Outer Banks ATV

sunrise and dolphin


Outer Banks ATV (and other off-road vehicles - ORV) rules vary from town to town. Some have specific dates and times, others require a permit. Still others do not allow ATVs at all.

For example:

  • Duck does not require a permit and allows ORVs on the beach between October 1 and April 30. There is, however, no public access to the beach.
  • Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head allow ORVs on the beach between October 1 and April 30, too. Kill Devil Hills doesn’t require a permit, but Nags Head does, and requires proof of state registration of the vehicle.
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore allows ORVs throughout the year, but limits where ORVs can travel. The oceanfront beaches in the Villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras prohibit vehicles between May and September.
  • On Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk and on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, driving any motorized vehicle on the beach is strictly prohibited.

In addition to restricting ORVs from certain beaches, the Outer Banks has also posted some rules regarding driving ORVs on the beach.

  • Access the beach only via designated ramps and sound-side access roads.
  • Drive only on routes marked for ORV traffic, and comply with posted regulations.
  • Do not drive on or in between dunes unless marked for ORV use.
  • Parking on the dunes is prohibited.
  • Observe posted speed limits. Generally, the limit is 25 mph, but some areas may be less.
  • Vehicle registration and a current driver’s license are required to operate an ORV.
  • Reckless driving (defacing the beach or cutting circles) is prohibited.
  • Seatbelts must be worn, and alcoholic beverages in the vehicles are prohibited.
  • Give pedestrians the right away and be especially alert for children.
  • Do not stop or block beach ramps or access points.

For visitors who don’t want to deal with where to ride, how to ride and when to ride, there are several companies in the Outer Banks that offer ATV tours. The Outer Banks ATV (all-terrain vehicle) tours are among the many outdoor activities available on the Outer Banks, and are some of the most popular, too. Tours boast rides along the many miles of beach with spectacular views of the wildlife.

In Corolla, at the northern end of the islands, three tour operators offer Outer Banks ATV tours.

Corolla Outback Adventures has been conducting Outer Banks ATV tours for over 20 years. Located on the northernmost point of the Outer Banks, Corolla Outback Adventures offers tours with views of the beach, wild boars and wild horses.

Backcountry Outfitters and GuidesBackcountry Outfitters and Guides offers year round tours including Wild Horse Safari Tours. Instead of ATVs, however, these tours head up the beach in SUVs.

Corolla Adventure Tours (252-453-6899) provides a two-hour Outer Banks ATV tour that covers nearly 20 miles of the beaches north of Corolla. The tours run from March through the month of January.

Only one other tour operator offers Outer Banks ATV tours, and that is Portsmouth Island ATV Excursions on the southern end of the Outer Banks. On this tour, riders drive along the Portsmouth Island shoreline and visit the now deserted 1860 settlement of historic Portsmouth, home to the East Coast’s only ghost town. Tours operate from April 1 through November 30, and reservations are required.

Our experience of Portsmouth Island ATV Excursions

HIGHLY recommended! This trip was a blast. You take a 15-20 minute boat ride to get to the island, then get on/in the ATVs and ride about 1 1/2 or 2 miles to the ghost town of Portsmouth Village. The tour of the village can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the wishes of the guests. The rest of the time is spent on the mostly deserted beach. The shells here are much better than anywhere else on the Outer Banks. It was kind of a magical feeling knowing we were on an island where very few people go. On the way back we took a little detour to Beacon Island where we saw several hundred nesting pelicans and their young. The entire tour is four hours. Insect repellent and sunscreen are quite necessary.

Visitors need to be aware that beaches can close at any time for any reason. Before traveling to the Outer Banks with an ATV, it would be wise to contact the Outer Banks Visitors Center for the most recent ordinances regarding ATVs. Tour operators should also be contacted in advance, to ensure the tour operates on the dates of travel. After arriving at the Outer Banks, visitors can also contact one of the National Parks Service Visitor Centers, or go to Cape Hatteras National Seashore website for up to date information and which beaches are currently open.

Also, you can look at the latest NPS Cape Hatteras ORV Brochure.

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