Today we are discussing where is the closest beach to Charlotte NC. North Carolina has some of the best beaches on the Atlantic Ocean.
You might automatically think of The Outer Banks when it comes to the North Carolina coast. To access these barrier islands, it’s quite a journey to travel from Charlotte, it’s well worth the trip but let’s talk about other options you can explore today for beaches closest to Charlotte NC.
If you are here for just the ocean beaches, click here to jump to that section.
Otherwise, we are going to start below with the lake beaches first.
Closest lake beach near Charlotte NC
Ramsey Creek Park on Lake Norman in Cornelius NC is the closest to Charlotte. Lake Norman is the largest manmade freshwater lake in North Carolina with over 500 miles of shoreline, located 20 miles north of Charlotte.
Lake Beaches near Charlotte NC
Ramsey Creek Park
Distance: 21 miles | Time to Drive: 30 mins
Ramsey Creek Park is a 46-acre waterfront park that is open to everyone. During the summer months, the park does charge an entrance fee.
Here you will find one of the only public swimming areas on Lake Norman. In addition, you can launch a boat, and enjoy their fishing pier, playground, picnic shelters, and nature trails.
The beach is open Wednesday through Sunday in the summer from May until Labor Day between the hours of 11 am and 7 pm. Lifeguards are on duty during these times as well.
At the beginning of the summer, they are only open on weekends until mid-June usually. No dogs are allowed on the beach. However, they are allowed in other locations in the park as long as they are leashed. They also have a dog park to enjoy as well. This is an easy day trip from Charlotte NC.
County Residents are $5 per Weekday or $10 per Weekend day per car
Season Beach Pass is $52 for county residents and $77 for non-county
Parking is very limited and busy. Arrive early. During the holidays they provide a free shuttle from Northcross Park and Ride Lot in Huntersville NC.
Address: 18441 Nantz Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031
Jetton Park (no swimming)
Distance: 21 miles | Time to Drive: 30 mins
Jetton Park is also nearby but the beach does not allow swimming. But maybe you are just looking for a great place to have a picnic and a beautiful view! This is your place!
Address: 19000 Jetton Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031
Blythe Landing Park (no swimming)
Distance: 19 miles | Time to Drive: 30 mins
This is a fantastic spot to launch your boat onto Lake Norman. They have six boat launches and several floating piers. In addition to the boat launch, you can enjoy their playground, picnic area, and sand volleyball courts.
Address: 15901 NC 73 HY, Huntersville, NC 28078
Lake Norman State Park Beach
Distance: 40 miles | Time: 50 mins
At Lake Norman State Park, you will find the second swimming beach available on Lake Norman. The beach area has lockers, showers, and concessions available during the open season.
The beach has lifeguards available between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and when they are on-site, they do charge a small fee to swim, they only accept cash at the beach or you will have to go over to the Visitors Center and use a card. Pets are not allowed at the beach.
Address: 759 State Park Rd, Troutman, NC 28166
Buddle Creek Swim Area on High Rock Lake
Distance: 64 miles | Time: 1 hr 5 mins
At Buddle Creek Swim area you will find a designated swim area on High Rock Lake. High Rock Lake is the second largest lake in North Carolina and is less crowded than Lake Norman.
The beach area is covered in pebbles, so prepare accordingly. They have a roped-off area for swimming. The swimming area is not super large but a great place to still hang out.
No pets are allowed at the beach. They offer portapotties but no full restroom facilities. No lifeguards on duty.
Address: 2882 Holloway Church Rd #2754, Lexington, NC 27292
Lake James State Park
Distance: 90 miles | Time: 1 hr 30 mins
If you are looking to spend time at one of the prettiest lakes in North Carolina, Lake James is your place! Located on 6,000 acres and 150 miles of shoreline, it’s a great lake for swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, and more! Lake James State Park is North Carolina’s largest waterfront State Park.
The swim area is open from May 1st until September 30th between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm daily. They do charge a small fee for swim passes.
Seasonally they have a concession stand available and a bathhouse available. The swim passes start at $4/day for children and $6/day for adults. You can also purchase an annual pass for $90/year.
Address: 7321 NC-126, Nebo, NC 28761
Falls Lake State Recreation Area
Distance: 155 miles | Time: 2 hr 30 mins
Falls Lake State Recreation Area is about 15 miles east of downtown Durham. During the months of April, May, and September they charge an entrance fee per vehicle on the weekends. From Memorial Day through Labor Day the entrance fee per vehicle is charged daily. Outside of those times, it is free to use.
You will find trails here that are part of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail system as well. You will find swimming areas in the Beaverdam, Rolling View, and Sandling Beach areas.
The most popular swim area is the Sandling Beach area which has a restroom facility, outdoor shower, playground, picnic shelters, and grills available. The fee to access is $7/vehicle or you can choose to purchase an annual pass at $90.
Address: 13300 Creedmoor Rd, Wake Forest, NC 27587
Closest ocean beaches near Charlotte NC
Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is the closest beach to Charlotte NC in regards to distance traveled. Wrightsville Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Sunset Beach, and Oak Island would all be similar drive times if you want an ocean beach.
If you are wondering how far Charlotte is from the beach, it would take you a minimum of 3 hr 40 mins to drive to Myrtle Beach South Carolina, and Wrightsville Beach North Carolina as well. First, let’s break down the closest beach options to Charlotte NC in general.
North Carolina Ocean Beaches
Ocean Isle Beach
Distance: 194 miles | Time: 3 hr 30 mins
Ocean Isle Beach is a small town with amazing white sand beaches and lots of local attractions, events, and activities happening. In addition to the beach, you can stop by the Museum of Coastal Carolina, have some family fun at River Country Mini Golf, and adventure at The Swamp Park Zip Line and ATV Center.
Take a walk out on the Ocean Isle Beach Pier and you can also stop by the Carolina School of Surf and take some lessons surfing.
Here is a great place to stay right on the oceanfront.
Distance: 202 miles | Time: 3 hr 30 mins
Holden Beach is another small beach town, great for a quiet vacation. Located in the southern part of the NC shore. Recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of the best family beaches in the country.
Come here to enjoy the relaxing beach, build some sand castles, fly kites, or simply just relax in your beach chair. You’ll find fewer crowds as well.
You can also enjoy the Intracostal Waterway and bring your kayak or paddleboard while searching for dolphins or watching the shrimp boats cruise by.
Holden Beach is pet-friendly anytime between Sept 11th and May 19th. Also before 9 am and after 5 pm from May 20th and Sept 10th.
Book your stay here with amazing views of the Intercoastal Waterway.
Distance: 191 miles | Time: 3 hr 30 mins
Would you like to experience one of the top 21 Best Beaches in the World by National Geographic? Sunset Beach is for you with incredible sandy beaches and natural wonder. Since this beach faces East, why is it called Sunset Beach?
Fun little fact, from late fall to early spring, you can actually watch the sun rise and set over the water due to the island’s positioning.
Make sure to check out Sunset Beach Pier and enjoy some fishing. Or head out to Bird Island and explore the 1,200 acres. Are you a fan of astronomy?
Make sure to make a visit to the Ingram Planetarium, and enjoy a show at the SciDome Sky Theater.
Distance: 207 miles | Time: 3 hr 35 mins
Want a popular family beach location spot, Oak Island is a popular spot! Enjoy access to mini-golf, ice cream, and more. They have more than 60 public access points for the beach, two fishing piers, and several locations to launch your kayak or boat.
They have local shops and restaurants to enjoy. Oak Island is a popular spot for finding diverse amounts of sea shells too!
The island is also very pet friendly as leashed pets are allowed year-round. In addition for you history lovers, make sure to check out the Oak Island Lighthouse which was completed in 1958, it was the last lighthouse to be constructed in NC. They allow visitors 9 and up to take a guided tour year-round.
Distance: 208 miles | Time: 3 hr 40 mins
Wrightsville beach is located about 9 miles from Wilmington, NC, and is known for its beautiful blue water. Southern Living named it in their Top 10 “South’s Best Beach Towns.”
It’s one of the most accessible beaches in NC and a very popular location for beachgoers. Here they are known for world-class waves and surfing. You will find access to shopping, restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and spas if you are looking for more than just beach days.
Lots of water sports can be enjoyed here as well. Stop by Johnnie Mercers Pier for some fishing or just to take in the amazing views. The pier extends out 1,200 feet from the shore and you’ll even find a grill and restrooms there.
Leashed dogs are only allowed on the beach from October 1st through March 31st. From April 1st through September 30th, dogs are allowed on the beach prior to 9 am and after 5 pm.
Distance: 212 miles | Time: 3 hr 45 mins
Come enjoy a laid-back beach vibe along the coast, located about 15 miles from Wilmington, NC. The beach hosts many amazing events throughout the year including the Carolina Beach Music Festival which is the only music festival held on the beach in NC.
You will also find their nationally recognized vintage boardwalk. The boardwalk was ranked in the top 10 boardwalks in the country by Food & Wine magazine. They also have amazing restaurants and a vibrant nightlife.
Next to the boardwalk, you can also ride the nearly 100-ft-tall Carolina Beach Giant Ferris Wheel. If you want to get out and enjoy more nature, make sure to take a hike in the Carolina Beach State Park. The park is 761 acres and has miles of hiking trails.
Make sure to hike out to the 50-ft Sugarloaf dune if you go. A fun fact, the park is home to the Venus flytrap, which is a carnivorous plant.
Book your stay on the beachfront here in Carolina Beach.
Distance: 215 miles | Time: 3 hr 50 mins
Kure Beach is the home to the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast. The pier is 700 ft long and was built in 1923. If you are a history lover, this is your beach.
Here you will find Fort Fisher State Historic Site, which is the largest earthen fort found in the South. Today only about 10% of the fort remains. Fort Fisher is also home to the North Carolina Aquarium.
Off the coast of Kure Beach, is a popular place for SCUBA divers with over 200 shipwrecks found here including The Condor, a Civil War-era Blockade Runner whose site is even marked with buoys.
At Fort Fisher, you will find 6 miles of beach that are undeveloped and are popular spots for sea turtles to nest. Near Fort Fisher, you will find a ferry to return to the mainland as well.
Bald Head Island
Distance: 217 miles | Time: 4 hr 30 mins
Here at Bald Head Island, you will find a retreat away from all. You can only reach the island via private boat or ferry. No cars are allowed and you can only use bikes or golf carts. Bald Head Island is home to one of the largest sea turtle nesting sites in NC.
You will also find the oldest standing lighthouse here for NC, Old Baldy which was constructed in 1817. It’s a stout brick lighthouse with a 108-step climb to the top and is totally worth it for the views!
The ferry is about a 20 min ride from the mainland which departs in Southport, NC. Come enjoy a beautiful day at South Beach on the island. It’s a beautiful sand beach that’s great for all ages.
Distance: 228 miles | Time: 4 hr
Surf City is located on Topsail Island and is one of 3 communities located there. While you are here make sure to visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Center and enjoy the beautiful beaches. You will find good conditions for surfing as here as well. Be sure to check out the surf school where you can get lessons.
After WWII the U.S. Navy used the island as a missile testing site and many people come to tour the Missiles and More Museum here as well and learn about Operation Bumblebee. Another loved landmark is the Surf City Pier which is a great place for fishing or just enjoying the view. The pier is lit at night so you can do some night fishing.
Distance: 234 miles | Time: 4 hr 10 mins
Topsail Beach is the smallest of three communities that are located on Topsail Island (pronounced “Tops’l”). Some say the name comes from when pirates roamed this area and hit their boats in the channel between the mainland and the island. You would only be able to see their top sail on the boat. Some say Blackbeard’s treasure is still buried here somewhere.
Currently, there are two ways to get to the island, one is a high-rise bridge on the north side and the second is a swing bridge to Surf City. Topsail is a place where sea turtles come to nest and lay their eggs, usually between April and September. Topsail is known for its turtle conservation efforts. Come enjoy their beautiful beaches, and explore the history.
Distance: 271 miles | Time: 5 hr
Emerald Isle is located on the Bogue Banks. Come enjoy their white sand beaches and incredible crystal clear waters on the Atlantic Ocean. This is a tiny beach town that transforms in the summer welcoming over 50,000 tourists per week during the summertime.
Here you can also take surf lessons, enjoy the beach and collect some amazing sea shells, as well as explore the history of Fort Macon State Park and its role in American history.
There are plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore here too. Like many of the other destinations, visit the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier which offers amazing views of the ocean.
It was built in the 1950s and has been rebuilt several times due to storms. It’s one of the longest piers on the NC coast at almost 4 miles long!
Hammocks Beach State Park
Distance: 260 miles | Time: 4 hr 35 mins
Hammocks Beach State Park is only accessible by boat or ferry and the ferry is closed between November and the end of March.
You can also rent a kayak and explore it yourself. This is the place to go if you love nature. You can explore the salt marshes, and swamp forests, plus enjoy some birdwatching while you are at it.
The sea turtles also visit here to lay their eggs, so you might see one swimming if you are out kayaking. If you want to stay overnight, they do allow primitive camping as well.
There are no fees to access the park itself but there are fees to use the ferry or boat launch. Pets are allowed at the park and campsites.
Ocean Beaches Near Charlotte NC
South Carolina Ocean Beaches
Distance: 175 miles | Time: 3 hr 40 mins
Myrtle Beach attracts high tourism and is a big beach vacation destination. In addition to their 50 miles of beautiful beaches, you will find a beachfront boardwalk, lots of restaurants, and the country’s tallest Ferris wheel, the SkyWheel.
If you are looking for a quiet beach, this is not your place unless you come during the off-season! If you are looking for a mix of fun and beach, this is your place! They have lots of activities to choose from. Party seekers love the evenings here with lots of hot spots for live music and dancing.
Have you ever wanted to try to learn how to surf? Now is your chance, book your lesson today, it’s tailored for all ages and skill levels.
Distance: 219 miles | Time: 3 hr 40 mins
Folly Beach is located on Folly Island which is only 12 square miles. Located just 15 minutes from downtown Charleston, you can enjoy 6 miles of beaches. Locals refer to their little corner of the world as the “Edge of America.”
Isle of Palms
Distance: 221 miles | Time: 3 hr 40 mins
Here in the City of Isle of Palms, you will find 6 miles of incredible beaches that are great for swimming, relaxing, fishing, and more! It’s a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina and less than 20 minutes from Charleston. Here you will find world-class resorts, golf, restaurants, and spas.
They were even voted #6 for the Top 10 North America Islands by Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards. They have more than 50 access points for the beach and the county park even offers beach chairs and umbrella rentals. This is a very dog-friendly beach as well, leashed dogs are allowed all year round.
Hilton Head Island
Distance: 247 miles | Time: 4 hrs
Hilton Head Island is a very popular location for travelers. They have even been ranked the #1 island in the Continental US by readers of Travel+Leisure Magazine, plus many other recognitions. Every year between May and October, sea turtles visit the beaches on Hilton Head Island. Make sure you learn how you can help preserve these endangered loggerhead turtles.
In 2022, the turtles made 423 nests here. Sea turtle hatchlings use the light of the moon to get to the ocean so if you are staying on the island during those months make sure you turn off all lights at night so nothing is visible from the beaches. The light can be confusing and make it impossible to get to their sea home.
On the island there is so much to do, choose from watersports, golfing, shopping, tennis, spa resorts, nightlife, and more!
Georgia Ocean Beaches
Tybee Island, GA
Distance: 270 miles | Time: 4 hr 25 mins
Another barrier island but this time in the state of Georgia. It’s a small island near the city of Savannah, GA. Known for its 3 miles of wide sandy beaches, including South Beach, Mid Beach, North Beach, Back River Beach, and Little Tybee Beach.
South Beach is considered the downtown area of the island, here you will find lots of shops, restaurants, and the Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion.
If you like to explore some history on the island, then head to North Beach where you will find a rich history dating back to the 1800s. They have Georgia’s tallest and oldest lighthouse, a museum, and several Forts that served as coastal defense systems.
Outer Banks, NC Beaches
In the Outer Banks, NC you will find some of the most amazing beaches as well in North Carolina. The popular barrier islands called The Outer Banks are a chain of narrow islands that cover the area just south of Virginia and run parallel to the coast of North Carolina.
They are called barrier islands because they create a barrier between the mainland and the Atlantic ocean. It’s an amazing way to protect the mainland from storms. We’ll be doing another post on these beaches so stay tuned.
You cannot go wrong when it comes to beaches near Charlotte NC, which one from our list of Closest Beaches to Charlotte NC will you choose?