If you are anything like us, reading a book set in the location you’re visiting is about one of the most amazing experiences you can imagine. With these North Carolina books, we’ve gone one step further and ensured that they are all set within our beautiful coastal waters. Take a look at our running list of the best beach books set in North Carolina for your vacation to the Atlantic Ocean!
From local author in Emerald Isle, Tom Gill, to New York Times Bestseller & New Bern local, Nicholas Sparks. We have it all!
12 Best Beach Books Set in North Carolina
#1. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – We are sure this comes as no surprise if you know anything of famous North Carolina Authors. The Notebook is a #1 New York Times Bestseller that was adapted to film in 2004 and began Nicholas Sparks’ notable career in creating North Carolina based stories. The book itself was actually set in New Bern, North Carolina which is about an hour outside of Emerald Isle. The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner recently returned from the Second World War. Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.
#2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Crawdads are very common to the North Carolina intercoastal waterways which is where this story begins in a fictional coastal town, known as Barkley Cove. Delia Owens’ #1 New York Times Bestseller, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’, became a hit sensation in the summer of 2018 & has since become a favorite on many reviewers’ lists, including Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.
#3. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks – If you’re looking for a tear-jerker, Nicholas Sparks delivers in this Beaufort, North Carolina based novel about teenage love turning into the greatest love one can find, true love. Follow along with Landon Carter, a 17 year old boy in 1958 who falls in love with the pastor’s daughter. Can she change his life forever? In 2002, the book was adapted into a movie starring Mandy Moore and Shane West.
#4. Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks – Proving that grief after losing a loved one can truly make us want to send them a “Message in a Bottle,” Nicholas Sparks’ novel captures the essence of what it means to have a second chance at love. This novel is set in Wilmington, North Carolina, and follows the story of two characters who find their way to each other under extraordinary circumstances & get a glimpse at what life could look like together. Unfortunately, sometimes fate has other plans. Message in a Bottle was adapted to film in 1999 and was produced by and starred Kevin Costner.
#5. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen – Set in a fictional southern town in North Carolina called Mullaby. In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world–no matter how out of place they feel.
#6. Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks – The only of Sparks’ novels that mentions it’s location in the actual title, ‘Nights in Rodanthe’ is a romance novel set in Rodanthe, North Carolina about 4 hours northwest of Emerald Isle, NC. The novel was adapted to film in 2008 starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. At forty-five, Adrienne Willis must rethink her entire life when her husband abandons her for a younger woman. Reeling with heartache and in search of a respite, she flees to the small coastal town of Rodanthe, North Carolina to tend to a friend’s inn for the weekend. But when a major storm starts moving in, it appears that Adrienne’s perfect getaway will be ruined — until a guest named Paul Flanner arrives. At fifty-four, Paul has just sold his medical practice and come to Rodanthe to escape his own shattered past. Now, with the storm closing in, two wounded people will turn to each other for comfort — and in one weekend set in motion feelings that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.
#7. Joyland by Stephen King – Set in a beach town of North Carolina, this thriller mystery follows a college student who takes a summer job at an amusement park called Joyland & discovers the mysteries behind a murder taken place years earlier.
#8. The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks – Taking place just 18 minutes outside of Emerald Isle, ‘The Guardian’ is a romantic thriller set in Swansboro, North Carolina. A little outside of Nicholas Sparks’ norm, this romantic thriller follows Julie Barenson, a 29-year-old who is in search of her next emotional commitment. Julie Barenson’s young husband left her two unexpected gifts before he died: a Great Dane puppy named Singer and the promise that he would always be watching over her. Now, four years have passed. Still living in the small town of Swansboro, North Carolina, Julie is emotionally ready to make a commitment to someone again. But who? Should it be Richard Franklin, the handsome, sophisticated engineer who treats her like a queen? Or Mike Harris, the down-to-earth nice guy who was her husband’s best friend? Choosing one of them should bring her more happiness than she’s had in years. Instead, Julie is soon fighting for her life in a nightmare spawned by a chilling deception and jealousy so poisonous that it has become a murderous desire.
#9. The Bridge by Tom Gill – A touching love story, The Bridge reveals how a family tragedy—kept hidden for fifteen years—ends up wreaking havoc when it is finally revealed. An automobile accident at the Langston Bridge foreshadows events to come when high school sophomore Kirby Smith sets off on an intoxicating summer vacation at her grandparents’ home in gorgeous Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Sparks fly when the two young people get together. But when Kirby innocently stumbles on a shocking secret, readers are taken back to another time, revealing heartrending events that have been concealed for years. Tom Gill also wrote a sequel to ‘The Bridge’ called Return to Emerald Isle which was published in 2017.
#10. Beach Rental by Grace Greene – Set in Emerald Isle, NC along the beautiful Crystal Coast, Beach Rental brings about the story of Juli Cooke. Hard-working and getting nowhere fast, Julie agrees to marry a dying man for a financial settlement, not expecting this will soon set her on a journey of hope and love. The first of three novels, Grace Greene brings to life the seaside escapes of the North Carolina coast in this perfect beach read. Check out her other two books in the Emerald Isle, NC series: Beach Winds and Beach Wedding.
#11. A Field of Fireflies by Joey Jones – Set in Washington, North Carolina this novel takes place about an hour and 30 minutes outside of Emerald Isle, NC. Synopsis: Growing up, Nolan Lynch’s family was unconventional by society’s standards, but it was filled with love, and his parents taught him everything he needed to know about life, equality, and family. A baseball player with a bright future, Nolan’s on his way to the major leagues when tragedy occurs. Six years later, he’s starting over as the newest instructor at the community college in Washington, North Carolina, where he meets Emma Pate, who seems to be everything he’s ever dreamed of—beautiful, assertive, and a baseball fan to boot. Emotionally complex and charged with suspense, A Field of Fireflies is the unforgettable story of family, love, loss, and an old baseball field where magic occurs, including the grace of forgiveness and second chances.
#12. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han – This trilogy of books by author Jenny Han is based in a fictional coastal town known as Cousins Beach, North Carolina. When asked, Han confirmed that the location is inspired by Cape Cod, the Hamptons, and a splash of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The young adult series is a perfect summer read for any teen wanting a quick read at the beach.
Honorable mentions – More Books Set in North Carolina:
- The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon – 5th novel in the Outlander series during the War of the Regulation based in North Carolina (from about 1765-1771). You may know the series from the TV adaptation “Outlander” on Starz Network. Claire and Jamie’s home is located on Fraser’s Ridge in the North Carolina mountains. Gabaldon herself has said that Fraser’s Ridge would be near Boone, NC and Blowing Rock.
- Serena by Ron Rash – New York Times Bestseller and newly adapted film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradly Cooper. This story is set in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
- Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty – Set in Asheville, NC
- The Secret Book and Scones Society by Ellery Adams – Set in Miracle Springs, NC
- The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin – Set in Charlotte, NC
- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier – A historical fiction set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in Cold Mountain, NC.
- Outbound Train by Renee Winchester – Set in Bryson City, NC just outside of Asheville.
- Carolina Mist by Mariah Steward – Set in a Victorian Estate in Primrose, NC.
We hope this list brings you some well-deserved reading time on the beaches this summer and you continue to find books set in our beautiful state of North Carolina for years to come.