As summer rapidly approaches, North Carolina beaches are drawing visitors in droves. Some folks love the water, some love the sand and sun, and some simply want to laze on the porch and listen to the breakers.
Our dogs love the beach as much as we do – and they’re a lot like us: some love action and adventure, and some want to nap in the sun.
And for many people, a day – or week – at the beach just isn’t the same without their canine family member.
It’s wise to check ahead, however, and make sure dogs are allowed on your beach of choice and, if so, what specific laws apply.
Never miss a local story.
Many beaches have strict leash laws (like those common inland) and require you to clean up after your pet (again, the same as inland), so don’t be inconsiderate: pack a leash and some bags. Some places allow dogs off-leash, while others require leashed year-round or prohibit pets during the summer.
We’ve collected the dog-specific regulations on popular North Carolina beaches. If you don’t see your beach of choice on our list, find its official website.
Outer Banks: Regulations up and down the Outer Banks vary. At Corolla and Nags Head, dogs are allowed on the beach leashed, while Duck permits them unleashed. Kitty Hawk requires a leash between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, but not the rest of the year. Dogs are prohibited on the beach at Kill Devil Hills during daytime hours between May 1 and Sept. 30 and must be leashed otherwise. And at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and on Ocracoke Island, dogs are prohibited at designated swimming beaches and must be on a 6-foot leash on all other beaches. Consult the FAQ section at outerbankschamber.com.
Emerald Isle: Dogs must be leashed, even in the water and surf zone. Further down the same island, Pine Knoll Shores requires dogs be leashed as well. Visit emeraldisle-nc.org/faq and townofpks.com/faq.
Topsail Beach: Dogs must be leashed between May 15 and Sept. 30. The rest of the year, however, they may be off-leash so long as they’re under voice command of a responsible person. The full FAQ is at topsailbeach.org.
Wrightsville Beach: No dogs are allowed on Wrightsville Beach between April 1 and Sept. 30. It’s all spelled out at townofwrightsvillebeach.com.
Carolina Beach: Freeman Park at the northern tip of Carolina Beach is a dog-friendly beach, with dogs allowed off-leash during the off-season (October through March) and requiring a leash during the busy months (April through September). However, Freeman Park is a four-wheel-drive beach, and daily access permits are $30. Visit carolinabeach.org/visitors/freeman_park.
Kure Beach: Kure Beach allows leashed dogs October through March. It’s illegal to take your dog to the beach strand from April through September, though. They’ve obviously gotten this question a lot: townofkurebeach.org/faqs.aspx.
Caswell Beach: At Caswell Beach, dogs must be leashed on the beach except for a summer exception allowing them off-leash between dawn and 9 a.m. See Vacation Information at caswellbeach.org. Where signage allows, dogs in Oak Island are allowed off-leash between Oct. 15 and March 15 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Its animal control ordinances are listed at oakislandnc.com.
Holden, Ocean Isle and Sunset Beach: Brunswick beach rules vary, but you can definitely find a fit for you and your dog. Get the details at ncbrunswick.com.
Safety tips for your dog at the beach
You can have an incredible day with your canine companion as long as you do a little extra planning.
▪ Bring plenty of water. Be sure your dog has fresh water to keep him from drinking the ocean water. The high sodium content in the water along with other contaminants can be harmful to your dog’s health. Having fresh water on hand will keep him hydrated and decrease his chance of getting sick.
▪ Provide shade: If you plan to be at the beach for an extended time, be sure to have an umbrella with you. This will ensure your dog has a place to get out of the sun and rest.
▪ Use sunscreen: Dogs that are hairless or have a short or light-colored coat are especially vulnerable to the sun. It is always wise to apply a dog-friendly sunblock to make sure your four-legged friend is protected from the harmful rays of the sun.
▪ Rinse off: Rinse your dog off as soon as he is done playing. Your dog may love to roll around in the sand at the beach, but the sand and saltwater can irritate him. Rinsing him off sooner rather than later can help avoid rashes.
For more tips on dog ownership, visit the AKC at akc.org.
American Kennel Club