Carolina Beach is a paradise for kids! Filled with sunny beaches, summertime activities, and plenty of great eats and good times, kids will never be bored at this town that deserves its longstanding name of “Pleasure Island.”

Make your upcoming Carolina Beach vacation simply unforgettable for the youngest members in your family by ensuring that these top activities for kids are on your vacation agenda. From amazing new adventures to educational explorations that make learning a joy, these activities, attractions, and time-tested things to do will make any Carolina Beach vacation shine for visitors of all ages.

Carolina Beach

Head to the Beach

There’s a reason why the beach is Carolina Beach’s favorite attraction, and why it’s been designated as one of the most family-friendly beaches along the Cape Fear coastline. Roughly 20 seasonal lifeguard stands can be found along three miles of shoreline in the summer months, and many of these public beaches offer ample amenities to make a day at the shore a breeze, including restrooms, concessions, and easy walks to the sand. Rent a hotel or vacation rental in the heart of the action, or take a road trip to the one of the outlying shorelines that are distinctively different and often refreshingly remote. Freeman Park to the north is the perfect spot to head to the beach with a 4WD truck and all your beach gear and toys in tow, while the Fort Fisher Recreation Site to the south offers six miles of undeveloped shoreline that’s perfect for shelling, swimming, and just splashing around. No matter where you go, with traditionally calm waves and wide sandy beaches, there’s ample room to play in Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Have a Blast at the Boardwalk

The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is one of the few boardwalks along the East Coast, and it’s also a show-stopping attraction, having been recognized by top magazines and publications like Food & Wine magazine, Budget Travel Magazine, and national news organizations like CNN, FOX News and USA Today. Hopping in the summer months, the boardwalk is filled with seasonal amusement rides, (which includes a Ferris wheel with sky high ocean views), classic arcade and fair games, and plenty of great sugary eats like freshly baked donuts or homemade fudge. Serving as the venue of choice for a number of Carolina Beach celebrations, from live fireworks displays to music on hot summer nights, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk is always an enticing destination for visitors of all ages where fun rules the day (and night.)

See aligators at the NC Aquarium

Meet the Locals

Use a rainy day as the perfect excuse to discover one of Pleasure Island’s most engaging – and educational – attractions, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Located just south of Carolina Beach and neighboring Kure Beach, the aquarium is one of three coastal aquariums in the state of North Carolina, and is an impressive attraction with a diverse array of galleries and exhibits that outline the different marine life that is found across the state. Kids can get their hands on live (but harmless) sharks and sea urchins in the touch tank display, meet a rare albino alligator, and marvel at giant creatures of the deep blue sea in the two-story open ocean tank. From incredible daily diver shows to special camps and programs designed just for kids, the aquarium is an enlightening experience that always makes learning fun.

Carolina Lake

Check out the Local Lake

Carolina Beach Lake Park is famous as one of the closest freshwater lakes to a massive body of saltwater, (namely the Atlantic Ocean), and young water fans will adore this destination for its 11 acres of fun and host of seasonal events. Nicely calm, the waters are perfect for an easy-going cruise via a pedal boat or a kayak for water fans of all ages, and seasonal rentals are available at the water’s edge for visitors who don’t have a ride handy. In addition, the lake features a nice walking trail, ample benches and gazebos where parents can look on, and / or seasonal concessions for a quick snack in between explorations. In the summer months, the Carolina Beach Lake Park becomes an enticing evening destination, as the venue for family-friendly outdoor movies that are free and wide open to the public. From fun movie nights to just a cool cruise along the lake’s waters, this destination is a great spot to enjoy the waters of Carolina Beach from a new perspective.

Take a hike at the Carolina Beach State Park

Take a Hike

Visitors of all ages can enjoy a new view of the natural Carolina Beach scene with a visit to the impressive and beautifully wild 761 acre Carolina Beach State Park. This natural attraction that’s located close to the Cape Fear River features miles of nature trails that cut through riverfront waters, salt marshes and wetlands, shrub thickets, and acres of maritime forest. As a result, it’s the perfect destination to learn all about the flora, fauna and wildlife that calls Carolina Beach home, which includes a rare collection of carnivorous plants, (including Venus flytraps.) Take a self-guided exploration along easy nature trails that can measure from .35 miles to 1-2 miles or more, or sign up for a park ranger-led guided hike through the terrain that will fascinate visitors of all ages. With miles to explore in every direction, a walk in the woods is a charming expedition that everyone in the family will enjoy.

Surfing at Carolina Beach

Learn to Surf

School may be out, but summer is the perfect time of year for kids to learn something new along the East Coast’s largest “outdoor classroom.” With a gently sloping ocean floor and traditionally small waves, Carolina Beach has long been heralded as a perfect spot for beginning surfers, and a number of private instruction sessions, lessons, and full day camps are available just for kids who want to ride the waves. Family friendly surf schools, like the Tony Silvagni Surf School, offer special lessons and camps that are designed just for kids with ample safety lessons and impressive teacher-to-student ratios. As a result of this in-depth training that can last just an hour or two, or a complete and fun-filled day, kids will have a blast getting their toes wet in a new watersport that’s easy to learn, and easy to enjoy in Carolina Beach.

Surfers near Carolina Beach

Get Paddling

Carolina Beach is truly a great destination for water fans to learn a new sport, and one new activity in particular is taking the island by storm – namely, stand-up paddle boarding. Easy to pick up with just a short lesson or two, stand-up paddle boarding is everywhere in Carolina Beach, and newcomers can join the craze by signing up for a tour or tutorial, and / or by renting a SUP board for an hour, an afternoon, or a full week and heading to the local waters. Several popular paddling sites, like the Cape Fear Riverfront next to the Carolina Beach State Park, are great destinations for both rentals and launching, and visitors can also increase their on-the-water adventures by signing up for a kayaking or tour as well while on the island. With both kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding effortlessly easy to enjoy, Carolina Beach is a great destination to join a new water craze that family members of all ages will adore.

Fish from a local pier

Drop a Line

Anglers of all ages are welcome in Carolina Beach, and fishermen under the age of 16 don’t even need a North Carolina Saltwater Fishing license to cast a line into the open waters. This is just one of the reasons why this island destination is the perfect spot for kids to pick up a lifelong fishing hobby, through long and sunny days casting from the beach, the Cape Fear River, and / or anywhere in between. For the best chance at reeling in a big catch or two, visitors can book a family-friendly inshore charter fishing adventure, which targets the local waters close to home, or can head to the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, which extends roughly 700’ ft. into the Atlantic Ocean and serves as the perfect spot to enjoy both great fishing and great views. With ample bait and tackle shops, and a myriad of places to pick up a child-sized rod and reel, Carolina Beach is a prime spot for kids to pick up a fishing habit that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.

Take a boat tour

Enjoy a Cruise

A number of cruises and tours are available from Carolina Beach, which will take families on a new adventure to some of the most picturesque and unique destinations along the Cape Fear coastline. Book a shelling cruise to Mansonboro Island for the best chance of finding armfuls of freshly washed up treasures, or plan a big family-sized celebration on board one of the town’s party boats, which can easily accommodate 20 passengers or more. Other cruises or tours available include eco-tours which scout out the nearby deserted islands for local wildlife, dolphin watching cruises, and even head boat or inshore fishing trips which can combine a myriad of fun activities, like crabbing and clamming. From just enjoying the salt air to launching on a full-fledged fishing or shelling adventure, every on-the-water taste can be catered to in coastal Carolina Beach.

A shop in nearby Southport NC

Shop till you Drop

Carolina Beach is home to a wide array of shops that are designed with young vacationers in mind, and which are clustered in the heart of town which makes it easy to hop from one destination to another. Check out the local surf shops for cool new boards, apparel, and accessories – like sunglasses, flip flops and wet suits – or stop by one of the popular and budget-friendly beach gear stores which stock everything from souvenirs to beach toys and body boards. There’s lots of diversity in the shops and boutiques throughout Carolina Beach and the Cape Fear region, and any shopping trip can turn into a fun excuse to load up on beach gear and supplies that can guarantee hours of fun on and off the sand.

The Oceanic Restaurant and Pier in Wrightsville Beach

Have a Beachy Feast

When it comes to restaurants and eateries, Carolina Beach is extremely family friendly. Loaded with casual cuisine that’s perfect after a salty day on the shore, families will have no problem appeasing all the foodies in their family – even the youngest and pickiest members. Stop by one of the local burger joints, pizza places, or Mexican food eateries for some easy-going fare, or make a date with one of the region’s many seafood restaurants where fresh catches are seasonally on the menu. With lots of tempting options, which includes ample ice cream shops, donut shops, and candy stores, it’s easy to satisfy an appetite while tempting the taste buds.

From learning a new watersport to enjoying a family friendly outing to the local park or aquarium, there’s no shortage of things to do in Carolina Beach, rain or shine. Let the kids run wild and enjoy a vacation they’ll never forget at this beach destination that’s well-known for its miles of fun.

Smithfield's Chicken N Bar-B-Q
Bald Head Island Lighthouse - Old Baldy