Beach Driving

NCBBA Guides for Off-Road Driving

Due to new laws affecting Beach Driving and ORV access, please visit the Current Beach Access page to determine which sections of beach are currently open to ORV Access.

  • Avoid damaging vegetation.
  • Enter and leave the beach only at designated numbered ramps.
  • Drive only on that portion of the beach which lies between the foot of the dunes and the ocean.
  • Do not drive on or between the dunes except on marked routes.
  • Drive only on marked ORV routes west of NC Highway 12 (Sound side).

Drive Safely:

  • Proceed with due caution and consideration for other beach users.
  • Slow down and detour around other people on the beach. Watch for fishing lines.
  • Drive slowly and be alert for people lying, standing, or walking on the beach.

Conserve the beach and its wildlife.

  • Be alert and obey signs which indicate areas which are closed to ORV use.
  • Do not drive or walk in posted bird nesting areas.
  • Carry your trash out with you and dispose of it properly including fish parts and dead fish.
  • Release and return fish to the water alive if you catch fish which you will not use.

Observe Licensing requirements:

  • Your vehicle must have a current State road registration and valid license plate.
  • Off-road Vehicle Use Permits

    Obtaining an ORV permit is an easy process that takes only minutes from start to finish. You can choose to visit a visitor center at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in person or you can visit the Cape Hatteras ORV Permit page at

    The online permit process is as simple as

    1. Going to the Cape Hatteras ORV Permit page on,
    2. Filling out the online application, and
    3. Print the permit and proof-of-permit and place them in your vehicle (Annual proof-of-permit stickers will be mailed, but the printed proof-of-permit is good for 30 days).

    The in-person permit process has six easy steps.

    1. Go to one of the three visitor centers.
    2. Show the required documentation to the National Park Service staff members selling permits.
    3. Fill out the ORV permit.
    4. Watch the 7-minute video (you can skip this step if you bring last year's permit).
    5. Pay for your permit.
    6. Place the permit in your vehicle's glove box and affix the proof-of-permit to your vehicle's windshield.

    That's all there is to it. You'll be off enjoying the beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore before you know it. In preparation for getting your permit, be sure you have

    • your driver's license,
    • your vehicle registration,
    • form of payment (charge card or cash),
    • and last year's permit (if available, for the in-person process).

    Two types of permits are available for purchase. They are

    • a 7-day Permit ($50, valid for 7 consecutive days),

    Remember to keep the permit in the glove box of your permitted vehicle and the proof-of-permit sticker clearly visible on your windshield.

  • Check with local tackle shops concerning fishing license requirements and size and creel limits for various species of fish.

Some Reminders:

  • All pets must be kept on a leash not longer than 6 feet.
  • Federal and State Drinking and Driving Laws apply to all areas. No open containers of any alcoholic beverages.
  • Rangers will assist you, but they are not permitted to pull or tow other vehicles. Commercial towing services are available.
  • A beach driving permit is required in the Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills areas. Permits can be purchased at the Town Hall for a nominal fee. Check at tackle shops or municipal town offices for any other area(s) that may require a beach permit.

Tips And Hints For Beach Driving

Check the weather forecast and tide tables before starting your trip. Ask a Park Ranger about current beach conditions.

  • Use only a four-wheel drive vehicle to drive on the beach.
  • Lower the pressure in all tires. The softer the sand the lower the pressure needed. Park Rangers generally drive with 20-25 pounds of pressure in their tires. When you return to paved roads, inflate the tires to normal as soon as possible.
  • When possible, travel on the portion of the beach located just below the high tide mark. Avoid getting too close to the water. Before driving through any water, determine the depth and firmness of the underlying surface.
  • Drive at a slow, steady speed. If the tires start to spin, back up in your tire tracks for several car lengths. Accelerate slowly as you move forward. Additional tire deflation may be necessary.
  • Salt water and spray is highly corrosive. It is recommended that you wash the vehicle after each outing both sheet metal and undercarriage.