Ocracoke’s beach has attracted increasing national attention as it worked its way up Dr. Beach’s acclaimed list of Best Beaches; he even named it America's #1 beach in 2007. 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.
Confirm seasonal routes, beach closures and ramp openings with the National Park Service. All vehicles on the beach must apply for an off-road vehicle (ORV) beach driving permit.
The annual permit, which costs $120 per vehicle, will now be valid from the date of purchase for one full year. Ten-day permits are valid on date of purchase and cost $50. Those who purchase a permit will be required to fill out and sign a form and watch a 7-minute educational video at one of the park’s visitor centers. The ORV permit offices are open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round except Christmas Day.
Permits can be obtained from any of the Seashore's three permit offices:
Bodie Island at the north end of the Coquina Beach parking lot (8101 N.C. Highway 12, Nags Head)
Hatteras Island by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Center (46368 Lighthouse Road, Buxton)
Ocracoke Island by the NPS visitor center (40 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke)
There are restrooms, changing rooms and a shower facility located at the day use area on 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. Check with the National Park Service Visitor Center on Ocracoke for the most updated information.