Beach Driving Tips

New Beach Parking Permits

Beachgoers who wish to park on Currituck County’s four-wheel drive beach this summer will need a county-issued beach parking permit displayed on their motor vehicle.

Click here for the most current beach parking permit information and a list of frequently asked questions.

This new permit system was adopted by the Board of Commissioners in an effort to increase safety in the four-wheel drive area, where large numbers of people and vehicles mix on a daily basis during the summer tourist season.

The permit system will be effective from the Friday before Memorial Day until Labor Day. Key provisions in the policy include:

  • All county residents and property owners may receive a free beach parking permit for each vehicle they own by providing proof of ownership and current liability insurance. The permits will be issued specific to each vehicle.
  • County residents who live north of the North Beach Access Ramp may obtain two additional permits. These permits will not be specific to a motor vehicle and may be used by guests of the resident.
  • Owners of a property located north of the North Beach Access Ramp that is in a rental program may receive two additional permits. These are not specific to motor vehicles and may be used by renters staying at the property.
  • All others must pay a fee for a beach parking permit. These permits will be available for purchase from the Tourism Department on a temporary or seasonal basis. Fees will be $50 for a 10-day parking pass (valid for 10 consecutive days) and $150 for a seasonal pass.

Types of Parking Permits

  • Seasonal – This permit is assigned to a specific vehicle and is good for the entire vacation season.  Seasonal permits are free to county residents and property owners.  Others may purchase a Seasonal permit for $150.
  • 10-Day – This permit is available for purchase ($50) by individuals who are not renting a home in Corolla and want to park on the four-wheel drive beach.  This would apply to day-trippers or those staying outside of Corolla.

New Beach Driving Lane Information for 2018

From the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day, between the hours of 9am and 5pm, vehicles shall be parked adjacent to the water’s edge.  The driving lanes during this time frame will be along the dune line and in the middle of the beach.  Please do not block the driving lanes with lawn chairs, coolers, fishing lines, or any other items that restrict public safety and emergency response vehicular movement in a north-south direction.


Mandatory Air Down Ordinance

No person shall drive a motor vehicle on the beach strand or foreshore with tires containing air pressure exceeding 20 pounds per square inch (p.s.i.).  Please air down prior to getting to the 4WD area ramp.  Air up stations are available at Historic Corolla Park to re-inflate your tires once you are off the beach.


You are more than welcome to enjoy our northern beaches via 4WD vehicle. Driving on the Corolla beach is a unique experience and requires drivers to take many safety measures. You can download our PDF brochure on beach driving here.

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Here are a few things to keep in mind while driving on the northern beaches in order to make your experience enjoyable and safe:

  • No person shall drive a motor vehicle on the beach strand or foreshore with tires containing air pressure exceeding 20 pounds per square inch (p.s.i.)
  • All vehicles to be driven on the beach and roads behind the dunes must be registered, properly licensed, and insured.
  • If your vehicle is not equipped with 4WD, do not attempt to drive on the beach.
  • Fill your gas tank before driving onto the beach. There are no gas stations located in the four-wheel drive area.
  • Do not stop or park in the Corolla beach ramp area. Use 4WD onto the ramp and maintain a slow, steady speed, watching for pedestrians at all times.
  • 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 beaches of Corolla 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 corresponding signal.
  • 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 tide change.
  • 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 have created.
  • 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 lanes.
  • Vehicles parked on the beaches of Corolla 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.
  • Watch for wild horses while driving on the beach, especially at night. The horses roam the beach freely and many of them are dark in color, making them hard to spot at night.
  • Be aware of the tides when beach driving in Corolla. The beach road becomes very narrow at high tide and people have been known to lose their cars if they aren’t careful!
  • As always, don’t drink and drive.

Follow the Law

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 Outer Banks 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 Currituck 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 any of the Currituck beaches.
  • 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 Currituck 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
Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergency: 252.232.2216

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.