While there are plenty of easy-access beaches throughout the state, sometimes discovering your own slice of paradise is the best way to experience sand and salt. From the northern Outer Banks to the southern tip of the state, this North Carolina beaches road trip guarantees you’ll discover some of the very best hidden beaches in North Carolina and have an outstanding adventure on the coast. Use our customizable interactive map of the route as your guide.
Looking to feed your wanderlust? Click here to sign up for our Bucket List Newsletter for a weekly peek at the best U.S. destinations to inspire your next adventures.
This road trip to some of the best hidden beaches in North Carolina has a combined route that will take a little more than 11 hours of transportation time.
This signature road trip is best planned when you have a full weekend to explore each spot to the fullest; a three-day weekend is even better!
As one of the most hard-to-access secret beaches in North Carolina, the beauty here remains fairly unspoiled. Home to wild horses, rugged dunes, turqouis water and yes, plenty of four wheel drives conquering the beach; Carova is one of the most wild yet majestic beaches you’ll visit.
Carova Beach, NC, USA
2. Cape Hatteras
While the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina stretches 70 total miles, allowed off road vehicles make it easy to drive far enough and find your own private beach. The wild, rugged surf of Cape Hatteras is popular with water sports enthusiasts and also makes for some pretty epic pictures.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Hatteras National Park Road, Nags Head, NC 27959, USA3. Lifeguard Beach
3. Lifeguard Beach
Taking the ferry to Ocracoke promises a whole weekend of history and sites to see. Yet, grab the beach chairs and sunscreen cause you’ll want to spend plenty of time on Lifeguard Beach. Recently named Third Best Beach in the U.S. by “Dr. Beach,” this secret spot of sand even reached the number one spot in 2007.
Ocracoke, NC 27960, USA4. Shackleford Banks
4. Shackleford Banks
Hopping on yet another ferry is totally worth arriving at Shackleford Banks. While the island has no running water or electricity, it’s a seriously gorgeous, unique place featuring wild horses roaming the white sand beaches and crystal clear water to take a dip in. Read our article to see why we deemed Shackleford Banks one of the most magical North Carolina beaches. It’s certainly one of the most picturesque beaches in the state.
Shackleford Banks, North Carolina, USA
5. Topsail Island
North of Wilmington, the quiet Topsail Island has long been a place for week-long family vacations and escapes from the day-to-day. Quite simply just a beach, it’s a remote place with a decent driving distance to Wilmington (if you did want to spice things up a bit).
Topsail Island, North Topsail Beach, NC 28460, USA
6. Bird Island/Sunset Beach
The quiet and isolated Bird Island is home to something truly unique – a mailbox awaiting your penned hopes and dreams. Kindred Spirit mailbox has been a longtime fixture on the island with the source of the creation remaining anonymous. Where else is a more perfect place to write out your true thoughts, or worries, than on a bench on the best sandy beach in North Carolina? It’s pure magic.
Sunset Beach, NC, USA
North Carolina is home to some amazing hidden spots and in spite of the popularity of the lovely coastline, there are still many unspoiled spots just waiting to be explored. Ready to hit the road to discover your favorite among the best-hidden North Carolina beaches? Pack the road-trip essentials into the car and let’s get going!