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.)
Board sufficient to support base of jack (otherwise the jack may sink in the sand)
First Aid Kit
For more information, contact the respective town's administrative office at:
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
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