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Coastal North Carolina

The coastline of North Carolina stretches more than 300 miles. Remarkably, it remains underdeveloped and the beach is often visible from coastal roads. Yes, the wall of cottages stretching south from Corolla to Kitty Hawk can seem endless, but for the most part the state's shores remain free of flashy, highly commercialized resort areas. Instead you'll find rugged, windswept barrier islands, Colonial villages once frequented by pirates, and laid-back beach towns full of locally owned ice-cream shops and mom-and-pop motels. Even the most touristy beaches have a small-town vibe.

For solitude, head to the isolated Outer Banks (OBX), where fishermen and women still make their living hauling in shrimp and the older locals speak in an archaic British-tinged brogue. Further south, groovy Wilmington is known as a center of film and TV production, and its surrounding beaches are popular with local spring breakers and tourists.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Coastal North Carolina.