The waterspout came ashore on Carolina Beach, southeast of Wilmington, just after 10 a.m.
Tourists and beachgoers watched in amazement as the towering plume of water turned into a plume of sand that smashed through a wooden ramp and tossed trash bins high into the air.
The tornado passed between some oceanfront homes and briefly became a waterspout again over Carolina Beach Lake before dissipating in a nearby residential area.
No injuries or major property damages were reported.
Waterspouts are a common occurrence in North Carolina in August, when the offshore waters are at their warmest -- but five spouts in one day is rare. NWS meteorologists said a strong low pressure system created just the right amount of rotation to generate multiple waterspouts.
With files from StarNews Wilmington