We are about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Wilmington, NC. and we try to visit this beautiful place often. Wilmington is the "commercialized" part of this amazing area. It's full of great restaurants, bars, museums, tours, and it's home to the USS North Carolina, a real life battleship open to tours all year round.
Once you are in Wilmington and you continue driving south on US 421, you will encounter Carolina Beach. Go a little further down and you can also enjoy (my personal favorite), the beautiful Kure Beach, and Fort Fisher.
There are many things to do in Carolina Beach, and most of them are family friendly (and that's why I love this place!). Here are my top places and things to do with the whole family:
1. OBVIOUSLY, THE BEACH.
Carolina Beach can be crowded in the summer time or holidays, but even so, it's still provides a great place to relax and get some vitamin D from the sun. You can also go down to Fort Fisher if you are looking for a more secluded beach... there are very few restaurants and stores down at Fort Fisher but the beach is beautiful and peaceful.
2. TAKE A STROLL DOWN THE BOARDWALK
Honestly this boardwalk is amazing. It's full of shops, restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors, and doughnut shops. In the summer, you can find live music and fireworks every week. Kids can freely run and play while enjoying some good live (and free) entertainment.
3. SEASIDE AMUSEMENT PARK
Yes, there is a permanent amusement park right by the ocean. Located at the boardwalk, this amusement park has rides for all ages. It's free to walk around and each ride takes 2-3 tickets. You can purchase tickets at one of the stands around the park, or you can get an armband (better deal) for $25 and have unlimited rides. There are no big roller coasters, but you can find your typical Ferris-Wheel, Carousel, giant slides, pirate ship, and many others. And don't forget to get some funnel cake!
4. ENJOY SOME GOOD HOTDOGS AFTER A DAY AT THE BEACH
We tried Island Hots... and I loved it. Their menu has hot dogs for every taste, and their onion rings are to die for. (probably the best onion rings I've had in a long time). Hot dogs go great while sitting on their outside patio, enjoying the weather.
5. TASTE SOME CRAFT BEERS
There are many breweries in the area. We tried Good Hops Brewing in Carolina Beach. LOVE IT! What I love the most about this place, it's kid and pet friendly. I don't feel bad about bringing my six year old with me because they actually have board games, and outside games to entertain everyone. Dogs are allowed inside and outside (must be on a leash), and they even have a doggie water station for our furry friends. And the beer? Awesome. a must try!
6. VISIT THE AQUARIUM
Just a few minutes down Carolina Beach, you will encounter Fort Fisher, home to a beautiful North Carolina Aquarium. You can enjoy many exhibits including a huge tank which is home to sharks, eels and many, many gorgeous and colorful fish. You can also meet their albino alligator, Luna!
7. FORT FISHER AND MUSEUM
If you are in a history mood, you can also go across the street from the aquarium and take a look at the actual fort. There is a small museum with civil war artifacts and lots of history!
8. GO FISHING
If you enjoy fishing, there is nothing better than spending a couple of hours at the fishing pier. You can buy a license in the store and pick your spot on the beautiful pier. The view is breathtaking and the kids have lots of fun. If you are a little more adventurous, you can try the Jetty at Fort Fisher, but I believe you need a license through the state park to fish here. (don't quote me on that one)
9. RENT A BIKE
Riding a bike is a perfect way to get around the area. Ride a bike around town, or on the beach. Enjoy the weather with the whole family
10. USS NORTH CAROLINA
On our way back home, we stopped at the USS NORTH CAROLINA site. This impressive battle ship is open to the public for tours every day of the week. This is a great history lesson for the kids (and adults). The USS NC is a beautiful memorial and it's actually fun to see the inside of this colossal ship.
Whether you are into history, ice-cream, or just want to put your toes in the sand, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Fort Fisher are full of family fun, endless entertainment, and unforgettable memories.
To learn more about the area click here.