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Top 14 Dog-Friendly Beaches in North Carolina: Off-Leash & On-Leash Places to Go

Written by: Lindsey Lawson

Last Updated on April 14, 2024 by Dogster Team

Golden Retriever at the beach

Top 14 Dog-Friendly Beaches in North Carolina: Off-Leash & On-Leash Places to Go

North Carolina is a fantastic vacation destination that is known for being full of southern charm and delicious food. This state truly has it all from its breathtaking mountains to its beautiful state parks, and don’t forget its gorgeous sandy beaches.

Whether you are living in North Carolina or are stopping by for a visit to the coastline, you may be wondering which beaches are the most pet friendly. After all, what’s better than enjoying some fun in the sun with your four-legged pal? Well, pack your sunscreen and all your beach gear and keep reading to discover the most dog-friendly beaches in the Tar Heel State.

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The Top 14 Dog-Friendly Beaches in North Carolina

1. Nags Head Beach

️ Address: Nags Head Island, NC 27959
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: No
  • Nags Head Beach allows dogs all year long as long as they are on a leash 10 feet in length or shorter.
  • Nags Head is known for having the largest natural sand dunes on the eastern shore of the United States.
  • The island is known for being dog-friendly and has plenty of restaurants, shops, and hotels to visit during your stay
  • All public access points come complete with doggie stations that provide poop bags and a place to dispose of waste.
  • There are plenty of showers and water stations to refill your pup’s bowl during those hot, sunny beach days.

2. Freeman Park

️ Address: 1800 Canal Dr, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: Yes, October 1st – March 31st
  • Take your beloved dog on a beach day vacation to Carolina Beach’s dog-friendly Freeman Park just 12 miles from historic Wilmington, NC.
  • Dogs are allowed off-leash at Freeman Park from October 1st through March 31st but must remain leashed from April 1st to September 30th.
  • This is one of the only beaches in NC where you can drive your 4×4 vehicle onto it.
  • Dog owners are required to bring a minimum of two suitable plastic or paper waste containers and dispose of waste in appropriate receptacles. The bags must be shown upon request.
  • Enjoy the local restaurants, shopping, outdoor recreation, and various attractions that the area has to offer.

3. Bald Head Island

️ Address: 10 Marina Wynd, Bald Head Island, NC, US, 28461
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: Yes, from sunrise to sunset May 1st – November 15th
  • Bald Head Island is a barrier island community that is the southernmost of North Carolina’s cape islands.
  • This pet-friendly vacation destination allows pets on the beach all year round.
  • Dogs must be leashed from sunset to sunrise from May 1st through November 15th to protect the local turtles during the turtle season.
  • Dogs are allowed off-leash from November 16th through April 30th but must remain under direct supervision.
  • Enjoy 14 miles of pristine beaches or explore the hiking trails and local marshes alongside your four-legged best friend.

4. Topsail Beach

️ Address: 801 N Anderson Blvd, Topsail Beach, NC, US, 28445
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: Yes, from October 1st – May 14th
  • Topsail beach is located just 40 miles from Wilmington.
  • This town features plenty of shops and restaurants and is dog-friendly year-round.
  • Dogs are permitted off-leash from October 1st to May 14th but must be under voice command.
  • Leashes are required from May 15th through September 30th.
  • You are required to pick up any waste your dog leaves behind.

5. Kitty Hawk Beach

️ Address: 5353 N Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: Yes, from the day after Labor Day to the Thursday before Memorial Day
  • Kitty Hawk Beach is full of amenities including showers, bathrooms, a bathhouse, a large parking lot, and pet waste bags.
  • This beach requires dog owners to remove waste and always keep a bag or container on hand for this reason.
  • Starting the Friday before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • All other times of the year dogs should have a leash retractable up to 12 feet and may be off leash if kept within 30 feet of the handler.
  • Any dogs on public property must be current on rabies vaccination and the rabies tag must be presented upon request.

6. Atlantic Beach

️ Address: 108 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach, NC, US, 28512
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: No
  • Take a leisurely walk along the shoreline or go for a quick swim with your dog at beautiful Atlantic Beach.
  • Dogs are permitted on the beach but must be on a leash at all times.
  • Dogs are not permitted in lifeguard-protected areas beyond 20 feet from the water’s edge.
  • Public beach access includes bathrooms, showers, and picnic tables.
  • Dog owners are required to pick up after their dogs and dispose of waste properly.

7. Oak Island Beaches

️ Address: 705 Ocean Dr, Oak Island, NC, US, 28465
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: Yes, October 15th – March 15th
  • Oak Island is an island right off the North Carolina coast about 30 minutes south of Wilmington.
  • This island is very family-friendly and pet-friendly, and you will find plenty to do.
  • All of the Oak Island beaches are pet-friendly, which includes Caswell, Yaupon, & Long Beach.
  • Dogs have beach access all year round if kept on a leash.
  • Off-leash access on Oak Island’s beaches is permitted from October 15th through March 15th from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the locations marked by beach access signs.

8. Emerald Isle Beach

️ Address: 398 Ocean Dr, Emerald Isle, NC, US, 28594
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: No
  • Emerald Isle is a town on Bogue Banks Island on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.
  • Enjoy this quiet beachfront community with your beloved dog in tow.
  • Dogs are allowed on the beach of Emerald Isle year-round, but leashes are required.
  • Trash cans are available at all public beach access points and dog waste must be cleaned up and kept off the beach strand.

9. Fort Macon State Park

️ Address: 2303 E Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC, US, 28512
Open Times: Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: No
  • Fort Macon State Park is a pet-friendly area of Atlantic Beach full of the natural beauty of local salt marshes, dunes, and estuaries.
  • There are plenty of hiking trails, bike trails, and shorelines to enjoy at the park with your beloved canine companion.
  • Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times.
  • No pets are permitted at the swim beach or inside any buildings.
  • The park is open all year round with free admission and free parking.

10. Corolla Beach

️ Address: 601 Ocean Trail, Corolla, NC 27927
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: No
  • Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of North Carolina’s Outer Banks at Corolla Beach.
  • Dogs are permitted on Corolla, NC beaches but must remain on a leash.
  • Dog owners must clean up after their pets and deposit waste in the proper trash receptacles.
  • Beach driving is permitted but only during the off-season from October 1st through April 30th.
  • You can also visit Historic Corolla Park and nearby Corolla Village with your dog by your side.

12. Cape Hatteras National Seashore

️ Address: Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Buxton, NC 27920
Open Times: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: No
  • Beautiful Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a great place to make a splash with your dog.
  • You need to keep your dog on a 6-foot leash at all times in this area.
  • Pets are not allowed on designated swim beaches or inside buildings.
  • Never leave your dog unattended and remember to clean up after them.

13. Carolina Beach State Park/Carolina Beach

️ Address: 1010 State Park Rd, Carolina Beach, NC, US, 28428
Open Times: Varies by season
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: No
  • Carolina Beach State Park is located in New Hanover, NC just 12 miles south of Wilmington.
  • You can get beach access at Carolina Beach State Park or Carolina Beach.
  • Leashed dogs are permitted on the beach before 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m. from April 1st through September 30th and are allowed beach access during all hours from October 1st through March 31st.
  • There are lots of nice campsites and plenty of walking trails to enjoy with your pup.
  • Remember to obey the leash laws and pick up after your pets or you will be subject to citation.

14. Fort Fisher State Park

️ Address: 1000 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach, NC, US, 28449
Open Times: Varies by season
Cost: Free
Off-Leash: No
  • Fort Fisher State Park in Kure Beach, NC is dog friendly all year round, but they must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times.
  • There are pet waste cleanup laws, and the park provides garbage bins for disposal.
  • Fort Fisher State Park is only 18 miles South of Wilmington and allows 4-wheel drive beach access.
  • You can enjoy an amazing hike on a trail that has gorgeous views of Zeke’s Island and the Cape Fear River.
  • Keep your eye out for loggerhead sea turtles nesting on the sandy beach during the warmer months.

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There is certainly no shortage of incredible dog-friendly beaches in North Carolina that are just waiting for you and your pooch to visit. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to plan that beach day and hit the road for an unforgettable experience with your dog.

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Featured Image Credit: K O Moore, Shutterstock

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