Taking a drive on the charming beaches of the Outer Banks is a great way for visitors to immerse themselves in the coastline’s beauty and partake in one of many unique ingredients that makes the area so special. Before putting tires on the sand, there are a few regulations to be aware of that ensure safety for you, as well as the pristine environment.
Where to Drive
Corolla does not require a permit to drive on the beach, however, a permit is required to park. Vehicles are required to have a county-issued Beach Parking Permit displayed to park on the beach from the last Saturday in April through the first Saturday in October. Vehicles are required to use driving lanes adjacent to the dune line in Corolla between Milepost 14.5 and Milepost 17 from 9 AM until 5 PM beginning the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. Access to the 4x4 beach is located at the northern end of Corolla. Parking is prohibited for the first 1.5 miles north of the access ramp. Click here for more information about beach driving and parking information for Corolla.
Kill Devil Hills & Nags Head
A permit is required to drive on both beaches. Driving on the beach is only permitted from October 1 through April 30.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Driving on the beach is allowed on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, Hatteras and Ocracoke). The National Park Service requires visitors to have an off-road vehicle (ORV) permit to operate a vehicle in certain spots along the beach. For more information on beach access information and acquiring a permit, click here.
Off-road vehicles must be licensed and registered for highway use. All ORV are required to carry a small shovel, a jack, a jack support board and a low-pressure tire gauge at all times on the beach. Other types of equipment that are recommended, but not required are: a spare tire, fire extinguisher, flashlight and a tow strap.
Guide to 4WD Access
It is recommended to air down all tires before accessing the off-road ramp. The recommended PSI for SUVs and ½ ton 4x4s is 20 PSI, and 35 PSI for ¾ ton 4x4s to maintain traction. Air stations are located before the ramps in Corolla, as well as in various locations along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. For more information on air stations, click here.
Use 4-wheel drive when entering the ramp and maintain a steady speed on the beach. Pedestrians always have the right of way when crossing the traffic lane. It is important to ensure that you have gas before entering the ramp, as there are no gas stations on the 4x4 roads.
In Corolla, the speed limit is 35 mph and decreases to 15 mph within 300 feet of pedestrians. For the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the speed limit is 15 mph. When parking, ensure that your vehicle or belongings such as fishing lines, cooler or chairs are not blocking the traffic lane.
Overall, help keep the Outer Banks a beautiful and safe place by picking up any trash or leftover items, as well as being respectful of all pedestrians and visitors.