Carolina Beach is well known for its miles of enticing shoreline that attract surfers, swimmers, fishermen, beachcombers, and everyday folks who just love to spend their days on the sand.
But before you go, you may want to brush up on area guidelines, rules and regulations, and safety tips to ensure that your beach getaways are as stress-free as possible.
The following guidelines will help you celebrate your beach vacation to the fullest, while enjoying a safe atmosphere for your family, and everyone else on the shoreline.
Carolina Beach General Guidelines
Begin your beach days by reviewing and adhering to the following list of guidelines that encompass all corners of Carolina Beach.
- The Town of Carolina Beach has approximately 20 lifeguard stands which cover roughly three miles of the shoreline. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, and are stationed daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. from Friday through Sunday.
- Overnight camping, driving, and open fires are prohibited within the Town of Carolina Beach. Options for all of these activities are available at other regions, such as Freeman Park and Carolina Beach State Park.
- Surf fishing is allowed throughout the Carolina Beach shoreline. Fishermen over the age of 16 will need a Saltwater/Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL), which can be obtained online via the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, or picked up at local bait and tackle stores once you’ve arrived on Carolina Beach.
- Visitors should find a spot at least 10 feet below the dune line, to keep an emergency lane open for 4WD first responder vehicles.
- Visitors should be respectful of local wildlife, and watch for seasonal closures due to endangered bird or sea turtle nesting.
- Smoking is not allowed on the beach within the town limits.
- All personal items left on the beach between sunset and sunrise will be confiscated. Remove all canopies, tents, and other beach gear when you leave the sand.
- Visitors should stay off the dunes at all times, and not remove any vegetation from the dunes, such as sea oats.
- It is illegal to surf within 500 feet of any pier, or use personal watercraft (like jet skis) within 1,500 feet of the Atlantic Ocean shoreline in Carolina Beach.
- Horses and horseback riding are not allowed on any beach within the town limits.
- Littering is not allowed anywhere in the Town of Carolina Beach, Freeman Park, or Carolina Beach State Park. Trash cans are available at all of the above locales for the convenience of visitors.
- Be on the lookout for rip currents! Rip currents can occur in any weather, even during calm conditions. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shoreline until you no longer feel the current’s pull, and then start swimming towards the shore.
- Watch for flags on the beach to signify current ocean conditions. A yellow flag indicates caution is needed, while a red flag signifies that there are hazardous water conditions, and swimmers should stay out of the ocean.
Carolina Beach offers many opportunities for camping, and especially in two of the town’s most popular destinations, Carolina Beach State Park and Freeman Park.
If you plan on camping in the Carolina Beach area, keep the following destination-specific information in mind to ensure a great getaway.
Camping in Freeman Park
- Overnight camping and / or sleeping in a 4WD vehicle is permitted in Freeman Park year-round.
- A reservation is required for camping from April 1st through September 30th, and the fee is roughly $30 per campsite.
- No reservation or fee is required to camp at the park from October 1st through March 31st.
- Visitors accessing Freeman Park with a 4WD vehicle must also purchase a valid Freeman Park access pass at all times to enter the park.
- Vehicles and equipment must be stationed at least 10 feet away from the sand dune fencing.
- Camping, walking, or driving on the dunes is prohibited.
- Campers are asked to observe quiet hours, out of courtesy for other people enjoying the park. Quiet hours are from 11:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m.
- Camping or sleeping in a vehicle is not allowed for more than 14 consecutive days. Tents and equipment may not be left unattended beyond the reservation period.
- There are limited facilities available at Freeman Park, so visitors will want to bring along their own food, water, coolers, first-aid kits, and other supplies.
- Campers must remove all waste and equipment after their stay. Blue trash cans are provided along the beach to assist visitors with disposing of waste.
Camping in Carolina Beach State Park
- Carolina Beach State Park features 70 campsites with no hook-ups, and nine campsites with full hook-ups (including water, electric and sewer.) There are also four camper cabins located within the park.
- Each campsite features a picnic table and grill and / or fire ring.
- Reservations are highly recommended for camping at Carolina Beach State Park, and can be made online via https://northcarolinastateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/carolina-beach-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode-NC&parkId-552806.
- There are a number of amenities for campers within the park, including drinking water, coin-operated laundry facilities, flush toilets, a bathhouse, a marina and marina store, a dump station, and more.
- Park gates are closed and locked at posted closing times, which are seasonal. Campers must be within the gates before closing time to access their campsite.
- Camping is available within Carolina Beach State Park year-round.
- A two-night stay minimum is required for holiday weekends, which includes Memorial Day, Labor Day, and July 4th
4x4 Beach Driving
Driving on the beach is permissible in Freeman Park, which is managed by the Town of Carolina Beach, and which is located in between the northern town limits and Carolina Beach Inlet. Regulations for driving in Freeman Park include the following:
4x4 Equipment - Be prepared! Here is the beach driving gear we recommend for a fun day on the sand.
- A pass is required, and there are three types of passes available. A daily pass is $40, a daily holiday pass for holiday weekends is $60, and an annual pass is $200. Discounts are available for “Early Bird” annual passes which can be purchased before December 15 for the following year.
- Passes are sold at the entrance of Freeman Park via a 24/7 operational pay station. Passes can also be picked up online at https://freemanpark.clickandpark.com/.
- Daily passes are valid until 10:00 a.m. the following day, and should be securely displayed on the vehicle’s dashboard.
- The speed limit within Freeman Park for 4WD vehicles is 15 mph.
- Riding on tailgates, bumpers, or on the hoods of vehicles is prohibited.
- Beach drivers should use caution, and be courteous to all other drivers on the beach.
- Avoid driving close to the ocean overwash to avoid pedestrians, and to avoid damage to your vehicle.
- Drivers should air down their tires to 20 psi at most to avoid getting stuck. Pack along tow strap(s), boards, and a shovel as well, in case you do get stuck on the sand.
- Because there are no paved roads, only 4WD vehicles can drive along the beach in Freeman Park.
- ATVs and trailers are not allowed within Freeman Park at any time.
Pets on the Beach
Carolina Beach can be a great destination for your furry family members, however seasonal restrictions and other guidelines may apply. Be sure you adhere to the following rules and regulations to enjoy a safe and pet-friendly time on the beach.
- Dogs are not allowed on the historical components of the boardwalk in Carolina Beach at any time.
- Dogs are also not allowed in the Boardwalk Business District at any time, which includes walkways, sidewalks, and public areas from Canal Street to the northern side of Harper Avenue. This includes Cape Fear Blvd. and the accompanying gazebo area.
- Dogs are permitted on the beach in Carolina Beach from April 1 until September 30, before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
- Dogs are permitted on the beach during all hours from October 1 until March 31.
- All dogs must be on a leash at all times, with the exception of Freeman Park. From October 1 until March 31, dogs are allowed off the leash in Freeman Park, provided they are well trained and follow voice commands, and the owner stays close by.
- All owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pet, and must have plastic or paper waste containers on hand.
- Violations of any of the above regulations may result in a $100 fine and citation.
- Many vacation rentals and area accommodations allow dogs and pets! A small extra fee may be required, and visitors should ask beforehand if their lodgings are pet friendly.
- There are no off-leash dog parks within Carolina Beach, however there are several in neighboring Wilmington which include the Wilmington Dog Park at Empie, the Ogden Dog Park, the Dog Park at Hugh MacRae Park, and Halyburton Park. A dog park is also located in the adjacent town of Kure Beach, which is the Gurney Hood Dog Park at Joe Eakes Park.
- Pets are welcome at Carolina Beach State Park provided they are on a leash at all times. Pets may be allowed at some campgrounds within the state park, but are not allowed in the bathhouses or swimming areas.
- Owners should bring along all supplies for dogs enjoying a day at the beach, including water and a canopy or tent for shade. Use caution on hot sand, and stick to early morning or evening walks to avoid burning tender paws.
Bonfires on the Beach
Bonfires or campfires may be allowed in certain regions of Carolina Beach, depending on where your beach-going party lands. Information regarding beach fires for specific areas of Carolina Beach are listed below.
- Bonfires and campfires are illegal within the town limits of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
- Small campfires are allowed within Freeman Park, just north of the border of Carolina Beach, from November 1 until March 31. All fires must be in containers that are 35 inches in diameter at most, and are only permitted north of mile marker 6.
- Small campfires are allowed in designated areas of the Carolina Beach State Park, and must be manned and supervised at all times. Gathering firewood is generally prohibited in the park.
Fireworks are illegal throughout the Town of Carolina Beach, which includes Carolina Beach State Park and Freeman Park.
Alcohol on the Beach
Like many North Carolina shorelines, rules for alcohol vary based on the different regions and parks that are found at Carolina Beach. Guidelines for the area, from Freeman Park to Carolina Beach State Park, are as follows:
- It is illegal to have alcohol on the beach as well as glass containers within the town limits of Carolina Beach
- It is illegal to possess spirituous liquor and / or fortified wine in Freeman Park, per NC General Statute 18B-301. All 4WD drivers in Freeman Park must not operate their vehicle intoxicated, or have open containers in their vehicle.
- Possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages within Carolina Beach State Park is prohibited, and visitors shall not be or become intoxicated at any North Carolina state park or recreation area.