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The Hatteras Island shoreline, from Oregon Inlet to Hatteras Inlet, is under the management of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. As a result, certain National Park Service (NPS) rules and regulations apply for all Hatteras Island beach goers. Review the following outline of beach information to ensure that your family has a safe and fun-filled day at the beach.
Pets - Pets are allowed on all Hatteras Island beaches, year-round. Pets must be kept on a leash that is 6' ft. long or less at all times, unless they are directly in the ocean waters. Use caution when bringing pets to the beach midday in the summer, as the hot sand can damage tender paws.
ATVs - ATVs are not permitted on any Hatteras Island beach, both on the Pamlico Soundside and the Atlantic Oceanside.
Alcohol - On Hatteras Island, beer and wine are both permitted on the beaches. Spirits, distilled liquor or fortified wines are not permitted. 4WD drivers should note that all North Carolina state alcohol-related laws apply to vehicles driving on the beach. As such, visitors should not drive on the beach while intoxicated, (the state legal limit is under .08 BAC), consume alcohol while driving, or have any open containers within the passenger compartments of the vehicle.
Fires - Beach bonfires are allowed throughout the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, however a permit from the National Park Service is required. Visitors can acquire a permit by picking one up while on island at the NPS's Buxton office, or by downloading, printing and signing the form via https://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm#Fire. Bonfires must be 3' feet in diameter at most, and must be held on the shoreline under the high tide line. Bonfires may not be permitted during regional drought conditions or on exceptionally windy days.
Camping - While camping is prohibited on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Hatteras Island is home to a number of campgrounds, including two NPS campgrounds in Buxton and Frisco, and more than a dozen privately run campgrounds found throughout the island's seven villages. Many campgrounds are open seasonally, (although some privately run campgrounds may be open year-round), and can cater to tent campers, RVs, or both.
4x4 Regulations - Many of the beaches on Hatteras Island are open to 4WD vehicles, and a complete map of beaches can be found on the National Park Service website at http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/images/AccessMap_091412_med.jpg. Before accessing the beach, visitors will want to keep the following guidelines in mind:
- An NPS Off-road vehicle permit is required to drive on the beach. Visitors can pick up a permit online at http://www.recreation.gov/showPage.do?name=common&commonPath=/htm/CapeHatteras_Landing.html or in person at the park's OVR office.
- Permits are available on a weekly or annually basis.
- Each vehicle must have its own permit, and must be registered, licensed and insured.
- Vehicles are only permitted on designated beaches, and seasonal closures may apply.
- All vehicles must be equipped with low-pressure tire gauge, a shovel, a jack and jack support board.
- Drivers will want to reduce their tire pressure to 15-20 psi before driving on the beach. Free air hoses are available at most local Hatteras Island convenience stores to refill after a beach ramp.
- Do NOT stop on the ramp itself, as this will disrupt traffic coming on and off the beach.
- Stick to established tracks along the high tide line, (especially on popular beaches), and do not drive through the ocean wash, as saltwater can permanently damage a vehicle.
Fishing - Surf fishermen will want to obtain a saltwater fishing license (known officially as a Coastal Recreational Fishing License) to fish along the Hatteras Island beaches. Licenses can be picked up at local bait and tackle stores throughout the island, or can be obtained online before a trip at http://www.ncwildlife.org/.A license is not required to fish off the Avon or Rodanthe piers, or for any passenger on a local inshore or offshore charter fishing trip.
Fireworks - Fireworks are not prohibited in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and may not be set-off on any Hatteras Island Beach. Avon Village does have an annual 4th of July Celebration where fireworks are launched off the Avon Pier, and sparklers are allowed.
Glass Bottles - Glass bottles are allowed on the Hatteras Island beaches but uost be disposed of properly. Many town beaches have seasonal trash cans which are stationed close to the entrance of the public beach accesses.
Lifeguards - The town of Buxton has a seasonally lifeguarded beach close to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse when funds are available. Otherwise, there are no lifeguarded beaches on Hatteras Island, and visitors should use caution when swimming in the ocean. Watch for rip tides in all weather conditions, and avoid swimming or surfing on highly windy or stormy days.
Surfing - Surfing is allowed on all Hatteras Island beaches, although surfers are not permitted within 300' feet of any local pier, including the active piers in Avon and Rodanthe, and the currently closed Frisco Pier. Popular surfing spots include the Jetties near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and the S-Curves which is just north of the town of Rodanthe. Hatteras Island is also the regular home of the ESA surfing tournaments in the spring and / or fall.
Weddings on the Beach - weddings are permitted throughout the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which includes Hatteras Island's beaches and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. A special permit is required from the National Park Service to hold a wedding or event on the beach, and certain restrictions on equipment and decor may apply. For more information, including a complete list of rules for beach weddings, visit the NPS website at http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/wedding-permits.htm.
Seasonal Bird Closures - Some Hatteras Island beaches may close during the summer months for seasonal endangered or threatened bird nesting activities. These beaches may include Cape Point, Hatteras Inlet, Oregon Inlet, and several of the beach access ramps. (Closures are rarely held within the island's villages' town limits.) A map of seasonally opened or closed beaches is updated weekly by the NPS park service and can be found online at http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/googleearthmap.htm.
Metal Detectors - Metal Detectors are not allowed at any National Park in the US, which includes the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Personal Watercraft - Visitors are not allowed to launch or land any motorized personal watercraft on the Hatteras Island beaches, unless they have a specific commercial fishing license. There are public and / or privately owned boat ramps in almost every Hatteras Island village for mariners' use.
Seasonal Sea Turtle Closures - The NPS occasionally ropes off small portions of the beach when a sea turtle has nested in the area. When the eggs are close to hatching, the NPS further protects the area by creating a short barricade of black plastic that runs all the way to the ocean. (This prevents the baby sea turtles from running towards the lights of neighboring vacation rentals after hatching.) Visitors are advised to respect these closures at all times, and not walk on or through any sea turtle closure.
Kiteboarding and Windsurfing - Kiteboarders on the Pamlico Sound are advised to stay far away from the power lines along NC Highway 12. On the oceanfront, kiteboarders and windsurfers may not launch from or land on any seasonally closed beaches.