This is a photo from Turks & Caicos, that doesn't do the water justice, but is what I'd consider "blue water" to be.

When you think of blue water in the United States where do you think of? My immediate first thought goes straight to the gulf coast of Florida or perhaps the Florida Keys. Behind that the water in Big Sur California. Other than that, I personally wouldn’t describe any water in the United States as “blue”. Well, I’m sure Hawaii would fit that description, but I’ve never personally experienced it. The prettiest water I’ve ever seen? Hands down Turks & Caicos. The straight-up teal color of the water is like nothing else I’ve experienced in the world. It makes even the gorgeous waters of the Bahamas just seem subpar. But back to the US. I grew up going to beaches in South Carolina and have paid a few visits to North Carolina beaches as well. And one word I’d never use to describe the water in either state is blue. That’s why I was so shocked when our friends at SIXT reached out with a study that named a North Carolina beach as having some of the bluest water in the United States.

They ranked 50 of the most beautiful bodies of water in the U.S. if you’re like me and want your blue water fix then give this list a once over. Here is what SIXT said was their methodology for compiling this list. “We color-picked more than 50 of the best bodies of water in the U.S. and found the nearest color shade to illustrate the various colors of water available in the nation. Colors are accurate as of February 17, 2023.” Use your own discretion, as I said before I wouldn’t include any North Carolina location as one with the bluest or even blue water. But to each their own.

The Bluest Water In The United States According To SIXT

  1. Blue Hole (Santa Rosa, NM)
  2. Chena Hot Springs (Fairbanks, AK)
  3. Las Olas Beach (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
  4. Grand Lake (Grand Lake, CO)
  5. La Jolla Cove (San Diego, CA)
  6. Sail Bay (San Diego, CA)
  7. Lake Conway (Edgewood, FL)
  8. Lake George (Lake George, NY)
  9. Coeur d’Alene Lake (Coeur d’Alene, ID)
  10. Glass Beach (Port Townsend, WA)
  11. Ditch Plains Beach (Montauk, NY)
  12. Latigo Beach (Los Angeles, CA)
  13. Betterton Beach (Betterton, MD)
  14. Monterey Bay (Monterey, CA)
  15. Maryland Beach (Ocean City, MD)
  16. Great Salt Lake (Salt Lake City, UT)
  17. Corolla Beach (Corolla, NC)
  18. Poipu Beach (Kauai, HI)
  19. Lake Tahoe (Reno, NV)
  20. Gulf Shores Beach (Gulf Shores, AL)
  21. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (Honolulu, HI)
  22. Clearwater Beach (Tampa, FL)
  23. Coligny Beach Park (Hilton Head Island, SC)
  24. Crystal Lake State Park (Barton, VT)
  25. Table Rock Lake (Branson, MO)

Some of these are lakes, which does make sense. I have seen some pretty blue lake water, the first that comes to mind is Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. I’ve also seen photos of Bear Lake in Utah that I’d describe as clear. North/South Carolina lakes-not a chance. I still can’t see how anyone could rank any North Carolina beach as having the bluest water especially ahead of Clearwater and Hawaii. Respectfully I have not been to Corolla, but the Atlantic just can’t compare to the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean in my opinion. Am I missing something here? Perhaps it’s time to plan a visit to Corolla?

You can read the full study by SIXT here as well as see the color of the water in each of these locations.

Planning A Beach Vacation? These Are The Most Popular North Carolina Beaches

Looking to plan a beach vacation? But not sure where to start? That’s understandable. With so many beach towns in North Carolina, it can be overwhelming to know where to pick. I know many people are the type to spend a week on the same beach and even in the same home year after year, but with so many fantastic beaches in the Carolinas why limit yourself? I’m team pick a new spot every summer for sure! But if you’re trying to narrow it down how do you even start? A good place is with the most popular North Carolina beaches! And luckily for you, our friends over at sent us research on which North Carolina beach towns fit that description!

Even growing up in North Carolina I have always more frequently visited South Carolina beaches. Though in the last 10 years or so I’ve spent some time at a couple of Wilmington area beaches that both made this list. Many are on the Outer Banks, which is on my list but why do they all have to be so long of a drive? I can be in the Myrtle area in 3 hours so 5-6 is hard to justify! But with so many publications raving about the area, eventually, I’ll have to cave!

To compile this list they consulted US News & World Report data on the Best North Carolina beaches, then utilized Google Search data to determine which of these beaches have the most interest from North Carolinians. So scroll through the list, do some research, and then grab your beach chair and your bathing suit. We are just days away from Memorial Day Weekend the official kick-off of summer. It’s time to plan that beach trip you’ll remember forever. You can read Bet Carolina’s full report here or keep reading to see which towns made the list and what makes them so great!

The Most Popular North Carolina Beaches

  • 10. Kitty Hawk

    Kitty Hawk, NC 27949

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    The first thing I think of when I think of Kitty Hawk, as you probably do too, is the Wright Brothers. And yes Kitty Hawk was the site of the first flight. You can tour the Wright Brothers Memorial on a trip to this Dare County beach town. But there is plenty more to do as well. This northern Outer Banks town is bordered to the north by Southern Shores and the south by Kill Devil Hills. Visitors can stay in quaint vacation homes or a variety of hotels and campgrounds. There is plenty of public beach access, as well as a fishing pier and delicious restaurants. Get more info on visiting Kitty Hawk here.


  • 9. Duck

    Duck, NC

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    You’ll find Duck, NC a little north of Kitty Hawk. It’s actually the northernmost town in the North Carolina outer banks. It fittingly received its name due to the popularity of duck hunting in the area in the 1900s. The beaches are reserved for residents and guests. There is a one-mile boardwalk lined with shops and restaurants and if you’re in North Carolina you may be familiar with Duck Donuts. The popular chain originated in Duck, NC. Want to learn more about Duck? Get more info here.

  • 8. Atlantic Beach

    Atlantic Beach, NC

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    Atlantic Beach is part of the North Carolina Crystal Coast or the southern outer banks. Coastal Living Magazine has called it one of the “best beaches”. Visitors love the wide variety of places to stay and things to do including top-notch restaurants to visit after a day at the beach. Fishing off the pier is also a popular past time or if you’re craving a more active adventure the Fort Macon State Park is a short walk from the town. Get all the info on planning a visit to Atlantic Beach here.

  • 7. Corolla

    Corolla, NC 27927

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away, that’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Corolla North Carolina. And while yes this outer banks town is famous for it’s wild horses, there is much more to enjoy. This includes miles of secluded beaches, historical sites, wildlife, and of course the incredible coastal eats you expect in any beach town. Learn all about Corolla here.


  • 6. Wrightsville Beach

    Wrightsville Beach, NC

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    Wrightsville Beach is the closest beach to Wilmington, NC, and is always a popular choice. There is no shortage of activities to participate in, including some of the area’s best surfing. No visit is complete without a meal at Dockside on the Intracoastal Waterway and you’ll find plenty of shopping, hotels, and other dining options as well. My one piece of advice is either stay at Wrightsville or go incredibly early as parking is at a premium! Plan your visit with this info.

  • 5. Topsail Beach

    Topsail Beach, NC

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    Topsail Beach is the southernmost of the three towns on Topsail Island. Located in Pender County it’s about a 45-minute drive from Wilmington or an even quicker boat ride. Topsail Beach is a quiet family-friendly beach town, with restaurants, a bustling live music scene, shops, and wide beaches. Get more info here.

  • 4. Oak Island

    Oak Island, NC

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    The family memories you’re dying to make are exactly what you’ll find in Oak Island, which is located in the Brunswick Islands. Think dinner followed by mini golf and ice cream. Think riding bikes and walking the pier. And of course the beaches and the Oak Island Nature Center. Get more info here.

  • 3. Carolina Beach

    Carolina Beach, NC 28428

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    You’ll find Carolina Beach just south of Wilmington. Visitors rave about the Carolina Beach boardwalk which has that old-time beach feel that’s full of nostalgia. Carolina Beach State Park offers scenic views of the Cape Fear River. There are also an array of hotels and restaurants. As they say there, there is only one Carolina Beach. Get everything you need to plan your visit here.

  • 2. Emerald Isle

    Emerald Isle, NC 28594

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    Emerald Isle is another town located on the Bouge Banks. This 5-square-mile town is home to emerald-colored waters that gave the town its name. There is no shortage of accommodations and restaurants to satisfy anyone! And of course, the beach which is spacious and not near as crowded as other spots. Want to visit? Get all the info here.

  • 1. Nags Head

    Nags Head, NC 27959

    Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

    And the most popular beach in North Carolina goes to Nags Head! It’s in the northern portion of the Outer Banks boarded by Jockey Ridge State Park, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and nearby Kill Devil Hills. In town, you’ll find beach houses, seaside motels, boutiques, surf shops, and plenty of restaurants. Dying to visit the most popular beach in North Carolina? Start here!