Vintage postcards offer a unique glimpse of the past. Carolina Beach has been a destination for beach-goers, boaters, and fishermen since the 1880's. Visitors came first by the combination of river steamers and a train and later by automobiles to seek respite from the summer's heat and the daily grind. And visitors shared their delight with friends by sending postcards depicting the idyllic beach and the swell times they were enjoying.
In the late 1880s, a small train called the Shoo Fly took Wilmington passengers traveling to Carolina Beach.
Before a road was built so cars could reach Carolina Beach, the pavilion was accessed via a Cape Fear River steamboat to a dock near Snow’s Cut, and the Shoo-fly train carried the visitors through the woods to the shore. It is supposed that the biting flies and mosquitoes were notorious, thus the name of the little train.
With this new transportation, locals and tourists started going to Carolina Beach and making it a popular destination during the summer. Local families began moving to the beach for the summer months. Year-round residency did not really begin until the middle of the twentieth century.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day visitors and locals enjoy all the sights, sounds, and delights of the amusement park near the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Opened in 2008, the park featured popular rides for all ages and plenty of food and games Free concerts, Thursday night fireworks, and outdoor movies also play a huge part of summer experience in Carolina Beach.
The Venus flytrap is one of the most widely recognized plants around the world and it’s native only to the Carolina coast.
“Venus flytraps are a carnivorous plant,” states Carolina Beach State Park Superintendent Chris Helms . “They do eat insects and it’s basically a supplement to their diet. They still do photosynthesize and can still get energy from the sun and make plants and sugars.”
The northernmost coastal region of Carolina Beach is home to the Freeman Park Recreation Area, a stretch of shoreline that is well known to adventurous, beach-loving 4WD truck owners. Unlike other stretches of the barrier islands off the coast of Wilmington, this park is special because it is completely undeveloped, and allows beach driving to off-roaders who like to cruise along the sand. The annual event held at Freeman Park. The Jeep Go Topless Day, an annual event held at Freeman Park, brings hundreds of Jeep enthusiasts to the island town each year.
According to Bo Bryan, a Carolina shag historian, the term "Carolina Shag" was coined at Carolina Beach, North Carolina. The Carolina shag is a descendant of Carolina Jitterbug, and its predecessor, Little Apple, which was the white version of the Big Apple (whose origins can be traced to Columbia, South Carolina in 1937) after whites sat (after "jumping the Jim Crow rope") in the balconies in the black clubs to watch the dancing.
The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is the place to go for family-oriented or even late-night fun after a sunny day on the beach. Noted as one of the top 10 boardwalks in America by Food & Wine magazine, this classic ocean side boardwalk features a full host of shops, amusements, restaurants, and nightlife for visitors of all ages to explore.
Serious kite flyers share their sky art at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area for the Annual Cape Fear Kite Festival. This is the final kite event of the season with more than just your average kites filling the sky on the seashore. See incredible shapes, sizes, styles and of course colors float, soar and ride the air.
Capt. John W. Harper, of the steamer WILMINGTON, gave a free excursion to the old and sick colored people of the city. He carried about 600 of them to Carolina Beach and brought them back by 5 p.m. They enjoyed the outing to the fullest extent. They enjoyed the refreshing ocean breezes and many took surf baths. Many of the people were so old and feeble that their friends took them to and from the boat in carriages. (Wilm. Messenger, 9-16-1898)
Anglers can embark on an inshore or coastal fishing trip of the Cape Fear region with a guided expedition. Charters take anglers to some of the best inland and just-offshore fishing holes in the area, to target some of Carolina’s most prized, and tastiest, species.
Anglers can catch red drum, speckled trout, sheepshead, and flounder, as well as other seasonal species on the Intracoastal. Five miles off the Carolina Beach coastline, you can find Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, and false albacore, as well as drum, flounder, sea trout and black sea bass.
Carolina Beach has an abundance of marine life thriving both in the ocean and intracoastal waterways. Coastal North Carolina is also endowed with some of the finest wildlife viewing and bird watching opportunities in the country. Its diverse climate and geography makes habitats for a wide variety of animal species. In addition, the state and federal governments have set aside nearly 40 refuges and wilderness areas along the coast as wildlife sanctuaries.
From surf camps to paddle-boarding, kayaking to kite-surfing, there's a water activity for everyone to enjoy on Carolina Beach. Jet Skiing, boogie boarding , and boating to nearby Masonboro Island are also favorite water activities that keep both visitors and residents entertained and outside.
The Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, technically known as the "Carolina Beach Fishing Pier Northern Extension" is a fantastic destination for sightseers and anglers alike. It's located at the northern edge of Carolina Beach and borders miles of undeveloped beaches to the north and small clusters of vacation accommodations to the south. The pier feels deceivingly isolated, which makes it an ideal spot for a peaceful ocean sunrise, or a full, dedicated day of reeling in the saltwater species that can be found in abundance along the North Carolina coastline.
Carolina Beach has many historical buildings that are in danger of disappearing through hurricane damage & revitalization. The 1946 Ocean Plaza building is a great example of Moderne style. Centrally located in the business district of Carolina Beach, it was an original hot spot for early vacationers, and was an entertainment center for residents and visitors that hosted a wide range of big bands and rock stars, including Bill Grassin, Bo Diddly, Chubby Checker and many more famed talents.
During the Jim Crow era, segregation was a way of life on the island, and the area was effectively split into two communities – Carolina Beach for the white visitors, and Seabreeze to the north for African American visitors. In order to access Seabreeze or Bop City, (which is present-day Freeman Park), African American men traveling through Carolina Beach en route had to wear shirts over their swimsuits, and could not access the ocean in Carolina Beach except on Mondays.
Though separated by just ½ mile, the two communities were different worlds, and Seabreeze quickly became famed for its 31 juke joints where the biggest African American entertainers of the day came to wow the crowds. Seabreeze eventually disappeared due to drastic loss from Hurricane Hazel as well as the rise of desegregation, but the popular Freeman Park stands as a nod to this chapter in local history.