There’s nothing like falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean. If you’re looking for a place to live the dream, look no further than the coast of North Carolina! It’s full of campgrounds that are directly on those gorgeous beaches.
Researching the best campgrounds can sometimes be overwhelming, so we’ve done the work for you. Here’s our list of the 7 best campgrounds for beach camping in North Carolina!
Hammocks Beach State Park
If you’re looking for a primitive, quiet, gorgeous North Carolina beach camping destination, look no further than Hammocks Beach State Park. Bear Island can only be reached by boat, so you’ve got to be ready and willing to either carry all of your camping equipment onto the ferry and less than a mile across the island, or paddle it in on a kayak yourself. But if you want to enjoy beach walks by the light of the moon, being lulled to sleep by the sound of waves, and waking up to a sunrise over the ocean right outside your tent, it’s worth it.
Amenities include restrooms, picnic shelters, drinking water, outdoor showers, and a cash-only seasonal concession stand. Water and other facilities are available on the island, except from mid-November through mid-March when the facilities are winterized. You should plan to bring your own food, but plan well because fires aren’t allowed on the island, making food choices a little more strategic. There’s no garbage service on Bear Island, so bring your trash out with you.
There are two group sites and fourteen other primitive sites, most being tucked up in the dunes a short walk from the restroom and water spigot. However, there are three sites that are separate from the rest that must be paddled into. If you choose those, be prepared with your own water if you choose this place for your North Carolina beach camping trip!
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Cape Lookout National Seashore is a beautiful North Carolina beach camping spot full of history and beauty. There’s plenty of beautiful beaches to choose from and even some cabins if primitive camping isn’t quite your thing. While there, take the time to go visit the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, which has been standing since 1812 and was even captured in the Civil War!
If you’re planning on driving to your camping spot, four-wheel drive is highly recommended as there are no paved roads, only sand, on the island. Fires are allowed below the high watermark, but there’s rarely enough driftwood to make a good one, so bring your own so that you can enjoy a s’more while listening to the crackle of your fire and crashing of waves.
The wind averages between 10-15 mph, so make sure you have hearty camping gear that’s fully tied down to withstand the wind. Because the ferries won’t operate in winds over a certain mph, it’s a good idea to bring a little more than you need in food and supplies to make sure you’ve got what you need if you’re stuck there for a bit longer than planned.
Enjoy camping near the beach dunes and small-town USA on your same trip on Ocracoke Island! The campground has over 130 campsites spread out over the grounds and all have access to several miles of pristine beaches that are excluded from the recreational day beaches on the island. Campers have access to the entire coast! Across the street from the campground, there’s a gorgeous nature preserve with several miles of easy hiking trails.
Only two hours south is the little town of Ocracoke. There are several gift shops, a general supply store with some camping gear, and even a few restaurants. Most visitors are coming over for the day, so the island is quite peaceful and lovely at night.
Something to note–There’s little to no tree coverage on the campground, making natural shade impossible. If you want shade, you’ll need to bring your own tarp, canopy, or umbrella. The wind can get pretty gusty, so make sure you bring extra-long stakes to keep everything secured.
Freeman Park is a great choice for a first-time beach camper! It’s easy to get to (as long as you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle) and you won’t be secluded. If something goes wrong or you get stuck on something, there will probably be plenty of other campers to help you out.
Freeman Park is located on the northern end of Carolina Beach outside of Wilmington, NC. To reach it, simply drive to Carolina Beach and make your way towards the big pier on the north end. Once you get there, it’s recommended you pull over and let a little bit of air out of your tires to be able to drive properly onto the beach.
Passes are required to drive on the beach and camp overnight, but there are pay stations available at the beach where you can get all of those. There are trash cans and port-a-potties all along the beach, so you’ll have those amenities available to you. Fires are allowed within their rules.
If you’re looking for a simple, no-frills, beginner overnight North Carolina beach camping trip to enjoy nature’s natural sound machine all night long, Freeman Park is for you!
Oregon Inlet Campground
The next pick for best beach camping in North Carolina is the Oregon Inlet Campground, located on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. When camping there, you’ll have the full-service town of Nags Head to your north, and some world-class fishing at Oregon Inlet to your south. The beach is a short walk away and a great place for fishing, swimming, birding, surfing, and shell hunting.
This campground is equipped with bathhouses with flush toilets, potable water, and even outdoor hot showers! Every one of the campsites has a picnic table, a paved parking pad, and a charcoal grill. There are even limited sites with RV hook-ups. While there’s not a dump and water fill station at the campground, one is available across Highway 12 and is free of charge for campers.
If you’re looking for more to do around the campground, the historic Bodie Island Lighthouse is about four miles north and you can climb to the top of it from April until after Columbus day.
Surf City Family Campground
For RV North Carolina beach camping, Surf City Family Campground is hard to beat as far as beach proximity goes. It’s a short 100-foot walk to the gorgeous North Carolina coast from their campground! Surf City Family Campground has been a staple at Topsail Beach since the Sneeden family opened it in May 1961 and is still owned by the same family today!
There are 90 camping sites at this campground and is full of family-run charm. “Grandma Shorty,” the current operator—Mrs. Beulah Smith—works in the store sweeping, handing out candy, and reminding kids to not come in soaking wet from the beach. There are families who have been coming to Surf City Family Campground for generations, some having met there as kids and now bringing their own kids years later.
Surf City Family Campground offers simple amenities of bathhouses and full hook-ups for RVs. It would be a snug fit for a large RV, but perfect for smaller ones or truck camping. Golf carts are popular at this campground, but the drivers are considerate of walkers. The carts aren’t necessary at all, and you’ll be close enough to the water to hear the waves crashing through your open windows at night while beach camping in North Carolina.
Great Island Cabin Camp
Sometimes people don’t want to tent camp and don’t have access to an RV, but you can still enjoy staying right on the beach at Great Island Cabin Camp! This North Carolina beach camping destination is home to 23 beachfront cabins for individuals or groups of up to 12 people. They range in size from 288 to 960 square feet.
These cabins don’t put you into the lap of luxury, but the front steps go right to the sand and there are a few simple amenities offered that make it worth it. Each cabin has bunk beds and mattresses, a private bathroom with a sink and shower stall, a hot water heater (hello hot showers!), and a table and chairs. There are no refrigerators, but small kitchens have cabinets and a propane oven/stove. Each cabin has a grill right outside so that you can enjoy some hamburgers and hot dogs next to the Atlantic Ocean!
This campground is only accessible by boat, making it incredibly peaceful, but it also means you need to plan well. Campers must provide their own bedding, cookware, coolers, food, first aid supplies, and even a generator if one is desired, no larger than 5,500 watts. Ice and fuel are available at the camp office.
Enjoy 112 miles of uninhabited shoreline right outside your front door by fishing, swimming, exploring, searching for shells, or simply relaxing!
Where are You Going to Go Beach Camping in North Carolina?
Now that you have seven amazing options for North Carolina beach camping on the coast, let us know where you’re going to visit in the comments! What’s your style— tent camping, RV camping, or cabin camping? Any hidden gems for beach camping in North Carolina we didn’t write about? We love hearing and learning from you!
Looking to set out on more North Carolina camping adventures? Check out our list of the 13 Best Places to Go Free Camping in North Carolina and the 13 Best Places for RV Camping in North Carolina!