Want to bring your dog on vacation? A guide to dog-friendly NC beaches

·9 min read

If you haven’t already made plans to get away to one of North Carolina’s several beaches this summer, you’ll likely be doing so soon.

And if you have a dog, you might be hoping to bring them along with you — but you should know that not all North Carolina beaches allow dogs, and some that do have regulations about when and where dogs are allowed, plus rules about leashes and more.

To help make your trip-planning easier, and to ensure your dogs are a welcome addition to your beach getaway, we’ve compiled this list of dog-friendly beaches and associated rules and regulations in North Carolina.

Ready for some fun in the sun with your furry friend? Let’s get started.

Atlantic Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed at Atlantic Beach year-round, but they must be on a leash no longer than 12 feet at all times.

Dogs are not allowed in humans-only, lifeguard-protected areas more than 20 feet from the edge of the water.

More information about dog rules and regulations in Atlantic Beach is available at atlanticbeach-nc.com.

Bald Head Island dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on the no-cars-allowed Bald Head Island year-round, but leash rules vary by time of year:

During turtle season, from May 1 through Nov. 15, dogs must be on a leash from sunset to sunrise.

At all other times of year, dogs are allowed off-leash, but they must be under direct supervision of their owner or handler at all times.

More information about dog rules on Bald Head Island is available at ncbrunswick.com/plan/pets.

Carolina Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on the beach at Carolina Beach year-round, but the hours of day dogs are allowed vary by time of year:

From April 1 through Sept. 30, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

During the rest of the year (Oct. 1 through March 31), dogs are allowed on the beach during all hours of the day.

Dogs are required to be on a leash at all times on the municipal beach strand of Carolina Beach.

Owners or handlers must have on them at all times a plastic or paper container appropriate for cleaning up and containing dog waste. Waste must be disposed of in an appropriate container.

More information about dog regulations in Carolina Beach is available at carolinabeach.org/visitors/pet-rules.

Caswell Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on Caswell Beach year-round, but specific rules and regulations vary by whether the dog is leashed and the time of year:

Dogs on leashes are allowed on the beach strand year-round, as long as they “do not pose a threat or nuisance to others.”

Dogs not leashed, but under the control and supervision of their owners, are allowed on the beach from dawn until 9 a.m. each day from mid-March to mid-October. From Oct. 15 through March 15, not-leashed dogs are allowed on the beach strand all day.

More information about dog rules at Caswell Beach is available at ncbrunswick.com/plan/pets.

Emerald Isle dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on the beach of Emerald Isle year-round, but they must be kept on a leash.

Owners of handlers must clean up and dispose of dog waste properly, away from the beach strand.

More information about dog rules and regulations in Emerald Isle is available at emeraldisle-nc.org/264/Beach-Regulations-Information.

Holden Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on Holden Beach year-round, but the hours of day they are permitted varies by time of year:

From May 20 through Sept. 10, dogs are not allowed on the beach from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

During the rest of the year, dogs are allowed on the beach at all hours.

Dogs must be leashed at all times on Holden Beach.

More information about dog rules at Holden Beach is available at ncbrunswick.com/plan/pets.

Kure Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are not allowed on the beach strand of Kure Beach from April 1 to Sept. 30 each year — meaning your pet won’t be able to join you on the beach during the peak summer months.

During the rest of the year, from Oct. 1 to March 31, dogs are allowed on the beach, but they must be on a leash no longer than 15 feet. Owners and handlers must immediately clean up dog waste and must carry appropriate containers to do so.

Note: Dogs are allowed on the beach of Fort Fisher State Recreational Area, near Kure Beach, year-round. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet and must be controlled by the owner or handler at all times. Learn more at ncparks.gov/fort-fisher-state-recreation-area/home.

More information about dog regulations in Kure Beach is available at townofkurebeach.org/dogs-beach.

Oak Island dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on the beach of Oak Island at all times, year-round, provided they are on a leash.

Dogs are allowed off their leashes on the beach seasonally, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Oct. 15 to March 15 each year.

During the time of year when leashes are required, dogs must stay on their leashes at all times in all public beach areas; they may not leave their leash to enter the water.

More information about dog regulations on Oak Island is available at oakislandnc.gov/residents-visitors/animals-pets.

Ocean Isle Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are not allowed on the beach strand of Ocean Isle Beach from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Dogs are not allowed at any time in public access or parking areas.

Dogs must be on a leash at all times when not on the premises of their owner, keeper or guardian.

There is a “pooper scooper” ordinance in effect in Ocean Isle, and owners or handlers should pick up after their dog at all times.

More information about dog rules in Ocean Isle Beach is available at oceanislebeach.com/rules-regulations.

A posted sign on the beach at Surf City, NC, on May 27, 2022, notes that pets must remain on leashes and that owners must clean up after pets.
A posted sign on the beach at Surf City, NC, on May 27, 2022, notes that pets must remain on leashes and that owners must clean up after pets.

Outer Banks dog rules & regulations

Regulations about dogs vary from beach to beach on the Outer Banks.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore — Dogs are allowed on the beach of Cape Hatteras year-round, but they must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. Pets are prohibited from any resource closures and are not allowed on designated swim beaches or in buildings. Owners should never leave their dogs unattended. Owners are responsible for cleaning up their pet’s waste. Of note: If your pet is a horse, that’s fine, too, the National Park Service says. You are allowed to ride your horse anywhere where vehicles are allowed to drive, except in campgrounds.

Corolla — Dogs are allowed on Corolla beaches year-round, but they must be on a leash. Owners or handlers must remove their pet’s waste.

Duck — Dogs are allowed on Duck beaches unleashed, but owners should keep a “watchful eye” on them at all times. Beach accesses in Duck are privately owned, the tourism authority says, and access is only allowed to residents and guests of homeowners.

Kill Devil Hills — No dogs are allowed on public beaches in Kill Devil Hills from the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year, unless they are being used to aid a person or are a service animal. At all other times, dogs are allowed on public beaches but must be on a leash and under the supervision and control of their owner or handler.

Kitty Hawk — Dogs are permitted on beaches in Kitty Hawk year-round, but leash laws vary by the time of year.

From the Friday before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet. During the rest of the year, dogs must be on a leash that is retractable to 12 feet, though they may be released from the leash “only if they will not disturb other people on the beach” and if the owner or handler stays within 30 feet of the dog at all times and carries a leash at all times.

Owners must remove all feces and carry a container or bag for the feces at all times. Dogs must also display a rabies tag at all times.

Violations of any of these rules may result in a misdemeanor and a fine of no more than $50.

Manteo — Any dog off the premises of its owner or handler must be on a leash, cord or chain no longer than 6 feet. The dog must be held by someone who is physically able to handle the animal, “unless such animal is restrained by voice control.”

Nags Head — Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round in Nags Head, but they must be on a leash no longer than 10 feet. Dogs should wear a collar or harness with a current ID tag and rabies tag. Owners must clean up their dog’s waste.

Ocracoke — Dogs are allowed on the beach in Ocracoke, but they must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, unless they are swimming in the water.

Southern Shores — Dogs are allowed on the beach in Southern Shores before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. from May 15 to Sept. 15 each year. There is a year-round leash law in Southern Shores, and dogs must be on a leash no longer than 10 feet at all times when they are off personal property. All pet waste must be collected immediately and disposed of in appropriate containers.

More information about dog rules and regulations around the Outer Banks is available at outerbanks.org/plan-your-trip/beaches/pets-on-the-beach.

Pine Knoll Shores dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on the beaches of Pine Knoll Shores year-round, but they must be on a leash no longer than 16 feet at all times.

Owners and handlers should clean up after their dogs.

More information about dog regulations in Pine Knoll Shores is available at townofpks.com/beaches.

Sunset Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on the strand of Sunset Beach during certain times and periods of the year:

Dogs are not allowed on the beach between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. During this period of the year, dogs are allowed on the beach from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m., but they must be on a leash.

Outside of the Memorial Day to Labor Day period, dogs are allowed on Sunset Beach at any time of day, but must always be leashed.

Owners and handlers must clean up after their dogs at all times.

More information about dog rules in Sunset Beach is available at oceanislebeach.com/rules-regulations.

Surf City dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed on the beach in Surf City year-round, but must be on a leash at all times.

Owners and handlers should clean up after their dogs.

More information about dog regulations in Surf City is available at surfcitync.gov/2397/Regulations-Information.

Topsail Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are allowed year-round on Topsail Beach, but leash rules vary by time of year:

Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 20 feet from May 15 through Sept. 30 each year.

If in an area designated as “Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) Unit L07 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service,” dogs must be on a leash from April 1 throuh Sept. 30 each year.

At other times, dogs may be off-leash.

Owners should clean up and dispose of dog waste properly year-round.

More information about dog regulations in Topsail Beach is available at topsailbeachnc.gov/About-Topsail-Beach/FAQS.

Wrightsville Beach dog rules & regulations

Dogs are not allowed on Wrightsville Beach from April 1 through Sept. 30 of each year.

Dogs are allowed during the rest of the year, from Oct. 1 to March 31, but they must be on a leash. Owners and handlers are required to clean up and properly dispose of their pet’s waste.

Wrightsville Beach also offers dog-friendly water fountains around town, as well as several stations with complimentary dog waste bags, in case you forget yours.

More information about dog regulations in Wrightsville Beach is available at wrightsville-beach.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/about/island-info/faq.