outer banks beach information


The answers to most beach-related questions can be found within our site, however, below is a handy list of some of the most frequently asked questions we receive. We’ve provided some brief answers and links to additional info. Don’t see your question here? Feel free to contact us, and we’ll try to help!

How much does it cost to park at the beach accesses?

Parking at all beach accesses along the Outer Banks is FREE!

The only exceptions to this are:

  • Carova: driving on Carova beaches is free, but a permit is required to park. Info about that HERE.
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore: a permit is required to drive and park on the beaches in Hatteras. Info about that HERE.
Can I bring my dog to the beach?

Yes! All beaches on the Outer Banks are very dog-friendly and can be fun for both pets and their owners. However, never leave your pet unattended, be courteous and clean up after your pet, and know what the leash laws are for your town. For a rundown of leash laws by town and important pet safety tips at the beach, click HERE.

Can I park overnight at any of the beach accesses?

No overnight parking is permitted at any beach access. Times very according to location, so check with your town for specific information.

Where are lifeguards located?

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, highly trained ocean rescue lifeguards are stationed seven days a week at designated beach accesses from Corolla to Nags Head. See our town maps for specific lifeguard locations, and our SAFETY PAGE for more information.

Where can I drive on the beach, and do I need a permit?
  • Corolla/Carova – 4WD vehicles can access the beach at the northern end of NC 12 where the paved road ends and is permitted year round. No permit required to drive, but during the season, a permit is required to park.
  • Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head – Driving on the beach is allowed between October 1 – April 30 with a permit.
  • Hatteras – Driving is permitted year round on Cape Hatteras National Seashore with a permit.

All information regarding specific town regulations and how to purchase permits can be found HERE.

Are bonfires allowed on the beach?

Outer Banks beach bonfires are allowed – with permits – on beaches in Nags Head and along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. They are never allowed in Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, or Kill Devil Hills. More Outer Banks beach information regarding specific town regulations and how to obtain bonfire permits can be found HERE.

What's the big deal with knowing the tides?

There are several reasons to check the tides, and knowing the time of low and high tides is always beneficial. See where to check the tides in your location, and get more information HERE.

  • Where to set up your chairs and umbrellas on the beach
  • Parking and driving on the beach
  • Safest swimming
  • Best surfing
  • Best time for fishing
  • Best time for beachcombing
How can I find out the water temperature?

Water temperature can vary by a lot depending on where you are on the Outer Banks. You can check the water temperature by location HERE.

What are Rip Currents?

Rip currents are extremely dangerous channeled currents of water that flow away from shore, and can quickly pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. Since the current flows under water, it’s important to know the signs of a rip current and avoid the water in that area. Before heading to the beach, read more about rip currents HERE.

Where can I fish, and do I need a fishing license?

The Outer Banks is renowned for its fishing, and there are many ways and places to fish. Whether you’re interested in shore fishing, pier fishing, sound fishing, or a professional fishing charter, you can find more information about it HERE.

Can I get married on the beach?

Yes! The Outer Banks is very popular wedding destination locale! Whether you’re looking for a ceremony on the beach, in a church, or in one of the many local venues, you can find all the Outer Banks beach information you need to know HERE and at outerbanksweddingguide.com.

Can I camp on the beach?

The Outer Banks offers many different campgrounds close to both the ocean and sound for your camping enjoyment. However, in general, no camping is allowed on the actual beaches. You can find more information and campground locations HERE and HERE.

What do you mean by In-Season?

The general rule of thumb for “in-season” on the Outer Banks is Memorial Day to Labor Day. There are many activities, shops, restaurants, etc. that still operate before and after that, but in general, that period of time is considered in-season.

What beaches offer handicap accessibility?

EveryBODY can enjoy the beaches that have made the Outer Banks a world-famous destination. Many of the Outer Banks handicap beach access locations have the necessary parking and ramps. To find handicap accessibility for each access, see our town maps, and for further Outer Banks beach information, click HERE.

Where can I get a beach wheelchair?

There is free beach wheelchair use through many of the local fire departments. In addition, most of the local equipment rental companies offer them. For further Outer Banks beach information about acquiring a beach wheelchair, click HERE.

Where can I rent a surfboard and/or learn to surf?

The Outer Banks is known as one of the premier spots on the East Coast to catch some waves. And whether you are looking to take a lesson from the pros, or get a board and some gear before paddling out, there are plenty of local establishments that will share your stoke! For more info about rentals and lessons, click HERE.

What do the yellow and red flags mean?

Occasionally, ocean conditions can be extremely hazardous and prone to rip currents, so always stay near a lifeguard and obey all flags. Yellow flags mean that conditions are hazardous, and you should take extra precautions when swimming. Red flags mean absolutely NO swimming. For more information about beach safety and rip currents, click HERE.

Is alcohol allowed on the beach?

It is legal to drink alcohol on Outer Banks beaches, however, there are a few laws in place to ensure your safety as well as the safety of other beach-goers.

  • Glass containers are prohibited on all Outer Banks beaches
  • Plastic containers or aluminum cans are acceptable alternatives for holding alcoholic beverages
  • Littering is also illegal on all beaches – keep the beaches clean by disposing of all bottles and cans in a trash can
  • Disorderly conduct can get you arrested
  • Be respectful of others around you
Contact Us

Drop us a line, ask us a question, or let us know if there’s other beach access information that would be helpful.