Wilmington Area Leash Laws

Meet Cookie, my sister’s three year old 125lb. English Mastiff who absolutely loves visiting the beach. She waits patiently as we search the truck for her leash, knowing that she will soon be close to the water’s edge where the waves will briskly race at her. She has decided that the waves are some bizarre force sent to rush at her, and in her puppy pounce position (front lowered, hind end up) waits for those sneaky waves to begin their routine. She dances and weaves along the water’s edge, snout snapping at the water as if there are little creatures in there just out of her reach. It’s adorable to watch…she gets bouncy, barks a few times, lunges at the waves, leaps backwards and rushes forward again. Cookie is a fantastic dog…but if you missed the above stats, she is 125lbs, an English Mastiff and her head is waist high to the average 6ft adult male. She is a big dog, and always on a leash when we visit the beach.

Like many dog owners, we have found there are two types of people that visit our local beaches…Type 1 is dog friendly and may or may not have a dog walking alongside. Type 1 is friendly, says hello to the big dog, may pat her head and rub her ears, then mosey along down the beach. Type 2 is absolutely terrified of our gentle giant and gives her a wide berth, sometimes cringing at the prospect of being a snack. Sadly, Cookie seems sad to have missed the opportunity to say hello. Her size can be intimidating, but she has a heart of gold and is well behaved.  Even off the leash she stays close by all of us, but due to her size, we keep her on a leash year round.

When visiting North Carolina’s Wilmington area, a trip just isn’t complete without a visit to our beautiful beaches. The mix of sand dunes, stunning beaches, nearly Caribbean colored waters, and beach attractions is just too much to miss! However, each beach has its own set of Leash Laws specific to seasonal schedules.  It would seem that most are dog friendly but each is listed below – Freeman Park, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach.  And before taking your dog to any of the local beaches, owners must observe certain rules: proof of vaccinations including rabies must be tagged on the dog’s collar; and all dog waste MUST be picked up, no exceptions, or face a $50.00 fine. Likewise, due to our warm temperatures, owners should provide an adequate water supply for their animal and be aware that mornings and evening are good times for your animal as the sand is cooler- hot sand can burn the pads on your dog’s paws.


Freeman Park: Dogs are welcome at Freeman Park and there are leash laws in effect.  From October 1st through March 31st, dogs may be Off leash so long as they remain within reasonable distance of the owner. From April 1st through September 30th, dogs MUST have a leash to remain at the park. Likewise, from April 1st through September 30th, dogs are Not allowed on the public beach areas of Freeman Park.

Carolina Beach:  Dogs are required to be on a leash at all times. Dogs are allowed on the beach from November 1st to February 28th.  Dogs are Not allowed on the beach from March 1st through October 30th, and are prohibited in Town Limits. However, there is a dog park in Carolina Beach, and dogs are welcome on the beach on a leash at the North end of Carolina Beach near the pier.

Kure Beach:  You may walk your leashed dog on the Kure Beach strand from October 1st to March 31st. However, it is unlawful for any person to have or allow their dog to be upon the beach strand of Kure Beach during the period of April 1st through September 30th of each year. Joe Eakes Park is located on K Avenue going west. It is across the street from the Kure Beach Police Department. There, you’ll find a fenced-in area behind the playground and the tennis courts. This is the Gurney Hood Barking Lot, made especially for you and your pooch pal to run free.

Fort Fischer State Park Recreation Area:  Dogs are allowed here year round so long as they are on a leash, no exceptions.

Wrightsville Beach: Your pet must Always be on a leash while in the town of Wrightsville Beach. However, dogs are Not allowed on the beach strand from April 1st through September 30th.

Though the beaches and towns are less accommodating in the busy season, below are some local parks and areas that are dog friendly and they are free!

Entropy Boat Rentals, 7618 Mason Landing Rd., Wilmington, NC  910.675.1877

Pets can swim, dig, and play at this pet friendly beach.

Abbey Nature Preserve

Dogs must be on a leash. There is a 2.4 mile path that is a great hour or so long walk with your dog.

River to the Sea Bikeway (www.traillink.com)

Dog must be on a leash.  This is a loop around the island consisting of streets and sidewalks with few smooth surfaces. However, a great long walk option if you don’t mind an adventurous walk and temperatures are right to accommodate your animal.


Wilmington Dog Park at Empie Park        910.341.3237

Independence Blvd & Park Ave (behind Steinmart)

Completely fenced in area; water; waste stations; lots of shade. Fenced in area is separated for larger and smaller dogs.

Ogden Dog Park                     910.798.7620

Market St. & Gordon St.

Fenced in grassy park for dogs of all sizes

Hugh MacRae Park         910.798.7630

1799 S. College Rd.

Picnic tables to sit at while dogs play under a great shaded fenced in park

That is a solid overview of Dog Friendly beaches and parks for Wilmington and surrounding areas. It is always helpful to check into the visitor’s bureaus wherever you are staying, not just for your dog’s sake but to find activities and events that will be of interest to your family. There is much culture and rich history in the Wilmington area, and many sites not to be missed.  Local or visiting from afar, Wilmington welcomes you to explore the area with your entire family, two or four footed members!


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