Surf’s up: NC beaches reopen

A home sits on the southern end of Emerald Isle N.C. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

RALEIGH — A majority of North Carolina’s beaches are reopening for the Memorial Day weekend with limited or no restrictions on beach access.

Starting today at 5 p.m., Wrightsville Beach is lifting restrictions on beach access and activities.
 
The town is opening up six parking lots for visitors and restrictions on short-term rentals have been lifted. The parks in the area will remain closed, except for walk-in tennis courts. Dine-in restaurant service may also be allowed pending the outcome of today’s COVID-19 briefing by Gov. Roy Cooper.
 
“The Town of Wrightsville Beach anticipates Gov. Cooper will issue an executive order modifying the present prohibition of onsite restaurant dining,” says the post on the town’s Facebook page.
 
“Subject to the issuance of such an order by the governor in the future,” the town of Wrightsville Beach details four criteria of its own to be met by eateries in the area that include capacity for parking areas, zoning approvals for parking and other requirements from the New Hanover County Health Department, the NC ABC Commission, and any other federal, state or county agencies with jurisdiction over restaurant operations.
 
Additionally, noise prevention will restrict customers from being seated after 9:00 p.m. and outside dining areas should be emptied by 10:00 p.m.
 

Outer Banks

As of May 16, the majority of the Outer Banks locales have reopened.  Restrictions on access have been lifted for Dare County. That included the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Manteo. Access restrictions have also been lifted for Hatteras Island and Roanoke Island. The Currituck County Outer Banks and Ocracoke Island also have unrestricted access.
 
In a Dare County update, officials said that it is “absolutely critical for all beach patrons to follow social distancing guidelines.”  Also, visitors should be aware that some local businesses may require patrons to wear a mask or cloth face-covering.

Community and public pools and spas remain closed and visitors should check with the lodging establishment about protocols and procedures being employed there for safety.

Atlantic Beach

The ban on travel from outside of Carteret County to Atlantic Beach for recreation was lifted and Atlantic Beach reopened short term rentals, hotel and motel rentals on May 8.

The area is allowing recreational access to beaches, however, Atlantic Beach officials will continue restrictions on groups to 10 people or less and encourage using social distancing.  The town’s Park complex, which includes the splash pad, mini-golf course & skate park, will remain closed until Phase 2 begins.

Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach lifted all town-imposed restrictions including short-term rentals, public parking, and beach activities on May 8 and Freeman Park reopened to 4-wheel drive vehicles on May 9, but northern sections the park are still  closed to traffic due to increased tides and erosion

Officials ask that before traveling to Carolina Beach, visitors should contact their lodging provider to confirm their reservation and check for any additional safety guidance at that location. As with other beach areas, Carolina Beach visitors should bring essential items with them such as toilet paper and sanitizing products and basic groceries.

Per the Carolina Beach visitor site, social distancing guidelines are still in place for the beach and all other areas and gatherings are still limited to 10 people or less.

Emerald Isle

The Town of Emerald Isle lifted short term rental restrictions on May 8 and local officials have encouraged visitors to bring their own supplies such as paper products, toilet paper, cleaning materials and grocery items.

Access to Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound are open for outdoor recreational use such as swimming, surfing, kiting, kayaking, fishing, and boating.  Residents can walk, jog, and sit on the beach strand.

The town says that beachgoers still must adhere to the social distancing guidelines and visitors should be aware of the current safety protocols of the state.

Kure Beach

​Kure reopened the beaches normal activities on May 8, but short term rentals will have to wait until phase two.
 
“In accordance with Council’s understanding of the Governor’s continued Stay at Home order and the fact that more than 30% of Kure Beach residents are in the high risk groups, Council did not open short term rentals as adjacent communities did. Council formally announced that Short Term Rentals would open in conjunction with the timing of the Governor’s Phase II timeline on May 22, 2020,” the town said in a recent update.
 
Topsail Beach
 
Like the others, Topsail reopened short term rentals earlier this month on May 9. Public parking at the beaches was opened the day prior. The area’s businesses are all operating under the guidelines laid out in the governor’s phase one order.
 
Social distancing is required in “all locations including the beach and sound side area.” Social distancing should also be used while boating and using Banks Channel and beach/sandbar areas. In an update from Topsail Beach Mayor  George Smith,  if social distancing cannot be done, he urges people to please wear a mask and follow CDC recommendations.
About A.P. Dillon 279 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_