Splish Splash and Zoomie: Dog-Friendly Beaches in North Carolina

“300 miles of coastline to explore, oh boy oh boy! It’s zoomie time for me! Each beach along the coastline has different rules, though – so make sure your hoomans read this cheat sheet before heading out on your pawfect vacation.”

– Mo, North Carolina’s
dog travel agent

Currituck

Quiet beach one day. Shopping and dining the next. I get it. I’m a pup who wants it all on vacay, too.

Here, you can take leashed walkies with your person down beautiful, expansive beaches while keeping watch for Corolla’s famous wild horses. (Both two-legged and four-legged visitors must remain 50 feet from the horses.) If you’ve been a very good pupper – and of course you have – you deserve yappy hour at Outer Barks or free ice cream (awoo!) at Greater Coastal Canine Academy’s doggy coffee bar. At night, enjoy a snoozle with a sunset view at the Inn at Corolla Lighthouse or in one of the many pet-friendly vacation homes.

Your best fren’s vacation just wouldn’t be the same without you. Here, you and your hooman can shop till you drop and chill till you blep.

Outer Banks

1 Duck

1 Duck

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So many walkies to take in Duck! Grab your leash and head to the park, boardwalk or Duck Trail. Well-supervised puppers can play off leash on the beach. Tip: Goodest doggos get a free scoop at Sunset Ice Cream & Cappuccino.

2 Southern Shores

2 Southern Shores

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During prime beach season (May 15 until Sept. 15), leashed dogs can enjoy beach time before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. Please keep your hooman on a leash less than 10 feet long.

3 Kitty Hawk

3 Kitty Hawk

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Doggos: Remember to wear your rabies tag before putting your paws in the sand. Hoomans: Bring a pick-up bag, just in case. Beach doggos must be leashed from Memorial Day through Labor Day. In the offseason, pups with hoomans nearby can play without a leash (but just keep it handy).

4 Kill Devil Hills

4 Kill Devil Hills

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During summer days (Memorial Day through Labor Day, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.) dogs aren’t allowed on the beach at all. Instead, lead your hooman to the patio at American Pie Pizza & Homemade Ice Cream. In the offseason, doggos on the beach must be leashed.

5 Nags Head

5 Nags Head

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Calling all puppers! Dogs can frolic on the beaches here year-round as long as they stay on leashes less than 10 feet. Need some off-leash zoomie time? Head to Nags Head Dog Park.

6 Manteo

6 Manteo

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If you’re splorin the beaches of Manteo with your hoomans, keep them leashed (6 feet or shorter) at all times. Then go chasin sniffs downtown, too, for some fun walkies and dog-friendly dining.

7 Cape Hatteras National Seashore

7 Cape Hatteras National Seashore

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While adventurin on the beaches near Cape Hatteras, stay on a leash that’s 6 feet or shorter, and avoid designated swim beaches. Wanna go for a W-A-L-K? Head to the boardwalk or nature trail.

Crystal Coast

8 Emerald Isle Beach

8 Emerald Isle Beach

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Leashed doggos are welcome on the beach year-round. Beyond the beach, if you’re looking for walkies with water views, forest paths and lots of sniffering, take a mile loop around the Emerald Isle Woods Trail (remember your leash there, too).

9 Indian Beach

9 Indian Beach

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Enjoy year-round romps on the sandy beaches here – but keep your best fren leashed, please. Need off-leash fun? The Grande Villas condos offers a bark park where you can go maximum borkdrive.

10 Pine Knoll Shores Beach

10 Pine Knoll Shores Beach

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Feel the sand in your paws on the beaches of Pine Knoll Shores. Leashed doggos are welcome year-round, and several dog-friendly vacation rentals and hotels make it a good, low-key vacay spot for doggos and their frens.

11 Cape Lookout National Seashore

11 Cape Lookout National Seashore

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The only way to get to the 56 miles of undeveloped shoreline here is by boat or ferry. Find a dog-friendly ferry service to begin your aqua doggo adventure. Once here, doggos on leashes 6 feet or shorter can explore beaches year-round.

12 Atlantic Beach

12 Atlantic Beach

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Doggos can roam the beach while on a leash less than 12 feet, just don’t head to the hoomans-only sections near the lifeguarded areas. For a fun, doggo-friendly stay, check out Atlantis Lodge, where you can finish each day with a snoozle on your own oceanfront patio.

13 Fort Macon State Park

13 Fort Macon State Park

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There’s a lot of room for splorin on this beach (and fort!) – just remember a leash, 6 feet or shorter. Sorry, no doggos allowed in the designated swimming areas or inside the buildings. If you’re ready for a walkie (who isn’t?), the 1.5-mile beach trail might give you a glimpse of dolphins playing in the water.

Wilmington and Topsail

14 Wilmington

14 Wilmington

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Oh, tippy tap! So many pet-friendly restaurants and shops that welcome doggos – leashed, of course. If you’re looking for a woof-worthy walk, guide your hooman to Greenfield Lake Park & Gardens.

15 Wrightsville Beach

15 Wrightsville Beach

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This beach is for offseason doggos to enjoy, leashed, from Oct. 1 through March 31. No prime-season puppers allowed on the beach, however. Dog-friendly water fountains and complimentary pick-up bags are available throughout town.

16 Carolina Beach

16 Carolina Beach

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Bring your leash and happy dance to the beach before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. from April through September. During the day, Freeman Park is your place for walkies (and off-leash zoomies from October through March!). During the offseason, leashed dogs are welcome around the clock. Need a pet-friendly hotel? Carolina Beach Inn leaves treatos in the room for you. Oh boy, oh boy!

17 Kure Beach

17 Kure Beach

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No doggos are allowed on Kure Beach during high season (April 1 through Sept. 30), but you can wander the beach on up to 15-foot leashes during the cooler months. For off-leash zoomies, track down the Gurney Hood Barking Lot at Joe Eakes Park.

18 Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

18 Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

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Aqua doggos, head to Fort Fisher State Park for year-round on-leash beach and trail adventures filled with sand and salt air.

19 Carolina Beach State Park

19 Carolina Beach State Park

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Pitch a pup tent for camping with your frens – leashed dogs are welcome on the campground and at the beach. If you prefer walkies to splish splashes, head for the trails to take you a hike.

20 Topsail Beach

20 Topsail Beach

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Doggos can hit the beach during the high season (May 15 – Sept. 30) if you’re on leashes 20 feet or shorter. In the offseason, go full borkdrive on the wide, uncrowded beach unleashed as long as you’re within voice control of your hooman.

21 North Topsail Beach

21 North Topsail Beach

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Let’s all awoo for doggo beach access year-round! But always keep your hoomans nearby with a leash that’s less that 25 feet long. Be sure to guide your best fren to the North Topsail Beach Town Park to explore the nature trail or do some pupper watchin at the gazebo.

22 Surf City

22 Surf City

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When in Surf City, be sure to keep your hooman on a leash at all times. Need to get off leash to work off some zoomies? Head over to the Surf City Bark Park to meet new frens.

Brunswick Islands

23 Bald Head Island

23 Bald Head Island

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No cars are allowed on this island, so instead of putting your head out the window, put your snoot in the saltwater air as you explore beaches, marshes and hiking trails. Doggos must be leashed May 1 through Nov. 15, but feel free to go zoomin and bite those waves in the offseason.

24 Caswell Beach

24 Caswell Beach

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A tip, fellow doggos: If you want to run off leash here, come early. If your person keeps an eye on you, you can run leash free from dawn until 9 a.m. Otherwise, this dog-friendly beach requires leashes when you go strollin. Bonus: From Oct. 1 through April 30, unleashed doggos are also welcome on the beach from 3 p.m. until dark.

25 Holden Beach

25 Holden Beach

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During the summer months – May 20 until Sept. 10 – dogs aren’t allowed on the beach between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. On-leash walkies are allowed at all other times.

26 Oak Island

26 Oak Island

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Leashed puppers can enjoy Oak Island beaches year-round. If you come in the offseason between Oct. 16 and March 15, you can even run off leash during the day in areas with beach access signs. Much happ!

27 Ocean Isle Beach

27 Ocean Isle Beach

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Sorry, doggos. No woofers allowed on the beach strand during the summer between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. If you want to come in the early mornings or evenings – or in the offseason – just remember your leash. But never fear: You can find a dog park in nearby Shallotte.

28 Sunset Beach

28 Sunset Beach

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When you need to get your tail waggin, head to the trails of Sunset Beach Town Park. Offseason doggos can enjoy the beach (on a leash less than 10 feet long), but your paws can’t touch the sand between Memorial Day through Labor Day from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Updated August 25, 2020
About the Author
Mo, North Carolina’s dog travel agent

Mo, North Carolina’s dog travel agent

Mo is a rescue floofer from Charlotte. She loves chasin waves, hikin trails, trackin treatos and makin new frens. She’s helping match the goodest doggos with the bestest vacays.

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