• Spring-time view of the seashore, with shorebirds returning to the surf.

    Cape Hatteras

    National Seashore North Carolina

Off-Road Vehicle Use

Off-road vehicles (ORVs) are one way for visitors to enjoy the ocean beaches and sound-side waters of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Ramps all along the seashore provide access to the ocean and the sound. The National Park Service (NPS) is managing ORV use with protection of important wildlife habitat and recreational interests. Use of ORVs within Cape Hatteras National Seashore requires a permit.


Access Map

Access does change frequently during the breeding seasons of protected birds and sea turtles. Below shows the latest access map, or you can view the full-screen version of the beach access map here.

You can zoom in to the shoreline area in which you are interested to see the current access status. The color-coded "access line" indicates the status of shoreline access at the time the map was updated and is based on recent GPS coordinates of the actual shoreline. The underlying photo image is dated and may not accurately reflect the current location of the shoreline. Reference to non-US Department of the Interior (DOI) products do not constitute an endorsement by the DOI.


Closure conditions may change in the field on short notice. On-site signage, rather than the beach access map, is the most accurate and current indication of what is open or closed to the public. Closed areas are clearly marked in the field with closure signs or "symbolic fencing" consisting of posts, closure signs, string and flagging tape.

Knowledge of tidal changes and caution should be exercised while traveling the beaches of the park.


Getting a permit

Obtaining an ORV permit is an easy process that takes only minutes from start to finish. You can choose to visit an ORV office at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in person or you can visit the Cape Hatteras ORV Permit page at Recreation.gov. If you request a permit using the Recreation.gov website, you can choose to pick up the permit at an ORV office or have it mailed directly to you.

The online permit process is as simple as

  1. Going to the Cape Hatteras ORV Permit page on Recreation.gov,
  2. Filling out the online application, and
  3. Choosing whether you will pick up the permit in person or have it mailed to you.

The in-person permit process has six easy steps.

  1. Go to one of our three ORV Permit Offices.
  2. Show the required documentation to the ORV Permit Office staff member.
  3. Fill out the ORV permit.
  4. Watch the 7-minute video (you can skip this step if you bring last year's permit).
  5. Pay for your permit.
  6. Place the permit in your vehicle's glove box and affix the proof-of-permit to your vehicle's windshield.

That's all there is to it. You'll be off enjoying the beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore before you know it. In preparation for getting your permit, be sure you have

  • your driver's license,
  • your vehicle registration,
  • form of payment (charge card or cash),
  • and last year's permit (if available, for the in-person process).
With these items you can apply for your permit online or at any of the three ORV Permit Offices. The offices are located at

  • Coquina Beach (8101 NC 12 Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959)
  • Cape Hatteras Light Station (46368 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC 27920)
  • Ocracoke Visitor Center (40 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC 27960)

These offices are open seven days a week, year-round (except Christmas Day) from 8 am to 4:30 pm. Refer to the Designated Off-Road Vehicle Routes map to see the location of the permit offices, ramps, and other park amenities.

Two types of permits are available for purchase. They are

  • a 7-day Permit ($50, valid for 7 consecutive days),
  • or an Annual Permit ($120, valid for the calendar year).

Remember to keep the permit in the glove box of your permitted vehicle and the proof-of-permit sticker clearly visible on your windshield.




Additional Information

When going out onto the beaches with your vehicle, remember to take along the required equipment, which includes

  • a low-pressure tire gauge,
  • a shovel,
  • a jack,
  • and a jack support board.

You might find these recommended items useful to take along as well:

  • a tow strap,
  • a first aid kit,
  • a full-sized spare tire,
  • trash bags,
  • a fire extinguisher,
  • and, if you are night driving, a flashlight.

Here are some additional resources regarding ORV use within Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Did You Know?