Before I get into the family travel part of this post, Hurricane Florence has recently wreaked havoc on North and South Carolina. You can help with the relief, repair and recovery efforts here.
My oldest daughter, Nya, and I have been visiting the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for the past year. We have been on countless trips to the region (actually, I did count – we’ve been on 20 trips into the Raleigh Durham airport) to participate in a clinical research trial for a treatment for a rare skin disorder that she and I both have. On two of those trips, we’ve driven to the coast, to Carolina Beach.
We didn’t know what to expect, I hadn’t done a ton of research, we were just ready to explore.
We were blown away by the beauty of the beach when we arrived at the Hampton Inn Carolina Beach. BLOWN. AWAY.
Just look at these views…
So I’m here to share what to do, where to stay and eat on your trip to Carolina Beach + Wilmington, North Carolina.
WHERE TO STAY: Hampton Inn Carolina Beach
EAT: Britt’s Donuts (Summer only) + SeaWitch Tiki Bar
SEE: Drive the beach, walk a fishing pier, walk the boardwalk
WILMINGTON: Tour a historic mansion and dine on the Cape Fear River
The Hampton Carolina Beach is the perfect location right on the boardwalk and beachfront. It is modern, clean, and includes free breakfast. The views from every ocean-facing room are stunning. The little bar on the beach makes a mean Leapin’ Lizard (it’s a green cocktail that will knock you on your butt!) and has an outdoor gas fire pit for after dark, plus an outdoor pool and hot-tub. It borders an area of gift shops, ice cream shops, a bar and in the summertime, the midway is set up alongside with rides.
Britt’s Donut Shop on the boardwalk is ‘famous’ and had been recommended to us, but unfortunately, when I visited (in May and October) they were closed for the Season.
SeaWitch Tiki Bar is an incredibly eclectic bar + restaurant within a block’s walk from the hotel that has a large menu sure to please everyone in the family. They have live music at night, and later on – a massive dance floor which I’m sure gets very busy in the Summer and late nights, although we didn’t experience it (with kids, of course).
Carolina Beach is the perfect destination to just hang out and play at the beach and soak up the sun and splash in the waves. However, if you want a little more adventure, here’s my must-do’s:
DRIVE ON THE BEACH AT FREEMAN PARK
Be sure when you pick out your rental car, that it’s a 4×4 if you want to do this. My daughter and I had rented a Range Rover Sport for one of our trips, when we went to the coast alone. I was so glad I had because I really wanted to try driving on the beach. You are not allowed to drive on the beach without 4×4 and you could still get stuck as it’s soft sand in places. Just check out all these cool photos on Instagram of people enjoying this beach!
Here’s a little clip Nya made while I was driving.
WALK THE FISHING PIER
There is a fishing pier both on Kure Beach and on Carolina Beach. We visited the Kure Beach pier and it was busy with fisherman the day we went! We could spot jellyfish and other fish in the water and the surrounding beach is beautiful, of course. There are a few lunch spots to stop and find a patio for a bite after exploring. Kure Beach is only about a 5-10 minute drive South from Carolina Beach.
The Carolina Beach pier sustained some damage in Hurrican Florence, so check before you go if it’s open.
CHECK OUT THE COLOURFUL HOUSES
Driving through Carolina Beach and Kure Beach communities you will see plenty of pink, purple, turquoise and yellow homes. I loved how beautiful these colourful homes all look together!
TOUR A MANSION IN WILMINGTON
We toured the Bellamy Mansion Museum and the girls learned so much about Southern history including slavery from this tour. It was beautiful and educational for us all.
This mansion sustained some significant damage and flooding from Hurricane Florence, so be sure to check before going if they are open.
DINE ON A CAPE FEAR RIVER PATIO
We ate at The George on the Riverwalk on the Cape Fear River and enjoyed the sunshine and views in historic downtown Wilmington. I think that it will take Wilmington’s downtown sometime to recover and repair after Hurrican Florence recently caused major flooding in the area, so be sure to check ahead of time if the places you want to visit are re-opened.
It’s a beautiful place to visit, I highly recommend it!