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Top 7 Great Dog-Friendly Beaches Near Wilmington, NC: 2023 Update

Lindsey Lawson

By Lindsey Lawson

Dog windy beach

Exploring the coastline of North Carolina should be on everyone’s to-do list. Of the most notable stops along these stunning shores is the city of Wilmington. This is a city steeped in history and full of charm and Southern hospitality. From its delicious local seafood to the breathtaking beaches, Wilmington has plenty to offer.

There’s no better way to enjoy a beach day in the Wilmington area than accompanied by your beloved pup. Beachgoers are not strangers to the specific guidelines about pets on certain beaches. So, whether you’re a North Carolina resident or you are just stopping in to visit and admire this beautiful area, we’ve included a list of 7 amazing dog-friendly beaches in and around the Wilmington, NC area.

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Top 7 Dog-Friendly Beaches Near Wilmington, NC

1. Freeman Park (Carolina, Beach NC)

🗺️ Address: 📍 1800 Canal Dr, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
🕐 Open Times: Open 24 hours
💲 Cost: Access passes are required year-round for entrance to the park using a 4×4 vehicle
🐕 Off-Leash: Yes, from October 1st – March 31st
  • One of the only beaches in North Carolina that you can drive your 4X4 vehicle on.
  • About a 25 minute drive from Wilmington and two miles up the road from the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
  • A great place for camping, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, and enjoying the local wildlife.
  • You need to have your dog leashed from April 1st to September 30th.
  • Make sure to carry a minimum of two plastic bags or appropriate containers to clean up any messes!

2. Carolina Beach State Park

🗺️ Address: 📍 1010 State Park Rd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
🕐 Open Times: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm (January, December)

7:00 am -7:00 pm (February, November)

7:00 am-9:00 pm (March, April, October)

7:00 am – 10:00 pm (May-September)

💲 Cost: Free
🐕 Off-Leash: No
  • A great place to camp (some pet-friendly sites available) about 12 miles south of Wilmington
  • Home to beautiful and scenic hiking and bike trails
  • Camper cabins, tent sites, RV, and camper sites are available with showers, a dump station, and access to firewood.
  • Enjoy use of the boat ramp, boat slips, marina, and visitor center and a chance to rent kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and bikes.
  • Dog leashes must be no longer than 6 feet in length
  • Buildings, bathhouses, and swimming areas in the park are off-limit to pets
  • Waste can be disposed of in pet waste bins or garbage bins, so make sure you pick up after your dog!

3. Carolina Beach

🗺️ Address: 📍 Carolina Beach Ave S, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
🕐 Open Times: Sunrise to Sunset from May to October
💲 Cost: Free
🐕 Off-Leash: No
  • Enjoy shopping, restaurants, and the many activities that Carolina Beach has to offer, only 12 miles from the heart of Wilmington.
  • Dogs are allowed on the beach before 9:00 am and after 5:00 pm from April 1st – September 30
  • From October 1st – March 31st dogs are allowed on the beach during all hours.
  • No dogs are allowed on the boardwalk or in the boardwalk business district from April 1st – September 30th.
  • Don’t forget to pack clean-up supplies so you can clean up after your pooch.

4. Fort Fisher State Park

🗺️ Address: 📍 1000 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach, NC 28449
🕐 Open Times: Open 24 hours
💲 Cost: Free
🐕 Off-Leash: No
  • Enjoy 6 miles of protected shoreline that is dog-friendly year-round, only a 25 to 30-minute drive from Wilmington.
  • Shaded picnic areas with grills, foot rinses, and changing areas are available.
  • Free access (and parking) to pedestrians for beach access and trails.
  • Four-wheel-drive vehicles are allowed seasonally with the required permits.
  • Don’t forget to bring your leash and clean up any messes your dog leaves behind.

5. Kure Beach

🗺️ Address: 📍 601 Fort Fisher Blvd S, Kure Beach, NC, US, 28449
🕐 Open Times: Open 24 hours
💲 Cost: Free
🐕 Off-Leash: No
  • Located just 18 miles from Wilmington.
  • Small beach town full of family-friendly attractions and activities.
  • Leashed dogs are permitted on the Kure Beach strand from October 1st to March 31st.
  • Dog leashes must be no longer than 15 feet.
  • Don’t forget your clean-up duties on Kure Beach, and there’s no littering allowed.
  • No dogs are allowed from April 1st to September 30th.

6. Wrightsville Beach


🗺️ Address: 📍 S Lumina Ave & Causeway Dr, Wrightsville Beach, NC, US, 28480
🕐 Open Times: Open 24 hours
💲 Cost: Free
🐕 Off-Leash: No
  • Right outside Wilmington, NC
  • Pets are permitted on the beach strand from October 1st through March 31st and leashes are always required.
  • No pets are allowed on the beach from April 1st through September 30
  • Pet waste disposal bags must be on-hand at all times and clean-up is required.
  • Violation of any pet regulations may result in a $250 fine.
  • Parking rates are $5.00 per hour or $25 per day and are enforced from March 1st through October 31st.

7. Topsail Beach

🗺️ Address: 📍 424 N Anderson Blvd, Topsail Beach, NC 28445
🕐 Open Times: Open 24 hours
💲 Cost: Free
🐕 Off-Leash: Yes, from October 1st – May 14th
  • A quaint little town full of shops and restaurants located 40 miles from Wilmington
  • Topsail Beach is a very dog-friendly beach year-round
  • Off-leash is permitted from October 1st to May 14th but dogs must be leashed from May 15th through September 30th.
  • Dogs off-leash during the off-season must be under voice command
  • You are required to pick up any waste your dog leaves behind.

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Final Thoughts

There are quite a few dog-friendly beaches up and down the North Carolina coast. As for the Wilmington area, the closest beaches do have some stricter rules when it comes to pets, but there are plenty of dog-friendly areas for both on-leash and off-leash action all within 40 miles of the city. Don’t forget to brush up on the rules for each beach before you visit and make sure you pack all your beach necessities, including those poop bags!

Featured Image Credit: Pexels

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