North Carolina’s best beach hotels range from a family-run budget inn to not-your-average chain hotels.
Stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Currituck Sound, the Sanderling is a sprawling resort. Aside from the beautiful, long sandy beach, there's a lot to do here: pools, a fitness center, spa, water sports, fire pits, live music, and on-site dining. The upscale hotel has 100 homey rooms with sturdy wood furniture, ceiling fans, mini-fridges, and flat-screen TVs. Prices can add up with extraneous fees tacked on, including a resort fee and a fee for Wi-Fi.
The family- and budget-friendly Surf Side Hotel in Nags Head has direct access to a sandy beach via a long wooden ramp. There’s also an outdoor pool with a sunbathing deck, plus an indoor pool, a hot tub, and cushioned lounge chairs in a sunny room with lots of windows. Several of the rooms have ocean views and balconies with rocking chairs, and most rooms have mini-fridges, coffeemakers, and microwaves. All have flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi.
Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks is on the beach between the towns of Duck and Corolla. It has direct access to the beautiful, sandy beach, but its rickety wooden steps may pose a problem for some guests, plus the hotel does not provide lounge chairs or umbrellas. All of the 123 rooms have furnished balconies or patios; some have ocean views. There’s an outdoor pool with a separate children’s pool as well as a small lazy river and an indoor pool and hot tub. Breakfast is included, but the small room where it is served can get crowded.
Shell Island Resort is a condo-style hotel at the northern end of Wrightsville Beach, excellent views of the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel's most outstanding feature is its 3,000 feet of wide, quiet, and uncrowded sandy beach. A volleyball net is set up for the active, and there are chairs and umbrellas to rent for those who prefer to relax. A lifeguard keeps an eye on the water. The tiki hut provides watersports rentals including surfboards, skim boards, boogie boards, paddle boards, and kayaks. The Shell Island Restaurant and Oceanfront Lounge serves American fare for all meals with views of the sand dunes.
An oceanfront location in the heart of Wrightsville Beach is Blockade Runner’s best selling point. Along with the relaxing sound of waves, ocean views are everywhere, and the hotel’s waterfront locale means lots of opportunities for fishing and water-related sports. The commercial center of Wrightsville Beach, with restaurants and shopping, is a short walk away.
The Sea Ranch Resort is a value hotel directly on a flat, sandy beach, near several restaurants, souvenir shops, and hiking trails. The on-site Beachside Bistro serves seafood, including catch-of-the-day items, and has a bar and both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as live music. Activities such as water Pilates, beach yoga, and drumming lessons are available during the busy season. Some of the 50 dated rooms have balconies with ocean views, and all have coffeemakers, mini-fridges, microwaves, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs with cable channels (including HBO).
At first glance, the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk doesn’t look any different from any of its chain counterparts. But this particular one has an incredible oceanfront location on a wide stretch of North Carolina beach. The most distinctive feature of the rooms are their private balconies, and they also come with flat-screen TVs, desks, microwaves, mini-fridges, coffeemakers, and hairdryers. A free cooked-to-order breakfast is served in the hotel’s Garden Grille and Bar, and there are also indoor and outdoor pools, a game room, a tiki bar, and a fire pit.
BEST WESTERN Ocean Reef Suites is a beachfront budget hotel within walking distance of the restaurants, shops, and summer tourist fun of Kill Devil Hills. The Wright Brothers Memorial is a five-minute drive from the hotel. The 71 rooms are all suites with kitchenettes, Murphy beds, and two flat-screen TVs. There are beach activities galore, a seasonal outdoor pool and hot tub, and an ample free breakfast with a range of hot and cold items.
With direct access to a sandy beach, Shutters on the Banks is a charming value hotel with 87 rooms. There’s an indoor pool and hot tub as well as a heated outdoor pool, and a free continental breakfast is served daily. Room furnishings are dated, but rooms with ocean views are available.
The 171-room Ramada Plaza Nags Head Oceanfront is a low-key, family-friendly property on the beach. All rooms have microwaves and balconies, many with oceanfront views, and some have bedside whirlpool tubs for couples. A popular amenity is the indoor pool and adjacent hot tub under a glass ceiling. Casual American fare is served in the restaurant, plus there are a summertime bar on the beachfront deck. Other features include a grassy lawn with swings for kids, a market, a laundry room, and a small gym. However, the property could use an update -- worn carpets and dated fixtures need replacing.
The beachfront Days Inn Kill Devil Hills Oceanfront - Wilbur is a budget hotel in the main tourist area of Kill Devil Hills. Guests are a five-minute drive from the Wright Brothers Memorial and Jockey Ridge State Park. The hotel features a seasonal pool, free breakfast with hot and cold items, and free afternoon snacks. The 54 rooms are suited for convenience with microwaves and mini-fridges, and some rooms have ocean views.
John Yancey Oceanfront Inn is a budget hotel located right on the ocean in Kill Devil Hills. Many of the 108 clean rooms have balconies and ocean views, and all come with microwaves, refrigerators, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs, though they are dated and could use a refresh. The hotel serves a free continental breakfast, and has a seasonal outdoor pool and children's pool. Free passes to a nearby YMCA health club are also available.