Top 5 Dog-Friendly Beaches in North Carolina

Dog-Friendly Beaches in North Carolina

The beautiful North Carolina coastline is a hot pick for vacations, and not just for local families but for those nationwide! From the diverse beaches, unique lighthouses and history of the northern Outer Banks, all the way down south to the quaint and charming Oak Island beach areas, it’s easy to find a great coastal spot that’s right for you. And, of course bringing the furkids along for all the fun would make the trip complete! We recently dove into which of the North Carolina beaches are truly the most pooch friendly, so the entire family can join in on the adventure on your next beach trip.

Discover the NC beaches that stand out from the rest when it comes to your pup being able to join you in the surf and sand.  In addition to the great pet policies for each selected beach, pet friendly lodging options and nearby things to do make the North Carolina coast the best of the best.

1.  Caswell Beach

At the southernmost tip of North Carolina is the gorgeous town of Caswell Beach in Oak Island, NC, where well-behaved and leashed dogs are permitted year-round! Throughout the year, unleashed dogs under voice control may visit from dawn until 9:00 a.m., and from October 1 through April 30, unleashed but controlled dogs are welcome on the beach from 3:00 p.m. until dark. No matter what time of year it is, Caswell Beach allows your pup to have freedom on the beach, so he can enjoy the sun, sand and waves right beside you.

Caswell Beach is located on the eastern side of Oak Island and is the least populated Oak Island beach. A quiet, peaceful and relaxing atmosphere is nearly guaranteed. Smaller crowds for you means a calmer vacation for your dog as well; you won’t need to worry about overwhelming your furry sidekick. On the flipside, for those pups who are very outgoing and don’t shy away from new adventures, nearby Southport offers dog friendly ferry rides to Bald Head Island.

Various areas around Caswell Beach have comfortable pet-friendly accommodations, such as hotels and furnished vacation rentals. You’ll have no trouble finding lodging options where your whole family can feel right at home on your vacation.

Find pet-friendly places to stay in Oak Island, NC.

2.  Oak Island Beach

Also on the southern tip of North Carolina rests the famously pet friendly 12-mile-long Oak Island Beach. Leashed pups are allowed year-round on Oak Island beaches and, if you want to have some leash-free time, unleashed doggies are allowed October 16 through March 15 from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m in certain designated areas marked by signs. Oak Island is considered a classic family vacation spot in North Carolina, so not only will your pup be happy, but theh rest of the family will be too.

With so many miles of beach, you can imagine that there are also many great places (with great views) where you can stay. A great option is to choose a vacation rental from Oak Island Accommodations. They even include the pet perk of a doggie welcome bag upon arrival! In addition to home rentals, there are pet-friendly hotels and motels near the water that will ensure both you and your furkid are well cared for during your trip. If you want a break from the beach itself, there are multiple marinas, shops, and restaurants to explore.

Find pet-friendly places to stay in Oak Island, NC.

3.  Corolla Beach

The northeast coast of North Carolina features Corolla Beach, where pets are allowed year-round as long as they are leashed at all times. It is a perfect place to bring your pet any time of year, since you won’t have to worry about the rules changing with the seasons.

There are pet-friendly vacation rentals, hotels, and inns from the north to south strip of the beach, so you can stay in any area. In addition to the pet-friendly places to stay, there are also great places to hang out besides the beach! You can visit Corolla Outback Adventures, where you can take a horse tour around the historic sites of Corolla,NC and the local sanctuaries, all with your pup by your side. Local restaurants, such as Steamers Shellfish, offer outdoor seating so your fur babies can join you for a great meal.

Find pet-friendly places to stay in Corolla Beach.

4.  Emerald Isle Beach

On the eastern coast of North Carolina, located on an island just south of the Croatan National Forest, is the gorgeous Emerald Isle Beach. The perfect part? Leashed pups can play on this beach any time of year!  Any time of year is a great opportunity to rest and relax with your dog in the heart of the NC coast.

If you need a break from the sand, check out Emerald Isle Woods Park Trail.  This 41-acre park includes walking and hiking trails, a floating dock and a pier on-site and ready for you and your dog to explore and enjoy. You can also take a stroll down the city streets and peruse the local shopping areas.

You can find a number of great pet-friendly accommodations in Emerald Isle, as well as nearby Atlantic Beach. It will be easy for the entire family, even the furry members, to feel right at home. Whether you are on the outskirts or in the center of town, the island is small enough to have ocean views wherever you stay. It is a beautiful and calming place to spend your vacation, along with many beach and pet-friendly activities to keep you busy if you choose.

Find pet-friendly places to stay in Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach.

5.  Topsail Island Beach

Another island on the eastern seaboard of North Carolina is Topsail Beach. At this coastal hotspot, dogs must be on their leash from May 15 through September 30. A great pet perk is that at all other times of the year, unleashed dogs are welcome as long as they are under voice command! You might want to keep that leash handy, though, as the area is known for its sea turtles and hatching sites. You and your dog just might see a few baby turtles scooting along the sand down to the surf!

Topsail Island Beach is a quaint little town with a matching atmosphere full of unique shops and restaurants to suit anyone's style and taste. The area has plenty of lodging options that allow pets in and around Topsail Island Beach. Check out accommodations in Topsail,  as well as nearby Wilmington, and Sneeds Ferry.  Choose from ocean views, oceanfront pools and hot tubs, outside showers, and patios. Not only will your doggy best friend be content in this beachy home away from home, but the whole family will be, too.

Honorable Mention!  Kitty Hawk Beach

​On the long stretch of island at the northern tip of North Carolina, directly off route 158, is Kitty Hawk Beach. From the Friday before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day, dogs must be on a 6-foot leash on the beaches between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Every other time of year, the leash can be up to 12 feet. Either way, your leashed pup can frolic on the beach year-round! It is a great place to ensure your pup can join in on your family funtime on the beach anytime.

Beyond this historic beach, where the Wright Brothers made the nation's first airplane flight, are plenty of other outdoor activities to experience. There’s the expansive Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve and Sandy Run Park, where you and your dog can stroll through maritime forests and get back to nature. Outdoor seating at many local restaurants, such as the iconic John’s Drive-In, welcome your furry family member to join you while you enjoy your meal! Once your day is finished, relax at one of the many pet-friendly accommodations in town where you can enjoy welcome packages, various size rooms to perfectly fit your entire family, and even fresh linens daily. Kitty Hawk is a historic beach that is more than ready to take on your modern-day family trip!

Find pet-friendly places to stay in KItty Hawk.

The Takeaway

With so much freedom for your dog, it’s no wonder these North Carolina beaches are highly rated for animal lovers and fellow pet parents. Whichever coastal area you decide to visit, there is no doubt that you and your furry best friend will be well taken care of and have the beach trip of a lifetime. Best of all, in addition to these great selections, there are many more pet-friendly beaches in North Carolina to visit and explore. Areas such as Kill Devil Hills, Ocracoke Island, and Sunset Beach, just to name a few.


Author:  Theodora Raymond
Theodora Raymond is a Marketing Intern for She is a rising junior at LIM College in Manhattan, commuting from her home in New Jersey where she has two adorable cats, Hera and Titan,  and an amazingly handsome dog, Zeus. Theodora has had pets all her life and they all have brought great joy to both her and her family.

Photo credit: istock/firn