Day Tripping to the Beach from Cary, 2020 Edition

Cary, NC – Who doesn’t like a day trip to the beach? We do. We day trip to Wrightsville Beach from Cary all summer long. You can, too.

Is It Safe to Go to the Beach from Cary in 2020?

The short answer: yes, it is.

We have some common-sense tips if you want to avoid crowds. You’ll probably have to stop for gas once. Bring hand sanitizer and a face-mask in case you need to stop and you’ll be fine.

Don’t forget the sunscreen!

The Closest Ocean Beach to Cary

As far as travel time, we’ve found Wrightsville Beach is fastest trip. It’s a straight shot down I-40 and takes 2 hours and 6 minutes according to Google Maps.

It’s mostly an easy drive, with a little congestion going through Johnston County and an occasional slow-down for road construction.

Need a Rest Stop?

Some people like to stretch after an hour behind the wheel. We highly recommend the Duplin County rest stop in Warsaw at Exit 364. It’s a spacious and well-designed facility with picnic tables, vending machines and remarkably nice gardening by the NC Garden Club.

You will also find gas, restaurants and other service establishments on NC 24 outside the rest stop. During summer months, you may also find a local farm stand for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Wrightsville Beach Access Points

I-40 turns into N. College Road as you enter Wilmington. To get to Wrighstville Beach, take a left when you get to NC 74.

NC-74 becomes Eastwood Road. You are in Wrightsville Beach when you cross over the waterway.

74 branches to the left and takes top the beaches on the north side of Wrightsville. NC 76 (also called Causeway) branches to the right for access to the beaches on the south side.

Wrightsville beach is about 4 miles long from Jack Parker Beach Access #43 in the south to  Public Access Point #2 in the north.

Parking in Wrightsville

The beach is free in Wrightsville, but you will have to pay for parking. In most spots, parking fees are required between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM.

Street parking is available in some places, but prohibited in others. Some spots have meters, others use pay stations or the PayByPhone app. Pay attention to the signs – Wrightsville’s parking enforcement game is strong.

More info on parking in Wrightsville Beach.

When to Go to Wrightsville

Most people go to Wrightsville Beach in the middle of the day. If you like crowds and driving around in circles to find parking, that’s the best time to go.

If you are like us and prefer fewer crowds and easier parking, plan to go early or go late.

Leave early – beat the traffic and get to the beach at 9 AM. Or, sleep-in and get to the beach at 2 PM.

Weekends have the biggest crowds, so day trip on a weekday if you can make it happen.

Story and photos by Hal Goodtree.

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