Best places to buy a beach house in North Carolina – the hidden gems perfect for summer vacations

These are the best places to buy a beach house in North Carolina, according to real estate experts

Beach houses on Kure Beach, near Wilmington, North Carolina
(Image credit: Rose-Marie Murray / Alamy Stock Photo)

North Carolina has some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States, and investing in one of the best places to buy a beach house in North Carolina is guaranteed to harness good rental income. To say nothing of the fact that you yourself may just decide to stay in one of these stunning locations for a good part of the summer. 

We've asked real estate experts with local North Carolina knowledge to give top tips on how to buy a house – and where to head to if the state's pristine white sands are what you desire.

1. The best place to buy a beach house in North Carolina: Outer Banks

Waterfront Beach houses, Nags Head, OBX, Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA

(Image credit: Mira / Alamy Stock Photo)

Hard-to-get-to-locations often have an air of exclusivity about them, and this is definitely true of the beautiful Outer Banks. Reid Hogan, a commercial real estate broker, mortgage loan originator, and developer, has more than thirty years of experience in the industry, explains that 'most of North Carolina’s coast is made up of barrier islands. This can create beautiful, picturesque beaches with marshlands behind them full of wildlife. It can also make them expensive and hard to reach.'

And if there's one spot in this area you should be looking at, it's 'the famous Outer Banks to the north': these are 'are the most narrow of North Carolina’s barrier islands. Some places here are as narrow as 150 yards wide. The scarcity of land there makes the home prices some of the highest among the NC beaches.' 

Of course, if you want a beach house at a lower price, 'as you work your way south along the NC coast, the accessibility improves and the beach home prices decrease.' 

2. The runner-up: The Brunswick Coast

Bald Head Island is an island and village located on the east side of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County, North Carolina

(Image credit: Janice and Nolan Braud / Alamy Stock Photo)

Want something a bit more accessible and mainstream? Reid recommends the many towns and villages strewn along the Brunswick Coast. 'Some of the best values, and strongest rental histories are located on the southernmost NC beaches of the Brunswick Coast. With 6 distinct beach communities, this area draws renters from both Carolinas, Georgia, and beyond.'

Some of Reid's top picks in this area are 'The Sunset Beach and Calabash areas are adjacent to North Myrtle Beach with its dining, shopping, and entertainment. Oak Island, Fort Caswell, and Holden Beach are a short drive from Southport to the north. Southport’s charm and lovely old seaport homes have made it a popular film location.'

He also points out the Brunswick Coast beaches are great for golfers, and 'golfers from northern parts of the country visit this area in the winter, extending the rental season.'

Nor is this area prohibitively expensive. 'There are actually small beachfront and beach view homes still available in the area for below $550,000 that rent for over $3,000 per week in season. Homesites on Oak Island, Holden Beach, and Ocean Isle extend inland and are within walking distance from the beach. This increases the number of homes that are available for tourists and investors. These homes have prices from $375,000 and up and rent for $1,500 to $2,000 per week in season.'

3. Washington: river and beach in one

waterfront scenes in little washington north carolina

(Image credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

And for something a little different, you should consider Washington, or Little Washington, as the locals call it. Ana Cano, Real Estate Agent in Raleigh for Better.com, gives it her personal seal of approval: It has a huge river running right through the center of town that eventually leads to the ocean. Not only is it beautiful, but also historical. Time can be spent lounging on the river or making a quick commute to the beach or strolling through the town learning about it's rich history. You get the best of both worlds - beach, and river.'

Ana does warn that although the town is currently 'a hidden gem, it won't stay this way for long: 'that doesn't mean you should take your time looking for a house here. The little beach towns are becoming increasingly popular, and this fall should be the time you snatch one up.'

North Carolina has so much choice for beach lovers that you're almost guaranteed to find a charming town – or a wilder, more nature-based location – that appeals to you while offering great rental income opportunities. 

Anna Cottrell

Anna Cottrell is Consumer Editor across Future Plc Home titles. She has a background in academic research and is the author of London Writing of the 1930s. She writes about interior design, property, and gardening.