Bear in mind these rules are in place to ensure everyone can enjoy the miles of oceanfront, and there's plenty of fun to be had both on and off the sand.
Outer Banks & Nags Head Beach Rules
- Red flags = no swimming. When you see red flags flying, dangerous conditions are present and swimming is prohibited.
- No Swimming or surfing within 300 feet of a fishing pier. It is dangerous and police can write citations to offenders.
- Don't Swim alone. We recommend swimming at a beach that offers lifeguard service.
- Learn about rip currents. Don't panic! Teach kids what to do if caught in a rip current.
- Watch out for fishing lines. Surf fishing is popular in the Outer Banks.
- Stay off the dunes. Keep off the dunes and stay on designated pathways to and from the beach to maintain the dunes' structural integrity. It is illegal to walk over dunes in many locations, and it is also illegal to pick live sea oats growing on the beaches.
- Fill in any holes you dig. Holes in the sand can be a hazard. Digging large holes or mounding sand is illegal in some towns.
- Don't feed the wildlife. Feeding or interfering with wildlife is dangerous to humans and animals.
- Be mindful of Noise. Most communities consider a violation of the noise ordinance to be any sound that can be heard from inside a nearby residence, and any load noise after approximately 11:00 p.m.
- Pick up your trash. Be sure and pick up any trash that's left behind. Littering is illegal on all Outer Banks beaches. Most beach communities have trash receptacles right on the beach, or nearby on the beach access walkways and public parking areas.
- No glass on the beach. Be mindful of glass bottles. Alcohol is allowed on all beaches, but if at all possible, stick to cans and plastic to save future beach-goers from any bare foot injuries.
- No nudity. There are no nude beaches on the Outer Banks.
- Camping is not allowed on any Outer Banks beaches except in designated campgrounds. There are a couple Oceanside (behind the dune line) campgrounds maintained by the National Park Service (NPS): One in Frisco near the Frisco Air Strip and one on Ocracoke Island. Please visit their website for camping information or call for reservations.
- Pets are allowed on most all Outer Banks beaches, provided they are on a leash. As a courtesy, please pick up after your pet.
- All beaches are open to the public. While there may not be public parking or ramps available, anyone can go to any beach on the Outer Banks.
- Take your equipment with you. While it is not generally illegal in most Outer Banks communities to leave up canopies and umbrellas overnight, please refrain from doing so out of courtesy to your beach neighbors, as well as to protect your beach equipment from theft or wind damage.
- Surf fishing is allowed on all Outer Banks beaches, with the exception of occasional seasonal closures by the NPS on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. You can visit the NPS website for current maps of beaches that are open to both pedestrians and vehicles. A fishing license is required in North Carolina and can be obtained before your vacation via the NC Marine Fisheries and Wildlife website, or a fishing license can be purchased at most any tackle shop on the Outer Banks.
- New Nags Head canopies and tents rules: Leaving equipment on the beach unattended from 8 pm-7 am each day is prohibited. Canopies and tents must be placed no closer than 10 feet apart. Tents and canopies cannot be larger than 12x12 and stand no higher than 9 feet above the sand when erected. Beach equipment cannot obstruct the line of sight of a lifeguard to the sand and cannot obstruct the passage of public works or emergency vehicles.