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Golden Retriever on Bald Head Island, a dog friendly beach in North Carolina
Golden Retriever on Bald Head Island, a dog friendly beach in North Carolina - photo courtesy of Elisa Kennemer on Unsplash
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In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the best dog friendly beaches in North Carolina.

Located in the southeastern part of the United States, North Carolina is the 9th most populated state in the country. It has a population of around 10.5 million inhabitants.

North Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies and in 1789, it became the 12th state.

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It has a very well-educated population, currently ranking 7th in the country.

Most of the state of North Carolina has a humid, subtropical climate, with relatively short, mild winters and warm, sultry summers.

The state boasts around 320 miles of ocean coastline.

With so much beautiful coastline to explore, you and your canine companion are bound to have tons of fun at some of the many dog friendly beaches in North Carolina. Come on, let’s go and explore!

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA
Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA – Photo by Jason Pischke on Unsplash

#1 Duck Beach

Town of Duck, also known as Duck Town, is located on the barrier island of Outer Banks, at the easternmost reaches of the state of North Carolina.

It’s just 15 minutes north of Kitty Hawk, the spot where the famous Wright brothers made aviation history in 1903.

At Duck Beach, your pup is allowed to play off-leash all year round, with no restrictions. The only conditions are that you must keep a close eye on your furball, make sure that they are being well-behaved and that you must clean up after them.

So basically, just be a good, sensible dog parent!

The Town of Duck itself doesn’t own or maintain any beach access locations that are open to the public. Only residents and people that are renting holiday properties in the area can gain access to the beach.

Website: Duck Beach, Town of Duck, Outer Banks, North Carolina

A man and woman sitting on a bench overlooking the beautiful Emerald Isle beach, North Carolina, USA - Photo by James Hose Jr on Unsplash
A man and woman sitting on a bench overlooking the beautiful Emerald Isle beach, North Carolina, USA – Photo by James Hose Jr on Unsplash

#2 Emerald Isle Beach

Located just across the water from the Croatan National Forest, in the southeastern corner of North Carolina, Emerald Isle Beach is a true gem!

With a permanent population of only around 3,700, the small town of Emerald Isle lies at the western end of the barrier island of Bogue Banks.

Emerald Isle Beach and the whole of Bogue Banks are part of the Crystal Coast, a stunning stretch of North Carolina coastline that extends for 85 miles.

And just in case you’re wondering, the Emerald Isle gets its name from the beautiful gem-colored ocean waters that lap its coastline. They really are something to behold!

Emerald Isle Beach is an on-leash beach, where your furry friend is welcome all year round.

This is a truly fabulous dog friendly beach in North Carolina!

Website: Emerald Isle Beach, Bogue Banks, Crystal Coast, North Carolina

#3 Oak Island Beach

Situated on the south coast of North Carolina, Oak Island Beach is just a 40-minute drive from downtown Wilmington, NC.

Visitors to Oak Island are greeted with almost 10 miles of beautiful beachfront.

The Oak Island beaches all face south, meaning that beach visitors are able to experience both sublime sunrises and stunning sunsets – all from the exact same location!

Oak Island boasts over 100 locations with free public access to the beaches and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to the north. This wonderful freedom of access is greater than in any other coastal town in North Carolina – something the locals are very proud of.

In the spring and summer season, from March 16th through October 15th, all dogs on the beach must be kept on a leash at all times.

In the autumn and winter months, from October 16th through March 15th, your pup is free to roam the beach completely off-leash, so long as it behaves itself!

You must be a responsible dog parent and clean up after your pooch. Other than that, you’re good to go!

Website: Oak Island Beach, Oak Island, North Carolina

Boat pulls into one of the waterways at Crystal Coast's Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, USA - Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash
Boat pulls into one of the waterways at Crystal Coast’s Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, USA – Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

#4 Nags Head Beach

Just a few miles south of the town of Kill Devil Hills and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Nags Head Beach is a fantastic dog friendly beach in North Carolina.

With plentiful parking and tons of public beach access, the Nags Head beaches are very popular with families on vacation.

The beaches here are pristine, with gently rolling dunes – and there’s plenty of space for everyone!

You’ll also find a wealth of amenities at Nags Head, including plenty of restaurants and cafes.

All the Nags Head beaches are dog-friendly and leashed dogs are allowed on the beach all year round. Note that your pooch must be on a leash that is no longer than 10 feet in length.

Website: Nags Head Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Golden Retriever at the beach, Bald Head lsland, North Carolina, USA - One of the dog friendly beaches in North Carolina - Photo by Elisa Kennemer on Unsplash
Golden Retriever at the beach, Bald Head lsland – home to some of the best dog friendly beaches in North Carolina, USA – Photo by Elisa Kennemer on Unsplash

#5 Bald Head Island

You’ll find Bald Head Island on the south coast of North Carolina, less than 40 miles from Wilmington, NC.

In fact, to be precise, you’ll find it just OFF the south coast of the state.

Bald Head Island is the southernmost of North Carolina’s cape islands. It’s located at the spot where the Cape Fear River spills out into the Atlantic Ocean.

To get to the island, it’s a short and very pleasant 20-minute ferry ride. And that’s a passenger ferry.

Yes, there are no cars allowed on Bald Head Island – it can be accessed only by the passenger ferry or by private boat.

And believe us – it’s worth it!

As the official website states, when you board the island ferry, “you leave your car behind, along with the stress of the mainland world”.

There’s a tram service on the island, which takes visitors to their accommodations. However, if you’re visiting Bald Head Island just for the day and don’t need the tram service, then you can rent a golf cart from Cary Cart Company’s cart hut.

The cart hut is located close to the ferry landing across from Delphina Cantina. The golf carts can be rented by the hour or by the day.

There are plenty of things to see and do on the island, which definitely merits more than a day visit, if you have the time.

For example, you could visit Bald Head Lighthouse, more commonly known as Old Baldy Lighthouse. This wonderful building, first commissioned by Thomas Jefferson, is the oldest lighthouse still standing in North Carolina.

During turtle nesting season, from May 1st through November 15th, all dogs must be on a leash from sunset to sunrise.

However, outside of those times, your canine companion is free to run around, chase seagulls, play in the sand and frolic in the water – and all without a leash!

This fact alone means that Bald Head Island has some of the best dog friendly beaches in North Carolina. You and your pup are sure to have an awesome time there!

Website: Bald Head Island, near Wilmington, North Carolina

So what do YOU think? Which is YOUR favorite dog beach in North Carolina? Let us know by leaving a comment – we’d love to hear from you.

Things change all the time, so if any of the information in this article is incorrect or out-of-date, please let us know – just leave us a comment below. Many thanks!

Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Friendly Beaches in North Carolina

Are Dogs Allowed On Duck Beach, NC?

At Duck Beach in North Carolina, your pup is allowed to play off-leash all year round, with no restrictions.
However, note that The Town of Duck itself doesn’t own or maintain any beach access locations that are open to the public. Only residents and people that are renting holiday properties in the area can gain access to the beach.

Are Dogs Allowed On Emerald Isle Beach, NC?

Emerald Isle Beach is an on-leash beach, where your furry friend is welcome all year round.
This is a truly fabulous dog friendly beach in North Carolina!

Are Dogs Allowed On Oak Island Beach, NC?

In the autumn and winter months, from October 16th through March 15th, your pup is free to roam the beach completely off-leash, so long as it behaves itself!
In the spring and summer season, from March 16th through October 15th, all dogs on the beach must be kept on a leash at all times.

Are Dogs Allowed On Nags Head Beach, NC?

All the Nags Head beaches are dog-friendly and leashed dogs are allowed on the beach all year round. Note that your pooch must be on a leash that is no longer than 10 feet in length.
The beaches here are pristine, with gently rolling dunes – and there’s plenty of space for everyone!

Are Dogs Allowed On Bald Head Island, NC?

During turtle nesting season, from May 1st through November 15th, all dogs must be on a leash from sunset to sunrise.
However, outside of those times, your canine companion is free to run around, chase seagulls, play in the sand and frolic in the water – and all without a leash!
This fact alone means that Bald Head Island has some of the best dog friendly beaches in North Carolina. You and your pup are sure to have an awesome time there!

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