A swath of Carolina’s coast has been nicknamed the Crystal Coast, and the name speaks for the beauty of the state’s beachside communities. Add in historic lighthouses, national seashores, and wild horses, and a Carolina beach trip makes for an excellent family getaway that doesn’t have to break the bank—even if you head to the Outer Banks, the state’s barrier islands. Here are eight budget-friendly beach resorts to book in North Carolina.
Surf Side Hotel, Nags Head
Resort, Budget Hotel
Located in the Outer Banks, every room at this Nags Head hotel has private balconies, with possible upgrades including kitchens or whirlpool tubs. Complimentary breakfast helps save some dough, while the indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs add to the relaxing possibilities. Have fun exploring the nearby Jeanette’s Pier by day, and in the evenings, the kids will love the free popcorn in the lobby.
John Yancey Oceanfront Inn, Kill Devil Hills
In the beach town next door, Kill Devil Hills, the John Yancey Oceanfront Inn is a no-frills budget option that also welcomes your pooch. A simple continental breakfast makes for a quick start to the day before enjoying the many activities and restaurants in the Outer Banks’ most populous beach town.
The Sea Ranch Resort, Kill Devil Hills
Another Kill Devil Hills spot to check out, the Sea Ranch Resort ranks #1 in hotels for the Outer Banks’ most popular beach town. You can book homey, oceanfront rooms, choose their more affordable guest rooms, or bring along your dog to stay in their oceanfront condos. Guests also love Beachside Bistro for breakfast and dinners alongside the waves.
Lighthouse View Oceanfront Lodging, Buxton
Also located on the southern end of the Outer Banks, Lighthouse View attracts some families year after year to enjoy this oceanfront compound that offers a mix of property options like suites, cottages, or affordable efficiency rooms. Be ready for some epic sunset photos with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the background—it’s the second-tallest brick lighthouse in the world.
Holiday Inn Resort Wilmington E-Wrightsville Bch, Wrightsville Beach
Resort, Budget Hotel, Chain Hotel
North Carolina’s other popular beach destinations surround the quirky, fun town of Wilmington, named by National Geographic as one of the best surf towns in the world. With that designation comes surf camps and all kinds of water sports. This hotel makes for a great hub as it consistently ranks as one of the best Holiday Inns in the world. Kids get free breakfast buffets when parents order a meal, and they can have fun with the staff with on-site surf lessons, marine boot camps, and sandcastle building that gives parents some free time. Free milk and cookies are delivered in the evenings upon request.
Shell Island Resort, North Lumina Avenue
Resort, Budget Hotel, Suite Hotel
Another slightly less expensive option in Wrightsville, the Shell Island Resort provides spacious rooms that have a sitting area, kitchenette, and private oceanfront balcony. Active kids will appreciate the sand volleyball court, 3,000 feet (914.4 meters) of coastline, and a tiki hut with all kinds of watersport rentals, and parents will love the cabana-style bar and grill.
Blockade Runner Beach Resort, Wrightsville Beach
Resort, Budget Hotel
Deemed a “classic boutique resort,” the Blockade Runner Beach Resort’s beautiful grounds give guests access to the sound side, a pool, gardens, and miles of coastline. Plenty of coastal adventures can be booked directly through the hotel, including sailing, paddling, and cruises that launch from their private docks.
The Winds Resort Beach Club, Ocean Isle Beach
Resort, Budget Hotel
Lastly, explore the southernmost part of North Carolina’s coastal life during your stay at The Winds Resort Beach Club. Free bike rentals allow you to explore Ocean Isle’s beachfront and keep the car in park in between dips in one of their three pools. A free breakfast buffet, free golf in the summer, and outdoor games like shuffleboard, table tennis and bocce mean you don’t have to go far for entertainment.