Wrightsville Beach is one of the Cape Fear’s most popular destinations for fans of sand, salt and sun. Located just east of Wilmington, this hopping beach town is a Mecca for surfers, surf fishermen, beachcombers, and anyone who enjoys relaxing along the oceanfront.

When it comes to visiting this enticing area, beach-goers should note that the town has a number of beach guidelines that cover everything from parking to pets. So before you go, be sure and brush up on these rules, regulations, and safety tips which will ensure everyone in your party has a sunny time while on the sand.

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach General Guidelines

Before you hit the shoreline, be sure and familiarize yourself with these Wrightsville-Beach specific regulations and guidelines that will ensure your stay is enjoyable and safe throughout.

  • Surf fishing is allowed throughout Wrightsville Beach, except from area bridges, (which includes the Banks Channel Bridge.) A saltwater fishing license is required for anglers age 16 and older, which can be picked up at local bait and tackle stores, or obtained online through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s website.
  • Sea turtles occasionally nest on the local beaches, and visitors should note that it is illegal to harass, molest, collect, or otherwise harm sea turtle nests. Be respectful of closures for sea turtle or endangered bird nesting.
  • Smoking is not allowed on the beach strand in the town of Wrightsville Beach.
  • Littering is not permitted in Wrightsville Beach, and could result in a fine.
  • It is illegal to leave up any beach equipment overnight in the town of Wrightsville Beach, which includes tents, canopies, umbrellas, and other beach gear.
  • Do not walk on the sand dunes, or remove any vegetation from the oceanfront shoreline.
  • Glass containers of any type are not allowed in Wrightsville Beach.
  • Cooking devices, such as grills or portable camping stoves, are not allowed on the beaches of Wrightsville Beach.
  • Wrightsville Beach’s local noise ordinance states that visitors should refrain from creating any unreasonably loud and / or disturbing sound levels within the town.
  • Visitors should fill any man-made holes before they leave the beach to avoid injury to other beach-goers, or cause a hazard for emergency 4WD vehicles that need to access the sand.
  • Wrightsville Beach has 13 lifeguard stands within the town from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend. The Ocean Rescue Team staffs the lifeguard stands daily in the summer months from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Please pay close attention to the signal flags stationed along the shoreline, which indicate the current swimming conditions. A green flag means that conditions are calm and conducive for swimming. A yellow flag indicates that moderate surf and / or currents are present, and swimmers should exercise caution when entering the ocean. A red flag indicates that conditions may be too dangerous and hazardous to swim, and a double red and white flag indicates that the beach is closed.
  • Watch for other folks sharing the water when swimming, especially surfers, kayakers, and other wave-riders who frequent the shore.
  • Be on the lookout for rip currents, which can occur in all weather conditions. Swim at life-guarded beaches whenever possible, and swim parallel to the shore if you are caught in a current, until you can safely swim back to the beach once again.
  • Weddings and special events are allowed on Wrightsville Beach. Approval before the big day is required from Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation, and a small permit fee may apply.  
  • Parking is available for day-trippers on a first come, first serve basis, and may be limited on weekends and holidays, due to local traffic. Arrive early or late in order to secure a parking space close to the beach.

Surfers at Wrightsville Beach, NC

Wrightsville Beach Surfing Regulations

Surfing is an exceptionally popular sport on Wrightsville Beach, however there are a few rules, regulations, and tips that wave-riders should follow when surfing the local shore breaks.

  • All surfboards must always be securely attached to the surfer with a leash when in the water.
  • Surfing is prohibited within 350’ feet of Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Per, within 350’ feet of Crystal Pier at Oceanic Inlet, and within 100’ feet of Masonboro Inlet Jetty.
  • From Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend, surfing is not allowed in areas that are in front of the town’s lifeguard stands. These areas will be no less than 600 feet, and no more than 750 feet.
  • Surfing is not allowed between checkered flags in marked sections of the beach, (such as near lifeguard stands)
  • New surfers should use caution when surfing near Masonboro Inlet, as currents can be swift.
  • Be respectful of other surfers in the water. Wrightsville Beach’s most popular surf spots can be crowded when there’s a swell.
  • Many local surf shops offer lessons for newcomers! Lessons or camps can be booked in advance, or on-site once you arrive for your Wrightsville Beach vacation.
  • Though the late spring, summer, and fall months typically feature warm water temperatures, a spring suit or full wetsuit may be required for off-season surfing.

Beach Driving on Wrightsville Beach

Driving on the beach is not allowed within the Town of Wrightsville Beach. Visitors with a 4WD vehicle who want to drive on the beach can head south to Freeman Park in Carolina Beach, which is roughly a 35-40 minute drive away. Driving in Freeman Park is available via a daily or annual pass, which must be purchased at the park’s entrance, or online before your trip. 

Pets on the Beach

Visitors who want to bring along their four-legged family members will find options for exploring the strands of Wrightsville Beach in the off-season. Here’s a closer look on the guidelines for enjoying the beach with your furry best friend.

  • Pets are allowed on the beaches of Wrightsville Beach from October 1st through March 30th. Pets are NOT allowed on the beach from April 1st through September 30th.
  • All pets must be on a leash at all times when on the beach.
  • Owners must have a baggie or appropriate container to dispose of waste while on the beach, and should dispose of any waste properly.
  • Watch out for hot sand. Even in the spring and fall months, the sand can get steamy on warm days, and can burn a dog’s tender paws.
  • Bring along plenty of fresh water and a water bowl to the beach, and make sure you have a shaded site for your pet.
  • There are no off-leash dog parks in Wrightsville Beach, however, the neighboring town of Wilmington has a number of dog parks for visitors. These parks include the Dog Park at Hugh MacRae Park, the Wilmington Dog Park at Empie Park, the Ogden Dog Park, Halyburton Park, and Gurney Dog Park at Joe Eakes Park.
  • Many motels, hotels, and vacation rentals in the Wrightsville Beach area welcome pets! Be sure and let your accommodations provider know beforehand if you are bringing your pet along, as an additional fee may apply.

Bonfires on Wrightsville Beach

Bonfires and campfires of any kind are not allowed on the beach strand in Wrightsville Beach.


Fireworks of any kind are not allowed on the beaches within the town of Wrightsville Beach.

Alcohol on the Beach

Alcohol consumption, as well as open containers of alcohol, are not allowed on any beaches within the town of Wrightsville Beach.

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