Oak Island paid parking begins Saturday; Where to find free beach parking in SENC

If you're planning to park on Oak Island between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the next several months, you'll need to pay for parking.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:16 PM EDT
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OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) - The first season of paid parking in Oak Island begins Saturday, April 1. Joining Holden Beach, Oak Island is the second Brunswick County beach town in as many years to implement paid parking.

Oak Island Communications Manager Mike Emory says the goal of requiring visitors to pay for parking between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. April through September is two-fold.

“I think the majority of what town council has said all along is that this was done as an effort to both reduce congestion, especially in unregulated right-of-way parking during the peak times and also provide another supplement for the improvement and maintenance of our beach access areas,” said Emory.

Oak Island is charging $5 for an hour to park, $20 for a day, and $80 for a seven-day pass. Parking spots are marked with yellow bumpers and signs around town.

“It is a first year and what may work for other towns might not work the same way,” said Emory. “It’ll be a similar setup, but you know, it’s the first year so there’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve and that first weekend you know we’re going to have to get through it and just see how it goes and we’ll tweak as we need.”

Oak Island is just the latest in a string of southeastern North Carolina beach towns to start charging for parking. Free parking is still available year-round in Sunset Beach, Caswell Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, and Fort Fisher. As far as the impact paid parking will have on Oak Island, Emory says time will tell.

“The last few years with the COVID pandemic has really taught us that people are wanting to take advantage of the outdoors and enjoy it as much as they can,” said Emory. “So we can’t really say what impacts are expected from paid parking if that will be, you know, more people or less people, it’s going to be traffic either way.”

To learn more about paid parking on Oak Island, click here.