What North Carolina Beaches Can You Drive On?

North Carolina features some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. You can take a 4×4 vehicle and drive on many of them. There are many North Carolina beaches you can drive on, including many on the Outer Banks and outside the Wilmington area, including near the Crystal Coast.

What North Carolina Beaches Can You Drive On?

Many of these beaches have been driven on for decades now. Before the development of roads along the NC coast, many people drove on the beaches instead. The construction of NC Highway 12 helped make it easier for people to travel on roads. All the same, beach driving is still in use in many areas, particularly the rural ones.

Luckily for tourists, there are many great beaches where they can take a drive. Driving makes it easier for people to find some of the most exciting scenery on North Carolina’s coast.

The choices you have, however, will vary throughout the state. You will have limits for where you can go and when you can access these beaches. Some places demand separate permits for access.

Offseason Note

The offseason for most North Carolina beaches is from October 1 to April 30. Each community has different rules for how and when you can access their area beaches.

Beaches You Can Drive On In NC


Corolla, NC

You can drive on beaches in Corolla with a permit, but the timing will vary by location. Year-round driving is available north of where the paved road ends at the end of NC Highway 12. You can only access the southern part during the offseason.

While you can view the wild horses of Corolla while driving, the area may be inaccessible at times. The local community often closes Corolla’s beaches for driving depending on how the horses migrate. Nesting closures are traditionally seasonal and will vary throughout the year.

Carova Beach

The shores of Carova Beaches are available for driving in the summer. These beaches in Currituck County require a parking permit before you can drive on them.

The permit is necessary from the Friday before Memorial Day to the end of Labor Day. The Currituck County government offers these permits for sale online.

*Expert Tip: If you are renting in the 4×4 area of Corolla, your rental house should have 2 passes available. However, if you are visiting you can get your passes from: https://currituckcountync.ticketspice.com/currituckbeachparking

However, the number of available passes are limited, so you will want to check the site regularly.


You must have access to a private vehicle ramp to drive in Duck. Beach driving is only open in the offseason period.

There are some beaches on the Currituck Sound available for driving. Most of the beaches for driving, though, are on the Atlantic Ocean.

Some resorts and accommodations in Duck may also provide access to beach driving. Each resort or hotel in Duck will have unique rules for what you can do on their beaches.

Check with whatever resort or other area you will stay at while in Duck to see if you can drive on the beach in its area.

Kill Devil Hills

Awesome beachfront real estate in San Diego California

You can drive on the beach in Kill Devil Hills with a proper permit. You can get a permit in the town or in nearby Nags Head. Your permit will work in both towns.

Beach driving is legal in Kill Devil Hills during the offseason only. You must access the beach through a designated entry point.

Most of the driving here in Kill Devil Hills will be along the Atlantic Ocean. Beach driving on shores near the Wright Brothers National Memorial is prohibited.

Nags Head

What is Nags Head, NC known for?

Nags Head uses the same rules for beach driving as Kill Devil Hills. The area includes many fishing piers, so be cautious when driving.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

You can drive on the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore with the proper permit.

These include the beaches on the Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. Some towns here supporting beach driving include Rodanthe, Avon, Buxton, Salvo, and Frisco.

You must have an ORV permit for driving within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. You can get a permit from an NPS ranger station during the season. Off-season permits are available at local town halls. You can also buy a pass online.

You must use one designated entry ramp to enter the beach here. Night driving is open from November 16 to April 30.

Cape Lookout National Seashore

The Cape Lookout National Seashore allows beach driving with an ORV license. You will require a vehicle ferry to get your 4×4 to the area. You can reserve a time with a private ferry operator to get out to the seashore.

Emerald Isle

What North Carolina Beaches Allow Dogs

Emerald Isle is one of the most popular places south of the Outer Banks to visit. Emerald Isle is open for beach driving in the offseason.

The town requires a beach driving permit for anyone looking to access the beach. People can get their permits online or at the Town Administration Building.

Beach driving is open from September 15 to April 30. It is not allowed from the Friday before Easter to the Sunday seven days after Easter.

Beach driving hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until November 5. The hours are 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. from November 5 to March 9.

North Topsail

Tiny humans on an empty beach by the vast ocean. Two people in the distance by the water ocean

People can access North Topsail for beach driving throughout the year. You must buy a driving pass before you can access the beach.

You can order your pass online, but it will take ten days to get it mailed to your home.

Surf City

Surf City only allows beach driving for fishing purposes from September 10 to May 15. You must display a pass provided by the local police department.

Topsail Beach

What are the beaches like in Topsail Island, NC?

Topsail Beach also only permits beach driving for fishing.

The beach is open from October 1 to March 31. The town’s police department also sells passes.

Carolina Beach

Sunrise in Myrtle Beach South Carolina with various birds flying around.

Carolina Beach outside Wilmington offers beach driving and camping. Day and annual passes are available for sale.

Kure Beach

Kure Beach is a little more isolated than Carolina Beach. It also offers day and annual passes for driving.

Salty Summer Private CottageSalvo, North Carolina1 bed, 1 bath
The Lost Shaker of SaltHatteras, North Carolina1 bed, 1 bath
Kill Devil Hills Oceanfront CondoSouth Nags Head, North Carolina2 beds, 2 baths
Blue BungalowKitty Hawk, North Carolina4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Carlton’s RitzKill Devil Hills, North Carolina5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms

Your favorite Carolina beach destination isn’t part of this list? No need to worry, there are a lot of properties you can rent out so you’re favorite vacation spots are still accessible even if you can’t drive in the area.

For a more comfortable stay while enjoying the beautiful beaches of North Carolina, here are some of the highly-rated properties you can stay in:

Each of the properties above features something unique that you won’t find in other vacation rentals! Just click the link to each rental for more details.

Where Is Driving Not Allowed?

Beach driving is illegal in Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Wrightsville Beach, Southport, and Bald Head Island.

Critical Considerations

Be sure you follow the proper terms when driving on North Carolina’s beaches:

  • ATVs are not allowed on most beaches. Traditional trucks and SUVs are acceptable.
  • 4WD vehicles are recommended.
  • Follow existing tracks left from prior vehicles if possible. The effort reduces your risk of getting stuck. It also reduces the impact of vehicles on the beach.
  • Lower your tire pressure by about 15 to 25 psi. Softer tires provide better traction on the sand.
  • Do not drive on vegetation or near any wildlife.
  • Bring a tire jack or other elevation device with you if you become stuck. Be sure to reserve phone numbers of towing companies if you cannot get out of a spot yourself.
  • Don’t drive too fast while on the beach. Keep a speed of about five miles per hour if possible.
  • Do not get too close to the water while driving. Saltwater can rust your vehicle and cause damage. The risk becomes worse if the saltwater is present for too long. You can hose off your vehicle right away if you come in contact with the saltwater.


What North Carolina beaches allow driving?

Some of the North Carolina beaches that allow driving include Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Freeman Park in Carolina Beach.

Are there any restrictions on driving on North Carolina beaches?

Yes, there are restrictions on driving on North Carolina beaches. These restrictions may include speed limits, designated driving areas, and specific times when driving is allowed.

What are the requirements for driving on North Carolina beaches?

You typically need a vehicle with four-wheel drive capability to drive on North Carolina beaches. Additionally, you may need to obtain a beach driving permit or pass, which can be obtained from the respective beach authority.

Are there specific hours when driving is allowed on North Carolina beaches?

Yes, there are specific hours when driving is allowed on North Carolina beaches. The exact hours may vary depending on the beach and the time of year. It’s important to check with the beach authority or refer to the specific beach regulations for accurate information.

How do I obtain a permit to drive on North Carolina beaches?

To obtain a permit to drive on North Carolina beaches, you will generally need to contact the beach authority or park service responsible for the beach you wish to drive on. They will provide you with the necessary information and requirements for obtaining a permit.

Are there any fees associated with driving on North Carolina beaches?

Yes, there are often fees associated with driving on North Carolina beaches. These fees may include a vehicle permit fee, parking fees, or daily/seasonal access fees. The fees can vary depending on the beach and the duration of your visit.

Are there any regulations for vehicles driving on North Carolina beaches?

Yes, there are regulations for vehicles driving on North Carolina beaches. These regulations typically include speed limits, designated driving lanes, rules for avoiding pedestrian areas, and guidelines for responsible driving behavior. It is important to familiarize yourself with these regulations before driving on the beach.

Can I camp on the beach if I have a vehicle permit?

Camping regulations vary by beach. Some North Carolina beaches allow camping with a vehicle permit, while others may have designated camping areas or specific camping restrictions. It is advisable to check the specific beach regulations or contact the beach authority for accurate information regarding camping on the beach.

Are there any safety precautions I should take when driving on North Carolina beaches?

Yes, there are several safety precautions to take when driving on North Carolina beaches. These include reducing speed, avoiding soft sand areas, watching for pedestrians and wildlife, observing any posted warnings or signs, and being mindful of tides and changing weather conditions.

Are there any specific rules for driving on Outer Banks beaches?

Yes, there are specific rules for driving on Outer Banks beaches. These rules may include restrictions on certain areas, requirements for permits, speed limits, and guidelines for accessing and exiting the beach. It is recommended to check with the Outer Banks beach authority for the most up-to-date information on driving rules and regulations.

Can I drive on the beach with a rental vehicle?

Driving rental vehicles on North Carolina beaches is generally not allowed. Most rental car companies have strict policies against driving their vehicles on beaches or unpaved roads. It’s best to consult with the rental car company regarding their specific policies before considering driving on the beach with a rental vehicle.

Can I drive on North Carolina beaches during the nesting season for sea turtles?

No, driving on North Carolina beaches is typically not allowed during the nesting season for sea turtles. These restrictions are in place to protect the nests and ensure the safety of the turtles. It is essential to respect these regulations and be aware of the nesting season dates for sea turtles.

Are there any specific rules or guidelines for driving on Cape Hatteras National Seashore?

Yes, there are specific rules and guidelines for driving on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. These may include obtaining an Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) permit, adhering to designated ORV routes, abiding by speed limits, and respecting nesting areas and wildlife closures. It is important to review the regulations provided by the National Park Service for driving on Cape Hatteras National Seashore.


  1. Where do I get a pass to drive on beach for Corolla?
    Should the house I’m renting gave passes for their guests?
    When can you get the passes (days/hours/locations)?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *