Driveable Destination

Winter Escapes To The Carolina Coast

by Grace Lower // January - February - March 2021

Vacationing in wintertime often consists of skis, snowboards, sweatshirts, and snowflakes – but sometimes we dream of a paradise getaway during these frigid months. I’m here to let you in on a little secret that you already know, but maybe don’t realize yet … we have paradise right here in North Carolina!

The Old North State boasts a coastline of beautiful beaches that brim with visitors during the scalding summer season, but have you ever thought about a beach trip in January? February? What about March? Chances are you haven’t, and understandably so – when we think of going to the beach, we imagine swimming in the ocean and sunbathing on the sand, which isn’t really plausible during the winter (unless you enjoy 40 degree water – personally, I will be sticking with warmer activities). But there is so much more to our state’s magnificent beaches than water activities, and a wintry coastal vacation right here in North Carolina is an easy and fun way to fulfill your cravings for paradise.

Benefits of an off-season escape to a North Carolina beach community include:
– Fewer crowded beaches than in summer;
– Supporting the beach tourism industry during the off-season;
– Quick travel time / close to home;
– Less crowded than typical winter tourism sites like ski resorts;
– Cheaper off-season prices;
– Opportunity to explore local attractions that may be overlooked or overcrowded in summer.

I have compiled a list of five fabulous North Carolina beach communities that are excellent for wintertime trips. Each of these paradises has something unique to offer, and is sure to provide you with an unforgettable stay. And although I only had space to select five beautiful beach communities for this article, North Carolina has so many from which to choose ... you’re bound to find a fun vacation no matter where you decide to visit.


Founded in 1709, Beaufort’s presence as an influential part of North Carolina’s history makes it a great destination for an off-season visit. The charming town situated in Carteret County offers plenty of fun activities in the summer, but the delightful downtown dotted with restaurants, shops, and historical sights ensures that you’ll have just as much fun in the winter. Consider checking out the Maritime Museum, going on a ghost tour, and maybe even seeing wild horses at Shackleford Banks!


Wilmington is a fantastic place to visit in the winter. Seated be-tween the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll be surrounded by water, making you feel as though you’ve transported back in time to a picturesque paradise. Visit the historic downtown’s Riverwalk, which houses shops, restaurants, and galleries. And take a walk through the Battleship North Carolina, which is anchored in Wilmington and now serves as a museum.

Outer Banks

My extended family has held reunions in the Outer Banks for the past 17 years (each year of my life), so OBX maintains a special place in my heart. I couldn’t pick just one town in North Carolina’s famous barrier islands, since each has so much to offer, so I opted to put them all in one category to let you do the choosing! From shops and boutiques of Duck; Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head; the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras; 4x4 and wild horse adventures of Corolla; to the magnificence of its numerous lighthouses, the Outer Banks has it all.

New Bern

I’ll tell you straight up – I love, love, love New Bern! My visit to the adorably charming town was in March of 2017 ... that’s right, a winter beach vacation! While New Bern is actually located on the Neuse River, its close proximity to the Crystal Coast makes it a great addition to your beach trip. Founded in 1710 and located in Craven County, New Bern was the first capital of North Carolina; you can visit Tryon Palace, where you’ll travel back in time to the Governor’s Palace of colonial North Carolina. Also, New Bern is famously the “Birthplace of Pepsi,” so be sure to check out the drugstore in which the drink was invented!

Bald Head Island

If you’re looking for quaint, remote, and gorgeous, Bald Head Island, commonly known as Bald Head or BHI, is the spot for you. Only accessible by private boat or ferry, Bald Head has maintained its historic and environmental prominence and is a bike / golf cart / walking village (no cars allowed). While you’re there, embrace this beach community’s luscious landscapes and local charisma. And if you’re game, take the hike up “Old Baldy,” the island’s iconic lighthouse.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and local and statewide orders, we cannot guarantee that the communities and activities listed will be open for visitors. Please check websites or contact these facilities prior to planning your visit.

Grace Lower

A student at UNC-Chapel Hill in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, studying Biology and Environmental Health Sciences. She is an outdoor enthusiast who also enjoys dance, theater, teaching group fitness classes, and writing for CIRCA Magazine.