Fall Camping at Carolina Beach

Perhaps lesser known than its OBX cousins to the northeast, Carolina Beach State Park is a welcome end to the summer. Nearby Kure Beach is virtually empty, the crowds have dissipated, the no-see-ums are gone, and the Atlantic coastal waters are still bathtub warm.

Carolina Beach State Park
GPS:
34.0471, -77.9072
CATEGORY:
State Parks

Fort Fisher Recreation Area - Kure Beach

Photo of four sisters sitting in the surf on a gorgeous sunny day under a brilliant blue October Sky on Kure Beach, North Carolina
Image of girl on blue boogie board while three sisters swim in the ocean under a cerulean blue October sky on Kure Beach, North Carolina

A leisurely 8:30am departure, from as far west as Raleigh, Charlotte, or Columbia, will get you to the visitor center at Fort Fisher Recreation Area in time for a picnic lunch at any of the twenty-three tables available. Colorful monarch butterflies in the middle of their 3,000-mile migration from Canada to Mexico are frequent luncheon guests.

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

After a stop at the convenient bathrooms and changing rooms, all that stands between you and the Atlantic is a short stroll on the boardwalk through the dunes where the breaking waves are the perfect frequency for book reading, boogie boarding, or body surfing.

Photo of Fort FIsher Recreation area visitor center, boardwalk, and picnic tables under an azure sky at Kure Beach, North Carolina

Carolina Beach State Park Campground

You can enjoy all this knowing that Carolina Beach State Park campground and a warm shower are just 7.5 miles down the road where 83 campsites are tucked under a shaded coastal longleaf pine forest. Already have reservations? Head past the visitor center and proceed directly to the check-in at the marina along the Cape Fear River.

Night under the stars at Carolina Beach State Park Campground

Autumn also brings welcoming nighttime temperatures in the 50's and a resident mosquito population that seems content to keep mostly to itself. After a long day at the shore, you'll welcome an early fall sunset but not before enjoying a gentle campfire, a round or two of hot chocolate, and requisite s'mores!

Carolina Beach State Park : Trails and Programs

Knowledgable park rangers (ours had 25 years at Carolina Beach State Park) offer programs even in October (all year-round actually!). We highly recommend the carnivorous plant hike where you'll track down three species of protein-loving plants, all native to North Carolina, including the exotic Venus flytrap, which is found only within a 70-mile radius of the park anywhere in the world. 

Photo of teenage girl wearing a backpack and photographing the Cape Fear River as she stands in the stand near the grassy edge of Carolina Beach State Park, North Carolina

Combine the Flytrap Trail, Swamp Trail, and Sugarloaf Trail and over the course of four miles, you'll experience three different coastal forest environments – coastal fringe sandhill forest, pocosin wetlands, and longleaf pine and wiregrass savannas. Throw in tidal cypress-gum swamps and the brackish marsh that runs along the Cape Fear River, and you'll have experienced much of the biodiversity that the North Carolina coast has to offer.

Cape Fear Astronomy Night Program

And if that isn't enough, once a month, Cape Fear Astronomy Society offers a free night sky program with viewing telescopes at the visitor center. Check for times and dates on the park website.

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

If the weather takes a turn, you are just a quarter-mile from the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The exhibits teach about North Carolina coastal and inland ecologies. In addition, the aquarium features a seasonal outside dinosaur walk with life-sized animatronic beasts.

Battleship North Carolina Memorial

USS North Carolina main deck

Only 30 minutes to downtown Wilmington from Carolina Beach State Park, stop at the Battleship North Carolina Memorial, an authentically restored World War II battleship. Investigate all nine levels of this ship – engine room, mess deck, berthing areas, and so much more. Leave yourself a couple of hours to explore the battleship and  read the signage – the quotes from the servicemen about their positions bring life to the history of this battleship. Very little roped off and lots of ladders. No air conditioning. Pack a picnic lunch and sit under the shelter that overlooks the Cape Fear River waterfront.


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Ranger leads a group of visitors on the Flytrap Trail at Carolina Beach State Park in North Carolina
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Elevation
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20
Check-in/out
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4pm/3pm
Cost/Night*
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$15-17
Showers
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Hot
Restroom
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Flush
Max People / Vehicles
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6/2
Visitors Center
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Yes
Camp Hosts
icon for camp hosts
Yes
Best Site
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# Sites
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83
Open Year Round
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Yes
Laundry
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Yes
*Tent campsites only; accurate at time of publication
1010 State Park Road
Carolina Beach
NC
28428
Contact:
/
910-458-8206
Keep a clean campsite - raccoons patrol the campgrounds. Bathrooms - bit rundown, but clean.
1 Battleship Road
Wilmington
NC
28401
Hours: Memorial Day - Labor Day: 8am-8pm; Labor Day - Memorial Day: 8am-5pm; ticket sales end an hour before closing
Tickets: Adult (12 & over): $14; Youth (6-11): $6; Seniors/Military with ID: $10
Phone: 910-399-9100
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1610 Fort Fisher Blvd S,
Kure Beach
NC
28449
Visitor Center Hours: Tues-Sat 9am-5pm; Sun Noon - 5pm. Closed Mon & state holidays.
Free Admission - short film, indoor & outdoor exhibits, trails
Phone: 910-251-7340
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900 Loggerhead Road
Kure Beach
NC
28449
Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Admission: $12.95/adult (13 & over); $10.95/child (3-12)
Phone: 910-772-0500
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