Holden Beach, North Carolina

This barrier-island gem offers southern charm, sandy shores, and a leisurely pace of life where less is more.  

Here’s the thing about Holden Beach: There is no loud nightlife, no theaters, no theme parks, no bright lights, and no commercial high rises. It just doesn’t want to be ‘that beach.’ What began as family owned property since its purchase by Benjamin Holden in 1756, Holden Beach has blossomed into one of the east coast’s most family-friendly beach communities with all the ingredients for a fantastic coastal retirement lifestyle: unspoiled ocean water, laid-back vibe, and endless outdoor recreation activities. The slow pace of Holden Beach makes this eight-mile long classic beach town nuzzled in the middle of the chain of the Brunswick Island Beaches the perfect place to soak up some rays, get in a game of golf, enjoy nature and wildlife, and of course, invite the grandkids down for an old-school summer vacation experience.

With the dubious honor as one of the best family beaches in the country—named so by National Geographic Traveler—you might imagine what this beautiful barrier island is like: rolling waves lapping the shoreline, magnificent vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Lockwood Folly Inlet, shrimp boats cruising the Intracoastal, blue herons wading in the marshes, and sea oats swaying in the breezes.  

Obviously the beauty, simplicity, nature, and solitude of Holden Beach pulls countless retirees here every year, but there are many more reasons to call this charming town home. The cost of living is less expensive for housing, entertainment, food, drinks, and taxes. Not to mention, with the warmer climate, no snow tires and snow removal services to worry about. Of course the humble locals, one-of-a-kind festivals, unlimited water sports, waterfront eateries, unique shops, volunteer opportunities, and close proximity to state-of-the-art medical centers score some extra points too.

Faithfully an old-school-style beach community, Holden Beach’s residents—less than 1,000—like keeping it that way. Incorporated in 1969, this calmer, under-the-radar destination off the Carolina coast beckons Boomers here year after year. Its rich commercial fishing history dates back to the 1700s. Those roots still run deep today as Holden Beach is mostly a residential town with no large commercial ventures. But for those looking for the action found in the ‘big cities’ like Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, Holden Beach sits superbly central between them both.  

Of course, first on most folk’s seaside retirement destination checklist is the ocean, the sands, the sun, and the halcyon breezes. Well, Holden Beach won’t disappoint. The beaches are a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty that the area has to offer. One of the best ways to see the island is the Olden-Holden-Bike-Tour. There are three different bike routes, totaling approximately 20 miles, where riders can discover historic points of interest, marshlands where water fowl frolic, and parks and a butterfly garden. In the water, navigate a kayak or paddleboard where dolphins playfully come to the surface.

You know you're at the beach when ‘downtown’ can be accessed by boat or kayak. Nearly all the island’s stores and restaurants hug the Intracoastal Waterway or the Atlantic Ocean, like Bill Grady’s Grocery Store, Ocean View Tavern, and Town Hall.

Inland Holden Beach, just across the stunner of the high rise bridge over the Intracoastal that connects the two, residents can find shopping, dining, and entertainment options galore, including Main Street Grill, Provision Company, Lighthouse Gifts, and lots of fishing charters and bait and tackle stores. For golf enthusiasts, Lockwood Folly Country Club offers a naturally challenging golf course just minutes away in the town of Supply.

The family-fave town of Holden beach is the perfect playground for visiting grandkids: gentle surfs, saltwater taffy from Sandman’s Candyland, Turtle Talks by the Holden Beach Turtle Watch Program, and on the mainland, Magic Mountain waterslide and go-cart track, and Fantasy Isle Ice Cream and Mini Golf.  

Everything about Holden Beach is over-the-top charming, which is why it’s not only an ultimate family vacation destination, but the perfect place to pick up, move to, and enjoy those golden years.

Things To Do

  • The HB Turtle Patrol
  • Holden Beach Pavilion
  • “Olden” Holden Bike Tour
  • North Carolina Festival by the Sea
  • Bridgeview Park
  • Fantasy Isle Ice Cream and Mini Golf
  • Magic Mountain Fun Park
  • Holden Beach Dog Park
  • Biking
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Surfing
  • Outdoor Summer Concerts
  • Sanddollar Park
  • Sailfish Street Park
  • Elizabeth
  • Bendigo and Ranger Shipwrecks
  • Coast Guard Look-out Point
  • The Old Hotel
  • Holden Beach Pier
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Eagle Lake


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