Beach-lovin’ pups will get their tails wagging on the coast of North Carolina. One of the 13 original colonies, North Carolina is a state rich in history and blessed with a coastline that stretches nearly 3,400 miles. Dogs can dip their paws into the Atlantic Ocean into some of the spots where pirates roamed, historic battles were waged, and important events took place. Here are our picks for the Top 9 Dog Beaches in North Carolina.
9. Fort Macon State Park In Atlantic Beach
Take the bridge from Morehead City to the long, narrow barrier island to get to Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach. The park features a restored Civil War-era fort that hosts reenactments and musket demonstrations. The waterfront is a pristine beach perfect for splashing in the surf, combing for shells, and relaxing in the warm sand. Keep your pup on a leash while he’s on the beach and the trails and stay in the designated swimming areas. You will both have a much-deserved day of fun in the sun.
8. Jockey’s Ridge State Park In Nags Head
Jockey’s Ridge is home to the Atlantic coast’s tallest sand dune—a perfect spot to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean or the sunset over Roanoke Sound. Leashed dogs are welcome anywhere in the park, including the beach, dunes, boardwalk, and hiking trails. You and your sun-lovin’ pup can chill on the beach and watch the hang gliders soar down from the dunes. The ocean water is cool and refreshing, but sometimes the sand—especially on the dunes—can get too hot for puppy paws. Make sure to take precautions so your beach outing is a positive experience for your pooch.
7. Caswell Beach In Oak Island
Caswell Beach welcomes leashed dogs anytime, but if you want to let your dog romp in the water unleashed, you need to come in the early morning hours—between dawn and 9 a.m. That’s when the leash rules are temporarily lifted. As an added bonus, you will be able to witness the sunrise over the ocean and possibly catch a glimpse at some of the wildlife of the area, like dolphins, sea turtles, and ghost crabs. The directors of Caswell Beach are doing their part to protect the precious dune grass and wild oats, so they ask that people and their pets stay off the beach vegetation.
6. Emerald Island Beach In Emerald Island
The gentle roll of the waves and the cool ocean breezes await you and your dog at Emerald Island Beach. The community is welcoming to dogs—a dog park is in the works there—and leashed pups are allowed on the beach and pier. You and your four-legged best friend can wade in the surf, hunt for sharks’ teeth, or stroll on the iconic Bogue Inlet Pier, one of the community’s hotspots.
5. Freeman Beach In Carolina Beach
Off-season may be the best season to visit Freeman Beach in Carolina Beach, south of Wilmington and near the Cape Fear River. During the Summer months, dogs are welcome on the beach, however they must be kept on a leash. From October 1 to March 31, the beach permits pups to run off leash with proper supervision from their owners. If your adventurous pooch yearns to run free on the sandy beach, then a visit to Freeman Beach in the Fall or Spring might be in order.
4. Fort Fisher State Park In Kure Beach
The low, sandy beach of Fort Fisher State Park is protected so that the loggerhead sea turtles, birds, and marsh plants can thrive. The area was once frequented by pirates and Civil War soldiers but now is a peaceful gathering spot for beach lovers and their dogs. The pets must be leased at all times but that doesn’t stop them from experiencing the refreshing water with their favorite humans. If you are lucky, then your pooch just might teach you how to do the puppy paddle.
3. Topsail Beach Off-Leash Dog Beach In Topsail Beach
Off-season means off-leash at Topsail Beach Off-Leash Dog Beach. During the busy Summer tourist season—from May 15 to the end of September—the rules state that dogs must be kept on leash. The other seven-and-a-half-months, however, dogs are encouraged to get their beach on with their leashes off. An off-season visit means your pup can run uninhibited on the sand and dive into the surf to his heart’s desire. Naturally, owners are asked to clean up after their pets to keep the beach tidy for other guests.
2. Kittyhawk Beach In Kittyhawk
A visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina would not be complete without a trip to Kittyhawk, the site of the first flight by the Wright Brothers. Don’t let the “kitty” part of the name fool you—Kittyhawk loves dogs. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, when the beaches are packed with tourists, dog owners are required to keep their pups leashed. Once the Summer sun fades and the vacationers head home, the beaches of Kittyhawk are opened to unleashed pups. They can soak up the sun and play in the waves as much as they want without restrictions.
1. Duck City Beaches In Duck
The town of Duck, North Carolina, has a reputation for being one of the most dog-friendly communities in the Outer Banks. It is not difficult to find a vacation rental that welcomes dogs. Many of the town’s retail stores and restaurants are accommodating to dogs and some even host dog-specific events, such as pups on the patio and yappy hours. It is no wonder that such a dog loving community has lax rules about pups on their city beaches. All of the beaches in Duck permit dogs to frolic off-leash year-round, just as long as they are supervised and have a human to clean up after them. On the streets and sidewalks of the town, as well as on the boardwalk and the Duck Trail, folks are asked to leash their pups. But beach time is free time for the dogs, which makes Duck our number one pick for the best dog beach in North Carolina.
North Carolina is home to some of the East Coast’s most charming seaside towns and stunningly beautiful beaches. From the barrier islands of the Outer Banks to the coastal beaches, the sand and surf of North Carolina is prime for fun in the sun—for both you and your pup. These Top 9 Dog Beaches Of North Carolina are ideal for sandy paws and sea salt fur.