Discover Why Experts Named This North Carolina Beach the State’s “Most Dangerous”

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: September 8, 2023
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It’s a rather quaint environment with a family-friendly vibe. You can enjoy the beach at your leisure and can even get married on-site! But the waters aren’t always welcoming. Discover why this North Carolina beach is the state’s most dangerous!

Oak Island Overview

Located in Brunswick County, Oak Island is known for its white sandy beaches and crisp blue waters. It has a family atmosphere. This particular place is not nearly as crowded as other popular similar destinations. This allows for a more peaceful, and relaxed setting. The town offers parks and recreational areas as well. For those that love nature, there is plenty to enjoy such as kayaking, boating, fishing, birdwatching, and paddleboarding. The town, in general, offers a sense of belonging, a slow pace, and a tight community (it’s a retirement community).

Why Is Oak Island Dangerous?

Any beach destination has its pros and cons. This island is known as the eighth most dangerous beach in the nation, making it North Carolina’s most dangerous beach. Travel Lens reported it has a danger score of 5.54 out of 10, which calls for caution when it comes to swimming in the area. There have been eight drownings and two shark attacks on Oak Island. It’s best to avoid the waters during high shark activity season or jellyfish season. Drowning can happen even with avid, skilled swimmers — when rip currents pull you under, there is no mercy from the ocean.

This sign at a Lake Michigan beach warns swimmers of the strong rip currents.

Areas with rip currents can pose a major risk of drowning to swimmers.


Wildlife Around Oak Island

There are plenty of birds around the island such as herons, pelicans, seagulls, and shorebirds on the beach side and marshes. In the wooded areas, you can also find woodpeckers, ospreys, ibises, and egrets. On land, there are white-tailed deer, rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons.

Marine Life Off Oak Island

As for marine life, you might see dolphins putting on a playful show, and depending on the time of year, you might even encounter a jellyfish or a shark. From May through August loggerhead turtles, green turtles, and sometimes even leatherback turtles arrive at the shores at night to lay their eggs. Proper measures are taken by the town to protect the offspring, and visitors can have the opportunity to witness the turtle hatching at certain times of the season. For fishing enthusiasts, there is plenty of redfish, trout, flounder, Spanish mackerel, cobia, king mackerel, and drum.

Encountering a shark is really rare, however, there are times when you might spot one or two blacktip sharks or bonnethead sharks, which are a much smaller species. Stingrays are flat-bodied creatures that you can spot along the sandy ocean floor. They are venomous but they prefer to avoid human contact. They sting and the venom is harmful so it’s best to keep an eye out for them. It is always good practice to splash water as you get in the water and make a bit of commotion to let them know you’re nearby so they can flee.

Stay Safe at the Beach

North Carolina’s most dangerous beach can still be enjoyable. Visiting the beach in any area comes with its risks but you can circumvent them by being conscientious when planning your trip. If you intend to venture into the water for a swim, only do so in areas where lifeguards are patrolling. No matter how skilled of a swimmer you are, the ocean is unpredictable, sometimes delivering wildlife and sometimes surprising you with currents you don’t notice until it’s too late. Even if you identify as a mermaid, don’t go into the ocean alone. Having someone with you can save your life should the unexpected happen.

Senior man swimming in the Sea/Ocean - enjoying active retirement, having fun, taking care of himself, staying fit

Enjoy swimming at the beach safely by using the buddy system!

©l i g h t p o e t/

Know your capabilities and honor them. Waves can pull you out into the oceans where currents may drag you even further away from shore. If you want to experience the water but don’t trust your swimming, don’t go past the point where you have to wade in the water. Enjoy the splashes of the waves but don’t submerge yourself. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re having a good time, but your life is worth more than a fleeting moment filled with excitement. Communicate with your group as well and ensure each person knows the other’s capabilities so you can all look out for one another.

Before you even think of heading out, check the weather forecast along with the water conditions. When there are warnings, heed them. If the risk for rip currents is high, avoid the water altogether. When you take proper precautions, you can enjoy a beach outing with friends and family, collecting new memories to reminisce about later!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © CeGe/

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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