Of all the beaches up and down the North Carolina coast, which is the best? And what makes one beach better from another?
U.S. News & World Report weighs in with a ranking of the top 10 Tar Heel beaches, though it's up to you if you take their word for it.
"From a family-friendly vacation to a Nicholas Sparks-inspired getaway, the coast of North Carolina is characterized by wide, sandy beaches with conserved dunes, beachfront rental houses and a laid-back approach to life," U.S. News wrote, though we knew that already.
To decide which stretches of shoreline are worth your vacation days, U.S. News factored in scenic beauty, nearby amenities and the opinions of "experts and travelers."
In order, the top 10, according to U.S. News are:
1. Cape Hatteras
2. Corolla/Currituck Beach
3. Bald Head Island
4. Nags Head
6. Emerald Isle
7. Oak Island
8. Ocracoke Island
9. Topsail Island
10. Atlantic Beach
For Cape Hatteras, U.S. News lauded uncrowded "unspoiled beaches and (the) black-and-white-striped lighthouse" along with the chance to drive off-road vehicles on the beach and see sea turtles during nesting season.
Corolla was chosen for its seclusion, and U.S. News noted its lighthouse and historic district, along with the chance to see wild Spanish Mustang horses.
Bald Head Island's beachfront rentals, club golf course and largely undeveloped land earned it the No. 3 spot.
Because Nags Head is easily accessed and has a "wealth of amenities" including fishing piers and the Bodie Island Lighthouse, it earned the No. 4 spot.
Duck was chosen for its lack of development and expansive beaches for seashell collecting.
Emerald Isle came in at No. 6 for clean beaches, a popular fishing pier and the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
Oak Island, described as "sleepy" was chosen for its 60 public beach access points, fishing piers and proximity to Southport, the filming location for several movies.
Ocracoke is No. 8 on U.S. News' list for its views from the coast and its history as Blackbeard the pirate's stomping grounds.
Topsail Island was chosen for its history as a pirate hideout home to three beaches, the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and Serenity Point.
Rounding out the top 10 is Atlantic Beach, one of the most developed beach areas in North Carolina, chosen for its many amenities including a fishing pier, bike and water sports equipment rentals and more.