NC Coast & Beaches
Must-Do Coastal Adventures
Take flight in a place that has you captured.
Find your wings where flight began all while being surrounded by the beauty of coastal North Carolina. Whether you’re interested in hang gliding, paddleboarding, surfing, scuba diving, sailing or pirate hunting – you’ll find it all and more along our coast.
Jockey's Ridge State Park offers hang gliding lessons year round
Hang Glide at Jockey’s Ridge
Just five miles south of where the Wright Brothers made their first flight, you can make yours. At Jockey’s Ridge State Park you aren’t just allowed to hang glide, you’re encouraged to, and lessons are available year round. Race down the face of the tallest active dune system in the U.S., soar above the sand and taste the freedom of flight for yourself.
See the Banker ponies of the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast
Head up to Corolla or down to Shackleford Banks to see the Banker ponies. These wild horses are descendents of Spanish mustangs that arrived here more than 400 years ago. Guided tours will take you as close as you can get to these horses (safety laws require a minimum distance of 50 feet) and give you insight into how they came to be here. In Corolla, stop by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, a nonprofit that has been helping the horses since 1989, and take one of their members-only tours for unprecedented access to the herd. On Shackleford Banks, take a guided tour with Shackleford Wild Horse & Shelling Safari, and explore the island where the horses are the only full-time residents.
Paddleboard the Marshes around Masonboro Island
Explore Masonboro Island Reserve from atop a standup paddleboard. You’ll see dozens of birds – oystercatchers, pelicans, plovers, ibis, egret, osprey and maybe even a bald eagle – overhead, tucked away in the marsh grass or flying by. If you’re feeling brave, take your paddleboard oceanside and try paddlesurfing. When it’s time for a break you may just have the beach to yourself since access to the island is limited to boat, kayak or paddleboard only.
Dive Deep off Wrightsville Beach
Anyone can play in the surf, but for a real adventure, head beneath the waves. Experienced scuba divers have their choice of charter boats heading out to shipwrecks and ledges from three to 59 miles offshore, while novices can take their first scuba class and be in the water with an instructor the next day. Warm waters, great visibility and more wildlife than you can imagine await beneath the waves at Wrightsville Beach.
Catch Some Waves on Emerald Isle
Looking for some of the best surf on the East Coast? All along the coast of North Carolina, from the Outer Banks to the Crystal Coast to the Cape Fear Coast, you’ll find breaks perfect for beginners and experienced surfers alike. Emerald Isle’s south-facing beaches can mean big surf when the wind is right, so grab your board (or rent oneif you need to) and hit the beach. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, check out Cape Hatteras or the shoals off Bald Head Island. Both locales are hotspots for kitesurfers.
Paddle the Cape Lookout National Seashore
If the idea of you, your kayak and 56 miles of pristine barrier islands sounds like a great time, grab your paddle and head to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Stretching from Ocracoke Island to Beaufort, these four undeveloped islands are home to wild horses, birds of all kinds, the Cape Lookout lighthouse and adventurers like you. Overnight camping is allowed along Cape Lookout, so you can discover the beauty of all four islands.
Invade Bald Head Island During Pirate Weekend
Pirates invade Bald Head Island for one weekend every August to celebrate National Lighthouse Day. They make camp in the shadow of Old Baldy, the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina, where they hold a pirate school for kids and sing pirate songs. Bald Head Island is steeped in pirate lore, with Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet known to have operated in the surrounding waters. A ghost walk, pirate tour and history tours are available year-round.
Hit the Links at Ocean Ridge
If golf is your sport, the south Brunswick Coast offers enough courses to keep you playing for weeks on end. At Ocean Ridge Plantation, four courses known as the Big Cats – Panther’s Run, Lion’s Paw, Tiger’s Eye and Leopard’s Chase – wind their way through and around a beautiful nature preserve. More than a dozen courses lie between Shallote and Calabash at the South Carolina border.
By Jason Frye
By Jason Frye
added: February 23, 2012
updated: July 1, 2012