Beachgoers pack Wrightsville Beach Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020.

Beachgoers pack Wrightsville Beach Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020.

North Carolina is home to two of the best beach destinations in the South — so make sure to bring your sunglasses, a new report finds.

Wrightsville Beach ranks No. 7 and Ocracoke ranks No. 9 on a list of the region’s top places to soak up the sun, according to according to results Southern Living magazine shared this week.

The coastal destinations earned spots in the rankings after the magazine said more than 23,000 people were asked to rate their favorite Southern places. The agency M&RR conducted the online survey from July to September 2021.

“No one knows this region better than the Southern Living audience, and that’s why we tap into their experiences and solicit their opinions every year to determine the South’s Best,” Sid Evans, editor in chief of Southern Living, said in a March 8 news release. “This year’s deeply reported list is our most comprehensive yet, with some surprising new favorites as well as the classics that keep reinventing themselves.”

Of the two North Carolina locations that made the top 10, Wrightsville Beach landed a higher spot in the rankings. Southern Living lauded the Wilmington-area destination for its small-town atmosphere and proximity to other places along the East Coast.

“This waterfront town is low on crowds and high on relaxation,” the magazine said in its report. “You’ll drive over a drawbridge from mainland North Carolina into the town of Wrightsville Beach — and feel the stress of real life practically float away in the salty breeze.”

Also earning a spot on the list was Ocracoke, a destination off the coast that’s accessible by boat or ferry. It received nods for offering visitors a tranquil setting near other Outer Banks attractions.

Southern Living said the “barrier islands boast wide beaches, quaint villages, and a relaxed way of life that can tempt even the biggest city slicker to relocate.”

Though Ocracoke and Wrightsville Beach received recognition, North Carolina destinations were snubbed on another recent list.

No beaches in the state were named among Tripadvisor’s top 10 places to enjoy the sand and shoreline. The travel website made its nationwide list after studying ratings and reviews that travelers left in 2021, McClatchy News reported in February.

This time around, the South’s top-ranking beach destination was Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Rounding out the top five were Tybee Island, Georgia; Orange Beach, Alabama; Key West, Florida; and St. Augustine, Florida.

This story was originally published March 11, 2022 3:00 PM.

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Simone Jasper is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.


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