Three day-trip itineraries from the Triangle to the beach

Photo by Wentao Liu

If you live in Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill and want to take a quick trip to the beach there are an overwhelming number of options for you! I put together three great plans below for a day trip to the beach.


If you just want the fastest trip to the beach, you can’t beat Wrightsville beach.  It’s just under two hours, straight down I-40.

Get on the road early, head straight down (east) on I-40.  Pick up some lunch in Wilmington on the way into Wrightsville beach.

Parking is a pain and/or expensive on Wrightsville, but the amenities are great.  Stick close to the public restrooms at the public beach access locations.  Those are at 2698 North Lumina, 2398 North Lumina, 25 East Salisbury Street, and 650 South Lumina Avenue.  Then, when you’re done playing in the surf and sand, rinse off and head to dinner in Wilmington.

Family Friendly

Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher is my top choice for a family day-trip from Raleigh. 

Head to Wilmington, but follow the signs for Carolina Beach.  It’s an extra half hour or so. 

Make a stop at the Carolina Beach boardwalk and grab some lunch.  Take a walk out to the beach and play in the sand.  Then, come back to the boardwalk for a snack.  Britts Donuts is the obvious choice here.  

Hop in the car and drive south to Fort Fisher.  It’s a quick 15 minute drive or so.  Check out the awesome NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher or just enjoy the natural beachfront. 


If you want a nice relaxing beach day-trip, without as many crowds, head up to North Topsail beach. It’s still only about 2 and a half hours to the beach but you will add a few more turns in the road.

There aren’t a lot of great restaurant options on the way into North Topsail, but give Salty Sistas in Sneads Ferry a try.

There’s easy parking at the main public beach access, if you take a left on New River Inlet Road.

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