Looking for an idyllic coastal RV getaway? Located just along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on the northwestern side of Pleasure Island, Carolina Beach State Park is a must-visit. Originally established back in 1969, Carolina Beach State Park consists of 761 acres waiting for you to enjoy. Once a peninsula, Pleasure Island now has water on all sides. The history of the park dates back to the early 1700s, and during your visit, you will have the chance to place your feet along the ground where the Cape Fear Indians sought to guard their land. You can also explore the area in which early settlers tried to begin anew, only to meet unfriendly pirates.
There are so many water-based recreation opportunities to enjoy, so be prepared for some fun in the sun. Bring your fishing gear, your boat, or your kayak to make the most of your time in the park, or you can rent from the private concessionaire. The park also has nine hiking trails and is home to five carnivorous plants, including the famous Venus flytrap. Once you have finished with your fun, there is also a great picnic area near the campground and marina.
You will also have plenty of accommodation options to choose from during your stay, including an RV-friendly campground with full hookup sites, group camping areas, and cabins. Carolina Beach State Park is open all year round besides Christmas and New Years Day, and the peak season runs from April until October.
Carolina Beach State Park is located 10 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina, off of US 421. This hidden little island is accessible by bridge, ferry, or personal boat. Highway 421 includes a bridge that crosses the Snow’s Cut waterway bringing travelers onto Pleasure Island, which is home to Carolina Beach State Park.
Be sure to check current weather forecasts. The Snow’s Cut Bridge is subject to closure during severe weather patterns. Consider the driving limitations of your vehicle, RV, or boat trailer when making travel plans, especially if questionable storms are underway.
All guests must plan to enter and exit the park during hours when the gates are open. An after-hours emergency number is available through the park office. Visiting this moderately remote coastal environment means that you will become secluded from many external resources once the park gate entrance has closed. Because of this, it is best to have (or purchase) anything that you may want before crossing the Snow’s Cut Bridge. The city of Wilmington offers a few more options for making general purchases.
There are multiple parking lots available if you are just visiting for a day trip, including at the park office and at the marina.
Carolina Beach State Park has one campground available for RV lovers to call home during their visit to the area. The campground contains a total of 79 campsites that are known for being on the larger side, with some even being able to handle rigs that are up to 95 feet in length.
There are 10 sites that have full hookups available, while the remaining 69 are primitive, with no hookups available. The campground is a very popular place to stay, and some visitors have noted that they need to reserve around a year in advance for a full hookup site. No matter which site you stay at, you will have access to your own fire ring or grill and picnic table. Drinking water, a bathhouse, and a dump station are available. A coin-operated laundry facility is located in the park near the marina. If your site doesn't have a water hookup, there are plenty of water collection points throughout the campground for general use.
Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you are visiting during the peak season. The campground is open all year round (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), so plan your stay!
There are no specific first-come, first-served sites available in the main campground, group sites, or cabins at Carolina Beach State Park. The group sites are not available for first-come, first-served camping at all, so if you would like to stay with a group, you will have to make a reservation. The cabins and campsites can be used on a first-come, first-served basis if they haven't been reserved, but during the peak season, it isn't common for sites to be available without a reservation.
Visiting Carolina Beach State Park without an RV? You can still make the most of the campground since all of the sites are also suitable for tents. There are no tent-only sites for you to choose from, but the RV sites will be perfect, especially if you have a large tent since the sites are on the larger side in the campground.
If you are want to camp as close to the water as possible, try reserving a site between 28 and 35, so you will be close to the Snow's Cut Trail. Make sure you book a campsite in advance so you don't miss out!
Visiting Carolina Beach State Park with a group? If so, there are two group camping areas that are perfect for those who are wanting to stay together. Both of the group camping areas can only be reached via the Swamp Trail, so you will have to walk-in any camping equipment that you are want to use. The walk is around 400 yards from one of the parking areas within the park, so you can park here before entering the group sites.
The first group camp spot is suitable for up to 26 guests, while the second is the larger of the two and can accommodate up to 40 people. Both of the sites have similar facilities and include fire rings, grills, two picnic tables, and vault toilets. There are no water collection points or showers at the group camping areas, so be prepared for this before your stay. Reservations are a must if you wish to use one of the group campsites, so make sure you make a reservation before your trip.
If you are looking for an alternative accommodation option at Carolina Beach State Park, you should consider staying at one of the cabins located within the main camping area. There are four cabins for you to choose from, all of which come equipped with electricity, one double bed, and two sets of bunk beds. Outside of the cabin, there is a picnic table, grill, and a fire ring for all your cooking needs.
You won't find any running water in the cabins, but water collection points and restrooms are only a quick walk away since the cabins are within the main campground. One cabin is wheelchair-accessible, and please note that none of the cabins are pet-friendly. If you would like to stay in a cabin, make sure you make a reservation before your arrival since they are popular.
Want to learn more about the park? Check out the schedule and go on a ranger-led hike where you can enjoy an informative hike during your stay. During your hike, you will have the chance to ask any questions you may have about the park or the wildlife that also call it home. Hikes are scheduled according to each particular season and exact hike times will vary, so make sure you are organized and find out when they are happening so you don't miss out.
The Cape Fear River and Snow's Cut are easily accessible to boaters thanks to the marina that is equipped with two public boat ramps. As a part of the Intracoastal Waterway, Snow’s Cut allows boat passage inland from the Atlantic coastline, so many people use the waterway to access the Atlantic Ocean. If you are planning on getting out on the water, be mindful of tidal waters since they are always changing. If you don't have your own boat, you can rent watercraft from a private concessionaire during the summer months so nobody will miss out on the fun.
Along with boating, paddling is another excellent way to enjoy the waters at Carolina Beach State Park. Snow’s Cut offers the perfect place for beginners and veterans to enjoy these waters up close, whether that be in a kayak, canoe, or on a stand-up paddleboard. You can bring your own watercraft or rent one during your visit. If you are interested in a kayak tour, they can also be arranged with the private rental company.
Fishing is one of the most popular activities for visitors to the park thanks to the multiple fishing areas that you can use to try and catch the big one. The fishing facilities at Carolina Beach State Park are fantastic and include a wheelchair-accessible fishing deck. Fishing can be done from the deck, riverbank, or boat, so there are plenty of options.
Some of the most common species targeted by anglers include flounder, sheepshead, and maybe even some speckled trout. It is best to obtain any fishing gear (including live bait) you look forward to using before crossing the bridge to the park as there is minimal gear available from the marina store.
If you love to hike, you will enjoy taking on the nine trails that are waiting for you upon your arrival. The trails vary in length and are between a quarter-mile and three miles long. Along the trails, you will walk through several local animal habitats, so be ready to see a few creatures. If you go hiking during your visit, remember to hike with a buddy and check in with the park office before you depart.
Carolina Beach State Park is loaded with interesting history. Take your time and peruse the natural geologic features of the park’s grounds as you think back through the last 400 years of history. Where would you have placed your living accommodation as a Cape Fear Indian family? Why would you have found this area of interest as a pirate in the 1700’s? As an early colonist, what resources would the park’s acreage have offered you? Take your time pondering how others have found appreciation for this unique land and why it has become a place of eternal preservation.