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Cape Hatteras Off-Road Vehicle Permit

Whether you are looking for solitude and exploration on a remote section of beach, creating family memories with beach day trips, or fishing in world renowned waters, beach driving is a way to have a unique recreational experience at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which can provide recreation, relaxation, and rejuvenation.


The National Park Service has developed an off-road vehicle (ORV) management plan and special regulation to preserve the unique plants and wildlife of this dynamic barrier island ecosystem while permitting the use of vehicles on designated ORV routes. The ORV management plan and special regulation went into effect on February 15, 2012.

As the nation's first national seashore, Cape Hatteras National Seashore was established to preserve the unique plants and wildlife of North Carolina's barrier islands. The Seashore stretches approximately 67 miles along the Outer Banks of North Carolina which include the islands of Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke. It is famous for its soft sandy beaches, outstanding natural beauty and recreational opportunities, renowned fishing opportunities and dynamic coastal processes.

The National Park Service has implemented an ORV management plan which permits the use of vehicles on designated ORV routes, including both ocean and sound-side routes, to help protect this treasured resource. These routes are generally marked with posts seaward of the toe of the dune or vegetation line to the high-tide line. ORV routes through vegetated areas are posted on both sides of the corridor. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended due to the conditions but two-wheel-drive is allowed. If a vehicle gets stuck, the National Park Service is not allowed to pull or tow a vehicle, but commercial towing companies are available. Two types of permits are available including a seven-day permit and an annual permit valid from January 1 through December 31.

Driving Directions
Bodie Island at the north end of the Coquina Beach Day Use Area parking lot (8101 NC 12 Highway, Nags Head, NC); Hatteras Island by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Center (46368 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC); and Ocracoke Island by the National Park Service visitor center (40 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC).

Cape Hatteras Off-Road Vehicle Information:

  • Each vehicle must have its own permit.
  • To obtain an ORV permit, your vehicle must:
    - Be registered, licensed, and insured for highway use and comply with inspection requirements for the state, country, or province where the vehicle is registered.
    - Have no more than two axles and have tires that are listed or approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation as described here..
  • Required equipment within the vehicle includes: Low-pressure tire gauge, shovel, jack and jack support board.
  • Optional equipment includes a full-sized spare tire, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, trash bag or container, flashlight (if night driving) and tow strap.
  • ATVs, UTVs and motorcycles are not allowed.
  • Vehicles are only permitted on designated ORV routes.
  • There are seasonal closures along certain routes that generally range from April 1 - October 31.
  • Routes may be temporarily closed if the carrying capacity is reached, if there is a specific need for resource protection or for safety reasons.
  • All closures are clearly signed.
  • Night driving is allowed on the beach generally from November 16 through April 30.
  • An interactive map with current route status can be found at
  • For additional information on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, please visit
Cape Hatteras Sign Off-Road Vehicles at Cape Hatteras Off-Road Vehicles at Cape Hatteras Off-Road Vehicles at Cape Hatteras Off-Road Vehicles at Cape Hatteras
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