From the tops of mountain ranges winding throughout the state to its expansive shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean, North Carolina is a place where visitors can experience the best of nature in one place. Look no further for a pet-friendly beach destination because North Carolina has 300+ miles of coastline that increases exponentially when counting the hundreds of barrier islands located just off the coast.
North Carolina tops more than 50-million visitors every year. It’s a haven for nature with attractions like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited in the US, and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the nation’s oldest. Also, breathtaking landmarks like the Biltmore Estate, the country’s largest private residence, and picturesque lighthouse lining the coast.
But nothing beats spending time on the beach with your dogs, and North Carolina has plenty of places where you’re never far away from a pet-friendly beach day.
And remember, whenever your dog is participating in a water activity, be sure to keep them safe with a dog life jacket or other flotation device.
Emerald Isle Beach
During the summertime, Emerald Isle becomes a tourist haven, with more than 50,000 people filling up the beachfront hotels and rentals. And this figure doesn’t even include the number of pets they’re likely bringing along with them to enjoy one of the best North Carolina dog beaches!
Emerald Isle Beach is situated on the Crystal Coast, characterized by its clear blue waters and clean shoreline extending for miles in either direction. Your dog will have ample room to stretch its four legs and feel the refreshing saltwater of the Atlantic Ocean.
Bring the entire family down to the beach, and don’t forget about your pet! Pets are welcome on the beach all year long, so choose a season outside of the peak summer travels to experience the coast when it’s less crowded. But regardless of when you visit, there’s always an atmosphere at the beach that even your pet will love.
Let your dog leave their paw prints all over the beach as they dash across the pristine sands. Then later, rinse off at the outdoor showers and go for a leisurely stroll on the Bogue Inlet Pier.
Address: 100 Bogue Inlet Dr, Emerald Isle, NC
The stunning coastline of Oak Island is lined with immaculate beaches. But if you’re planning to indulge in the natural scenery with your pet, set your GPS to Caswell Beach. This beach is away from the crowds on other beaches to allow your dog ample room to explore wherever their nose guides them.
Scents of the salty air will lead them through the golden packed golden sands until they reach the shoreline where waves wash up. You’ll be dragged along since they must remain on a leash at the beach. However, it’s always good to let them take the lead on the beach walk from time to time. If your dog is well-trained, let them enjoy daybreak in the mornings. Pets are permitted off-leash from dawn to 9 AM as the sun warms up the sands and their fur simultaneously while it rises in the sky.
Caswell Beach is open year-round for dogs and even allowed during the warm mid-days to play on the large beach. Most people tend to keep their towels and umbrellas pitched towards the backside of the beach near the bluffs, leaving lots of room to toss around your pet’s favorite toys or build sandcastles for them to pounce on.
Address: 1100 Caswell Beach Road, Caswell Beach, NC
Fort Macon State Park
Bogue Banks was a strategic location for armed forces during the Civil War and resulted in Fort Macon being built on the site. Today, the 19th-century fort and grounds are preserved as the Fort Macon State Park, the second-most visited state park with more than 1.3-million visitors every year. But instead of troops patrolling the shoreline, you’ll now find dogs and their owners enjoying leisure and water fun!
What a stark contrast to the events of the past at Fort Macon State Park! Cannon balls are replaced with tennis balls for a friendly game of fetch with your pet. Sounds of gunfire have become cheerful barks. And the constant change of flags waving over the fort has now become the wagging tails of dogs getting ready to experience the rich blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The main priority for the state park designation is being able to preserve the historic site. So, there is a rule of keeping your dogs on a leash shorter than 6-ft during your time on the beach. Although dogs aren’t allowed in the fort, the beach winding around it is free for them to roam and explore the numerous hiking trails extending from it.
Address: 2303 E Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC
Don’t worry about checking your pet into the vet when you’re ready for a holiday because Nags Head in the Outer Banks is a popular pet-friendly beach vacation destination. There are numerous pet-friendly accommodations to room with your favorite animal and store all their favorite toys to bring with you when you’re ready to check out the beach.
The best part about visiting Nags Head with your pet is that they can take advantage of all the top local attractions. Unfortunately, during the peak summer travel season lasting from May 15th to September 15th, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 9 AM and after 6 PM. However, while you wait, feel free to hike the dune trails of Jockey’s Ridge State Park or stroll past the 19th- and 20th-century homes in the Nags Head Beach Cottage Row Historic District near the waterfront.
But your pet will most look forward to spending time on the expansive Nags Head Beach. The golden sands stretch for 11-miles along the Atlantic Ocean coast. Pets must stay on their leash but have a bit of leeway since they permit them to be up to 10-ft long.
Address: E Hargrove St, Nags Head, NC
Oak Island Beach
Ranked one of the top dog beaches, Oak Island Beach is the most popular of the two beaches found on the island. The large beach has 10-miles of clean white sand and gentle waves rolling onto the sloping landscape. Pets will have a blast at Oak Island beach as they enjoy dipping in the water or sunbathing on the coast next to you with views looking out into the infinite horizon.
Although Oak Island Beach is the busier beach, the entire island doesn’t get as much traffic as other islands off the coast of North Carolina, so there’s always a place for you and your pet to squeeze in. It’s a year-round beach that even permits dogs to be off leash if you time your visit wisely.
The downtime for the beach season at Oak Island Beach is from October 15th to March 15th. Between 6 AM to 8 PM these months are the only times you can unleash your pet, both literally and figuratively! However, pets can be on the beach even during peak times without a leash from dawn to 9 AM, just before the crowds start to arrive.
Address: 209 SE 77th St, Oak Island, NC
Topsail Island Beach
You’ll hear plenty of rumors about the pirates who historically hid their ships around Topsail Island, giving it its name. However, you won’t have to hide your dog when planning a beach day at Topsail Island Beach because it’s pet friendly. Everybody will have their furry friends accompanying them on these spectacular shorelines.
Topsail Island is a sleepy island where biking and walking are the main modes of transportation to get around once you arrive. So, your dog will get plenty of exercise even before you arrive at the 26-mile coastline hugging the island. There are clearly marked areas where you can have your pets, starting from the central Surf City to the island’s southern region.
You’ll find people with their pets enjoying the beach all year long. It’s important to pick up after your pet to preserve the white sand beach’s natural condition. Other regulations apply during the peak beach season at Topsail Island Beach. Pets must stay on a leash less than 20-ft long from May 15th to September 20th. However, visiting at other times means that your pet can play in the water and run up the shoreline without a leash.
Address: 7719 8th Ave, North Topsail Beach, NC
Corolla Beach is an unusual setting for many people expecting the typical beach atmosphere. It’s a place where four-wheel drive vehicles leave their tire marks in the sand, wild Spanish Mustangs gallop along the shoreline, and more than 7,000 acres of wooded wilderness sit behind the beach’s dunes. So when it comes to seeing pet owners playing with their dogs on the beach, it’s the least odd thing you’ll encounter on this beach.
Located on the Outer Banks, Corolla Beach gives endless views of the Atlantic Ocean. Gentle waves roll in untouched from the sea as this barrier island is the first place they’ll reach. It makes the perfect environment for letting your pet enjoy nature all year round.
Keep your dog on a leash while on Corolla Beach to respect the space of other pet-owners spending time on the beach. But since there are no length requirements for your leash, they can still get a bit of run time for a game of fetch or splashing around in the waters without getting you wet.
Address: 1312 N Beach Access Rd., NC
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Noted for its natural beauty, Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the first national seashore established in the US. So, although it’s one of the best pet-friendly stretches of coastline in North Carolina, be sure to pick up after your pet to keep the beach in its pristine state.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore represents more than 70-miles of protected shoreline along the Outer Banks. It’s a place with wind-swept dunes lining the expansive beach, refreshing ocean waters to cool off your pet on hot days, and pet-friendly nature trails leading you into the region’s woodland areas.
With nearly two million visitors every year, the national seashore’s leash policy is the best way to keep the numerous dogs from disturbing the serene environment. Use a leash up to six feet long to keep pets from bothering the sea turtles lounging on the sandy shores or restrict them from chasing after deer spotted in the wooded regions.
Several beaches comprise the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Dogs are permitted on all beaches except for the designated swimming beaches (which refers to humans instead of pets).
Address: 1401 National Park Drive Manteo, NC 27954
Kitty Hawk Beach
With the vacation-goers pouring into the town of Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks, pets can also look forward to an exciting vacation at the pet-friendly beaches. There are tons of things to do in the community with your pet, from pet-friendly accommodations to the Kitty Hawk Dog Park for dogs of all sizes. So, having a beautiful, tranquil beach is the icing on the dog cake for pet owners visiting.
Kitty Hawk Beach is a go-to beach for water sports. Even if your dog avoids getting wet during bath time, they’ll surely be the first to run into the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean as soon as you arrive on the beach. Pitch your umbrella on the golden sands to give them a shaded place to take a doggy nap after enjoying the ocean or walking along the long coastline.
Pet-owners are welcome with their pets on Kitty Hawk Beach all year long, so long as they have their leash. It’s a public beach that follows the general Outer Banks rules for dogs. Dogs can only be on the beach in the peak season from May 15th to September 15th in the morning before 9 AM and after 6 PM.
Address: 3840 N Va Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, NC
With as many dogs as you’ll find on Duck Beach, it’s a place where you’ll hear more barking than quacking. Dogs have always been trusted companions in an area named for duck hunting, so its dog-friendly beach is one of the many ways that it celebrates ‘man’s best friend.’
Duck Beach is a seven-mile stretch of golden sand coastline on the Outer Banks sitting between the vibrant turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the verdant grassy fields behind it. It was ranked one of the top dog-friendly beaches in the US—a place where your pet is free to enjoy the warm coast and salty ocean waters without their leash.
Thousands of people visit Duck Beach during the peak season alone, with many dog owners. The beach has a few requirements, such as having an ID collar and documented with proper vaccinations. However, these regulations are your key to enjoying the beach year-round.
One of the best times to visit Duck Beach is in the evening. Many locals will confirm that it’s one of the best places in the Outer Banks for sunsets.
Address: Duck Town Park Boardwalk, Duck, NC 27949