Crystal Coast, Surf City and Wrightsville Beach join North Florida in allowing residential access, with restrictions.

In line with the precedent set first by Volusia County, FL two weeks ago, Santa Cruz, CA last week, followed by Jacksonville Beach, FL over this past weekend, local leaders in many towns throughout Central and Southern North Carolina have begun allowing access to their beaches, as well — albeit with similar restrictions to those set by North Florida officials. Meanwhile, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s statewide stay-at-home order remains in place.

According to the News & Observer, all 36 public beach accesses reopened in Surf City at 7am, Saturday, April 18th, though the public restrooms and parking remain closed. Beach patrol will be enforcing social distancing guidelines.

Further north in Carteret County, which includes the four Crystal Coast beaches — Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, and Indian Beach — residents and property owners were first allowed to access the beach on Saturday for “normal activities” like swimming, surfing, kayaking, fishing, walking and jogging — even sitting, so long as beachgoers practice social distancing, and any groups of more than 10 people are prohibited. 

“However, tourists are strongly discouraged from coming to the area,” the Town of Emerald Isle explained in a statement; while the Town of Atlantic Beach put it more bluntly: “Visitors are still not allowed on beaches… Travel to Atlantic Beach from outside Carteret County is not allowed.”

As reported by WITN, “Atlantic Beach Mayor Trace Cooper says, ‘The governor’s order allows for outdoor recreation and exercise and for a lot of people, getting in the water to surf or kite or paddle board, that’s how we exercise.’ And Cooper wanted to make clear, the change is only for residents. ‘You still can’t come here for recreational activities. I don’t want people to think that a beach is back open for business. It’s a pretty limited exception.’”

Paying close attention to his neighbors’ decisions, Wrightsville Beach Mayor Darryl Mills, who had already planned to reopen last week after closely monitoring health data, gave his people the green light at noon today, with restrictions strictly enforced by Wrightsville Beach law enforcement and the park ranger. Most New Hanover County beaches have been closed since a State of Emergency was first declared on March 20th. “It’s looking like our beaches are open to everyone (not just locals), but only for exercise purposes and watersports,” Wilmington pro Gabe Morvil told Surfline. “Chillin’ on the beach is still off-limits and it sounds like public parking is pretty rare.”