Ocracoke’s beach has attracted increasing national attention as it worked its way up on Dr. Beach’s acclaimed annual list of 10 Best Beaches in the USA; he named Ocracoke's Lifeguard Beach as America's #1 beach in 2007 and 2022. The beach is wide and clean and there are plenty of spots where, with a little effort, you can enjoy it undisturbed by others. The ocean reaches high temperatures of 85 degrees F in the summer and can adopt the clear aquamarine hues of tropical waters when the conditions are right. Board sports, surf fishing, swimming, shelling, reading and napping are all popular beach pastimes. The 16 miles of oceanfront beach are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and are free of development. Pets are welcome but must be on a 6' leash at all times.
All vehicles on the beach must apply for an off-road vehicle (ORV) beach driving permit. To view current beach access information, visit go.nps.gov/beachaccess. The annual permit, which costs $120 per vehicle, is valid from the date of purchase for one full year. Ten-day permits are valid on the date of purchase and cost $50. ORV permits can only be purchased online at recreation.gov (search for Cape Hatteras ORV).
There are restrooms, changing rooms and a shower facility located at the Ocracoke Beach Access on N.C. Highway 12 just outside the village. There are plenty of good spots for those looking for more solitude along the entire beach up to the Hatteras Ferry. Look for the paved parking areas, not the sandy shoulder along the highway, for parking your vehicle.
Several federally threatened and endangered species, including the piping plover and several species of sea turtles, nest on the island’s beaches, and sections may be closed to the public in order to protect these nests. You will see NPS signs posting hours of access and closures at entry ramps where these protected species are breeding and nesting. Be sure to pay close attention to the park regulations. Violations for intrusions into protected areas and for pets off-leash are strictly enforced by park rangers.