Updated Mar 5, 2024 - Travel

Bracket competition: North Carolina's best beach

Bracket: Axios Visuals
Bracket: Axios Visuals

Ask a room full of North Carolinians what their favorite beach is and you'll likely get dozens of different answers — and maybe start an argument or two.

Why it matters: The state's beaches — famous worldwide thanks to movies and TV shows — all offer something different, from the classic boardwalk experience of Carolina Beach to dunes so remote you feel like you're at the edge of the world.

Driving the news: In the spirit of March Madness — another thing this state loves — we've thrown them all together into a bracket for readers to decide which is No.1.

State of play: It all comes down to this: Wrightsville Beach vs. Emerald Isle.

A fun fact about each of our finalists:

  • The ocean off Wrightsville Beach has become well-known for its large concentration of Megalodon shark teeth.
  • Emerald Isle was originally going to be named Gulf Stream Beach until a consultant from Florida flew over the island and came up with the name.

What's next: The winning beach will be announced in Thursday's newsletter.

Zoom out: Even national opinion is split on what North Carolina beach stands out most.

  • Travel + Leisure will point you to the "quintessential beach town" of Wrightsville Beach.
  • U.S. News & World Report pumps up the traditional Outer Banks destinations of Hatteras Island or Kitty Hawk.
  • And Dr. Beach once named Ocracoke as having the best beach in the country.
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