Carolina Beach State Park Guide: Calling Active Vacationers

Carolina Beach State Park sits just 10 miles south from Wilmington, North Carolina, and offers an outdoor retreat full of things to do. The park covers over 760 acres on Pleasure Island, providing water recreation activities and other ways to enjoy fresh air. It even houses the Venus flytrap, one of the world’s most famous carnivorous plants. If looking for a quick hike or full-day adventure, check out this Carolina Beach State Park guide to the top things to do.

Carolina Beach State Park Guide to Top Activities

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Boating, SUP and Fishing

Carolina Beach State Park provides access to three different waterways: Cape Fear River, Masonboro Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. The park has an 54-slip marina with two public boat ramps, along with fuel, snacks and fishing equipment. Visitors are welcome to bring their boats.

Those without a boat have options as well. Paddle NC offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) tours and rentals. These activities provide a way to explore the area either solo or with a group for a memorable experience. Fishing enthusiasts can launch their boat from the dock, and fish via the river bank or fishing deck. In order to fish at the park, guests need a fishing license and can expect to catch flounder, sheepshead and speckled trout.

If heading into the water, remember swimming is prohibited at Carolina Beach State Park due to dangerous currents and sharp drop-offs near the shore.

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Hiking, Walking at Carolina Beach State Park

Although the park doesn’t allow bicycles or horses on most trails, visitors find easy ways to stay fit. Carolina Beach State Park houses seven different trails, all relatively flat.

One short trail is the Flytrap trail, measuring 1/3-mile round-trip. The loop travels through pocosin wetlands where hikers see Venus flytraps in May and June. For a longer hike, try Sugarloaf trail, the longest trail at the park. This trail measures 3 miles round-trip and offers wildlife viewing opportunities through the tidal marsh. Fitness enthusiasts can’t miss Fitness trail, which has exercise and activity stations along the 1-mile path.

Before hiking, grab a trail map from the visitor center — a personal Carolina Beach State Park guide. A map helps newcomers find the best hiking options and ensures everyone stays safe. Locals also recommend bug repellent and lots of drinking water.

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Where to Picnic and Watch Sunsets

Sometimes travelers just want to eat and relax. And there’s a place to do just that. The park has a picnic area located between the campground and marina. Visitors find tables and grills under large shade trees. Within a short distance, enjoy access to restrooms, parking and wheelchair accessible areas. At the end of the day, make sure to get the camera ready. The park ranks as a top spot for sunsets in Carolina Beach.

Events and Guided Hikes

Park rangers at Carolina Beach State Park also offer free hikes and educational programs throughout the year. One popular option is Biological Wonderland Hike, which departs on select Saturdays, and explores how each habitat affects the park’s plants and animals. In April and May, join the fun at the annual Star Party and Marina Day. Both events promise family-friendly fun and opportunities to meet other nature lovers.

New to the area? Check out this Carolina Beach guide for first-timers. Need a place to stay? View North Carolina Beaches vacation rentals.