How to Enjoy Amazing Beach Driving on the OBX

How to Enjoy Amazing Beach Driving on the OBX

One of the great treats of vacationing on the Outer Banks is a drive on the beach. Unlike most east coast beaches the OBX allows beach driving during certain times of year and that time is now! From Carova to Ocrakoke the OBX has miles of beautiful beaches to explore via 4X4. With a few tips and tricks, you too can enjoy a fun family adventure on the beach during your Outer Banks Vacation. Fall is prime season for beach driving on the OBX. We have plenty of amazing vacation homes to choose from that will put you just a few short miles from several beach access points. So let drop that tire pressure and head to the OBX and let the adventure begin. 


Car on the Beach 

Rule and Regulations

Knowing the local beach regulations is important to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable day on the beach. Each municipality has its own set of regulations, as does the Cape Hatteras National Seashore which encompasses Ocracoke and Hatteras Island. We will put links below to each of the municipalities so you can stay up to date with the current regulations and requirements. Here are a few rules and regulations that apply to all beach driving regardless of where you drive on the OBX.  

General Rules

  • Note: Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores beaches do not allow beach driving.
  • Speed limits are 25 mph unless otherwise posted in Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills. 
  • Currituck County Beaches, have a speed limit of 35 mph, or 15 mph when within 300 feet of a person or animal. 
  • The Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a speed limit of 15 mph.
  • All vehicles must be insured, have a current license plate, inspection, and all drivers must have a valid driver's license. 
  • Pedestrians always have the right of way. 
  • Never drive on the vegetation or dunes. 
  • When approaching wild horse you must maintain a distance of 50 feet. 
  • Open containers of alcohol are prohibited.
  • Night driving is permitted on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore from November 16 thru April 30th. 


Tire Tracks
  • National Park Service Permits for driving on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore can be obtained online. Annual permits and 10-day permits are both available. Permits cost $50.00 and $120.00 respectively. Click here for more info. 
  • Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills have reciprocity so you can drive on the beach of either town with one permit. Permits cost $25.00 and are valid from October 1 thru April 30 of each year. Click here, to find out where to get your permit. 
  • Currituck County beaches do not require a permit, with the exception of ATV access which is only available to residents and property owners. 

Tips and Tricks to Beach Driving

Having a safe and fun day on the beach is easy to have, but there are a few tips and tricks that will make your day on driving on the beach more relaxing. Being prepared is the key to a great day on the beach.

 Recommended Equipment

  • Tow Straps 
  • Small shovel. Collapsable or foldable ones work great for this.*
  • Tire pressure gauge.*
  • Portable air compressor
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Jack and Jack Support Board*
* Items are required for driving on the National Park Service Beaches, such as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.


Driving On The Beach

  • 4x4 is not required but is strongly recommended. Two-wheel drive vehicles are allowed but highly discouraged from attempting to drive on the beach. 
  • Always lower your vehicle's tire pressure by 15- 25 psi. Soft tires give your vehicle much better traction on the sand. 
  • Follow existing tracks, this will help ensure you do not get stuck. 
  • If you do get stuck, do not spin the tires as this will only cause you to sink deeper into the sand. Instead, dig out behind the tires until you gain traction.
  • Program one of the local tow company's phone numbers  in your cell phone prior to heading to the beach, this way you have a "last resort" if stuck. 
  • Make sure to wash your vehicle, especially the undercarriage immediately after leaving the beach, salt water is highly corrosive. 
  • Lend a hand. You never know when you may need help, so make sure to offer assistance when needed. 

It is important to note, that while 911 services are available, you must be prepared to be self-reliant due to extended response times on the beaches. For this reason having a first aid kit and fire extinguisher are crucial for a safe day on the beach. While nobody plans on getting stuck, it does happen. Local law enforcement may stop to assist but are not required to. National Park Service officers are prohibited from assisting you. 

Family Car 

Where to Drive

The Outer Banks has miles and miles of beautiful beaches accessible to 4x4 vehicles. There are literally dozens of beach access points along the OBX. Here are a few places to explore. 

Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head have dozens of beach access points. The beaches in these towns tend to be busier because of their central location so it is a great place for your first adventure as you are never far from help. This is also a great location because you can explore lots of local shops and restaurants along the way getting on and off the beach as needed. Click here for more information about Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. 

If you are looking to enjoy a beautiful day exploring Salvo, Rodanthe, Buxton, Avon, Frisco, and Hatteras your best bet is to enter the Cape Hatteras National Seashore at the Coquina Beach Access area which is located about 8 miles south of Nags Head on Highway 12. This stretch of beach has limited development and a beautiful area to explore the beach away from the crowds. Access to the National Seashore is subject to closures and changes, which occur frequently. To stay up to date by checking beach access status with the National Park Services.

Ocracoke is a great day trip. Ocracoke, as mentioned, is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and all National Park Service regulations apply. Take the ferry to Ocracoke which is a fun trip itself. Once on the island, you can enter the beach about a hundred yards from the ferry dock. Other access points are marked with brown National Park Service signs, but the easiest and closest access to the beach is the first one by the ferry docks. 

No trip would be complete without driving the extreme northern part of the Outer Banks. To access this area drive to the northern end of NC 12. Once on the beach be on the lookout for the wild horses and make sure have the camera ready. This area of the beach is remote, so it is particularly important to bring your essential equipment. 

Your Outer Banks Vacation rental puts you in the perfect location to get you and your family on the beach. The kids will love a day driving along the beautiful seashore of the OBX. There is still plenty of time to book a fall vacation on the OBX and enjoy a beach driving adventure.


How to Enjoy Amazing Beach Driving on the OBX Pin

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