Beach & Ocean Safety

Beach Warning Flags

During dangerous surf conditions, red "No Swimming" flags fly at beach entrances. Whenever red flags are flying, swimming is prohibited. At such times, ocean conditions have been determined to be unsafe and swimmers are at serious risk of injury or death if they enter the water. For your safety, please heed all red flag warnings.


Ocean Safety

  • Stay alert to common beach hazards. Rip currents, submerged objects, sand bar drop-offs, and jellyfish are just some hazards that you could encounter. Keep an eye on family and friends, including children.
  • Be aware of your surroundings before you enter the water. Avoid swimming near fishing piers and in areas where people are fishing, avoid areas where schools of fish are active, don’t wear or take jewelry or shiny objects into the water, and stay out of the water if you are bleeding or have open sores.
  • It is strongly recommended that all kayakers wear life jackets.
  • All surfers must be tethered to their boards.
  • Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Southern Shores, Duck and Corolla (including the 4x4 beaches) do not allow personal motorized watercraft (PWC) on the ocean. Nags Head allows PWCs on the ocean, however, PWC launch restrictions apply. Please contact the town of Nags Head at (252) 441-5508 for more details.

Rip Currents

Rip currents are fast-moving currents of water that can quickly pull even the strongest swimmers away from the shore. Since the current flows under water, it’s important to know the signs of a rip current and avoid the water in that area.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), indicators of rip currents include:

  • A channel of churning, choppy water.
  • Notable differences in water color.
  • Lines of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward.
  • A break in the incoming wave pattern.

Be sure to read lifeguard stand signs when arriving at the beach. If you see warning signs of rip currents or moderate or high hazard flags, stay out of the water and alert others to do the same. If caught in a rip current, you should stay calm to conserve energy. Don’t try to fight the current. Instead, swim with the current, and swim toward shore once you’re out of the current.

Rip current image

General Beach Safety

  • Before choosing your spot on the beach, check to be sure you will not hinder the performance of lifeguards during an emergency situation. Maintain a clear path along the dune line for patrol units and in front of stationary lifeguard stands.
  • Refill all holes dug in the sand before leaving the beach area. Open holes are a safety concern for emergency response vehicles.
  • Tents and personal items left on the beach overnight and should not obstruct traffic or pedestrian movement during the day. They should be removed by 5:00 pm in Southern Shores, by 7:00 pm in Duck, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head and by sunset in Corolla and the 4x4 area. Personal items must be removed daily, or they may be removed as litter. Unattended items that have been removed will not be returned.
  • All dunes are off limits. The dunes are home to nesting turtles and vegetation specific to our area. Additionally, dunes protect homes from flooding during a storm surge.
  • Do not leave trash on the beach.
  • Beach bonfires are strictly prohibited in Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Southern Shores, Duck, and Corolla (including the 4x4 beaches). Beach pit fires are allowed on the beach in Nags Head with a permit. For more information, contact Nags Head Fire and Rescue at (252) 441-5909.
  • ATVs are not permitted for non-residents.
  • Fireworks are strictly prohibited on the Outer Banks.
  • It is illegal to launch sky lanterns, commonly known as Chinese lanterns, on the 4x4 beaches, in Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kill Devil Hills, or Nags Head.

4x4 Beach Info

The fun begins where the road ends on this unique stretch of Outer Banks shoreline just south of the Virginia border. A four-wheel drive vehicle and an adventurous spirit are required to explore this beach community, where there are no paved roads, no hotels or restaurants, not even a convenience store! What you’ll find is an uncomplicated, fourteen-mile expanse of wide, sandy beaches, dense maritime forests and marshy soundside coves.

Home to the Corolla wild horses, the possibility of catching a glimpse of these extraordinary creatures is practically commonplace. Keep in mind, they are wild - do not approach them. County ordinance states that you may not come within 50 feet of the horses at any time. Feeding, riding or petting a wild horse is prohibited. A wild horse sighting is always an exciting event, but please remember to use caution and keep your distance.

There are no fixed lifeguard stands on the 4x4 beaches. Three roving lifeguards patrol from the end of the road to the Virginia state line from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day.


Keep the following tips in mind for an extraordinary 4x4 beach experience that is second to none:
  • A 4-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle is required. All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicles are not recommended due to low ground clearance.
  • Always arrive before dark because the beach is more difficult to navigate at night.
  • Bring a tire-pressure gauge. We recommend lowering your tire pressure to 18-20 psi. Free air hoses are available in Twiddy’s Corolla office parking lot to re-inflate your tires.
  • Check area tide charts prior to arrival. Low tide is ideal for beach driving. Tide charts are available at Twiddy’s Corolla office.
  • Avoid driving through the surf, as salt water is extremely corrosive.
  • Follow all posted speed limits (35 mph or 15 mph when within 300 feet of pedestrians or wild horses).
  • Watch for children, pets, and parked vehicles while driving on the 4x4 beaches. Look out for tree stumps sticking out as well. Cedar and live oak stumps from an ancient maritime forest make their appearance on the beach during certain times of the year.
  • Avoid driving through standing water on the back roads. If you encounter areas of standing water, carefully drive around the edge of the puddles or seek an alternate route to reach your destination.
  • Drive on the hard-packed sand near the edge of the water or close to the dunes. Keep the middle of the beach open for parked vehicles and beachgoers.
  • All parked vehicles should be in the middle of the beach (east of the dune line and west of the hard-packed sand near the water's edge). Do not block the flow of traffic with chairs, coolers, fishing lines or other items.
  • Always be alert for moving vehicles when walking across the hard-packed sand.
  • No vehicle of any type may park or unload at the North Beach Access at any time. You must park or unload past the 1/2-mile mark. VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED.
  • Drivers must be 16 years of age and possess a valid driver’s license.
  • ATVs are NOT permitted by non-residents.
  • Currituck County does not allow personal motorized watercraft on the ocean. Jet skis and personal motorboats are allowed on the Currituck Sound. The closest boat ramp is located at Whalehead in Historic Corolla Park.

Corolla Beach Info

Corolla’s pristine beaches are wide with soft sand. Upon crossing the beach access over the dune line to the beach, you will find that the beach is relatively flat, which is ideal terrain for afternoon strolls.

Bringing your dog to Corolla? Beaches are pet-friendly year-round. Leashes are required, but there are no length requirements.

Corolla Beach Safety:

  • Review all general Beach & Ocean Safety Guidelines before your Corolla vacation.
  • Pets are permitted on the beaches of Corolla but must remain on a leash.
  • Bonfires are not permitted anywhere on the beaches of Corolla.
  • Fireworks are prohibited throughout the Outer Banks.
  • Beach driving is only permitted in the off-season (from Oct 1st. - April 30th) at designated beach accesses. Speed limit 25 mph unless otherwise marked.
  • Do not walk or play on the dunes.
  • Swimming is not allowed when Red Flags are flying due to dangerous ocean conditions.
  • Surfers must be tethered to their boards.
  • Refill beach holes you are responsible for creating.
  • Retrieve all personal items on the beach in the evening(including tents and cabanas). Unattended items will be removed/discarded.

Corolla Lifeguard Stand Locations:

Roving lifeguards (4x4 trucks and ATVs) are on patrol, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day. From August 15 through Labor Day stands are manned as staffing allows. Lifeguards are located at the following locations:

  • Hampton Inn Oceanfront (Pine Island)
  • Currituck County Public Beach Access (Pine Island)
  • Sections B, D, F, O and P of Ocean Sands
  • Crown Point Beach Access (6/30-8/11)
  • Buck Island Bathhouse
  • Sailfish, Bonito, Herring, Sturgeon, and Shad Streets (Whalehead)
  • Corolla Village Road (across from the Currituck Lighthouse)
  • Bismark Drive (Ocean Hill)
  • The Villages at Ocean Hill (by the oceanfront pool)

Corolla Public Beach Accesses:

  • Currituck County Southern Beach Access (Bathroom, Shower, Parking)
  • Sailfish St and Whalehead Dr (Parking)
  • Bonito St and Whalehead Dr (Parking)
  • Perch Street and Whalehead Dr (Parking)
  • Barracuda St and Whalehead Dr (Parking)
  • Shad St and Whalehead Dr (Parking)
  • Currituck Beach Lighthouse Ramp (Bathroom, Shower, Parking)

Activities to be enjoyed on the beaches of Corolla include; kayak tours, jet ski rentals, parasailing, and many more! Check out the following businesses for rentals and lessons:

  • Corolla Watersports - 252-453-6900
  • Kitty Hawk Kites - 877-FLY-THIS
  • Corolla Adventure Park - 252-597-1997

Duck Beach Info

Duck’s beautiful beaches are perfect for exploring or relaxing. When spending any amount of time on the beach in Duck, it’s best to keep the following information in mind.

Beaches are pet-friendly year-round. Dogs are allowed to play unleashed on the beach under close supervision of the owner. Dogs are required to be leashed when in the village or at Duck Town Park. Duck's Leash Law requires that leashes not exceed 10 feet in length.

Beach accesses in Duck are located within each community.

Duck Beach Safety:

  • Read the complete list of Beach & Ocean Safety Guidelines before your Duck vacation. The most important rules are to use common sense and always keep a close eye on your kids.
  • Duck's Leash Law requires that leashes not exceed 10 feet in length. Pets are allowed to play unleashed on the beach under close supervision of owner.
  • Dispose of all trash in proper receptacles, including pet waste.
  • Fireworks, beach fires, and bonfires are not permitted on the beaches in Duck, NC.
  • Vehicles are NOT permitted on our beaches between May 1 and September 30. Vehicles are permitted during the other months of the year using designated Private vehicular access points. There are no public access points for vehicles within the Town of Duck.
  • Do not enter the water when Red Flags are flying.
  • Always use designated dune walkovers - never walk or play on the dunes.
  • The landing and launching of personal watercraft is prohibited in Duck, NC.
  • Retrieve all personal items daily, including tents, chairs, umbrellas, etc.by 7:00 p.m. or they may be removed as litter.
  • Tents can only by 12′ x 12′ or smaller, must be placed 10′ apart or more, and cannot be tied together.
  • Attend to and refill all beach holes.
  • Place all beach items at least 15 feet away from the base of the dune to allow for emergency access.
  • Report stranded sea life or sea turtle nests to the lifeguards.

Duck Lifeguard Locations:

Roving lifeguards (4x4 trucks and ATVs) are on patrol from May 1 through October 31. Lifeguards are on duty at fixed stands from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from late May through August. Lifeguard stands are located at the following locations:

  • Four Seasons
  • Scarborough Lane (late June through mid-August)
  • Christopher Drive
  • Plover Drive (late June through mid-August)
  • Schooner Ridge Drive
  • Snow Geest (late June through mid-August)
  • Barrier Island Station
  • Caffey's Inlet

Southern Shores Beach Info

Relax on the serene beaches of Southern Shores! When spending any amount of time on the beach in Southern Shores, it’s best to keep the following information in mind.

Dogs are not allowed on the beach between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm from May 15th through September 15th. A leash law is enforced the remainder of the year, and leashes cannot exceed 10 feet in length.

There are no public beach accesses with parking in Southern Shores.


Southern Shores Lifeguard Locations:


Roving lifeguards (4x4 trucks and ATVs) are on patrol from late-May through September. Lifeguards are on duty at fixed stands from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lifeguard stands are located at the following locations:

  • Chicahauk Trail • East Dogwood Trail (mid-June through mid-August).
  • Hillcrest • Fork at Rt 12 & Ocean Blvd (mid-June through mid-August)

Southern Shores Beach Regulations:

In addition to our general beach safety information, the following regulations are specific to Southern Shores.

  • Dispose of all trash in proper receptacles, including pet waste.
  • Fireworks, beach fires, and bonfires are not permitted.
  • Do not enter the water when Red Flags are flying.
  • Do not walk or play on the dunes. Use designated beach walkways to access the beach.
  • Attend to and refill all beach holes.
  • Report stranded sea life or sea turtle nests to the lifeguards.
  • Remove all personal items daily, including tents, chairs and umbrellas, by 5:00 p.m. or they will be removed and discarded.

Kitty Hawk NC Beaches

Salt air and sunshine are plentiful on Kitty Hawk's Beaches. Enjoy many public beach access with parking, and convenience to a variety of shops and restaurants.

Dogs are permitted on the beach.  The dog owner is responsible for and must remove feces and possess a bag/container for waste removal at all times.  From the Friday before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day between the hours of 10:00 am and 6:00 pm dogs must be on a leash not exceeding 6 feet.

At all other times during the year, dogs must be restrained on a leash retractable to 12 feet.  Dogs may be taken off the leash only if they will not disturb other beachgoers.  Unleashed dogs must be controlled by the dog owner, who must remain within 30 feet of the dog at all times.  A leash must be with owner at all times.

Kitty Hawk Beach Accesses:

Multiple public beach accesses with parking are available in the Town of Kitty Hawk. The town also has a handicap accessible public sound access at Windgrass Circle. The sound access has parking and is open from sunrise to thirty minutes past sunset. 

  • Balchen Street
  • Bennett Street
  • Bleriot Street
  • Byrd Street
  • Eckner Street
  • Fonck Street
  • Hawks Street
  • Lillian Street
  • Luke Street
  • Maynard Street
  • Kitty Hawk Bath House (Bathrooms and showers)
  • Wilkins Street

Kitty Hawk Lifeguard Stands:

Roving lifeguards (4x4 trucks and ATVs) are on patrol from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lifeguards are on duty at fixed stands from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. From Labor Day through September 30th, Ocean Rescue Staff will be on duty from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Lifeguard stands are located at the following locations:

  • Byrd Street
  • Eckner Street
  • Kitty Hawk Bath House

Kitty Hawk Beach Regulations

  • Please carefully review the complete list of Beach & Ocean Safety Guidelines before your vacation.
  • Leashed dogs are permitted on Kitty Hawk beaches. Owners are responsible for waste removal.
  • No glass is allowed on Kitty Hawk beaches.
  • No bonfires are permitted on Kitty Hawk beaches.
  • Beach driving is not permitted.
  • Surfers must be tethered to their boards.
  • Motorized watercraft cannot be launched from the Atlantic Ocean beach
  • Swimming in the ocean is prohibited when the red "No Swimming" flags are posted.  Violation can result in a $250.00 fine.
  • Remove all personal items daily, including tents, chairs and umbrellas, or they will be removed and discarded.

Kill Devil Hills Beach Info

Kill Devil Hills beaches provide the perfect backdrop for salty family fun. Bring your cooler, beach toys, and boogie boards for a good time.

Dogs are not permitted on the beach between the hours of 9:00 am to 6:00 pm from May 15th through September 15th, unless they are aiding the handicapped. At all other times, leashed dogs are permitted on the beaches.

Kill Devil Hills Lifeguard Stands:

Roving lifeguards (4x4 trucks and ATVs) are on patrol from mid-May through mid-September. Lifeguards are on duty at fixed stands from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lifeguard stands are located at the following locations:

  • Atlantic Street
  • Asheville Street
  • Avalon Pier
  • Baum Street
  • Carlow Avenue
  • Clark Street
  • Coral Drive
  • Eden Street
  • Eighth Street
  • Fifth Street
  • Hayman Street
  • Helga Street
  • Lake Drive
  • Ocean Bay Boulevard (bath house)
  • Oregon Avenue
  • Martin Street
  • Neptune Drive
  • Second Street
  • Third Street
  • Woodmere Avenue

Kill Devil Hills Beach Accesses:

Beach accesses in Kill Devil Hills are abundant, and most have ample parking. Each lifeguard stand location listed above is a public beach access. In addition to that list, the following beach accesses are also available in Kill Devil Hills.

  • Arch Street
  • Chowan Street
  • Walker Street
  • Fourth Street
  • Prospect Avenue
  • Glenmere Avenue
  • Pinehurst Avenue
  • Clark Street
  • Calvin Street

Kill Devil Hills Beach Regulations:

In addition to our general beach safety information, the following regulations are specific to Kill Devil Hills.

  • Dispose of all trash in proper receptacles, including pet waste.
  • Fireworks, beach fires, and bonfires are not permitted.
  • Do not enter the water when Red Flags are flying.
  • Do not walk or play on the dunes. Use designated beach walkways to access the beach.
  • Attend to and refill all beach holes.
  • Place all beach items at least 15 feet away from the base of the dune to allow for emergency access.
  • Report stranded sea life or sea turtle nests to the lifeguards.
  • Beach wheelchairs are available for use on the Town of Kill Devil Hills beaches. For more information, call or stop by the Kill Devil Hills Fire Department, located at 1634 North Croatan Highway (252) 480-4060.
  • Remove all personal items daily, including tents, chairs and umbrellas, by 7:00 p.m. or they will be removed and discarded.

Nags Head Beach Info

Enjoy a classic beach vacation in gorgeous Nags Head. Visitors have been relaxing and playing on the beaches of Nags Head for generations. We invite you and your loved ones to experience a vacation on the wide, sandy beaches of Nags head. 

Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach year-round. Leashes cannot exceed 10 feet in length. 


Nags Head Lifeguard Stands:

Roving lifeguards (4x4 trucks and ATVs) are on patrol from Memorial Day through October 15. Lifeguards are on duty at fixed stands from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lifeguard stands are located at the following locations:

  • Albatross Street
  • Abalone Street
  • Bonnett Street (bath house)
  • Epstein Street (bath house)
  • Enterprise Street 
  • Forrest Street
  • Gray Eagle Street
  • Gulf Stream Street
  • Hargrove Street (bath house)
  • Hollowell Street
  • Ida Street
  • Indigo Street
  • Juncos Street
  • Limulus Street
  • Town Hall 

Nags Head Beach Accesses:

Beach accesses in Nags Head are abundant, and most have ample parking. Each lifeguard stand location listed above is a public beach access. In addition to that list, the following beach accesses are also available in Nags Head.

  • Admiral Street
  • Bainbridge Street
  • Baltic Street
  • Barnes Street
  • Bittern Street
  • Blackman Street
  • Bladen Street
  • Conch Street
  • Curlew Street
  • Eighth Street
  • Gallery Row
  • Glidden Street
  • Governor Street
  • Grouse Street
  • Gull Street
  • Holden Street
  • Huron Street
  • Isabella Street
  • Islington Street
  • James Street
  • Jay Street
  • Jennette's Pier
  • June Street
  • Loggerhead Street
  • Small Street

Nags Head Beach Regulations:

In addition to our general beach safety information, the following regulations are specific to Nags Head.

  • Dispose of all trash in proper receptacles, including pet waste.
  • Fireworks, beach fires, and bonfires are not permitted.
  • Do not enter the water when Red Flags are flying.
  • Beach pit fires are allowed on the beach in Nags Head with a permit. For more information, contact Nags Head Fire and Rescue at (252) 441-5909.
  • Do not walk or play on the dunes. Use designated beach walkways to access the beach.
  • Attend to and refill all beach holes.
  • Personal Motorized Watercraft (PWCs) are permitted on the ocean, however, PWC launch restrictions apply. From May 1 through September 30, PWCs must be launched by manpower only. From October 1 through April 30, when beach driving is permitted, PWCs may be launched using a vehicle with a Town-issued beach driving permit. PWCs must proceed straight in or out from shore without causing a wake or exceeding 5 mph. They must not be operated within 600 feet of the sound or ocean shoreline.
  • Vehicles are allowed on the beach from October 1 through April 30 with a Town-issued permit. Driving on the dunes is prohibited.
  • Remove all personal items daily, including tents, chairs and umbrellas, by 7:00 p.m. or they will be removed and discarded.