your paddlesports destination

Masonboro Island in North Carolina

Trip Overview

I wanted to get away, so I headed to Carolina Beach NC (just below Wilmington) on Saturday morning. Temperatures were in the low 60s with light clouds. No significant winds. Perfect.

From Trails End put in, you can see the inlet side of Masonboro Island less than 300 yards away. Masonboro Island is a barrier island with an inlet side and an ocean side. I chose to paddle north (left) following the inlet. It's part of the Intercoastal, but there was almost no motorboat traffic, just a couple of fishing boats.

I launched about an hour after high tide, I don't think I'd launch around low tide. Many places in the marsh were only two feet of water. After a mile or so, I turned into the marsh and did some exploring. I saw great blue heron, cormorants, ducks and some gulls. I could see the sand dunes on the island.

I started looking for a path to a sandy landing area on Masonboro Island, it took a while. I put in and hiked across the island to beach (half mile). It was awesome. As far as the eye can see, there were only two other people in view.

Masonboro Island beach is eight miles long. I talked with a local lady on the beach who contrasted the isolation of the Masonboro Island with the insanity of Wrightsville Beach, just next door, on a 4th of July weekend. The only access to the island is by boat.

On my return to my kayak, I passed a campsite. Primitive camping is allowed on the island (no facilities or water, no charge).

On my way back to Freeman Park, I bought a fire pit (steel bucket) and enjoyed the fire and view as the sun went down. People at the two Hardware Stores on the main drag in Carolina Beach are knowledgeable and helpful with camping information.

Other nearby calm water paddling opportunities are Zeke's Island at Fort Fisher and Carolina Beach State Park. Unfortunately, I had to head home on Sunday.


Freeman Park 4-Wheel Camping on the Beach:

I took my Nissan Frontier 4x4 and stopped at True Hardware, purchased a season pass to Freeman Park (unlimited drive on/camping on beach access throughout the end of 2014 - $100). Freeman Park is a 4 wheel drive-on beach at the north end of Carolina Beach that allows first-come first-pitch camping with a daily ($20 or season pass). Daily passes can be purchased at the gate, season passes are sold by various vendors, True Hardware is on the main drag (high way 421) and right around the corner from Freeman Park.

Being early March, there were only two other tents in sight. The only facilities are porta-johns. You need an approved fire pit for a campfire, bring your own firewood. I pitched my tent with the Atlantic surf as my view. SWEET! Then I headed north to Trails End access point in Wilmington.

If you don't have a 4 wheel drive, there's plenty of camping at Carolina Beach State Park and private campgrounds.


17' Sea Kayak: Necky Looksha IV


No fees for boat launching.

Freeman Park camping $20 per night or $100 for season.


Trails End Park Public Access Put In:

613 Trails End Road, Wilmington, NC.


Guide to Sea Kayaking in North Carolina: The Best Trips from Currituck to Cape Fear.

Tide chart/app.

Rangers at Carolina Beach State Park gave me great advice and a free map.

  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Open Water/Ocean
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip