North Carolina beaches are within a few hours’ driving distance of Raleigh and all points east. A day at the beach for swimming, collecting shells, walking, jogging or strolling hand-in-hand provides hours of relaxation and enjoyment. For both overnight visitors to the area as well as those not wanting to take advantage of hotel accommodations in the Crystal Coast region, knowing where to find public beach access can greatly improve the trip for everyone.
Knowing just where private property ends and public areas begin can confuse even seasoned beach-goers. Parking, too, can prove difficult, especially in the busy season.
Public Beach Access – Bogue Banks Towns Seek to Meet the Needs of Tourists
Beach towns usually seek to provide ways to make beach access more convenient for tourists and residents. They know that guests require easy access, bathroom and shower areas, places to picnic, parking and handicap amenities.
Towns along Bogue Banks lie tucked between Bogue Sound on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. These towns include Atlantic Beach, Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores and Emerald Isle. Visitors seeking public beach access should watch carefully for signs that mark such access. They have blue lettering and a sea gull flying in an orange circle.
Public Beach Access in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina
Automobile traffic into Atlantic Beach arrives via the Atlantic Beach Bridge from Morehead City over Bogue Sound. At the intersection of Atlantic Beach Causeway and N.C. 58, The Circle lies at the end of the bridge. Traffic signs direct vehicles to go right on West Drive. A half-block down this street is the West Atlantic Boulevard Regional Access to the beach. Amenities include bathrooms, drinking fountains, a bathhouse with outdoor showers, bike racks, a fish-cleaning area and a covered gazebo for protection from the sun.
A wooden ramp is available for handicapped visitors.
Cars can access the beach just off the Circle at the south end of Raleigh Avenue. The beach is closed to vehicles from Good Friday until Labor Day.
Public Beach Access at Fort Macon State Park
One of the gems of the Atlantic Beach area lies within Fort Macon State Park. With two public access beach areas – one at the west end and the large Fort Macon access. These beaches are handicap accessible and have a large bathhouse, outdoor showers, a seasonal refreshment stand, picnic shelters with outdoor grills and plenty of paved parking.
Public Beach Access at Pine Knoll Shores
This largely residential area has a large public access point at Mile Marker 6 at Memorial Park. It provides 40 parking spaces, an overlook deck and picnic table. Another access point is beside the Iron Steamer at Mile Marker 7 that has restroom and parking space for 60 cars. A smaller parking area, with beach access, lies underneath the water tower just past Mile Marker 9.
Salter Path Public Beach Access
Carteret County provides and maintains the Salter Path Regional Public Beach Access at Mile Marker 10 off Salter Path Road. This 22-acre park has paved parking for 75 cars and a boardwalk over the dunes to the Atlantic Ocean. It also has a picnic area, bathrooms and outdoor showers and is handicapped-accessible.
Indian Beach Public Beach Access
With 20 parking spaces, Trinity Center lies just beneath the water tower at Mile Marker 9.5. Ocean Club parking has 10 parking spaces and is located at the border of the Salter Path Campground and the Ocean Club townhouses at Mile Marker 11.5. Baptist Church Gazebo is on the ocean and has 10 parking spaces. It is located at Mile Marker 12.
Public Beach Access at Emerald Isle
Emerald Isle features more public beach access points, with many being handicapped-accessible. Parking is limited and even non-existent at many of the smaller access.
Larger public beach access points with public parking include Third Street Ocean Access, just west of the Indian Beach line near Mile Marker 12. It has parking for 12 cars, an overlook picnic area and a ramp crossing the dunes to the Atlantic Ocean beach.
Eastern Ocean Regional Access is located at 2700 Emerald Drive between Pier Point and Ocean Reef Condominiums. The parking lot has room for 250 cars and provides a gazebo, outdoor showers, bathrooms and drink machines.
Western Ocean Regional Access is just across the B. Cameron Langston Bridge near the Islander Motor Inn at 299 Islander Drive. It offers sand volleyball courts, outdoor showers, bathrooms and parking for 200 cars.
Beach Wheelchair Service for Visitors to Public Beach Areas
Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation will loan four beach wheelchairs for disabled beach visitors. These chairs have oversized tires to make sand travel easier. These free wheelchairs fold to fit in a car trunk and may be borrowed at the Emerald Isle Fire Department on N.C. 58. They are available from 8:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. and require a driver’s license for identification.
Additional handicapped-accessible beach access points include Randy’s Way Access at 9519 Ocean Drive and Wyndtree Access at 10535 Wyndtree Drive. Each access has a single handicapped parking space.
The Town of Emerald Isle, North Carolina: Public Beach Parking and Access Locations
North Carolina State Park: Fort Macon State Park
Insider’s Guide: North Carolina’s Central Coast and New Bern; Martha L. Hall and Stefani L. Snyder. 2009
For other articles about eastern North Carolina travel, see also:
Affordable Campgrounds in Eastern North Carolina
Beaufort, North Carolina: A Scenic Little Town on the Crystal Coast
The Choice: One of Two Novels by Nicholas Sparks Set in Beaufort
An Easy Vacation Souvenir Craft for Kids