The Best Budget-Friendly Beach Resorts in North Carolina

Wilmington is one of the best surf towns in the world
Wilmington is one of the best surf towns in the world | © Incite Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Shawndra Russell
23 October 2020

A swath of Carolina’s shoreline has been nicknamed the Crystal Coast, and the name speaks to the beauty of the state’s beachside communities. Add in historic lighthouses, national seashores and wild horses, and a Carolina beach trip makes 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.

John Yancey Oceanfront Inn

Budget Hotel
Map View
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Courtesy of John Yancey Oceanfront Inn / Expedia

The John Yancey Oceanfront Inn in Kill Devil Hills is a no-frills budget option that also welcomes your pooch. A simple continental breakfast makes for a quick start to the day so you can get on with enjoying the many activities and restaurants in the most populous beach town in the Outer Banks.

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The Sea Ranch Resort

Budget Hotel
Map View
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Courtesy of Sea Ranch Resort / Expedia

Another Kill Devil Hills spot to check out, the Sea Ranch Resort is a popular hotel in the Outer Banks. You can book homey, oceanfront rooms, choose the more affordable guest rooms or bring along your dog to stay in one of the oceanfront condos. Beachside Bistro is handy for breakfasts and dinners alongside the waves.

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Holiday Inn Resort

Resort, Budget Hotel, Chain Hotel
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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 come surf camps and all kinds of water sports. This hotel makes 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, giving parents some free time. Free milk and cookies are even delivered in the evenings upon request.

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Shell Island Resort

Resort, Budget Hotel, Suite Hotel
Map View
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Courtesy of Shell Island Resort / Expedia

Another slightly less expensive option in Wrightsville, the Shell Island Resort provides spacious rooms with a sitting area, kitchenette and private oceanfront balcony. Active kids will appreciate the sand volleyball court, swaths of coastline and tiki hut with all kinds of water sport rentals, and parents will love the cabana-style bar and grill.

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Blockade Runner Beach Resort

Resort, Budget Hotel
Map View
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Courtesy of Blockade Runner Beach Resort / Expedia

The beautiful grounds of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, a classic boutique resort, give guests access to the 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 its private docks.

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  • Surf Side Hotel

    Resort, Budget Hotel
    Map View
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    Courtesy of Surf Side Hotel / Expedia

    Located in the Outer Banks, every room at this Nags Head hotel has private balconies, with upgrades including kitchens or whirlpool tubs. The 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.

    Lighthouse View

    Budget Hotel
    Map View
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    Courtesy of Lighthouse View Oceanfront Lodging / Expedia

    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 such as suites, cottages and 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.

    The Winds Resort

    Resort, Budget Hotel
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    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 such as shuffleboard, table tennis and bocce mean you don’t have to go far for entertainment.

    These recommendations were updated on October 23, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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