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Entry way to a beach on Oak Island

We hope you enjoy your time on our beautiful beaches!

Please help protect and preserve our precious beaches and dunes by following these rules. Thank you for your cooperation and helping to care for our natural resources and our community!

Beach Rules

  • Beach gear and personal items (including chairs and canopies/shades) cannot be left unattended on the beach between 8:30 pm and 7:00 am.
  • Beach gear must be at least 10 feet away from marked turtle nests and 15 feet away from marked emergency accesses.
  • NO glass containers are allowed on the beach or in beach accesses.
  • Please use only designated walkways to get to the beach. PLEASE stay off the dunes. The dunes are a critical structure of the island that should not be disturbed. Click here for more information about our dunes.
  • Please fill and level all holes before you leave the beach for the day, for the safety of other visitors and sea turtles.
  • All dogs must be on a leash at all times during tourist season (March 16-October 15). Please use a plastic bag to clean up after your pet, and dispose of used bags in trash containers.
  • Please leave the beach better than you found it! Please remove and dispose of all trash at the end of the day. Containers are provided at all the beach accesses.

Beach & Dune Replenishment, & Beach Access Points

The Town of Oak Island web site has the latest information about berms and sand dunes and beach nourishment projects, as well as beach access points and a full list of beach rules.

Rip Currents

Rip currents are one of the most threatening natural hazards along our coast. They pull victims away from the beach. Approximately 80% of rescues by ocean lifeguards involve people caught in rip currents.

If caught in a rip current, don't fight it! Swim parallel to the shore, and swim back to land at an angle.

What is a rip current?

A rip current is a powerful, narrow channel of fast-moving water that circulates water back to sea after it is pushed ashore by waves. Each wave accumulates water on shore creating seaward pressure. This pressure is released in an area with the least amount of resistance, which is usually the deepest point along the ocean floor. Rip currents also exist in areas where the strength of waves are weakened by objects such as rock jetties, piers, natural reefs, and even large groups of banthers. Rip currents often look like muddy rivers flowing away from shore.

What to look for

These features will alert you to the presence of a rip:

  • darker color of sea, indicating deep water
  • murky brown water, caused by sand stirred up off the sea bed
  • waves breaking further out on both sides of the rip
  • debris floating out to sea
  • a rippled look, when the water around is more or less calm

Rip currents are sometimes mistakenly called "rip tides" or "undertows". These are misnomers. Rip currents are not directly related with tides and they do not pull people under.

Try to avoid swimming where rip currents are present, but if you become caught in one, swim parallel to the shore until the pull stops and then swim back to shore. If you are unable to return to the beach, tread water and hold your arm out of the water with your fist clenched to seek assistance.

Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Rip currents often exist along the side of fixed objects in the water.

Baby sea turtle on Oak Island beach

Sea Turtles

Turtle nesting season runs mid-May through August. Loggerhead turtles are the primary visitors to the North Carolina Coast, but occasionally a leatherback, a green sea turtle, or Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle will make its nest on a North Carolina Beach. You may be lucky enough to witness the hatchlings come out when you're visiting!

The Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection Program (OISTPP) is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) environmental and conservation organization whose mission is to monitor and protect the sea turtle population that visits the Oak Island beach strand, and to foster community-wide conservation, education and preservation. The OISTPP was founded in 1989 and is authorized by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to conduct its activities to monitor and protect sea turtles. The coordinators work closely with biologists from the NCWRC to ensure that the Commission's guidelines and regulations are followed.

The OISTPP Patrol Team monitors for signs of turtle tracks and nests. If a nest is found, it is marked and protected. The Patrol Team also responds to sick, stranded or injured turtles and if necessary, transports them to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City.

Approximately 50 days after a nest is laid, Nest Parents begin a nightly vigil, monitoring the nest for the emergence of hatchlings, and protecting them from any predators, bright lights, or other hazards which could hinder a safe journey to the ocean.