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Home Visitors Driving on the Beach

Beach Driving on the Outer Banks

You may drive on the beach in some areas of the Outer Banks but not all. It depends upon the location and the season.

Driving on the beach is generally prohibited on the northern Outer Banks except for some areas in winter and the off road area north of Corolla. You may drive on the beach where the paved road ends in Corolla and at some beach accesses during the offseason. Driving on the beach is prohibited in Duck, Southern Shores and Kitty Hawk. Driving in Kill Devil Hills is only allowed in limited areas during the off season. Nags Head allows beach driving in the off season but only by permit (obtained at town office and some tackle shops).

From Oregon Inlet South, beach driving is regulated by the National Park Service. Within Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the National Park Service maintains beach access ramps for pedestrians and 4-wheel drive vehicles. Access to these areas is subject to seasonal restriction so you must consult the signs or the Park Service to know which area is open and when. New beach driving rules go in effect for 2012. A permit is now required to drive on the beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Visit our news section for the latest changes and restrictions.

Driving on the beach to get to your favorite surf fishing spot is fun, but it’s also a big responsibility. We ask that you take beach driving seriously, learn the rules and obey the closure areas  to avoid us locals and future visitors having to suffer after you go home.

Here are some beach driving rules you need to know.

First, you must have a 4WD vehicle (no ATVs) and it must have sufficient clearance for sand. Sand can get deep so if your vehicle is low to the ground, don’t try it. Even if the entrance looks flat you will likely experience some deep sand as you drive. All wheel drive vehicles are not recommended.

You can only enter and leave the beach at designated areas (called ramps on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore).

Before you enter the access area, lower your tire pressure to 20 pounds or even less. Pack a small shovel in case you get stuck. A small plank of wood can also be helpful. We’d also advise a tow strap. Before you get back on the road or as soon as possible, reinflate your tires to their proper pressure.

Speed limit is never more than 25 mph on the beach (and can be lower). And they’re not kidding. It’s dangerous to drive fast on the beach. Drive with caution toward other vehicles, pedestrians and animals. Drive at a slow, even pace and try to stay in the ruts created by other vehicles. Avoid gravel beds because they are usually soft underneath.

When you decide to park, know where the tide is and if it is outgoing or incoming and park accordingly. Many a vehicle has been lost or damaged by waiting too late to move.

If you do get stuck, do not spin your tires. You will just bury it deeper. Stop, lower your air pressure and get out the shovel. Rangers may assist you, but they are not allowed to pull or tow other vehicles. Commercial towing services are available but be prepared for a long wait and hope that you are above the high tide line. And get out your wallet.

Do not enter, drive or walk in areas that are marked off for wildlife protection. If you do this you ruin it for the rest of us.

Don’t drive at night if at all possible.

Do not drive on the dunes and do not damage vegetation.

Do not drive in the water. It’s a good way to get stuck and it corrodes your vehicle.

Check the tides before you go or you can get stranded and the Park Service will not pull you out.

Open containers of alcohol are not allowed in vehicles.

Pets must be on a 6 ft leash.

Carry your trash out with you when you go and pick up any other trash you may see.

Wash your vehicle as soon as possible.

Please follow all rules. They do change often so check before your start.

For current information on open driving zones and rules, contact the National Park Service Headquarters, Cape Hatteras Group at 919.473.2111, or visit any NPS visitor center facility located throughout the park.

Additional Resources

Current Beach Access Report

Beach Driving Videos

Visit News and Local Organizations for the latest on Beach Driving Issues