Jacksonville is located directly adjacent to North Carolina's pristine Crystal Coast, which stretches for 86 miles between the New River and the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Visitors can access many of North Carolina's best beaches easily via Interstate 40 or the Intracoastal Waterway, including the world-renowned beach towns of the 60-mile Grand Strand, which is home to the lively family-friendly attractions of Myrtle Beach.

1. Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach
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Carolina Beach is a laid-back, down-to-earth beachfront destination along North Carolina's Atlantic Ocean coastline, located approximately an hour and a half from Jacksonville near the city of Wilmington. The lively beach town is one of Pleasure Island's most popular family-friendly tourist destinations, home to the historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk, ranked as one of the nation's top 10 boardwalks by Food and Wine magazine. Seaside amusement rides are offered at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park, with a plethora of ice cream, fudge, and other vendors still serving up classic delicacies right at the waterfront. Excellent fishing opportunities are offered along the Cape Fear River and the Intracoastal Waterway, as well as the classic-style Carolina Beach Fishing Pier. Nature buffs can also enjoy excursions to the 761-acre Carolina Beach State Park, home to the Flytrap Trail, which preserves natural habitats for carnivorous Venus flytraps.

2. Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle
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Emerald Isle is one of the Crystal Coast's most beautiful beachfront getaways, named for its the contrast of its lush green habitat against the region's sparkling blue waters. The island, which is also known as Bogue Banks Island, is a veritable watersport enthusiast's paradise, offering opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing, sailing, and kayaking. Calm and laid-back swimming opportunities are offered at The Point, providing a respite from some of the area's more heavily-touristed resort beaches. Young visitors can also splash and play at the Salty Pirate Water Park, offering high and mild thrill rides in a family-friendly atmosphere. Anglers can cast their lines at the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier, while disc golf enthusiasts can get in a round or two at the 41-acre Emerald Isle Woods Park.

7500 Emerald Drive, Emerald Isle, NC 28594, Phone: 252-354-3424

3. Kure Beach

Kure Beach
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Kure Beach provides an off-the-beaten-path alternative to neighboring Pleasure Island community Carolina Beach, located approximately an hour and a half from Jacksonville near the city of Wilmington. The beach town is known as one of North Carolina's top spots for history buffs, home to the Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum, which preserves the American South's largest earthen fort and offers a wealth of information about the Civil War. Visitors can also explore the NC Military History Museum, which details the state's service in international conflicts, or behold the impressive 230,000-gallon saltwater tank of the North Carolina Aquarium, home to a wide variety of marine species. Fishing, scuba diving, and eco-tourism opportunities abound at sites such as the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, a protected loggerhead sea turtle nesting site, and the 712-foot Kure Beach Fishing Pier, located along an historic beachfront boardwalk area.

4. Masonboro Island

Masonboro Island
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Masonboro Island is the longest undisturbed natural barrier island in North Carolina, spanning nearly 8.5 miles throughout New Hanover County at the state's southern coastline area. Much of the island is preserved today as Masonboro Island Reserve, a designated North Carolina State Natural Area that is owned and operated by the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. Stunning sand dune, tidal flat, and salt marsh ecosystems provide a safe natural habitat for endangered loggerhead sea turtles to nest. Visitors must arrive on the island via boat, canoe, or kayak, with ferry service available for a nominal fee from a number of regional ferry companies. Beachgoers on the island should take care not to disturb sensitive natural habitats for endangered species. Overnight camping is provided at a number of sites throughout the island with permit.

Masonboro Island Reserve, Wilmington, NC 28409, Phone: 910-962-2998

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5. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach
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Myrtle Beach is one of the East Coast's top summer tourism destinations, located within South Carolina's famed Grand Strand coastal region, which offers more than 60 continuous miles of exciting family-friendly beachfront. The bustling beachfront, which has been separated from the contiguous United States via the Intracoastal Waterway since 1936, attracts more than 14 million annual visitors today, including more than 100,000 international tourists. The new Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, opened in 2010, has been acclaimed as one of the top boardwalks in the United States by National Geographic and Travel and Leisure, home to attractions such as the 200-foot-tall Myrtle Beach SkyWheel observation wheel. Other major attractions include the gorgeous beachfront Myrtle Beach State Park, the Family Kingdom amusement park, and the Carolina Opry, which presents musical and variety shows nightly. Over 460 hotels are offered for visitor stay, along with more than 1,900 casual and upscale restaurants and bars.

6. North Myrtle Beach

North Myrtle Beach
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North Myrtle Beach is part of North Carolina's spacious and lively Grand Strand, stretching 60 miles along the state's coastline and offering a plethora of summer fun for visitors of all ages. The city, which was incorporated in 1968 out of four municipalities north of the Myrtle Beach area, is home to some of the Carolina Coast's most beautiful natural scenery, preserved alongside bustling attractions such as the Barefoot Landing shopping complex, which is home to the country-music-focused Alabama Theatre, the live music venue House of Blues, and the historic O.D. Pavilion amusement park. Its charming Main Street district is lined with a selection of eclectic shops, restaurants, and bars, with oceanfront hotels and condominiums along Ocean Boulevard offering stunning ocean views. Other attractions include the Alligator Adventure animal park, which is home to a wide variety of reptile species and hosts daily live animal shows.

7. Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach
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Surfside Beach is a charming family-friendly beach along the Grand Strand, located in Horry County, South Carolina. The beach town, which was developed as a tourist area in the mid-2oth century following destruction by Hurricane Hazel, is often called as "The Family Beach" for its youth-friendly attractions such as the Wild Water and Wheels seasonal water park. Though the Surfside Beach Pier was damaged during 2016's Hurricane Matthew and is awaiting redevelopment, beachfront attractions such as Surf Diner, Pier Outfitters and Licks Ice Cream remain open for business in the city's downtown beachfront district. A variety of beautiful oceanfront hotels are also offered in the city, which is commonly referred to as the "South Strand."

8. Topsail Island

Topsail Island
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Topsail Island is an historic island located along the southeastern coastline of North Carolina, approximately half an hour from Jacksonville's city center. The island, which is believed to be named for the topsails on its 18th and 19th-century populations on pirate ships that frequented its shores, is best known as the site of a World War II-era anti-aircraft training base that served as a precursor for the Cold War-era Operation Bumblebee guided missile development station. Today, three laid-back beachfront communities thrive on the 26-mile-long island, including Topsail Beach, North Topsail Beach, and Surf City. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of family-friendly beachfront attractions, including the Jolly Roger Fishing Pier, the Topsail Island Skating Rink, the Queen Jean headboat, and the Patio Playground miniature golf course. For history buffs, the Missiles and More Museum preserves the island's extensive military history.

820 S. Anderson Blvd, Topsail Beach, NC 28445, Phone: 910-328-5841

9. Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach
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Wrightsville Beach is North Carolina's most accessible beach from Interstate 40, located in New Hanover County just east of the city of Wilmington. The beach town, which is known throughout the country for its pristine blue waters and world-class stand-up paddleboarding opportunities, has been voted as one of North Carolina's best beaches by top national publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Southern Living, and USA Today. Excellent opportunities for outdoor water sports such as swimming, fishing, and surfing are offered along the beach's white sand shoreline stretch, with opportunities for athletics on land offered at the Loop fitness trail. Family-friendly attractions abound, including history museums, children's surf camps, and narrated harbor cruises. The town is also home to some of the Intracoastal Waterway's most spectacular seafood restaurants, serving up daily catches and gourmet entrees.

305 W Salisbury St, Denton, NC 27239, Phone: 910-256-8116

10. Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
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It’s easy to see why Fort Fisher State Recreational Area is one of North Carolina’s most frequented beaches. Located south of Kure Beach, it’s known for miles of untouched shoreline, making it a pristine location to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors can simply take in the sunshine and fresh air as they lounge on the beach, search for seashells along the shore, or enjoy a number of watersports in the calm marsh waters. Other activities include ranger-conducted programs such as shell strolls and turtle talks, as well as a hiking trail offering great views from an observation deck.

1000 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach, North Carolina 28449; Phone: 910-458-5798

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