Where to Swim Near Fort Bragg: White Lake Edition

Building sand castles at White Lake, North Carolina.

One of the first things that I do as a military wife at a new duty station is to look for fun things to do. No one wants to spend their time in a brand new place sitting around their living room. But after the cost of moving, there’s not always much money for fun things.

Thankfully, one of the best free or cheap summer activities is swimming. Blame it on our Florida roots, but we LOVE to swim! You can find me and my bunch at the pool, lake, or river as soon as temperatures start to rise. (You can find our 5 Favorite Fort Bragg Swimming Holes here!)

White Lake in Elizabeth, NC
(Girls floating on White Lake in North Carolina.)

After arriving in North Carolina during the steaming heat of a southern summer, one of the first things I did was find somewhere to swim near Fort Bragg. One of the options: White Lake.

On-line pictures showed a crystal-clear lake, sandy beaches, and a family-friendly atmosphere once dubbed the “Nation’s Safest Beach”. According to the internet, White Lake has been attracting visitors since the early 1900s and became a high-end vacation destination in the 1920s.

White Lake in North Carolina
(The view from the dock at Goldston’s Beach.)

I was sold! We decided to spend our first Carolina holiday at the lake.

So, on the 4th of July, we loaded up the truck and headed south out of Fayetteville. The drive to White Lake took a little over an hour.

White Lake is a VERY small town (population 802), most of which is concentrated around the lake itself.

There was a limited number of restaurants to choose from and the ones we saw were packed. We finally found one that we could squeeze into and had a decent lunch before diving into this beautiful lake. (Ski Burger is a cute little place that serves breakfast, burgers, and fries. The food is good and so is the price.)

Girl jumping off the dock to her dad at White Lake.
(Are you going to catch me, daddy?)

Unfortunately, there is only one public beach at White Lake: Goldston’s Beach. There is an entry fee, but it was only $10 for our whole family ($5 per person, kids 12 and under get in free).

Goldston’s Beach is an attraction all its own, even if you don’t plan to swim. There is a small amusement park, mini golf, arcade, Bingo hall, motel, restaurant, and store.

The whole place has a cool, retro vibe. I wish I had the time to go back and do a vintage-vacation themed photo shoot. Because this place would be PERFECT for that!

Goldston's Pier in North Carolina
(The entrance to the beach area.)

Since we were on a budget, we by-passed all of these attractions and made our way straight to the beach.

We took off our shoes, laid out our blanket, and headed straight for the water. As you can imagine, the lake was extremely busy because it was the 4th of July, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. (We went back on a non-holiday weekend and there was a fraction of the crowd.)

(The girls loved the lake and have begged to go back.)

We were expecting crystal-clear waters, as promised by the internet. However, it was a little murky and brown. About what you would expect from a lake.

It wasn’t a deal-breaker for us, but it definitely wasn’t like the pictures shown on various blogs and Instagram pictures.

If you’re not sure about the water, you can always stick to making sand castles on the beach!

Building sand castles at White Lake, North Carolina.
(Building sand castles.)

Later that night, it was time for fireworks!

The fireworks display is pretty impressive for a town that boasts a population of less than 1,000 year-round. They set them off from the end of Goldston’s Pier, so from our blanket on the beach the fireworks exploded almost directly over us. The whole show was about 30 minutes long and it was beautiful!

(Independence Day fireworks over a lake is an American tradition.)

All in all, it was a great day!

We enjoyed our time at White Lake and plan to swim there many more times while we’re stationed at Fort Bragg. There is also a water park down the road from the lake that we can’t wait to try next summer!