During peak summer months, communities in the Greater Topsail Beach region, such as Surf City and North Topsail Beach, see their population increase four- or five-fold, or more, as individuals head to the coast for summer vacation. The Greater Topsail region is one of many areas of the state with strong appeal as a vacation destination.

North Carolina has a higher concentration of vacation homes than the nation. In 2010, 4.4% of North Carolina housing units were for seasonal or recreational use compared to 3.5% of all housing nationwide. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of vacation homes in the state increased from 135,000 to nearly 192,000, an increase of 42%. Over this same time period, total housing grew from 3.5 million to 4.3 million units, a 23% increase.

Vacation homes are heavily concentrated in coastal and mountain counties, but not all communities within these regions are vacation destinations. Tourism has a major impact in Dare County, for example, but the community impact is geographically concentrated in the county’s northern beaches.

Among the top 10 places in North Carolina with the largest number of vacation homes, nine are on the coast. The three counties with the largest number of vacation homes in the state—Brunswick, Carteret, and Dare—are well represented among the top 10:

  • Oak Island, Sunset Beach, and Ocean Isle Beach are in Brunswick;
  • Kill Devil Hills, Duck, and Nags Head are in Dare; and
  • Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle are in Carteret.

Carolina Beach is in New Hanover and Beech Mountain, located in Avery and Watauga counties, is the only mountain community to make this list.

9 of 10 places with most vacation homes are on the coastExamining communities with the highest concentration of vacation homes reveals an equal split between coastal and mountain communities.

  • Grandfather, Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain, Lake Santeetlah, and Seven Devils are in the mountains.
  • Duck, Bald Head Island, Indian Beach, Atlantic Beach, and North Topsail Beach are on the coast.

In each of these ten communities, seasonal housing represents more than 75% of all local housing.

Vacation homes highly concentrated in coastal and mountain communities

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