Your visit to Kure Beach, on North Carolina’s Pleasure Island, can be as laid-back as helping the kids build sand castles by the water or as thrilling as a sea kayak tour, deep sea fishing, or a surfing lesson. One of the things we love about Kure Beach (if you want to blend it with locals, pronounce it “CURE-ee”, by the way) is the opportunity to choose a vacation that suits your style, with opportunities to visit a bona fide Civil War history site and a world-class aquarium and dine on locally sourced, right-from-the-sea cuisine.
Sunrise at Kure Beach, North Carolina
A beautiful day on Kure Beach is truly a world apart, but close to many major East Coast cities. While lounging on the beach, you’d never know you’re a short distance from a major historical attraction and aquarium, and we love that opportunity to “have it all” here.
Whether you’re traveling with kids or not, you’ve got to spend some time ath the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, home to the area’s signature loggerhead sea turtles. The aquarium is an exceptional environment, with winding garden walkways, waterfalls, bays, swamps, and the marquee attraction: A two-story open ocean exhibit where you’ll get up close and personal with sharks, eels, and even rays. Local “celebrities” include an albino alligator and the divers who swim along with sharks.
Kids can’t get enough of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, and you might want to consider two visits during your stay. In addition to Adventure Reef and other hands-on experiences, this year the aquarium is upping its already considerable game by offering exhibit devoted to dinosaurs and butterflies as well.
Local pelicans make for great photo opportunities in Kure Beach. They’re here for the same reason you are: Ocean views and great seafood!
Your Kure Beach adventures will certainly bring you to Ocean Front Park, one of the central meeting places in downtown and adjacent to the classie Kure Beach Fishing Pier. Kids can’t get enough of the play area, swings, and “rain garden,” and grownups love the walking path and endless ocean views. In summer, nab a prime picnic spot with your beach chair or blanket for free live music on Sunday evenings.
Kure Beach Fishing Pier is an outstanding place to cast a line for mackerel, trout, sea bass, and more. You can rent equipment and get locals-only advice. Or hit the water with a fishing charter that can take you into the salt marshes and tidal creeks for drums and trout; or go offshore for mackerel, sea bass, and even shark. We also love the Got-Em-On Live Bait Club’s annual fishing competition at the pier for those with disabilities.
Fort Fisher State Historic Site is Kure Beach’s vintage gem, the site of one of the biggest amphibious assaults of the Civil War and a fascinating, beautiful places to visit even if you don’t consider yourself a history buff. In 1865, the only Confederate supply route was through nearby Wilmington, and a huge Union attack on Fort Fisher helped to close the route and end the war.
Fort Fisher State Historic Site includes a quarter-mile tour trail that takes you around the fort on the river side. Here, earthen mounds along the Cape Fear River served as fortifications during the Civil War.
The monument to the land-and-sea battle that took place at Fort Fisher in January 1865, helping to seal the fate of the Confederacy. Those with a keen interest in local history may also want to visit the nearby Underwater Archaeology Branch of the North Carolina Division of Historical Resources, where you can see exhibits devoted to historical dive sites and maritime history.
Battle reenactments at Fort Fisher can be a moving and engaging experience for all ages. The fort’s location, and its proximity to Fort Fisher State Recreation Area’s trails, make it a draw for most Kure Beach visitors.
Resorted cannon emplacements are a highlight of Fort Fisher. Here, on top of one of the batteries, kids will stand in awe of these iconic big guns. (But remember to keep a distance and never climb on a cannon.)
Kure Beach is especially welcoming to families looking for a quiet place to “disconnect to reconnect” with beautiful stretches of beach, walking paths, and nearby parkland. We especially enjoy the Kure Beach Street Festival every spring, offering children’s entertainment, live music, dancing, and just kicking back on the lawn.
A short stroll from the beach, you’ll find a variety of affordable cottages, motels, and vacation rentals. Kids will love a cottage on the dunes; couples may want to indulge in a whirlpool suite; everybody will go home with stories and the urge to return.
The sea at dawn is one of Kure Beach locals’ favorite haunts. Watching the fog burn off the ocean is an inspiring way to start your day.
After a trip to the aquarium, your experience of the beach may change a little, with a deeper appreciation of the undersea life, tidepools, and overall ecosystem that you are enjoying here in Kure Beach.
Planning a family vacation? We suggest involving every family member, from the youngest to the most experienced traveler, in the process. Get the kids looking at your beach, lodging, and restaurants online so everyone can contribute to your vacation must-see list.
When the kids ask “What’s for dinner?” in Kure Beach, there are many possible answers: We love locally owned eateries like Big Daddy’s Restaurant and Jack Mackerel’s Island Grill, not to mention family-owned Italian restaurants, and, of course, cooking up your own fresh seafood in your beach cottage kitchen!
Sure, Kure Beach offers an incredible array of activities and sights, but sometimes our favorite thing to do is take a leisurely walk in the surf. The music of the waves and the gentle sea breeze is what summer here is all about.
From serene days at a perfect beach to fresh-from-the-sea cuisine, from a world-class aquarium to a beautiful historic site, Kure Beach, North Carolina, is the beach vacation you've always hoped for.