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North Carolina Beach Vacation Suggestions

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We are planning a North Carolina beach vacation over July 4th weekend, and I'm hoping someone here has some suggestions on which beaches and locations would be good for our family.  We will attend a wedding in Raleigh on July 1 and then were hoping to spend the rest of the week at the beach playing in Atlantic ocean waves. We are open to other adventures, but we need to spend a chunk of time at the ocean since this may be the only time the kids will have to experience ocean waves.  I know Raleigh is a couple hours away from the ocean, and I know accommodations are likely already booked for that week.  We may need to push our vacation time ahead of the wedding.

 

So....any and all suggestions are welcome.  We will be driving roundtrip with all 5 kids from MN.

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I love Nags Head. Small town, state parks, the Wright Brothers Museum, the dunes... I checked Airbnb and there are a few of the larger houses that can accommodate you for $200 per night that weekend.

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In Raleigh, you will be a little over 3 hours from: Virginia Beach, VA., Nags Head, NC, Morehead City, NC, Cedar Island, NC, and Myrtle Beach, SC. 

I've only been to Nags Head and Cedar Island, both wonderful places.

Lots of friends have been to all of these places and return year after year, or for family reunions.

Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach will be busy, crowded and more city like, but lots of options for accommodations and food.

My favorite has been to go to the Outer Banks. You can hang at the beach on Ocracoke, but it is wild. There usually are not lifeguards. Ocracoke has a pirate museum.  

We spent time at the Albemarle Sound (the inland side of the Outer Banks) and that was very pleasant. Clear, calm, clean, not cold water. I think the ocean side was having a lot of jellies and other creepy things in the water and the winds were so strong that it was blowing the sand hard. Not that it would be a thing while you're there. Just saying, that was our experience once. 

Most of the Outer Banks is a national seashore so it is not always commercialized. Depends on what your preferences are, city life or the wild side. 

There is a ferry system from mainland to the Outer Banks. https://www.outerbanks.com/ferry-system.html

 

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We stayed at Carolina Beach a few years ago. It was just outside of Wilmington, very family friendly, not the giant crowds of the larger, more popular areas (Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head). It's also closer than heading east to the Outer Banks. It looks like there are several hotels with availabilities over July 4 also. SOOO fun, what a wonderful treat for your family! I grew up on west coast beaches, but I've fallen in love with east coast beaches. I hope you see dolphins!!

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All of the beaches will be crowded around the 4th. It’s not the ideal time to go, but you can still have a great vacation.

 

From Raleigh, the Wilmington area beaches (Wrightsville etc) are easy to get to, and there are good rainy day options. I think you are close to two hours. I also like Ocean Isle and Holden beaches. Topsail has some nice area. Part of the community has had bad erosion. At any of the beaches I would check out reviews on specific parts of the beach to seek. You don’t want to rent where these is no beach at high tide.

 

I have heard good things about Bald Head and Oak Islands.

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I love the OBX but it's still a pretty long drive to get there from Raleigh. And things are spread out. It's a long drive from Kitty Hawk/Nags Head to get on the ferry at Ocracoke, and the last time we did that in the summer (July, but after the 4th) we waited two hours for the ferry. In less busy times we've usually been able to get on a ferry within 15-20 minutes. 

 

I'd look at the Emerald Isle beaches or the ones around Wilmington (Wrightsville, Carolina, Oak Island, Ocean Isle). I like all of those but Oak Island is my favorite. It's a fairly quick (but boooring!) drive to get to any of the Wilmington area beaches from Raleigh.

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We go to Hilton Head Island, SC every year. The sand is softer and doesn't cut your feet.  They don't let you build right on the ocean so it has a more natural feel.  It is more family oriented, less party atmosphere.  I would avoid Myrtle like the plague, especially in the summer.  Hilton Head is probably no farther than the outer banks.  That week will be tough and expensive at any beach though.

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I love the OBX but it's still a pretty long drive to get there from Raleigh. And things are spread out. It's a long drive from Kitty Hawk/Nags Head to get on the ferry at Ocracoke, and the last time we did that in the summer (July, but after the 4th) we waited two hours for the ferry. In less busy times we've usually been able to get on a ferry within 15-20 minutes. 

 

I'd look at the Emerald Isle beaches or the ones around Wilmington (Wrightsville, Carolina, Oak Island, Ocean Isle). I like all of those but Oak Island is my favorite. It's a fairly quick (but boooring!) drive to get to any of the Wilmington area beaches from Raleigh.

 

Oak Island is where we usually go in late May.  We love it!  We used to do OBX pre-kids, and once with little kids.  

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I love the OBX but it's still a pretty long drive to get there from Raleigh. And things are spread out. It's a long drive from Kitty Hawk/Nags Head to get on the ferry at Ocracoke, and the last time we did that in the summer (July, but after the 4th) we waited two hours for the ferry. In less busy times we've usually been able to get on a ferry within 15-20 minutes.

 

I'd look at the Emerald Isle beaches or the ones around Wilmington (Wrightsville, Carolina, Oak Island, Ocean Isle). I like all of those but Oak Island is my favorite. It's a fairly quick (but boooring!) drive to get to any of the Wilmington area beaches from Raleigh.

+1

I grew up going to the OBX but it is a longer drive than the other beaches. Wilmington beaches will be a quick drive down I40.

 

And yes, they'll all be insane for the 4th. Just have your plan ahead of time and roll with it. :)

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Thank you for the feedback thus far! I will be looking at your ideas and suggestions tonight. I'm leaning toward the week before the 4th for crowd reasons, but it will take a few more vacation days.

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We pink-puffy-heart LOVE Kure Beach (just south of Carolina beach). We often stay at the Hidden Treasure Inn because you can walk to the beach, pier and restaurants. It's a 10-minute drive from the Ft. Fisher Aquarium.

 

At any NC beach, expect to have to rent for an entire week during peak season, but they're not necessarily all full yet.

Edited by whitehawk
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Duck is nicer than Nag's Head if you want OBX, but I think Carolina Bch is lovely. I grew up going to NH, and it has totally changed. Donxt get a place in Kitty Hawk because the rentals are not right on tbe beach. But do go see the museum if you go to Duck or NH.

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Duck is nicer than Nag's Head if you want OBX, but I think Carolina Bch is lovely. I grew up going to NH, and it has totally changed. Donxt get a place in Kitty Hawk because the rentals are not right on tbe beach. But do go see the museum if you go to Duck or NH.

 

It is lovely up around Duck but fair warning -- in recent years the traffic up that way has become absolutely horrible. The last time we tried to drive up that way (we have an RV and were at a campground on Hatteras Island) the traffic was gridlocked. We got around the Wright Brother's Memorial and turned around because as far as we could determine from traffic apps it was only getting worse if we continued north. Who wants to spend their vacation sitting in traffic?

 

My brother and SIL rent a house in Carova,  the four wheel drive area north of Duck, every June. They get there and stay there. Not because of the hassle of the drive on the beach, but because of the hassle of traffic once they reach Highway 12.

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