Outer Banks Beach Rules and Regulations

Beach Driving Rules

Beach Pet Rules

Beach Safety

Beach Bonfires

*The information provided below is for general information purposes only and may not be the most current information available. You should consider contacting the towns, Visitors Bureau or the Dare County offices for the most current information and rules when visiting.

Outer Banks Beach Driving Rules

The Outer Banks, with its spectacular natural beauty and unique environment, offers visitors opportunities to enjoy pleasures that are far from commonplace. Not all the places to visit are on well-paved roads. Here, you can drive your off-road vehicle along many miles of accessible beach as you search for that perfect fishing spot or explore our pristine beaches, as the waves lap at your tires. All this can be enjoyed, but there are a few regulations that must be followed. It is alway a good idea to visit each towns website to get the latest information, several of them are listed below.

Corolla Driving permitted after the paved road ends heading north through Corolla. Beach driving is also permitted from Oct 1st. - April 30th at designated beach accesses. Speed limit 25 mph unless otherwise marked.
Duck Vehicles are NOT permitted on our beach between May 1 and September 30. Vehicles are permitted during the other months of the year using designated PRIVATE vehicular access points. There are no PUBLIC access points for vehicles within the Town. Driving on the dunes is prohibited at all times!
Southern Shores No Driving permitted
Kitty Hawk No Driving permitted
Kill Devil Hills Driving permitted Oct. 1 thru April 30th (some areas may be closed to driving due to beach erosion and unsafe conditions). Speed limit 25 mph unless otherwise marked.
Nags Head Oct. 1 thru April 30th a beach driving permit needed ($25) Available at the Nags Head Town offices and many tackle shops. Speed limit 25 mph unless otherwise marked.
Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Signs located at the various beach access ramps will state if driving is permitted on that particular area of the beach (see below). Speed limit 25 mph unless otherwise marked.

For more information, contact the respective town's administrative office at:

Southern Shores

Town Of Kitty Hawk

Town of Kill Devil Hills

Town of Nags Head

Dare County Offices

Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Currituck County Offices

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Rules and Regulations

Driving an off-road vehicle (ORV) on the beach can be fun and adventurous, but where beach driving is permitted, there are general rules to follow:   The Standard speed limit is 25mph; enter and leave the beach only at designated, open ramps - never between or on the dunes; drive only on that portion of the beach which lies between the foot of the dunes and the ocean; proceed with caution and consideration for other beach users; open containers of alcohol are prohibited in vehicles; your vehicle must have a state road registration and valid license plate; the operator must have a current driver's license.

The use of off-road vehicles (ORV) on the beaches along Hatteras National Seashore is permitted year-round, with some limitations. No permit is currently required to drive on the National Park Service (NPS) beaches, but it is advisable to check with a ranger to understand NPS guidelines and assure that you are not entering a closed zone. Please not that driving in the Pea Island Refuge is strictly prohibited. For current information on open zones and guidelines, contact the National Park Service Headquarters, Cape Hatteras Group at 252.473.2111, or visit any NPS visitor center facility located throughout the park.

Tips for Beach Driving

When pulling into the access ramp you should decrease the air pressure in your tires to 20-25 pounds. In softer sand you may need to go lower. When you lower the air pressure it gives the tire a wider, softer foot print which causes the vehicle to ride higher on top of the sand instead of digging down into it. This also helps to reduce the amount of strain on the engine since you're rolling on top of the sand and not plowing through it. Be sure to inflate your tires when returning to the roadway. Driving with underinflated tires can be dangerous.

Drive at a slow, even pace. The maximun speed limit on all beaches is 25 MPH. Trying to take off too fast will cause loss of traction and bury you to the axle. If this happens, it's time to break out the jack and shovel.

Try to stay in the ruts made by other vehicles unless they are deep enough to let you bottom out. The sand in these ruts is more compact than other sand.

Avoid pea gravel beds (small stones ususally orange in color.) These are the Outer Banks version of quick sand to vehicles.

Avoid areas of the beach that may be impassable at times of high tide unless you plan to stay at the spot until the next low tide.

Park above the high tide line if possible, but be cautious not to block other vehicles.

In the event that you do lose traction, DO NOT spin your wheels to try to dig out of it. It only takes a couple of pumps on the gas to sink you down to your axle. The best solution is to decrease your tire pressure, shift to low range and back out of the rut you came in on before trying to proceed.

Don't drive between parked vehicles and the shoreline (except in the area north of Corolla where the road to Carova Beach is on the beach itself and the traffic lane is between the ocean and any parked vehicles. The speed limit for this area is 25)

Items To Carry with You

Tire Pressure Guage
Tow Strap or Rope (at least 14' long with a load strength of 20,000 lbs.)
Bumper Jack
Board sufficient to support base of jack (otherwise the jack may sink in the sand)
First Aid Kit

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Outer Banks Beach Pet Rules

Whether you're playing catch, swimming in the ocean, or running along the shore, the beach can be fun and rewarding for both pets and their owners. The towns and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore each have their own restriction pertaining to pets. All municipalities have ordinances to clean up after your pet and that the State of NC requires rabies tags to be worn at all times.
Remember, the sand can get VERY hot in the summer months, and your canine companion can burn his/her foot pads.....it's better to walk early in the morning or just before sunset when the sand is cool. Also, remember to bring plenty of fresh water for your pet!

Location Rules
Beaches of Currituck County Leashes are required but there are no length requirements.
Duck Leash law requires leash not to exceed ten (10) feet in length. Pets are allowed to play unleashed on the beach under close supervision of owner. Year round pet-friendly beaches. 255-1234
Southern Shores Leash law requires leash not to exceed ten (10) feet in length. From May 15 to September 15 of each year, animals are prohibited on town beaches. Leash laws enforced remainder of year.261-2394
Kitty Hawk Leash law requires leash not to exceed 6 ft. in length between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm from fri. before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day. At all other times the leash may be extended, but must be retractable to 12 ft. Well trained dogs may be unleashed under close supervision of owner, not to exceed 30 ft. in distance between owner and dog. 261-3552
Kill Devil Hills Leash law requires leash not to exceed 10 ft. in length. From the hours of 9:00 am through 6:00 pm each day from May 15th through Sept. 15th each year, no dogs shall be allowed on town beaches, except those aiding a handicap person. 449-5300
Nags Head Leash law requires leash not to exceed ten (10) feet in length. Leashed pets allowed on towns beaches year round. 441-5508
Manteo Leash law requires leash not to exceed six (6) feet in length. Leashed pets are
allowed on the waterfront year round. 473-2133
Cape Hatteras National Seashore Leash law at National Parks requires leashes not to exceed six (6) feet in length. 473-2111
Pet leash law information provided courtesy of Pampered Pets Guide.

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Beach Safety


Beach safety is an important part of an Outer Banks vacation. Play it safe and smart and you'll leave the beach with memories of fun filled times had by all. Here we provide some helpful tips to keep your vacation a safe one. Enjoy!

    Do not swim in the ocean, these flags fly during dangerous conditions, which aren't always evident to the untrained eye.

  • Stay 300 feet from all fishing piers while in the water.
  • Flotation Devices are NOT a substitution for swimming ability.
    Strong breezes and tide changes can cause dangerous drifting

  • Inexperienced swimmers should stay in wading deep water in the vicinity of a lifeguard.
    Be careful of dangerous rip currents and sudden drop offs.

  • Be careful around surfers.
  • When in trouble, signal a lifeguard by shouting "Help!".
    Swinging your arms in a violent motion will tire you out quickly, it is better to conserve your energy and call for help.

  • Keep an eye on your children at all times!!
  • Do not swim alone.
  • Choose a beach with lifeguards on duty.

  • Be aware of rip currents in the area you are swimming.
    Rip currents have a noticable difference in water color, a gap in the breaking waves and foam or other objects moving steadily out to sea.

  • If caught in a rip current, DON'T PANIC!
    Swim parallel to the shore until you are clear of the current. If you can't break free of the rip current, let it take you out beyond the breakers. Then swim diagnolly toward shore. Never try to swim against the current!
  • If you encounter injured or nesting wildlife on the beach please contact the North Carolina Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 252-728-8762 or the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) at 252-441-8622

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Outer Banks Beach Bonfire Rules

[bonfire]Sitting around a bonfire on the beach can be romantic and relaxing and it's certainly not something you get to do everyday. Before you make plans to build a bonfire, be sure you know which towns allow them. The regulations are as follows:
Southern Shores
Kitty Hawk
Kill Devil Hills
Bonfires not allowed.
Nags Head Permits are required and are obtained from the office of the town firemarshall. Fires cannot be built within 50 feet of any combustible material, including buildings, beach grass, sea oats and driftwood. In addition, the hollowed-out pit must be no larger than 3 feet in diameter and not less than 1 foot in depth. The fire must be attended by a competent adult and must be extinguised prior to leaving.
Cape Hatteras
National Seashore
Ground fires are permitted on the beach below the high tide line and a permit is not required. And, as above, the fire must be attended by an adult and be completely extinguished before leaving the site of the bonfire.

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