Freeman Park in Carolina Beach NC

The northernmost coastal region of Carolina Beach is home to the Freeman Park Recreation Area, a stretch of shoreline that is well known to adventurous, beach-loving 4WD truck owners. Unlike other stretches of the barrier islands off the coast of Wilmington, this park is special because it is completely undeveloped, and allows beach driving to off-roaders who like to cruise along the sand.

Freeman Park in Carolina Beach NC

Though somewhat crowded in the summertime, virtually every vehicle can find a spot, and wintertime visitors will often find they have the entire shoreline nearly all to themselves. Fun, scenic, and a well-known refuge for surf fishermen and beach bums alike, the Freeman Park Recreation Area is one of Carolina Beaches' favorite oceanside destinations.

Freeman Park in Carolina Beach NC

The recreation area extends for two miles along the Atlantic Oceanfront, from the northern town borders all the way to Carolina Beach Inlet, (which separates Carolina Beach from Masonboro Island.)

Freeman Park rules in Carolina Beach, NC

Recommended 4x4 Beach Driving Equipment

We've put together a short list of recommended items to get unstuck and stay safe. We like these linked products, but we took care to make sure they are also highly-rated by many customers. Some of the product links include Amazon affiliate codes. *If a purchase is made, we are paid a commission for the referral.

  • Traction Mats - These make it easy to drive out of ruts when you've dug into the sand.
  • High CFM Air Compressor - Save time and air up quickly.
  • Tow Strap - Just in case. Allows anyone to tow you out of a tough spot. Or, help a 4x4 friend.
  • Folding Shovel - Compact and capable of digging you out quickly.
  • Tire Pressure Gauge - You'll need this in combination with your compressor. 
  • First Aid Kit - The further you are from roads, the more important this becomes.
  • Fire Extinguisher - Another emergency essential in 4x4 terrain when emergency responders are miles away.

Vehicles are allowed to park on the sand along any area of the beach, and visitors on foot or bicycle are certainly welcome to enter the park as well, and enjoy a long hike to the gorgeous inlet waterfront. The inlet, in fact, is an especially popular stretch of beach for both fishermen and shell collectors alike, as the wide inlet-facing beaches are often home to a number of large saltwater species, including blues, spot, croakers, sea mullet and even drums, as well as small, but perfectly intact seashells.For either enterprise, visitors are advised to visit the beaches early, or in the shoulder season fall and spring months, to score the best finds and enjoy plenty of elbow room.

Freeman Park restrooms

While this parcel of Carolina Beach is completely undeveloped, it can be crowded in the summertime, and visitors who like plenty of extra space to enjoy the views are advised to visit early, in the evening, or in the off-season months when the beach is delightfully deserted. Vehicular visitors are advised not to drive through or park by the ocean wash, or any region (especially near the inlet) that can be submerged as the tide comes in. Saltwater damage or flooding is devastating to a vehicle, and parking above the high tide line ensures that a day at the beach doesn't turn into an expensive tow, or even worse, a very expensive total vehicle replacement.

Freeman Park in Carolina Beach NC

While the beaches have been flattened down by plenty of use, and as such are very easy to navigate, drivers are still advised to slack down their tires to 20 psi, and ensure their truck has plenty of clearance in case of encounters with deep, soft sand. A vehicle also absolutely must have 4WD to access the beach.

While trailers are prohibited, overnight camping is allowed (with permit in designated, reserved campsites) in the Freeman Park Recreation Area past Mile Marker Post 6 between Labor Day and the Thursday before Memorial Day each year. No Summer camping is allowed. Campfires are also allowed with some restrictions. Reservations are on a first come/first service basis.  During this period, there is a fee for a campsite permit.  You must make reservations to camp. Reservations can be made by calling 1-866-330-7275 or online at freemanparkcamping.pmreserve.com

Freeman Park in Carolina Beach NC

Most important, a permit must be purchased to access the Freeman Park Recreation Area via a 4WD vehicle, and permits are available as daily, weekly, or annual passes. A daily pass runs around $20-$40 and can be purchased at the park's main entrance, however frequent visitors who make several trips per year to Freeman Park should pick up an annual pass (see below).

Freeman Park in Carolina Beach NC

Permits and Passes

  • Freeman Park Season Passes are available for sale in person at Town of Carolina Beach Parking Office located at 1708 Canal Drive, Carolina Beach, NC 28428, Carolina Beach Town Hall 1121 N. Lake Park Blvd. Carolina Beach, NC 28428, and Island Tackle True Value located at 801 N. Lake Park Blvd. Carolina Beach, NC 28428. Passes may also be purchased online.
  • A driver's license is not needed to purchase the season pass. Name, address, email address, phone number, make, model, color, and license plate number of the vehicle is needed.
  • Early Bird rates are available for IN PERSON PURCHASES only December 1 through January 7, 2021 for $110.00
  • Regular rates are $225.00 for the 2021 Season. 
  • ONLINE purchases are FULL PRICE ANYTIME. (Early Bird rate does not apply)
Daily Passes are available for purchase ONLY at the kiosk at the entrance of Freeman Park.

 

Though the permit application initially may sway some people away from beach driving, the process is honestly a minor inconvenience at best, and the rewards are well worth the trouble. With stunning sunsets over the inlet, fantastic wide beaches, decent waves for ocean kayaking or surfing, renowned fishing, and solid beachcombing, Freeman Park Recreation Area is the epitome of what a good southern North Carolina beach should be. Grab all the beach gear your vehicle can hold, (no manual hauling to the beach required after all), and take the family out for a spin at one of Carolina Beaches' most unique, and beloved stretched of shoreline.


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Victory Beach Vacations

Victory Beach Vacations

Visitors who are on the hunt for the postcard-perfect vacation rental in the heart of the Carolina Beach or Kure Beach area will find an enticing selection and plenty of friendly customer service when they rent through Victory Beach Vacations. Based in Carolina Beach in the coastal Cape Fear region, Victory Beach Vacations has more than 100 vacation rentals in all shapes and sizes to ensure that every vacationing family can find their dream home away from home on the beach.   When you book your Cape Fear getaway with Victory Beach Vacations, the fun doesn’t end when you leave the beach, it continues with an array of privately-owned properties outfitted with all of the amenities needed for a fabulous beach vacation.   Jenna Lanier, General Manager, explains that her family first opened the rental and property management business in 2002. At the forefront of Victory Beach operations is Lanier’s mother, Caroline Meeks. Meeks is both the Broker in Charge and co-owner with husband, Buck Meeks, who manages the Field Services team with Lanier’s husband, Scott.   For nearly 20 years, the Victory Beach team has worked tirelessly to establish a network of top-of-the-line rental properties for Cape Fear visitors to enjoy. “As far as our properties go,” explains Lanier, “they are all updated, well-furnished and appointed. “We have always performed post-cleaning inspections and since the pandemic, have put freshly laundered duvets over all of the comforters between rentals.”   Lanier emphasizes how important the guests experience is “we strive to give our guests a relaxing, stress free, memorable vacation.” This emphasis on customer service has led to Victory Beach Vacations having a 4.8 Google rating with over 300 reviews by happy owners and guests.In addition to Victory Beach’s superior sanitation practices, the company offers properties for every type of visitor. Choose from luxury oceanfront houses and condos to more reasonbly priced 2nd row properties with oceanviews. Many properties include pools and hot tubs as well, perfect for outdoor entertaining, and many are dog friendly.   Lanier also notes that all properties are within walking or driving distance to Pleasure Island’s main attractions – Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. The former, as described by Lanier, is the more commercialized of the two destinations and features a boardwalk, outdoor dining options and a plethora of weekly activities including fireworks, live music, amusement park pop-ups, and movies under the stars. Kure Beach offers a more residential feel with its fishing pier, intimate restaurants and family favorite, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.More water fun awaits, too. “There is a harbor and a canal that feed into the intercoastal. We have several properties on the harbor so guests can bring their boat, kayak, [or jet ski] and travel between islands,” says Lanier.   A stay with Victory Beach Vacations is an annual pilgrimage for most. “A large percentage of guests are previous guests. Some even reserve the same property for the next year as they’re checking out,” Lanier says. “It’s almost like it’s their personal vacation home.”   Even before guests arrive at their vacation destination, the Victory Beach Vacations’ website greets them with a live beach cam and exquisite aerial footage of both Carolina and Kure Beaches. See for yourself by scanning the QR code and call Victory Beach Vacations at 910.458.0868 to book your Cape Fear getaway. Start making your memories today! —Grace Silipigni