About Beach & Waterfront Access

Public purposes would be served by providing increased access to ocean beaches, public parking facilities or other related public uses. - Coastal Area Management Act

The Division of Coastal Management awards about $1 million a year in matching grants to local governments for projects to improve pedestrian access to the state's beaches and waterways. Funding for the Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program comes from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.

Local governments may use access grants to construct low-cost public access facilities, including parking areas, restrooms, dune crossovers and piers. Projects range in size from small, local access areas to regional access sites with amenities such as large parking lots, bathrooms and picnic shelters. Towns and counties also may use the grants to replace aging access facilities. In addition, local governments can use the funds to help acquire land for access sites or to revitalize urban waterfronts.

The N.C. General Assembly established the Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program in 1981 by amending CAMA to provide the matching grants to local governments for oceanfront beach access areas. In 1983, the legislature expanded the program to include estuarine beaches and waterways.

Beach Access 40th Anniversary Logo

As the coastal population has increased, traditional accessways have been developed for private use, leading to a greater demand for additional public access sites. While most of the early projects were located along the oceanfront, more and more are now designed to improve access to estuarine shorelines, coastal rivers and urban waterfronts.

More than 459 access sites have been constructed since the program began. Local governments are responsible for construction, operation and long-term maintenance of their sites.

Looking for a CAMA access site? Look for the blue and orange sign. For more information about access site locations visit our interactive webmap.

For information about public access grants in your community, contact the Division of Coastal Management.