Get Back to Nature with Eco-Adventure and Parks

Beyond the classic beach fun offered at Carolina Beach, several parks also give visitors the chance to have one-of-a-kind coastal experiences year-round you can’t find anywhere else. From a state park and a skate park to a dog park, a lake park and an oceanfront park, there are lots of ways and places to connect with nature and explore at Carolina Beach.

Explore our natural surroundings below, or view the full list of lakes, parks and recreation areas.

State Park and Off-road Adventures

Most people come to Carolina Beach to enjoy our waves, sand and saltwater shoreline. For a different experience without leaving the island, visit Carolina Beach State Park for 761 acres of natural beauty including hiking trails, a marina, secluded camping areas and views of the Cape Fear River. The park is home to carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap, which can be found growing natively only within a 60-mile radius of Carolina Beach. Thousands of colorful, unique birds migrate through the area each year, including ducks, geese, Blue Herons and White Ibises. Other animals that can be found at the park include sand crabs, foxes, deer, rabbits, tree frogs and many other species. Another unique feature of the park is Sugarloaf Dune, a 50-foot sand dune offering scenic views and located near the bank of the Cape Fear River, where over 5,000 troops camped during the Civil War. Because the terrain in the area is relatively flat, people of all athletic abilities and children love our maritime trails. So, load up your backpack, rent a kayak from Kayak Carolina, grab the family and friends and hit the happy trails. And don’t forget to stop by the Visitor’s Center to grab a map of the park’s hiking trails and a plant and animal checklist.

Located at the north end of Carolina Beach, Freeman Park is the perfect spot to go fishing, crabbing, swimming or boating. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are also permitted in the park with the purchase of a pass. If you don't have your own four-wheel-drive vehicle, rent a Jeep from SunFun Rentals. Each Jeep comes with complimentary passes to Freeman Park and the South End of Fort Fisher State Recreation Area in nearby Kure Beach. Free ice, coolers and chairs are also available upon request, making it easy to get out on the sand. Visit the Freeman Park website for information on rules and regulations.


The centerpiece of Carolina Beach Lake Park is a lake that was once noted in The Guinness Book of World Records as being the freshwater lake closest to saltwater. The 11-acre lake and park – located just two blocks from the ocean – feature a playground, picnic shelter, gazebo and public restrooms. The path around the lake is perfect for going for a jog, strolling with your dog or taking a leisurely bike ride. Seasonal paddleboat rentals are available that allow you to take in views of the park from the water. Signature Carolina Beach events are held here throughout the year including the Carolina Beach Farmers' Market; Island of Lights: Lighting at the Lake and Free Movies at the Lake during summer. 

Dog-Friendly Trails, Parks and Beaches

Bring your four-legged furry friends with you to the beach or on a hike. Treat your pet to an off-leash visit to the dog park at Mike Chappell Park. Carolina Beach State Park is dog-friendly year-round, thanks to its miles of hiking trails perfect for off-road adventures with your pooch. At Freeman Park, dogs are required to be on a leash from April 1 to Sept. 30 but allowed off-leash from Oct. 1 to March 31 as long as they remain under voice command and the owner is within a reasonable distance. The Municipal Beach Strand is dog-friendly from Oct. 1 to March 31. Thanks to numerous pet-friendly condos, cottages and motels, it’s easy to bring your pet along for your Carolina Beach vacation. Familiarize yourself with all of the pets and pooches rules before your next visit to make sure you and man’s best friend have a vacation to remember.

Drop-in at the Skate Park

Boarders can catch some air at Mike Chappell Skateboard Park, an 8,000-square-foot skate park that includes both big and small ramps, rails and bowls for skateboarders of any skill level. The skate park is within the 10-acre Mike Chappell Park that is also equipped with two tennis courts, two sand volleyball courts, a basketball court, a youth basketball area, playground equipment, a dog park, baseball and softball fields, and a soccer field. 

Biking and Birding

See the sites along the 1.2-mile Island Greenway – a paved path that takes pedestrians and bikers safely through town – on two wheels. Head to the Fitness Trail at Carolina Beach State Park. This one-mile round-trip loop is a multi-use trail for both bicycle and foot traffic. There are several exercise and activity stations along the trail as well. The path around Carolina Beach Lake Park is also a scenic route for cyclists. Or, enjoy a self-guided history bicycle tour of the island. Easily navigate Carolina Beach and nearby Kure Beach and Fort Fisher at a slower pace along easygoing roadways and paths. Learn about the history of the island and see points of interest along your tour. Download or print a tour map here.

The area surrounding Carolina Beach is rich with bird activity, with nine sites included on the North Carolina Birding Trail, including one in Carolina Beach State Park. Bring your binoculars to help spy redheaded woodpeckers, brown-headed nuthatches or raptors. Mahanaim Adventures offers guided birding adventures to Carolina Beach State Park focused on navigating you to birding hotspots only accessible by kayak, while Cape Fear Audubon Society offers guided field trips throughout the year.

Protected Sea Turtles

Loggerhead sea turtles nest on Carolina Beach during the summer and visitors flock to the area in the fall as the turtle nests scattered along the shoreline begin to hatch. Volunteers with the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project work to protect this threatened species during the nesting season by patrolling Carolina Beach and nearby Kure Beach. The organization also strives to educate the public by hosting weekly Turtle Talks every Wednesday night during the summer at Carolina Beach State Park.