Atlantic Ocean

There are 29 miles of Atlantic coastline on New Hanover County’s eastern border. Surf- and ocean kayaking are excellent along the entire stretch, as long as you can find a place to park and a way to get your boat to the beach.
From north to south, you will find the following barrier islands:

  • Figure Eight Island (private with restricted car access, although landing there is legal – and the northern tip of the island is especially wide and beautiful)
  • Wrightsville Beach
  • Masonboro Island (8 miles of undeveloped, pristine nature protected by the N.C. Estuarine Reserve program)
  • Pleasure Island (with the communities of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Fort Fisher).
  • Past the state aquarium at Fort Fisher lies Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, with more than 4 miles of undeveloped beach
  • Bald Head Island (private with no car access, although landing there is legal).  Once separated from Fort Fisher by New Inlet, it is now attached to Pleasure Island by a narrow beach.

DIRECTIONS: There are several ways to access the beaches. The easiest is to find parking in Wrightsville, Carolina, or Kure Beaches, as well as Fort Fisher, and carry your boat over to the shore (best to bring help along for this one).
You can also use the following Wildlife boat ramps to get to the ocean: Federal Point, Snow’s Cut, and Wrightsville Beach. And last but not least, if you are lucky enough to own a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you are allowed to drive onto the beach on the north end of Carolina Beach, and also onto Fort Fisher State Recreation Area south of the aquarium.

DifficultyEasy to Experts Only! – depending on sea conditions. Be sure you are comfortable with a surf entry/exit and self rescues
HazardsPossibility very rough seas and/or high winds. The ocean is the least forgiving of our waterways, so here more than anywhere else: Make sure you paddle within your abilities!
Time/DistanceVariable – You can putt around the shore, surf, or travel from island to island
SerenitySwimmers and surfers at developed beaches, generally few people near undeveloped beaches
MapMap Coming Soon