Go beyond the typical beach experience Carolina Beach is known for and connect with nature in a unique setting. With two state parks, seven municipal parks and unique coastal habitats to explore, our island is the perfect spot for an autumn getaway.
Carolina Beach State Park
Steeped in both history and natural diversity, Carolina Beach State Park boasts 8.5 miles of hiking along nine trails, including two of which are wheelchair accessible. Among the most popular is the Flytrap Trail thanks to the presence of the rare carnivorous Venus flytrap. The half-mile loop makes for a fantastic warm-up through pocosin wetlands, longleaf pine and wiregrass savannah communities. Make sure to keep an eye out for Venus flytraps that grow natively in the area.
The Sugarloaf Trail traverses a coastal evergreen forest, tidal-cypress gum swamp and more diverse habitats on the way to a 50-foot forested sand dune. Sugarloaf Dune, a coastal anomaly covered in Spanish moss-adorned live oak, was used as a landmark by seafarers searching for Wilmington back in the 1700s. Explore other trails from the Sugarloaf Trail, like the Sand Live Oak Trail, which takes you along the river and through the ancient sand dune forest.
Carolina Beach Lake Park
Located just two blocks from the ocean, the 11-acre freshwater Carolina Beach Lake Park is bordered by a path that loops around the lake. Enjoy the scenery or take a moment in the gazebo to center yourself and connect with nature. The picnic shelter is perfect for a packed lunch or snack and kids love to play on the playground.
Visit Freeman Park for a relaxing day enjoyed on the secluded beachfront. Bring your rod and reel for a quiet day of surf fishing, or wander along the shoreline to collect seashells to take home. If camping is your style, check for availability and make a reservation online to book your spot for an overnight stay on the shore. With a permit available at the park’s visitor center, four-wheel-drive vehicles are also allowed on the beach at Freeman Park. Make sure to check the website for rules and regulations.
Mike Chappell Park
Get your body moving at the 10-acre Mike Chappell Park that has something for everyone. The park is home to two tennis courts, two sand volleyball courts, a basketball court, youth basketball area, playground equipment, baseball and softball fields, a soccer field and a dog park. There is even an 8,000-square-foot skate park equipped with ramps, rails and bowls. No matter how you choose to move, this park is the perfect setting.
Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Park
Spend a day traversing the trails at Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Park. The park’s 10 acres are dedicated to history, containing the ground that played an important role in the Civil War as well as 150 yards of restored earthworks originally built in 1864. Gravel walking trails and boardwalks passing over local marshes make for a wonderful stroll in this recently opened park.
Carolina Beach’s small neighborhood pocket park, McDonald Park is the perfect oasis for a quiet park day. Grab lunch to-go from your favorite island eatery to enjoy a picnic under the gazebo or at one of the picnic tables. Or, pick up some fresh seafood from Blackburn’s Brothers Seafood to throw on one of the on-site grills while enjoying some fresh air.
Even More to Explore
Hop in the car for a quick drive down the island to experience a renowned state park. Fort Fisher State Recreation Area contains almost six miles of pristine shoreline and scenic trails through salt marshes that are home to a variety of coastal wildlife. Stroll along the sandy shore to search for rare species that nest in the area.
Take in oceanfront views from the large public green space at Ocean Front Park. Perfect for enjoying the beach without having to drag chairs and supplies through the sand, the park’s benches and swings provide fantastic views of the ocean so you can relax and watch the waves. Or, get your steps in with a scenic stroll along the wooden boardwalk.
For the athletes in your group, Joe Eakes Park is a must-visit spot on your island adventure. Offering baseball, volleyball, basketball, tennis and bocce ball facilities, plus a disc golf course, everyone – even furry friends, thanks to the dog park – can find a way to get active at this park.
Take a breath of fresh air and some time to soak up the benefits of surrounding yourself with nature at the beach. Head to one – or all – of these parks to enjoy the green spaces, hiking trails, sports fields and everything else that they have to offer.