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Best Beach-Camping Spots in North Carolina

by Richard Corrigan

Family beach camping on the Carolina coast.

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From the northern tip of the Outer Banks to the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the coast of North Carolina is a major destination for fishing, surfing, beach camping and outdoor recreation of all kinds. Dozens of campgrounds provide accommodations along the North Carolina coast, and a select few allow campers to set up their tents or park their RVs within steps of the surf.

Miles of Open Coast

Cape Hatteras National Seashore spans a 70-mile stretch of the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina and includes four campgrounds with nearly 600 campsites. Oregon Inlet Campground is the northernmost of the four and the closest to the ocean. The campground's 120 beach campsites have parking spurs for RVs and grassy areas for tents, all near restrooms, cold showers, campfire rings, picnic tables and drinking water. All campsites have ocean views, and the beach is open to surf fishing and swimming, though no lifeguards are provided. South of Oregon Inlet, the Cape Point, Frisco and Okracoke campgrounds are a little farther inland but have sites within walking distance of the water. Reservations are available at Okracoke, but all others are first-come, first-served.

All the Comforts of Home

Camp Ocean Forest faces south on the coast of Emerald Isle. With 11 oceanfront sites and many more that are slightly farther inland, the campground is separated from the ocean only by the beach and a narrow strip of vegetation. A boardwalk leads from the campground down to the sandy shore. Tent camping is permitted, but Camp Ocean Forest is primarily an RV park, with open, grassy campsites that include water and sewer hookups, cable TV and up to 50-amp electricity. Other amenities include modern restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities and an RV dump station. The campground is just a few hundred feet from the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier, and several restaurants are within walking distance.

Tenting on the Beach

Cape Lookout National Seashore stretches across nearly 60 miles of North Carolina's south coast. The seashore does not have organized camping facilities, but visitors are welcome to pitch a tent along the park's white, sandy beach. You can camp at any suitable site at least 100 yards away from any houses, shelters, bulletin boards, wells docks and other structures. Restrooms are located at the South Core Banks lighthouse, Wade's Shore and a few nearby areas. Well water is available seasonally at the lighthouse, but is not always reliable and should not be considered a primary source. Bring all necessary supplies, including food, water, waterproof tents, fly nets and tent stakes at least 12 inches long to hold your tent in the sand during high winds. The seashore is not well suited to RVs, and some areas may be impassible to vehicles without four-wheel drive.

Remote Island Camping

Accessible only by boat, Hammocks Beach State Park provides one of the most remote beach camping options in North Carolina. The park spans more than 1,100 acres, most of it on Bear Island, where you can fish in the surf, kayak around the island (rentals are available on-site) or hike through its interior. All 14 waterfront sites look out on the Atlantic Ocean or Bogue Inlet. Water, showers and restrooms are available from late March to early November, but camping is permitted year-round. Campers must register and obtain a permit at the mainland park office before heading to the island on their own boat or aboard the park's ferry. Swimming is generally permitted, but some areas are closed off due to dangerous currents.

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About the Author

When Richard Corrigan isn't writing about the outdoors, he's probably outside experiencing them firsthand. Since starting out as a writer in 2009, he has written for USA Today, the National Parks Foundation and LIVESTRONG.com, among many others, and enjoys combining his love of writing with his passion for hiking, biking, camping and fishing.