WELCOME TO SUNSET BEACH!
Sunset Beach, with its sweeping views of seemingly endless sand and peaceful serenity is why we all call this Beach our home! It’s more than just the day’s end sunsets that paint a breathtaking picture in the sky. Getting up early to greet the day at sunrise is a well-honored tradition here too. In fact, like on our other south-facing beaches, we can watch the sun both rise and set over the water. So, pick your spot on the beach early, and you won’t even have to move!
The Beach page was created so all of the many bits of information about this wonderful piece of paradise, could be found all on one page. We sub-divided it into sections for easier access to find the answers to all of your questions. So we hope you find the newest page to our site a great addition!
Located on the southernmost coast of North Carolina, between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach, Sunset Beach is the smallest of five barrier islands, only 3 miles long, known as North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. This seaside town got its start in 1955 when the land it occupies was bought by a property developer. Development began in earnest with the completion of a bridge connecting the beach island to the mainland in 1958. Sunset Beach was incorporated as a town in 1963. One-third of the town’s area occupies a barrier island between the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.
SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF THE TOWN OF SUNSET BEACH BY LAND & BY SEA
The Town of Sunset Beach invites you to visit and enjoy several points of interest in our beautiful coastal community. This self-guided tour will take you from our mainland to our island, which – we think – is the most beautiful beach in North Carolina. This tour was developed as part of the Town’s 50th Anniversary, celebrated on March 26, 2013. Click Self Guided Tour to begin!
SUNSET BEACH BRIDGE
Since most of Sunset Beach and the adjoining Bird Island coastal reserve encompass a barrier island, the only way to get there from the mainland was by crossing a pontoon bridge (swing bridge) straddling the Intracoastal Waterway and adjacent marshland.
It was a wooden structure that could only hold one lane of traffic at any given time, and was the only one of its kind still in use along the East Coast until 2010. During the day in the summer, traffic would be stopped every hour, on the hour, and the bridge would open to boat traffic on the waterway for 10 minutes. At 10 minutes after the hour, every hour, the bridge would reopen for vehicular traffic again for 50 minutes. During the off-season, the bridge only opened at the request of boat traffic. While this caused headaches for those trying to get on or off the island, many locals said the bridge did, however, give the town a more relaxed feel. Historically, this had been in stark contrast to the rapid growth affecting other beach communities along the Grand Strand.
In February 2008 the NCDOT started construction to replace the old bridge with a modern, 65-foot-high (20 m) arc bridge (non-draw, non-swing). The bridge opened November 11, 2010. The old Sunset Beach pontoon swing bridge was saved by the Old Bridge Historical Society which created a museum celebrating the old bridge and the town’s history. The new bridge eliminates the need for a bridge keeper and provides for a continual flow of vehicle traffic on and off the island, and water traffic on the Intracoastal Waterway.
SUNSET BEACH DUNES
Sunset Beach features a wide and level strand of soft white sand with undisturbed sand dunes, a natural habitat and a nesting ground for coastal wildlife of all kinds, including the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. The beach extends far out into the very warm summer water without sea-weed catching in your toes; beach homes sit behind the dune that preserve the breath-taking scenery, birds and other wildlife.
Please keep off the dunes – they are turtle nesting grounds and protect the Island during storms.
WALKWAYS & ACCESS POINTS
East End handicapped accessible walkways
- Gazebo – located at the public parking area on Main Street1st Street1st Street
- 1st Street
- 3rd Street
East End non-handicapped accessible walkways
- 1st Street 2nd Street 3rd Street
4th Street 5th Street 6th Street
7th Street 8th Street 9th Street
10th Street 11th Street 12th Street
- Located between the homes at the following addresses on Main Street:
1220–1302 1318–1404 1414–1502
1516–1602 1616–1702 1718–1802
West End handicapped accessible walkways
- 40th street
West End non-handicapped accessible walkways
- 28th Street 29th Street 30th Street
31st Street 32nd Street 33rd Street
34th Street 35th Street 36th Street
37th Street 38th Street 39th Street
RULES & REGULATIONS
GENERAL BEACH RULES
Over the years, the popularity of our beach with both visitors and permanent residents, has grown to the point that we now need to ask all who use the beach to help maintain its charm and beauty for the future. To help us preserve and protect this wonder of nature so you and your family can enjoy it this year and your grandchildren and their families in the future, we ask you to abide by a few rules.
We have instituted these solely for your safety and the protection of the environment. Our goals are to preserve the family atmosphere of Sunset Beach and add to your enjoyment and relaxation during your visit. Again, welcome to Sunset Beach and have a safe and relaxing visit with us. Click Beach Strand Regulations
From the Sunset Beach Police Department: LOW SPEED VEHICLES, by definition, are any four-wheeled electric vehicle whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour but less than 25 miles per hour.
Please keep the following in mind when operating any low-speed vehicle, like golf carts:
- At no time are golf carts and/or electric, battery operated vehicles allowed on the beach strand .. this includes all E-Bikes.
- Golf cart drivers must be at least 16yrs old and hold a valid driver’s license.
- Registered golf carts can be driven legally on the roadway (not the sidewalk) anywhere the posted speed is 35mph or less.
- All occupants must use seat belts. Young children must be in car and/or booster seats if applicable.
- Drivers must refrain from operating while under the influence of alcohol, and open containers must not be found inside one of these vehicles.
- Golf carts must be inspected and registered in North Carolina or by a state that has identical standards as North Carolina and equipped with the following:
- Tail lamps
- Stop lamps
- Seat belts
- Parking brake
- Font and rears turn signals
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
SEA TRAIL BEACH PARKING LOT
- Address: 428 1st Street, Sunset Beach
- Open 6 am to 10 pm. 7 days a week.
- Access card required. Please only ONE vehicle should enter per access card.
- Passing a Property Owner’s Access Card to another vehicle to permit entry of more than one vehicle on a card is prohibited.
- No overnight parking allowed.
- The Beach Parking Lot is for the exclusive use of Sea Trail Property Owners and their guests.
- Vehicles shall be parked diagonally with the front or rear end of the vehicle along the bumpers along the south and north borders of the property. When the space along the south and north borders of the property are full, vehicles shall be parked in a center column across the lot from the west to the east allowing a lane of sufficient width for those vehicles parked on the south and north borders to be able to maneuver to exit the lot to First Avenue.
- Any violation of the STMA RULES resulting from the use of the Property Owner’s Access Card may result in the privileges being suspended, deactivated, or forfeited, and the Property Owner may be subject to monetary penalties and card re-activation fees.
PETS ON THE STRAND
While we welcome your dog joining you on our beach, we do have rules about when and under what circumstances.
- Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 10 feet in length at all times while on public and communal property.
- From the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day, dogs are not allowed on the beach from 9 am through 6 pm.
- It’s no fun to have wet, sandy dogs shaking on you while you are sunbathing, and for health and safety issues, we ask that you please remove any feces promptly and deposit them in the trash receptacles.
SUNSET BEACH ISLAND PARKING REGULATIONS
“𝑩𝒖𝒕 𝒎𝒚 𝒕𝒊𝒓𝒆𝒔 𝒘𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒃𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒍𝒚 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒃𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝒑𝒂𝒕𝒉!”
The Sunset Beach Police Department often hears this from vehicle owners who have been issued a parking citation for violation of Ordinance 72.12 – Obstruction of Bike Path. The Ordinance reads in part, that no person shall place or park a vehicle “which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist.” While your tires may only be 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 on the pavement in the bike path, the vehicle, and its side-view mirror forces the cyclists into the roadway. Please follow these Sunset Beach parking regulations:
- Vehicles must be completely off the roadway – no wheels touching asphalt
- Parking is prohibited on the bike lane or sidewalk
- Parallel parking only and in the direction of travel
- Double parallel parking is prohibited
- Do not block driveways or beach walkways
- Parking is prohibited on:
- the numbered streets – 1st through 15th and 27th through 40th,
- Canal Drive from Cobia Street westward to 6th Street,
- Bay and Inlet Streets,
- North Shore Drive Extension from Cobia Street to its easternmost terminus
- the west side of Sunset Blvd. South from North Shore Drive to Main Street; and,
- Sunset Blvd. South from North Shore Drive East and West in a northerly direction for 200 feet.
Parking enforcement patrols will begin on Friday, April 7, 2023 at 7:00 AM and continue daily through October 30th. Patrol officials will utilize a vehicle marked, Sunset Beach Parking Enforcement, with flashing caution lights. Please do your part and help ensure the safety of our cyclists.
BEACH HAZARDS & SAFETY
A trip to the beach should be fun. Unfortunately, many people are injured or killed along our nation’s beaches by hazards such as dangerous currents, heat and lightning. The National Weather Service can help ensure you leave the beach with good memories. Click Beach Hazards & Safety to provide you the information you need to stay safe on beaches and in coastal areas and surf zones (the area of water between the beach/shore and the first line of breaking waves).
BEACH PATROL & EMERGENCIES
Patrols begin in April on a part-time basis. On May 1, a 7 day/week patrol schedule begins with hours 10 AM – 5 PM (hours will be extended to 6 PM during the Memorial Day week end).
Crowd dependent patrols may revert to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only during the month of September and will cease, at some point, (again depending on crowds), during the month of October.
CABANAS, CANOPIES & SHADING DEVICES
The placement of tents, cabanas, shading devices, canopies, sporting equipment or similar items on the town’s beach strand must abide by the following regulations. Click HERE to review so you are aware before lugging all of your ‘stuff’ to the beach!
I have heard of ‘dust devils’ happening on the beach. What are they? The National Weather Service defines a ‘dirt devil’ as a small rapidly rotating wind that is made visible by the dust, dirt or debris it picks up. Also called a whirlwind, it develops best on clear, dry, hot afternoons. This rare weather occurrence can fling cabanas, umbrellas and belongings into the air. Sunset Beach experienced this in August, 2023 when three separate ‘dust devils’ were reported within minutes along the beach.
Fireworks and laser pointers are illegal and not permitted. The Sunset Beach Police Department will strictly enforce fireworks. If you are found in the possession of and/or using fireworks, they will be confiscated and you could be fined up to $500 and/or 30 days in jail.
FLAGGING SYSTEM FOR RIP CURRENTS
Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. The U.S. Lifesaving Association reports 80 percent of all surf rescues are related to rip currents. On many beaches, rip currents are present every day. In most cases, rip current speeds are too slow to be a danger to most swimmers. However, when wave conditions, shape of the offshore beach and tide elevation are just right, rip current speeds can reach speeds faster than Michael Phelps can swim.
Sunset Beach Patrol uses a rip current hazard flag system on our UTVs. The color of the flags will correspond with the US National Weather Service Wilmington NC daily rip current hazard forecast.
OPEN FLAME ON THE BEACH
Open burning on the beach strand is prohibited. It is unlawful for any person to start, kindle, operate or maintain any open fire or flame including barbecue, charcoal, gas or other similar type of device or grill, fire pit, ski lantern, fireworks, or sparklers on the beach strand.
During The months of May through September, swim the hours from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Avoid the water at night, dawn, or dusk. To decrease your already small chance of becoming a victim of a shark bite, observe the following rules:
- Always swim in a group. Sharks most often attack lone individuals.
- Don’t wander too far from shore. Doing so isolates you and places you away from assistance.
- Avoid the water at night, dawn, or dusk. Many sharks are most active at these times and are better able to find you than you are to see them.
- Don’t enter the water if bleeding. Sharks can smell and taste blood, and trace it back to its source.
- Don’t wear shiny jewelry. The reflected light looks like shining fish scales.
- Don’t go into waters containing sewage. Sewage attracts bait fishes, which in turn attract sharks.
- Avoid waters being fished and those with lots of bait fishes. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such activities.
- Don’t enter the water if sharks are present. Leave immediately if sharks are seen.
- Avoid brightly colored clothing. Sharks see contrast particularly well, so use extra caution when waters are cloudy.
- Don’t splash a lot. Also, keep pets out of the water. Erratic movements can attract sharks.
- Use care near sandbars or steep drop-offs. These are favorite hangouts for sharks.
- Don’t relax just because porpoises are nearby. Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks. Both often eat the same foods.
- If attacked by a shark, the general rule is “Do whatever it takes to get away!” Some people have successfully chosen to be aggressive, others passive. Some yelled underwater, others blew bubbles.
For more information, click How to Avoid Shark Attacks
Click HERE for the Sunset Beach Tide Chart
RENTALS, SHOP & STAY
The Island Market located on Sunset Beach, this is an “on island” place to shop for basic grocery items including a deli with fresh-made sandwiches, salads, and hot food items. Good wine and beer selection is available. Visit during your stay at Sunset Beach for fast service and a convenient location. Grocery delivery service available- order online and have your groceries waiting in your home upon arrival.
Sunset Beach Trading Company is an “on island” place to buy all your beach needs. A great selection of chairs, floats, rafts, sunglasses, t-shirts, and other beach souvenir items. Be sure to try their homemade fudge and their great selection of dip ice cream and shakes.
Sunset Blue is a locally owned and operated beach store with apparel, games, souvenirs and more for locals and visitors. They sell everything from beach items and accessories to clothing and footwear to jewelry, gifts, games, specialty items and souvenirs such as decorative Sunset Beach license plates and sand in a bottle.
Sunset Slush Classic Italian Ice is located at 426 S. Sunset Boulevard in the bright yellow building! Swing by any time you are on the beach strand and try their awesome cold treats!
Sandcastles Sweets & Treats is located in the bright yellow building and serves candy of the utmost variety, from old favorites to new ones. Certainly any sweet tooth can be filled easily!
Julies Rentals has a wide line of domestic wares and activity rentals, we got you covered. No need to drag all that from home when its already here waiting for you. we got it all. From bikes and wagons to kayaks, boogie boards, and even surfboards.
Lefevre Bike Rentals has a store front in Calabash. They just started renting bikes on Sunset Beach Island June 25. They will have someone on the Island during the following hours each week:
Sunday – 9 AM – 2 PM
Wednesday – 9 – 11 AM
Friday – 4 – 7 PM for bike drop off
Sunset Inn Bed & Breakfast opened its doors to the beauty of the saltwater marsh and island life in June 2000. The quiet comfort of our Sunset Beach Hotel overlooks the marsh out towards the Intracoastal Waterway and is just a five minute walk to the ocean. Our picturesque island has a temperate climate without the brutal extremes of summer or winter. The Sunset Inn is the place to stay on Sunset Beach!
SURF WHEELCHAIRS & WALKERS
Sunset Beach has four beach “All Terrain” wheelchairs that were donated to the Town by Sunset Vision as one of their community projects.
The Town rents these wheel chairs at a very nominal rate for citizens and visitors with disabilities so that they can enjoy our beautiful beach. The wheelchairs feature heavy duty wheels, non-corrosive plastic bearings, 2 swivel and 2 rigid wheels, padded cushion seat, user-friendly folding footrest, and an umbrella. They are manufactured by MJM international and are made from healthcare grade polymer plastic to inhibit/control the growth of bacteria. They are lead and latex free.
To reserve a chair for use during a visit to Sunset Beach, please call Town Hall at 910-579-6297 EXT. 1000. For more information about renting the wheelchairs and walkers click Beach Chair & Walker Rental Information
RESTROOMS & OUTDOOR SHOWERS
There are two restroom trailers on the island; one at the gazebo and a second at the entrance to the gazebo parking lot. These are public restrooms and FREE to use.
Please note, these restrooms are maintained by the Public Works Department so your help with keeping them clean would be appreciated. If for some reason the facilities become damaged or inoperable, they will be closed until they can be serviced.
There are also outdoor showers to rinse off as you exit the beach at the Gazebo walkway.
SUNSET BEACH PIER
Vesta Pier (Sunset Beach Pier) is located in the center of the island and is the southernmost fishing pier in North Carolina. Named for the buried civil war blockade-runner, Vesta, which rests in the sand under the pier, the 900 foot long pier is a favorite for anglers. A walk on the pier offers a self-guided tour providing information about the history of the island. The cost to walk the pier is $1.00. For more information about this tour click Pier Walking Tour
For all information about Fishing off the pier, click Season Passes, Bait & Tackle
For the pier’s full website click Sunset Beach Fishing Pier
INTERESTS & ACTIVITIES
Sunset Beach Maze Man On Sunset Beach, one particularly a-MAZE-ing artistic phenomenon has captured the fascination and curiosity of locals and visitors alike. Local celebrity artist Hunter Gibbes, better known as the Sunset Beach Maze Man, adorns the beach with his larger-than-life sand mazes. If you’re lucky enough to come across one of his intricate designs, you can face the challenge of completing it! Click Sunset Beach Maze Man or Sunset Beach Maze Man Facebook page for additional information and pictures.
Sunset Sand Artists is an informal group who come together to make sculptures on the beach just for fun. When Stuart moved to Sunset Beach around four years ago he learned some of the sand techniques from long time beach visitors and amazing artists Steve and Karen. Stuart then encouraged neighbors Leslie and Robin to try it out and they have now been making sculptures for over two years. Our most recent addition to the group is Amy and she’s been working with us for over a year now. We have several people who help on occasion and they are learning fast!
BIRDING & BIRD ISLAND
Sunset Beach offers a unique opportunity, a walk to Bird Island. Bird Island was once a separate island accessible only by walking through shallow Madd Inlet at low tide. Today it is connected to Sunset Beach as the inlet has filled in with sand.
Bird Island is completely untouched by development as its nearly 1,300 acres of beach, marsh and wetlands were dedicated as a North Carolina Coastal Reserve in 2002 following 10 years of work by the Bird Island Preservation Society to protect it. This designation protects habitat used by several threatened or endangered species, including Kemp’s Ridley and loggerhead sea turtles, sea beach amaranth, piping plover, wood stork and black skimmer. Early morning bird walks are conducted during the summer months by persons working with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.
The Town of Sunset Beach is proud to be included in the North Carolina Birding Trail. Click Birding Trail Brochure for all of the information.
Also guided tours of the island are held each Wednesday in the summer. The tours begin at the 40th St. access on Sunset Beach at 8:30 AM. You must be able to walk 3 miles in the sand. Reservations are not required. For more information on the Bird Island Tours, click HERE.
Check out their Facebook page HERE
MUSIC ON THE PIER
Enjoy LIVE Music at the Pier! Bring your beach chairs, blankets, picnic dinner and set up on the beach or sit on the pier ($1.00 pp) and enjoy FREE LIVE MUSIC as the pier becomes a stage! The pier grill will be OPEN with a limited menu. They also have plenty of snacks, cold beverages, beer and more on the pier.
Click Pier Events to find the schedule.
KINDRED SPIRIT MAILBOX
The best way to get to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island is to start at the Public Beach Access located at West 40th Street. Take the access to the beach, and head Southwest (away from the pier). You can either walk or ride a bike, it is about 1.5 miles from the 40th Street access to The Kindred Spirit Mailbox.
The Mailbox is a little hidden but it’s visible from the beach. If you reach the rocky jetty you’ve gone a little too far.
For decades visitors to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Sunset Beach, NC have wondered Who is the Kindred Spirit? The keeper of the mailbox was Claudia Sailor, a woman originating from Hope Mills, NC.
She had a dream about a mailbox in the sand and she and her boyfriend at the time planted the mailbox on Sunset Beach. Claudia Sailor maintained the mailbox in secret along with Frank Nesmith (the mailbox co-founder) since its inception.
Over time her walks to the mailbox became increasingly difficult. She began contacting local author Jacqueline DeGroot because of her local ties to the area and the mailbox. It is featured in her novel The Secret of the Kindred Spirit. They communicated by email for years and Claudia asked Jacqueline to help replace the notebooks periodically. Claudia passed away in Winter of 2013.
Jacqueline recruited a team of volunteers to help watch over the landmark. They walk or ride bikes to gather and replace the notebooks every week in the summer and do repairs on everything from the flag, to the dunes, to the mailbox itself.
ONE LOVE MARKET
One Love Market NC is an open air artisans and farmers pop up market located on Sunset beach at 101 W. Main Street between Sunset Blvd, & 27th Street, opposite the Pier. The market features creators and Artisans from Wilmington to Murrels Inlet. With live music, a craft table for young and older, the market benefits the area’s rescues: human, furry & wild!
Click One Love Market Website for all of their information.
SHELLING ON THE BEACH
North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands features miles of scenic beaches perfect for every kind of shell-hunter. From sand dollars and scallop shells to true tulips and olive shells, visitors have a unique opportunity to discover coastal treasures and collect souvenirs as a reminder of their beach vacation. Keep reading to discover some Shelling Tips to help you find where you might find natural treasures washed up in the sand.
SEA TURTLE SANCTUARY
Sunset Beach is a turtle sanctuary, therefore all personal property must be removed from the beach strand at dark and not returned until sunrise each day so that turtles can come ashore unobstructed. This also ensures safe walking on our beautiful shore at night.
If you dig holes in the sand, please refill the sand to prevent visitors from being hurt and to ensure that turtles may come ashore without danger of falling in the hole.
Never disturb a turtle nest. Turtle nests are easily identified by the four wooden stakes and yellow caution tape encircling the stakes plus a sign indicating a nest.
Sunset Beach is home to The Sunset Beach Turtle Watch Program a private, non-profit program whose volunteers help monitor turtle nesting at the beach. The program is staffed by volunteers who walk the beach every morning, sit at nests when the hatchlings are ready to emerge and conduct informational and educational programs.
These informational programs, called “Turtle Time”, are free at 7 p.m. on Sunday evenings beginning in June and run during the nesting months at Sunset Properties (419 Sunset Blvd S) Parking lot – weather permitting. There is also a program on Wednesdays at noon at Ingram Planetarium.
SUNSET BEACH PIER WEBCAM
You can visit the Sunset Beach Pier “virtually” anytime you like! Our Live “Pier Cams” are available 24/7 year-round. Use them to check out the conditions or simply consider them your own personal windows to Sunset Beach’s sand, surf and pier.
Click LIVE 24/7 Webcams to view.
YOGA ON THE BEACH
Yoga on the Beach taught by Kelly Sexton is held from Memorial Day through Labor Day near the 40th St. walkway. It is Mon/Wed/Fri from 7-8:15 AM. Cost is $10.00 and can be paid in cash or via Venmo. Bring water, towel and sunscreen, Bug spray is usually provided if needed. If there is a cancellation due to weather a post will be placed on Yoga on the Beach Facebook page by 6:30 AM.
Om Sweet Om Yoga on the Beach, taught by Nicole Depauw, is held just West of the pier on Monday mornings beginning at 7:45 am, June through September. The session lasts 1 hour. Cost is $10/person and can be paid in cash or Venmo. Use of Debit Card will be an additional $1. Please arrive 10 minutes early to pay and settle in. This is an all levels yoga session. Bring a mat or a towel and water to drink. All ages welcome. Parental supervision required. For any questions click https://omsweetomsunsetbeach.com/