Travel to Sunset Beach, North Carolina

Are you looking for a beach destination with beautiful sand, warm water, and very few people? Then look no further than the small barrier island of Sunset Beach in North Carolina!

Being from the Rocky Mountains, I had always heard that California had the nice beaches & warm water, and the east coast had dirty beaches with frigid waters. But since moving to Virginia I learned that it is just the opposite. California does have some pretty beaches, but the water is anything but warm. Thanks a lot for brain washing me Beach Boys! But luckily I have seen the error of my ways! I have now discovered a place with white sand, warm water, amazing heat, and a lot of fun activities.

Several years ago we started visiting the hidden gem of Sunset Beach, which sits halfway between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina. Until this year you would drive onto the island, across a small, one lane draw bridge (now they have a tall fixed bridge). Driving across the beautiful green marshes, you soon enter the quaint vacation town. You will quickly notice that the big mega beach shops, grocery stores, and restaurants are left back on the mainland. A couple beach shops, a small market, and a deli seem to be the only signs of commercial life. It’s a perfect balance, escaping the hustle & bustle while still having quick access to retail stores, and even a short 40 minute drive to Myrtle Beach (if you like that kind of place).

Beautiful vacation homes are available for rental through local real estate offices. We’ve had pretty good luck with Sunset Properties. You can also search on Google for other companies. There are also a few nice hotels, but if you  are on a budget I can recommend a good hotel that is right across the street from the beach. It’s called the Continental Motel & Apartments. Even in peak season you will rarely pay much over $100. The rooms are clean, they include a small kitchen, and the cool swimming pool is a nice break from the beach. We’ve stayed there for several years and have really enjoyed it and have felt that it is a great value…even considering how picky I am about hotels & motels.

Now for the beach. I would have to saw that this is the nicest beach that I’ve been to in the continental United States. The sand is nearly white, soft, and easy to sculpt sand castles in. The upper section of the beach packs down enough for riding bikes. Summer days get very hot, which appeals to me. During the summer the water temperature is usually in the 80s, and the waves are perfect for boogie boarding. Unlike the surrounding beaches, you can walk out quite a distance and still feel soft sand on your bare feet.

Within a short drive of Sunset Beach (off the island) you will find fantastic restaurants, original shops, and quaint picturesque seaside villages. One of my favorite historical villages is Ocean Isle, NC. Here are a couple pictures:

Feel free to check out this Google map to see where Sunset Beach is located:

[mappress mapid=”2″]

Please leave a comment below if you know of other similar hidden gem destinations!


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    These pictures are great. The one of you and your son is classic terrific, and so is your wife on the beach. My favorite though, is the close-up shot of feet in the rain on the road grate. What a really neat (and unique) photograph!

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    We love NC Beaches. My parents live in Wilmington so we vacation there every year. I haven’t been to Sunset Beach in years. Maybe we will take a day and spend it there with the kids this summer. I am really hoping that we get to go to Beaufort, Morehead, and possibly the Outer Banks. Great post!!

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