so long as they remain under voice command and the owner is within reasonable distance. From April 1 to September 30, they are still welcome in the park on-leash. They’re also allowed to camp with you at Carolina Beach State Park from October 1 to March 31 and allowed on the beach before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. from April 1 to Sept. 30. April 1 on-leash. You can search for pet-friendly accommodations here.