12 dog-friendly NC beaches that will give your pooch the zoomies

You've got your towels, your drinks, and your sunscreen. What about your dog? We've rounded up some of our favorite dog-friendly beaches in NC. (Shutterstock)

By Britteny Dee

June 13, 2023

Sunscreen, cold drinks, and a towel are pretty common beach essentials. But if you’re a dog owner, your furry friend is probably at the top of your list, too. Fortunately, there are plenty of dog-friendly NC beaches to visit.

NORTH CAROLINA – Nothing will ruin your beach day faster than showing up ready for some fun in the sun only to find out your dog isn’t allowed to join you. Many North Carolina beaches are pet-friendly, but some have strict rules about when your pup needs to be leashed and what areas it should avoid. To save you some time (and ensure you have a pawsitively perfect beach day), we’ve compiled this guide to North Carolina’s best sandy hangouts for humans and their four-legged friends.

Corolla Beach (Currituck County)

Twenty-four miles of unspoiled shoreline await you and your leashed pup at Corolla Beach. It’s one of the Outer Banks’ most popular beach destinations but far less commercial than other options, so there’s plenty of natural beauty to enjoy. You might even spot some of the wild Spanish mustangs that roam freely throughout — and are unique to — Corolla (just be sure to stay at least 50 feet away from them).

Want to turn your beach day into an overnight trip? With so much to do, we don’t blame you! Luckily, there are plenty of pet-friendly hotels and vacation rentals in the area.

Visit the Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism website for more information.

Bald Head Island Beaches (Brunswick County)

Bald Head Island is home to more than 14 miles of beaches. From South Beach’s calmer waters to East Beach, which is ideal for surfing and bodyboarding, there’s a spot for the whole family — pets included. Note that pets are only allowed on the exterior areas of the ferry that takes you to the island from Southport, but once you arrive, your dog can roam freely.

Read this Bald Head Island blog post for more information.

Fort Fisher State Recreation Area (New Hanover County)

Bordered with the popular Kure and Carolina beaches, this 287-acre state park has six miles of breathtaking coastline to explore, plus hiking trails and much more. The wide beach area offers tons of space to play with other pups, but be sure Fido stays clear of the swimming areas and remains leashed at all times. Note that this is the only state park that allows four-wheel-drive beach access, in case your dog likes to be chauffeured.

Visit the North Carolina State Parks website for more information.

Oak Island (Brunswick County)

Oak Island is a charming, no-frills town with nearly 10 miles of beachfront to enjoy. Thanks to its unique southward-facing shoreline, Oak Island visitors can enjoy incredible sunrise and sunset views over the ocean, so plan to come early and stay late.

If you’re visiting between March 16 and Oct. 15, your dog must be leashed in all public beach areas, but outside of that timeframe, it can roam freely. It’s also important to note that there aren’t many places to rent umbrellas or chairs, so if those items are essential to your beach day, pack accordingly.

Visit the Town of Oak Island website for more information.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park (Dare County)

Active pooches will love Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which is home to the tallest living sand dune system on the Atlantic coast. After you traverse the dunes, head to the beach to relax and cool off in the sound. Speaking of heat, be sure to bring paw protection if you plan to explore the dunes with your dog as the sand gets incredibly hot.

Visit the North Carolina State Parks website for more information.

Freeman Park (New Hanover County)

Freeman Park is one of Carolina Beach’s top attractions and the perfect place to spend the day with your furry friend. Like Fort Fisher, it’s one of the only beaches in the state you can drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle on, plus there’s plenty of wildlife, indigenous sea grasses and dunes to appreciate. Freeman Park’s sandy shores are open to dogs year-round, but they must be leashed from April 1 to Sept. 30.

Visit the Town of Carolina Beach website for more information.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Dare County and Hyde County)

You and Spot can get your steps in at Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS), which consists of 70 miles of beach spread amongst many towns (don’t forget a leash and stay out of the swimming areas).

Pristine beaches aren’t the only attraction here, though. After you and your pup are done palling around on the beach, be sure to check out the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the country’s tallest brick lighthouse; or the Bodie Island Light Station (pictured), which is further north in Nags Head but still considered part of the CHNS. While dogs aren’t allowed inside, you can take them for a scenic walk around the lighthouse grounds.

Visit the National Park Service website for more information.

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Kitty Hawk Beach (Dare County)

From shelling to surfing to fishing, there’s plenty to do at Kitty Hawk Beach, and your furry best friend is more than welcome to come along for the ride. Dogs must be leashed during the peak summer season but can remain off-leash during other times of the year as long as they’re well-behaved. This beach is a go-to for water sports, and your pup will love cooling off in the Atlantic Ocean after strutting along the shore.

There are many equestrians living in Kitty Hawk as well, with certain hours set for beach access. So if the time is right, you and your pup may cross paths with a much larger pet.

Visit the Town of Kitty Hawk website for more information.

Atlantic Beach (Carteret County)

At Atlantic Beach, you and your leashed pup can take a stroll along the shore or swim in the surf. After you’ve had your fun in the sun, explore nearby Fort Macon State Park and its pre-Civil War fort. Dogs aren’t allowed in the fort, but the beach surrounding it is fair game, as are the area’s many hiking trails (with waterfalls!).

Visit the North Carolina State Parks website for more information.

Indian Beach (Carteret County)

Indian Beach is a small but scenic coastal escape that encompasses a two-square-mile stretch of beach. Enjoy the emerald waters and immaculate, uncrowded beach with your leashed canine companion year-round. Then, for some off-leash fun, head to the nearby bark park at Grande Villas.

Visit the Town of Indian Beach website for more information.

Carolina Beach State Park (New Hanover County)

This 761-acre park is the perfect place to explore nature with your doggo. This pet-friendly park is home to the Venus flytrap and has miles of trails to hike, secluded camping areas, a marina and more. You’ll also want to check out Sugarloaf Dune, a 50-foot dune with spectacular views of the surrounding natural habitat.

Visit the North Carolina State Parks website for more information.

Duck Beach (Dare County)

Chewy named Duck Beach one of the best dog-friendly beaches in the U.S. and for good reason. Your furry friend can frolic in the seven miles of dog-friendly sand and salty ocean water leash-free all year long at Duck Beach, which is typically much less crowded than other nearby beaches along the Outer Banks coast. End your beach day on a sweet note with treats at Outer Barks’ Yappy Hour.

There’s just one caveat: Because there is no public beach access, you’ll need to stay overnight at a local hotel or rental home to enjoy the Fido-friendly beaches. Don’t let that deter you, though. There are tons of great pet-friendly lodging options.

Visit the Town of Duck website for more information.

Author

  • Britteny Dee

    Britteny has worked as a professional writer for more than a decade. She launched her career as a features writer in New York City, covering fashion, food, hospitality, and beauty. She has contributed to a variety of publications, including Bitches Who Brunch, International Business Times and Glam.

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