Pets allowed
Allowed
Guided tours
No
Backcountry camping
No
Lodging
No
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Carolina Beach State Park is a nice place to slow down in the crowded Cape Fear area. Instead of a beach on the ocean, the state park's beach is on the quieter side of the peninsula on the Cape Fear River. This is perfect for fishing, boating, hiking, or watching a sunset. The state park preserves many acres of maritime forest, a stretch of sandy beach, and provides good access with trails, picnic areas, a marina, and a campground. Note that swimming is not allowed because of potentially strong currents, but you can explore the water by boat. Bicycles are a great way to get around the park on roads and for riding into town, but trails are for hiking only.

Hiking

Several Trails crisscross throughout the park and tour different coastal environments. You will see salt marsh, pine forests, live oak scrub forest, and sand dunes. Keep an eye out for venus flytraps, the small carnivorous flower that can be found growing here. There are multiple trailheads, including at the campground and the marina, and all trails interconnect. Described below are just a few notable ones, but there is more to explore.

  • TRACK and Snow's Cut Trail: The kid's TRACK and Snow's Cut are short, flat nature trails that depart fromt the campground and travel alongside the Intracoastal Waterway in tall, shady forest.
  • Flytrap Trail: A short, ADA-accessible nature loop where you may see venus flytraps and many wildflowers if you look carefully in the understory.
  • Sugarloaf Trail: The park's longest trail, Sugarloaf makes a wide loop to connect samples of different ecosystems including pine savannah, cypress swamp, oak forest, freshwater ponds, and sand dunes. This presents many birdwatching and wildlife spotting opportunities. Connect with the spur Oak Toe trail for a boardwalk overlook of the marsh.

Boating and Fishing

Boating and fishing are allowed anywhere on the water. Fishing requires a valid North Carolina license. You can launch from the marina's public boat ramp or canoe dock with your own boat or a rental kayak. There is also an ADA-accessible fishing dock here. The beach near the marina is also open to fishing, paddling, and hiking. Follow the Sugarloaf Trail a short distance to the beach.

Camping

Carolina Beach State Park Campround is shady, spacious, and pleasant with a variety of amenities. Most sites are for tents/trailers and have no hookups, but some full-hookup RV sites are available. There are water spigots, bathhouses, showers, coin-op laundry, and a dump station. It is easy walking or biking distance to the marina or to the visitor center. With a short drive or bike ride you can get into the town of Carolina Beach as well, making this a great base camp for the rest of Cape Fear.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Nice campground. Various trails.

Cons

No ocean beach. No swimming.

Features

ADA accessible
Family friendly
Flushing toilets
Picnic tables
Dump stations
Potable water
Near lake or river
Marina
Boat ramp(s)
Wildflowers
Bird watching
Wildlife
Crabbing
Fishing
Bicycling
General store

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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