Beach Driving Tips & Rules
You are more than welcome to enjoy our northern beaches via 4WD vehicle.
Driving on the beach is a unique experience and requires drivers to
take many safety measures. Here are a few things to keep in mind while
driving on the northern beaches in order to make your experience
enjoyable and safe:
- All vehicles to be driven on the beach and roads behind the dunes must be registered, properly licensed, and insured.
- Fill your gas tank before driving onto the beach. There are no gas stations located in the four-wheel drive area.
- Well before approaching the beach ramp (four-wheel-drive area),
stop in a legal parking area and adjust the air pressure to 15-20 psi in
all four tires. This will provide more surface contact with the sand.
- Do not stop or park in the beach ramp area. Use 4WD onto the
ramp and maintain a slow, steady speed, watching for pedestrians at all
- Once on the beach, there is no parking until you reach mile post
14 (approximately 1 mile). Do not stop until you are clear of all
posted no parking/stopping zones, on narrow sections of the beach;
Continue driving to an area where the beach is wide enough to allow
other travelers to pass, both at the water’s edge and at the dune line.
- The speed limit on the beach is 35 mph. On the shore or beach
strand, the speed limit is 15 mph when traveling within 300 feet of any
person or animal. When approaching another vehicle, use your turn signal
to indicate on which side you plan to pass. (It is customary to pass on
the right, when practical). The other vehicle should respond with a
- Parking correctly on the beach is critical for the safety of
people and pets. Always keep your vehicle and personal property such as
chairs, beach umbrellas, etc. centered and between the waterline and the
dune line. This may involve moving vehicles and belongings with the
- The beach is a State recognized “road” or Public Vehicular Area
(PVA). The shoreline (next to the water’s edge) and dune traffic lane
(those deeply rutted tracks next to the dunes) are designated Fire,
Emergency, and Vehicular traffic lanes. The law requires that
individuals fill all ruts and holes and level any sand structures they
- Parking or setting up beach equipment is not permitted in these
lanes. Do not impede traffic by stopping, setting up beach chairs,
digging holes, or building sand structures in the designated traffic
- Vehicles parked on the beach must be parked in the area east of
the dune line and west of the hard packed sand strip, adjacent to the
water’s edge. No chairs, coolers, fishing lines, holes, trenches, or any
other items are permitted to block the foreshore. This would restrict
vehicular movement in a north-south direction along the dune line or
along the water’s edge.
- Remember to WATCH FOR PEDESTRIANS! The loud sound of the surf
can make it difficult for people to hear approaching vehicles. In
addition, children are often distracted and dart in front of cars. As a
driver, it is your responsibility to stay alert. As a pedestrian, it is
your responsibility to not impede traffic.
FOLLOW THE LAW
- Be aware of the tides. The beach road becomes very narrow at
high tide and people have been known to lose their cars if they aren’t
Each year, thousands of visitors enjoy the beaches of the Currituck Outer Banks. To ensure this natural environment is maintained - and that visitors are protected as well - Currituck County has established ordinances and laws.
- Parking - No vehicle of any type may park or unload at the North Beach Access at any time. This must be done on the beach past the 1/2 mile mark. VIOLATORS SHALL BE TOWED. Operators must be 16 years of age and possess a valid driver’s license. Overnight parking against or on the dunes is illegal.
- Reckless Driving - Driving a vehicle in a repeated circular motion - doing “donuts” - or driving in the surf are examples of careless and reckless driving. Reckless driving and other traffic offenses are violations of North Carolina Motor Vehicle laws. The beach and the sand roads behind the dunes are Public Vehicular Areas, and these laws are enforced.
- Dunes – Walking or driving a vehicle on the North Beach dunes is prohibited.
- Wild Horses - While on the northern beaches, you may come in contact with our famous Colonial Spanish Mustangs. Keep in mind, they are wild - do not approach them. IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO GET CLOSER THAN 50 FEET OR TO FEED THEM. Feed them can (and has been) fatal. Please view the horses from a respectable distance and encourage others to do the same. If you observe an injured horse, please call the Corolla Wild Horse Fund at 252-453-8002.
- Pets - Currituck County has a county-wide leash law. Your pet must be on a leash at all times. And remember; please clean up after your pet!
- Restrooms - There are no public restrooms on the northern beaches. Public urination is prohibited in Currituck County.
- Littering - Please help keep our beaches clean by removing all trash from the beach when you leave.
- Bonfires - Open-burning, including bonfires on the beach, is prohibited. This includes the dunes and the subdivisions/areas behind the dunes. Also, glass is not permitted on the beach.
- Beach Camping - Overnight camping on the beach is prohibited.
- All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) – ATVs are no longer allowed on the beaches of Currituck County for non-residents.
- Personal Watercraft (Jet Skis) - Launching of personal watercraft is prohibited on the Atlantic Ocean side of Currituck County, but you may enjoy your personal watercraft in the Currituck Sound. Public ramps are located at the Whalehead Club.
- Fireworks - Fireworks that are self-propelled, spin, or explode are illegal in North Carolina. This State regulation is enforced on the beach and behind the dunes. Fireworks, including those that are legal, are extremely hazardous because of dry beach grasses, closely-built wood structures, high winds, and other factors.
- Swimming - A red flag on the beach indicates that ocean conditions are not safe for swimming. All forms of water activity are prohibited. Any entry into the water when red flags are flying shall be a misdemeanor punishable by fine of not more than $500 or not more than 30 days imprisonment. Surfboards at least five feet in length and equipped with a leash are exempted.
If you observe others violating the law, please call the Currituck County Sheriff’s Office at 252-232-2216.
IF YOU NEED HELP
The Carova Beach Volunteer Fire Department is located at 2169 Ocean Pearl Road. To get to the station from the beach, turn at the ramp located between the 21 and 22 mile markers. The ramp has a Fire House sign marking the turn. The Fire Station is not staffed at all times but does provide local response to 9-1-1 calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Many people and animals live on the North Beach. The dunes and property behind them are privately owned. Please restrict driving to the traveled roads. The laws of the beach are enforceable in this area as well.
OTHER THINGS TO REMEMBER
House numbers (addresses) behind the dunes correspond with the beach mile markers.
The Carova Beach Volunteer Fire & Rescue Auxiliary sells T-shirts, ice, and cold drinks at the station, Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 2 p.m. throughout the summer season.
An outside pay telephone is available at the Carova Beach Fire Station.