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The Top North Carolina Beaches for Summer Surfing

North Carolina boasts over 300 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, making it an excellent destination for beachgoers and water sport enthusiasts like surfers.

Unlike other surfing meccas like Hawaii and California, North Carolina does not have famous coral reefs or rocky point breaks. Instead, the state's main advantage is its advantageous position on the Atlantic Coast and generally warm climate as far as weather and water temperature.

The state's surfing community is well known for producing professional surfers like Brett Barley from the barrier island(s) known as The Outer Banks. North Carolina residents and traveling watermen from the surrounding states know and love the ocean and beach culture along this scenic coast.

This state has endless beach options for surfers, kiteboarders, skimboarders, and bodysurfers. Whether one is searching for a state park, beach party, or a spot to call their own, the NC coastline offers crowded beach towns and lonely stretches of sandy beaches.

Before the getaway along NC's coast, readers should consider the following travel guide to find the best beaches to score surf in North Carolina.

The Best North Carolina Beaches

10. Kill Devil Hills

A surfer watches a dolphin surface and schooner sail in the background.

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Kill Devil Hills is one of the first beachfront towns one will pass through on the Outer Banks (OBX). This town is home to the Avalon Fishing Pier, a popular beach for outdoor activities like paddleboarding, kiteboarding, boating, kayaking, and more.

Surfers, fishers, and beachgoers can all agree this is a great spot to do it all.

9. Corolla

A soft sunrise on an overcast morning on the North Carolina shore with a beach umbrella

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The town of Corolla is on the North End of OBX near Duck, NC. Corolla sits above Kill Devil Hills and below the Currituck Banks Reserve and Lighthouse. Most individuals come here to get away from crowds in Nags Head and Kitty Hawk.

The most popular beach is Corolla Beach. However, with a little bit of searching, beaches for solo trips can easily be located in this town.

8. Wrightsville Beach

Topsail Island from Wrightsville Beach

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Named after the famous Wright Brothers, this beach town is not on the Outer Banks. Wrightsville Beach is located on the South end of North Carolina's coastline. The large city of Wilmington (home to the University of North Carolina Wilmington) is right offshore from Wrightsville Beach.

What's more, this town is the home of famous East Coast surfer Benny Bourgeois. Overall, this area is full of college kids, locals, and retirees and hosts plenty of beaches to do one's favorite shoreline activities.

7.   Bald Head Island

bald head beach

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Home to Old Baldy Lighthouse, Bald Head Island is on the Southernmost tip of North Carolina. It juts out into the ocean—making the area another excellent beach destination to find waves.

Further south usually means better weather for those who want to kick back and have a beer in the sand. This area is also well known for its beautiful beaches and plentiful wildlife like sea turtles, alligators, herons, pelicans, and more!

6.   Nags Head

Waves breaking on the beach in morning light with an erosion control fence on the sand dunes, Outer Banks at Nags Head, North Carolina, NC, USA.

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After breakfast at Biscuits N' Porn and stopping at the ABC Liquors next door, head to the beach in Nags Head, NC. This town is located on OBX right next to Kitty Hawk. Nags Head also has a fishing pier that makes a safe bet for surfing sports and fishing.

There are many options for oceanfront stay here in Nags Head—from hotels and motels to cheap house rentals!

5.   Ocracoke Island

Ocean waves roll over stretching to the horizon beach leaving white foam that sparkles in the sun light.

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Ocracoke Island is one of the strangest places ever to exist. It is a tiny stretch of sand in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, just below the island chain of OBX. Many people visit here via a ferry ride from Hatteras Island and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

But believe it or not, people live here full time. There are empty beaches, popular bars, tasty restaurants, and a brewery on the island for vacationers.

4.   Atlantic Beach

Aerial view of beautiful water and shoreline of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, on a sunny winter day.

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From boardwalks to surf shops, the small town of Atlantic Beach has everything to support a beachgoer's trip. Located offshore from Morehead City, this beach town is about two hours northeast of Wilmington, NC.

3.   Emerald Isle

A surfer wipes out and is covered by a wave at Emerald Isle, North Carolina

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Just two towns over from Atlantic Beach is another excellent beach vacation spot for surfers and beachgoers known as Emerald Isle.

The seaside gem has local beach parks, a fishing pier, and many a family-friendly beach in between the Bogue Banks Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Rent a golf cart and cruise this cool beach town to find the perfect spot.

2.   Topsail Beach

Strong waves in Topsail beach, North Carolina.

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Just North of Wrightsville Beach is the family-friendly coastal town known as Topsail Island.

Like every other town discussed in this beachgoer's travel guide, there are many beaches to choose from, like public beach access points and New Topsail Inlet. Head to South Topsail to see the island's tip with Banks Channel on one side and the Atlantic on the other.

1. Kitty Hawk

The Kitty Hawk Pier at sunrise

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Kitty Hawk is the first town on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Fishing piers are usually great places to hit the beach, fish in the surf, or catch some waves—the Kitty Hawk pier is no exception to this rule of thumb. Otherwise, the area is home to many other beaches, coastal nature preserves, local museums, and a golf course.

When traveling to these North Carolina beaches, any waterman looking to score surf is liable to have the best day in the drink. Enjoy surfing in the USA!

Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 22, 2021.

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