9 North Carolina Beaches Close to Virginia (+ Attractions & Activities)

Summer season is here! When most people think of Virginia’s white-sand beaches, they think of heading to Virginia Beach or nearby Ocean City in Maryland.

But what about North Carolina?

Just a short drive down the coast, North Carolina boasts some of the best and beautiful beaches on the eastern shore.

So if you’re looking for a beach day trip from Virginia, look no further than the Atlantic Ocean on the North Carolina coast!

Golden hour at the Atlantic beach
Image by egowkand from Pixabay

We have listed some remote options here for you, if you want to avoid the popular but crowded beaches of the area.

Here are our top picks for the best NC beaches close to Virginia.

#1 Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. They’re a popular vacation destination for their sandy beaches, historic sites, landmarks, picnic shelters, and outdoor activities.

If you’re looking for a beach vacation that’s close to home, the Outer Banks is a great option. They’re only a few hours’ drive from Virginia Beach, and there are plenty of things to do in the area.

Here are a few of our favorite things to do in the Outer Banks:

  1. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial
  2. Take a scenic drive down the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
  3. Go fishing or crabbing in the Pamlico Sound.
  4. Relax on the beach
  5. Visit the Outer Banks Lighthouse

Whether you’re looking for a historic vacation or a relaxing beach getaway, the Outer Banks is a great option. 

#2 Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina is a beautiful place to visit. Some of the best beaches on the east coast are located here.

Cape Hatteras is located at the tip of the Outer Banks and is part of what’s known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

kids playing in the sand at the beach in North Carolina
Image Source: NPS website

This area has lost many ships over the years due to the rough conditions.

The beach stretches for about 15 miles along the coast and is home to several species of sea life including dolphins, whales and sharks.

There are also plenty of shells to be found on this beach which makes it a great spot for shell collectors as well as beachcombers.

Here are some fun things to do In Cape Hatteras:

  1. Explore the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
  2. Hike the nature trails
  3. Go surfing
  4. Learn the history of shipwrecks
  5. Watch for whales from June to August
  6. Go kayaking or fishing

Here you’ll find 35 Best Things to Do in Cape Hatteras including tours, fun, museums, food & more.

RELATED: Best Beaches to find Shark Teeth in North Carolina

#3 Frisco

If you’re looking for a beautiful, peaceful North Carolina beach that’s close to Virginia, look no further than Frisco Beach!

This quiet beach escape is perfect for those who want to relax and enjoy the sound and sights of the ocean.

golden hour at the beach
Image Source: NPS website

The town has a few small restaurants and convenience stores, as well as a go-cart track, mini golf course, and flight tour company.

Accommodations in Frisco range from vacation rentals to campgrounds.

This is a perfect place with lots of picnic tables and green spaces to have a quiet time with your family.

“I love the seclusion of this area. You can always find an empty spot to look for shells and surf. Warm water and clean ocean waves. As beautiful as always.”

Michael Tripp (Google Reviews)

#4 Carova Beach

If you’re looking for a remote and wild beach experience, look no further than Carova Beach in North Carolina.

This beach is only accessible by boat or 4WD vehicle, and it’s home to a herd of wild horses. The beach is a great spot for sailing, windsurfing, fishing, and more.

A wild horse at the Carova Beach
Image Source: Carova Beach Info website

And, if you’re looking for some civilization, the nearby town of Corolla offers gift shops, restaurants, and attractions.

Fun activities to try out here:

  • Go on a wildlife-watching tour. If you’re lucky, you may get a close encounter with Corolla’s wild horses!
  • Take a 4WD and visit the remote sand dunes around the beach
  • Experience the thrill of free-falling at Virginia Beach Indoor Skydiving Adventure
  • Take surfing lessons!
  • Enroll in a beginner hang gliding lesson

“We were surprised on how remote this area is yet so many people were there. You can only get there by 4 wheel drive but, well worth the effort if you do. Very clean beaches for miles. People were cooking out, sunbathing, swimming and playing beach sports. We only knew about it because of the wild hourse tour. Not crowded and looked like great family fun.”

Gary (Tripadvisor)

#5 Corolla Beach

Corolla is the northernmost town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but it’s far enough away from the center of population that it feels like a place apart.

The beach is narrow, but it’s also long and beautiful, with a wide range of sand types and a steady supply of shells. It’s also a popular place for surfing and kiteboarding in the state.

The best part about Corolla is that it has plenty of things to do inland as well as at the beach itself.

There are shops, restaurants, and attractions galore in this small town.

If you’re visiting Corolla, here are some things to do near Corolla Beach:

What’s fun to do?

  1. Explore the town of Duck. This historic village has been preserved as an open-air museum that showcases how people lived back in the 19th century when they first started settling this area.
  2. The Whalehead Club – This historic golf course was built in 1929 and offers stunning views of the Currituck Sound as well as plenty of wildlife (including dolphins!). It’s an excellent place for golfers who are visiting
  3. Enjoy a bike ride
  4. Go kayaking

“Great beach to spend your time on. We dove from the beginning to end which is Virginia/North Carolina line. We got to be special enough to see the wild horses and a couple of their babies. One of my favorite beaches.”

Rachel Currin (Google Reviews)

#6 Currituck Beach

If you’re looking for a quiet beach vacation spot that’s still close to town, then Currituck Beach in North Carolina is a great option.

The area is famous for its wild Spanish mustangs, and there are several companies that offer wild horse tours.

This is a good beach if you want to search for starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, conch shells and other colorful creatures in the water here too!

Things To Do Near Currituck Beach:

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is an interesting Gothic Revival lighthouse that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

You can tour the lighthouse seasonally, and there’s also a museum store on the property.

The nearby Currituck Banks Reserve is a great place to hike, fish, and hunt.

  1. Currituck Beach Lighthouse – Visitors can tour this historic lighthouse on their own or take a guided tour with one of the park rangers. There are also several other lighthouses nearby that visitors can check out as well!
  2. Walk the short Currituck Banks Reserve Boardwalk through a maritime forest

“We took a hummer ride on the beach for 2 hours. It was my favorite thing we did at Corolla. I would do it again. The sand is so beautiful and the hummer ride on the beach was fun. We loved seeing the wild horses.”

Christine F (Tripadvisor)

#7 Coquina

Since you are looking for a beach close to Virginia that you can drive to, Coquina Beach in North Carolina is a great option!

The beach is located on the Outer Banks and is only a few hours away from Virginia Beach.

The beach is undeveloped and is a great place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. There are also some shipwrecks offshore that you can explore if you’re interested in history.

Coquina Beach is a great option for a beach trip that isn’t too far from home.

A day at Coquina Beach
Image Source: NPS website

Coquina Beach is a popular destination for those who want to get away from it all.

There are no crowds here and no hassles from people trying to sell you something or take pictures of you.

The beach also provides an opportunity to see wildlife such as dolphins, sea turtles and shore birds.

Coquina Beach is located on Highway 12 between Nags Head and Kitty Hawk, making it easy to access from anywhere in the area.

You can also enjoy some of North Carolina’s best sunrises and sunsets at this beach location.

There are also plenty of museums, restaurants and shops nearby so you can find something fun to do even if you’re not interested in going out on the water or spending time at the beach itself.

“Amazing beach away from the crowds! If you want to get away from everyone, this is the place! Great for yoga or just quite walks on the beach. Black and white sands combine to make artwork in the nearby dunes! Tons of sea birds for your dog to chase down the beach. You’re also allowed you to drive on the beach with a permit. The road leads right to it from the parking lot. Make sure you bring food and plenty of water, no place close to buy any. Like I said, it’s away from the crowds and local shops. Great place for sunrises and sunsets!”

Mike Canzoneri (Google Reviews)

#8 Nags Head

Nags Head Beach is a great place to spend the day. The beach is wide and has soft sand. It’s also easy to get to. The parking lot is right on the beach, so you don’t have to cross any traffic or walk far.

Nags Head Beach is located in Nags Head, North Carolina. It’s just south of Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk, so if you’re visiting these other beaches, this one will be only a short drive away for you.

Nags Head has gotten the reputation of being one of the crowded places in NC because of its miles of beaches and sand dunes at jockey’s ridge state park, which includes the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern United States.

Nags Head has a variety of things to do besides just relaxing at the beach. There are shops and restaurants along the main street (Route 12). You can also rent bikes or go horseback riding in this area. There are several golf courses nearby as well.

Here’s some of our favorite things to do in Nags Head:

  1. Tour Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve
  2. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial

#9 Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk is located on the southern shore of a barrier island and it is named after one of the Wright Brothers who flew their plane at Kill Devil Hills in 1903.

Kitty Hawk Beach is one of the most popular beaches in North Carolina, it has been listed as one of the top beaches in America by TripAdvisor and also voted best beach by Coastal Living Magazine.

The beach area itself is divided into two sections; Kitty Hawk Beach 1 and Kitty Hawk Beach 2. This beach has soft sand, beautiful views and calm waters making it an ideal spot for families with children to visit.

A family having fun at the beach in the evening
Image Source: Town of Kitty Hawk NC

There is a public restroom with showers as well parking space available here.

This beach is perfect for families because there are lifeguards on duty during the summer months, as well as restrooms and showers. The beach itself is made up of sand and shells with some dunes that protect it from storms at high tide.

There are plenty of things to do while visiting Kitty Hawk Beach including: surfing lessons, kayaking, fishing charters and parasailing.

“BEAUTIFUL BEACH! Pet friendly, stunning views, sand is soft between the toes! Located nearby everything and free to access and parking! Great place to spend an hour of the full day, and not overcrowded in October! Enjoy the views of the ocean or the houses that run parallel.”

Ashley D. (Yelp Reviews)

Conclusion

There are a lot of great beaches in North Carolina, one of the many benefits of living in such a great state.

The Outer Banks is known for its long stretches of white sand, perfect for spending the day enjoying the beach culture, exploring local restaurants and attending music festivals.

The coast of North Carolina is generally very quiet, family oriented and beautiful with tons of picnic areas so you can enjoy that perfect weekend getaway with your family.

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Michaela Lee

Michaela lives in Northern Virginia and is a mom of 2 young kids. She enjoys writing, reading and going new places with her family.

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