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Roanoke Island - The Best Island of North Carolina

Explore the 9 Best Islands of North Carolina (2024)

Best known for its meditative mountains and beaches, but do you know North Carolina has a dozen of Islands as well? The Outer Bank region in North Carolina is blessed with an array of pretty, approachable, and engaging Islands. These destinations are the perfect location that every traveler daydream about. Whether it is for relaxation or for adventure, the North Carolina Islands are what will take you away from the hustle and bustle of your hectic life.

The North Carolina Islands are popular for offering authentic southern charm, vibrant nightlife, bustling boardwalks, and expansive stretches of Atlantic beachfront. Whether you are looking for a quieter natural excursion or a day full of adventure, you will always have more than enough to try here. And do not get tricked by the norm that Island in North Carolina is for day trips only. Even on a trip that includes days, there is so much to do in these ‘Pretty North Carolina Islands’.

Explore the 9 Best Islands of North Carolina

With that said, here is the list of the Most Popular Islands in North Carolina. Have a look:

1. Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island isn’t just an island but a village on the east of Cape Fear River in North Carolina. It was earlier known as Smith Island and was home to a British fort and hospital in the Revolutionary War, which still keeps it a historically rich destination. Today, visitors can tour North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse, three lighthouse keeper’s cottages, and the Smith Island Museum. However, that isn’t the only thing Bald Head Island is known for. Instead, it is known across the U.S. for its bird and sea turtle nesting populations and similar wildlife watching activities. The Island also features 14 miles of beach stretch, the Bald Head Island Club golf course, and several vacation rentals. A full day of exploring and experiencing Bald Head Island is what is termed a ‘refreshing reward’.

2. Roanoke Island

The first English Colony of the New World, Roanoke Island, got its name after the historical Roanoke. It is an eight miles long island near Nags Head and is accessible from Virginia Dare, William. B Umstead, and Washington Baum Bridges. To learn how life was during the first English Colony, individuals can head toward the 25-acre Roanoke Island Festival Park. The facility is home to interactive exhibits and festivals that goes on throughout the year. Visitors can also check out the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, especially if they are interested in learning about the past. Other popular attractions to check out here include the stunning 10 acres of Elizabeth Garden, the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum, Island Farm living-history Museum, and the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse.

3. Knotts Island

Knotts Island is a marshy island and a little treasure popular for its farms and peaches. This unincorporated community is just south of the Virginia border and is solely accessible via ferry rides. Knotts Island is truly a secluded paradise and is popular for housing the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge. It is where one can spot birds, fish, reptiles, and an array of common wildlife. The refuge is also popular for some hiking action, especially the Charles Kuralt Trail that makes its way through pine Flatwoods and tidal freshwater marshes. Outdoor enthusiasts can also check out the Currituck Banks Reserve, camp at Sandy Point Rest Campground, or take a drive at the Marsh Causeway. For clear views of the surrounding, consider climbing the top of Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

4. Topsail Island

While on a trip to explore the Islands of North Carolina, do incorporate Topsail Island in your itinerary. This 26-mile-long barrier island is popular for its sea turtle preservation and conservation efforts in the state and across the nation. However, what attracts enthusiasts here the most is the fact that Topsail is home to three quaint towns, including North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach. The secludes of beaches here are nowhere else to be found in the entire North Carolina. Families visiting the Island can explore attractions like Patio Playground, Topsail Island Skating Rink, and the Soundside Park. Other local offerings at Topsail Island include the Jolly Roger Fishing Pier, the Queen Jean headboat, and the Missiles and More Museum. The Island also boasts a range of delicious restaurants, especially if you are looking for some great seafood.

5. Bodie Island

A largely developed natural paradise Bodie Island is located in the northernmost region of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Earlier it was a true island though today; it is one contiguous peninsula. Bodie Island is a popular destination for water adventures, including kayaking, boating, swimming, sunbathing and more. However, individuals who are keen on exploring attractions at Bodie can explore places like 1875 Currituck Beach Light and 1872 black and white striped Bodie Island Light. Other popular places to check out are one of the largest, most modern fishing centers, the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, and the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hill. Outdoor enthusiasts can also choose to camp at the National Park Service-managed Oregon Inlet Campground.

6. Figure Eight Island

Figure Eight is a private island located across Mason’s Inlet just north of Wrightsville Beach. It is popularly known for housing North Carolina’s most expansive real estate, and about 498 properties here are valued at over $2 million, while some even exceed $5 million. A visit here provides a rare experience of chilling at a peaceful retreat and secure sanctuary. You can find here homes that belong to known celebrities, high-profile CEOs, politicians, and other known names. And if they lure you, then book yourself a beachfront vacation home and relax at their extravagant property. Figure Eight Island has an excellent sense of peace and luxury that’s rarely found in many other islands across the entire United States. Besides relaxation, the Island is also popular for adventurous activities like boating, kayaking, biking, bird watching, shelling, fishing, swimming, and surfing.

7. Lea-Hutaff Island

Lea-Hutaff is an extravagant island body covering 5,641 acres between Figure Eight Island and Topsail Island right north of Wilmington. Lea-Hutaff Island is a pristine habitat for local and migrating Flora and Fauna. Individuals can observe pelicans, egrets, herons, terns, black-billed plovers, American oystercatchers, greater yellowlegs, willets, sanderlings, and many other avian visitors, as well as colonial water birds. Accessible only by boat, being at Lea-Hutaff means enjoying the most isolated and secluded beach/ island trip. Visiting here will introduce you to huge marshes, migrating shoals, and deserted beaches. And, of course, visitors can also enjoy the sun, surf, and sand adventures. Lea-Hutaff Island boasts a sanctuary for the region’s endemic wildlife along with organizations like North Carolina Coastal Land Trust and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

8. Shackleford Banks

A barrier island system in North Carolina, Shackleford Banks is a destination you must check out during your trip. Encompassing nearly 8.5 miles of area, Shackleford is surrounded by Barden Inlet, Atlantic Ocean, Beaufort Inlet, and Back Sound and is located in the southeasternmost region of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Visitors can access the Island from the mainland city Beaufort or Harkers Island by utilizing several ferry services. Shackleford Banks also serves as a wonderland for adventure enthusiast and boast activities like shelling, surfing, fishing, paddle boarding, and kayaking. Individuals can also enjoy a variety of migrating bird populations during the season.

9. Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke Island is one of the three that contributed to completing the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This perfect vacation getaway is spread over 16 miles and is accessible via three modes, including private boat, private plane, and ferry. Ocracoke is majorly secluded and miles away from the regular beach-going Carolina crowd.

However, with that, the beaches here won’t come out very developed, and you will certainly find rough and underdeveloped lands. Visitors at Ocracoke pay special attention to the 188-acre Ocracoke Pony Pens and Springer’s Point Nature Preserve. Other popular attraction to check out here includes the historic 65-feet-tall Ocracoke Lighthouse, Hammock Hills Nature Trail, British Cemetry, Pamlico Sound beach, and each’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit.

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