Alternate between nearly six miles of pristine beach and trails through salt marsh brimming with wildlife at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, a park touching both the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. Development on this protected shoreline is limited to a visitor center and related facilities and boardwalks that attract birders and photographers. Loggerhead sea turtles, piping plovers and other rare species nest along the sandy shore. The park is popular for surf fishing, and four-wheel-drive vehicles are allowed seasonally with required permits. On this tip of Pleasure Island, visitors will also find a state aquarium, Civil War-era historic site and a boating ramp and paddling launch nearby.
The park is a great place for a hike!
Fishing is allowed on the pedestrian beach and the four-wheel drive beach. Common ocean catches include bluefish, red drum, black drum, pompano, speckled trout, and Virginia mullet. Spot and flounder share the estuary with numerous shellfish. Fishing is best in the spring and fall seasons. All coastal recreational regulations and licenses apply. Return unwanted fish unharmed to the water and do not leave fish scraps on the beach. Fort Fisher SRA is experiencing problems with nest predators such as red fox feeding on turtle and shorebird nests. Leaving food and scraps on the beach attracts predators to areas where they may come into contact with people or feed on endangered and threatended species.
Approximately five miles of beach provide all the sun, sand, sea and sky you can soak up in a day. Experience the ocean away from all the crowds. From the recreation area parking lot, an elevated boardwalk leads over the sand dunes to the beach, from where visitors can walk along one of the few remaining undeveloped stretches of shoreline on our southern coast.
Lifeguard service is provided in a designated swim area from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Please obey the warning signs and flags. A green flag indicates relatively calm conditions. A yellow flag indicates rougher conditions and to swim with caution. A red flag indicates severe conditions. Swimming is not permitted under red flag conditions.
Please note that the park has foot rinse stations only and no showers.
Whether for a group gathering or a relaxing lunch getaway from work, 23 picnic tables with grills are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no fee for their use. Some tables are handicap accessible.
For visitors wishing to fish, sunbathe or view nature in the southern portions of the park, four-wheel-drive vehicles are allowed to operate within a limited corridor along the beach, at certain times of the day and with a valid permit. Drivers must follow designated routes, avoiding dunes, vegetation and marked nesting areas. Only registered motor vehicles are allowed in the four-wheel-drive access area (no ATVs). Exercise caution, portions of the access may flood at high tides. Soft sand and sharp drop-offs are common.
Four miles of beachfront at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is open to visitors in four-wheel-drive vehicles, though restrictions apply regarding times of use and areas open to traffic. There are two principal reasons for the restrictions. The park is somewhat remote and emergency services can be limited during hours when rangers are not on duty. Also, Fort Fisher is home to 16 rare species including the loggerhead sea turtles. In late summer and early fall, the turtles often use areas near the dune line for nesting. Colonial shore birds favor the sparsely vegetated flats between the dune line and marshes for nesting sites in summer months. Restricted areas are clearly marked by rope fences and signs.
A word of extreme caution: Steep drop-offs and soft sand can cause drivers and their vehicles to become stranded, and vehicles can be further threatened by incoming tides or engine overheating. Park staff is not equipped to recover stranded vehicles.