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Beach Regulations & Safety

The main reason people come to Emerald Isle is obvious… to enjoy the beautiful beaches. Please adhere to the following beach regulations to ensure that everyone’s visit to the beach is as enjoyable as possible.


Answers to more of your beach safety questions can be found in our FAQ section.

Emerald Isle, North Carolina Beach Regulations & Safety

Town of Emerald Isle Important Beach Regulations

Before heading to the beach be sure to review the following regulations:

  • Beach tents, canopies and other beach equipment must be removed from the beach strand each night. Town staff will confiscate any unattended beach tents, canopies and other equipment left out during the overnight hours. Oceanfront property owners may qualify for a special exemption.
  • Camping overnight is not permitted on the beach strand.
  • Cigarette butts should not be left on the beach, but should be properly discarded.
  • Dogs are permitted on the beach strand, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Dog excrement must be collected and removed from the beach strand. Trash containers are located at each public beach access on both the beach and street sides.
  • Driving on the beach is allowed for four wheel drive vehicles with a Town-issued permit between the dates of September 15 and April 30 only (closed to driving during Easter week). Visit the Town Administration Building at 7509 Emerald Drive to purchase an annual permit or call 252-354-3424. Beach vehicle access ramps are located at the 3000 block of Ocean Drive (the “dog-leg”), the end of Black Skimmer Drive, the end of Doe Drive and at The Point.
  • Dunes are the Town’s first line of defense in storms and hurricanes. Climbing on the dunes is not permitted.
  • Fires are not permitted on the beach strand.
  • Fireworks that leave the ground and/or explode are illegal. The Police Department will confiscate any illegal fireworks and file appropriate charges.
  • Holes in the sand deeper than 12 inches must be filled in completely when you leave the beach. Large holes are a safety hazard for others using the beach, as well as for nesting sea turtles and their offspring.
  • Horseback riding is allowed on the beach between September 15 and April 30 only (closed to horseback riding during Easter week). Horseback riders should use the beach vehicle access ramps to access the beach. No permit is required. Horse excrement must be collected and removed from the beach strand.
  • Jet skis and other personal watercraft may not be operated at a speed greater than five miles per hour within 200 feet of the shoreline or within 500 feet of an ocean fishing pier.
  • Leaping from an ocean fishing pier is illegal.
  • Littering on the beach is illegal and will not be tolerated. Please use the numerous trash cans and recycling containers located at every public beach access.
  • Red flags in place on the beach strand mean surf conditions are extremely dangerous and swimming is not advised.
  • Sea turtle nests are marked with wooden posts, tape and signage, and should be avoided. The Town is a sea turtle sanctuary, and works diligently to protect sea turtles.
  • Surfing is not permitted within 200 feet of the ocean fishing pier.

Questions about the Town’s beach regulations can be directed to one of the resources listed below.

Town Manager’s Office: (252) 354-3424
Fire Department Beach Patrol: (252) 354-2445
Police Department: (252) 354-2021

Beach-Safety Information Explained

Do you know what each color flag on the beach represents? Do you know the checklist that you should follow before you enter the water? What about how to escape a rip current when you get caught?

This video from trusted Emerald Isle first responders gives insight on these questions, plus many more. Be sure to watch before you head out for a day at the beach.

What can I do to be safe when visiting Emerald Isle beaches?

  • Use common sense and take personal responsibility. Check beach conditions before you go out and know what the warning flags mean. If the water looks rough, don’t go in. Current beach conditions can be determined by checking with the Emerald Isle Fire Department or visiting the town website.
  • Obey the warning flags, even if you are an Olympic class swimmer! Stopping to address the dangers you are putting yourself in takes attention away from those that may need help.
  • NEVER ALLOW ANY CHILD TO GO UNATTENDED IN THE WATER! If you are more than a foot away, you are too far away from a child. Ocean currents can be extremely strong and can sweep adults off their feet in knee deep water. Children should always be in a Coast Guard Approved flotation device when in the ocean. Life jackets are available for toddlers and children to borrow for the day at lifeguard stations located on both the East and West Regional Ocean Accesses.
  • Don’t assume that the calmest water is the safest place to swim. The area where you don’t see waves breaking is usually where a rip current is located. If you are unsure about the conditions, ask someone!
  • NEVER SWIM ALONE! Always swim with a flotation device. Using the ‘buddy system’ is an even safer and highly preferred option.
  • Feeding times for marine life are typically around sunrise and sunset. It is not recommended to be in the water at these times. While certain marine life feed at different times of the day, if you happen to see a school of fish jumping in the water, it is typically an indication that a marine predator may be nearby.
  • On calm days where the water appears flat, it is recommended that you shuffle your feet while entering the water. Stingray incidents rise when the ocean becomes flat, allowing stingrays to settle close to shore. Shuffling your feet when entering the water disturbs the stingrays and they will move away.
  • On many occasions, the number of Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish along the Emerald Isle beach strand rise significantly. This is due in part to our southern facing beach and our prevailing SW winds. Portuguese Man-O-War look like blue/purple balloons floating on the surface of the water. Their tentacles can reach up to 50′ long and can sting both in and out of the water.


Answers to more of your beach safety questions can be found in our FAQ section.


Explore More on Beach Safety

For more detailed information on how to be a safe beach-goer when you visit Emerald Isle, check out the following helpful information.