The Ocracoke beach. Photo: C. Leinbach

The Outer Banks and Ocracoke are fortunate that driving on the beach is allowed. However, there are some things to observe while doing so. The following “Irene’s guide to beach manners,” modified a bit for Ocracoke, is by the late Irene Nolan, co-founder, editor and publisher of the Island Free Press online newspaper based on Hatteras Island.

This isn’t just for our visitors. Sometimes even locals need reminding about beach manners. Also, it’s not just about manners. Beach drivers need to know the law and obey it and use some common sense. So, this a reminder to all about beach manners and the law.

Beach driving: All the state’s traffic laws for driving on paved roads apply to beach driving: Buckle up, observe speed limits, no open containers of alcoholic beverages while driving, current driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance and license plate are required.

The National Park Service (NPS) requires a permit for driving on the beach.

Do not drive recklessly by cutting doughnuts or defacing the beach. Never drive on the dunes.

The speed limit on the beach is 15 mph and 5 mph when within 100 feet of pedestrians. Pedestrians always have the right of way.

Do not drive in front of other beachgoer’s camps.

Do not drive or walk into areas closed for resource protection, which are clearly marked.

Your tires should be aired down to drive on the access ramps and the beach – no matter what your manual says. The NPS recommends 20 psi.

If you get stuck, lower your tire pressure even more. Slowly back up in your tracks and move slowly forward. Don’t sit there and spin your wheels or you will get really stuck. Then you’ll have to call Beach Towing (252-928-8111) to get you out.

Do not wait until you are in the access ramp to stop and air down your tires, holding up the drivers behind you.

Don’t drive in the surf or standing water on the beach. Salt water is corrosive and can ruin your vehicle.

Prepare for emergencies by carrying in your vehicle a shovel, tire pressure gauge, spare tire, jack and jack support board, fire extinguisher, tow rope, flashlight and first-aid kit.

Keep pets on a six-foot leash. Feeding wildlife, including those begging seagulls, is prohibited on federal property. Dogs, if not actually swimming in the surf, must otherwise be on leashes. See more rules about the NPS-owned beach here.

Beach holes: Beware of digging deep holes or tunnels on the beach. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous. Visitors to the seashore have been killed when sand collapsed on them while they were digging tunnels.
If you do dig holes on the beach, be sure to cover them up before you leave. Holes on the beach at night can be dangerous for pedestrians, emergency vehicles and wildlife.

No overnights: Park regulations prohibit camping and/or leaving your equipment on the beach overnight.

Drones are prohibited inside Cape Hatteras National Seashore and other NPS property.

Do not litter. Be sure that trash bags are a part of your beach packing and carry out your trash.

Share the beach and the water. If you are going to fish, don’t set up in the middle of vacationing families. And, likewise, if you want to swim and enjoy the water, don’t stop next to a group of anglers.

Keep the music down: Don’t assume everyone shares your taste in music. Some folks like to hear the sound of the surf and shorebirds. Keep the volume to within your area.

A word about outdoor lights. It’s not the law in Hyde County, but please turn your outside lights off at night when you are not using them. We like to enjoy our dark skies here on Ocracoke, and it’s hard to do when your neighbors leave their outdoor lights, especially big spotlights, on all night long.

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