Carolina Beach State Park in New Hanover County is over 700 acres of paradise on the aptly named Pleasure Island. It might be easy to miss on the way to Kure Beach or Fort Fisher, but it is worth turning around to explore this beautiful state park off of US-421. The park’s sandy trails along the Snow’s Cut portion of the Intracoastal Waterway weave among wooded groves, marshes, and sand dunes. Whether looking for secluded camping, educational hikes, or amazing fishing spots, Carolina Beach State Park offers visitors a chance to enjoy the natural beauty of coastal North Carolina.
The park has unique environmental characteristics that attracts visitors throughout the year. Park rangers conduct free hikes with guests (Saturday and Sunday at 10 AM through October) to explore the carnivorous plants that reside in the park and are native to only the Wilmington vicinity. The Venus Fly Trap grows in the acidic, mineral-poor soil that is prevalent in the park. They are particularly fond of boggy Grass Pond, one of the three limesink ponds on the property. To learn more about Venus Fly Traps, check out this post. The park is also located on an important bird migration corridor and great for bird watching. Woodpeckers and warblers live in the forest year-round and in the summer painted buntings and ospreys and more can be spotted throughout the park.
The site also holds historical significance. Due to its prime location on the Cape Fear River, this area was inhabited long before settlers arrived in the early 17th century who were attracted to the travel and food sources made available by the river. The Cape Fear Indians lived on what is today Pleasure Island until 1725. Pottery fragments, arrowheads, and other artifacts are still found in the area. The 50-foot sand dune, known as Sugarloaf, was an important navigational marker for pirates and sailors alike. Today it still acts as marker for fishing boats on the Cape Fear River. During the Civil War about 5,000 Confederate troops camped on Sugarloaf during the siege of Fort Fisher. Unlike most regional sand dunes, visitors are allowed to climb on Sugarloaf and, from the top, enjoy the view across the water.
Despite not being very remote, Carolina Beach State Park feels like it is far away from civilization which makes it the perfect place to camp. There are 69 primitive campsites and 10 with full RV hookups. All sites have a picnic table and grill and three of the campsites are wheelchair accessible. For those without campers or much interest in sleeping in a tent, there are also 4, 2-room camper cabins with outlets and heating/air-conditioning units that can sleep up to 6 people. Drinking water and restrooms are located nearby to both campsites and cabins. These sites do require a reservation (https://bit.ly/2IDTttC) and typically cost $23 per night.
Part of the park consists of a marina and fuel dock. There is some great fishing in the area and boats can be seen going to and from their favorite spots throughout the day. One important reminder about the park is that swimming is not allowed. Snow’s Cut is particularly notorious for its riptides, vicious currents, and sharp drop offs. Combine these natural forces with the boat traffic and the water around Carolina Beach State Park becomes dangerous to swimmers.
Since opening in 1969, Carolina Beach State Park has raised awareness and adoration among countless visitors for the stunning beauty and diversity of coastal wildlife. Exploring the park is free and there is plenty of parking and public restrooms. The six-miles of trails are all rated as easy and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
For more information about the park, directions, and programs, you can visit: