Permits & Reservations

Sand art version of a beach fire
Sand Sculpture of a Beach Fire

NPS PHOTO

Permits
Cape Hatteras National Seashore has different categories of permits. They are:
No matter what your visit to Cape Hatteras entails, Learn the simple steps you can take to improve your safety.
 

Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Permits

Obtaining an ORV permit is an easy process that takes only minutes from start to finish. ORV Permits are available online only. Please visit Recreation.gov. to obtain your permit 24 hours a day

The online permit process is as simple as

  1. Watching the ORV Safety Video to learn best practices for safe and enjoyable beach driving.
  2. Going to the Cape Hatteras ORV Permit page on Recreation.gov,
  3. Filling out the online application, and
  4. Print the permit and proof-of-permit and place them in your vehicle (Annual proof-of-permit stickers will be mailed, but the printed proof-of-permit is good for 30 days). If you cannot print the proof-of-permit, you can pick up a self-certification card from outside our visitor centers or at many local tackle shops. On the self-certification card, simply write in the information from your permit, sign the card, and place on your dashboard.

Two types of permits are available for purchase. They are

  • a 10-day Permit ($50, valid for 10 consecutive days),
  • or an Annual Permit ($120, valid for one year from date of purchase).

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

View ORV frequently asked questions and current beach access information. For specific questions about Cape Hatteras ORV Permits that aren't addressed on the frequently asked questions page, please contact the ORV Office at 252-475-9054. Please leave a message if no one answers.

To sign up for beach access text alerts, text CAHAORV to 333111.

What are my options for obtaining an ORV Permit?
You may obtain a permit at any time via the web by visiting Recreation.gov. Permits will be available immediately. You can also call 1-877-444-6777 to be connected to a Recreation.gov representative.

What is a print-at-home permit?
A print-at-home permit is an off-road vehicle permit that you can obtain through Recreation.gov. After you purchase the permit online, you will receive a digital copy of your permit registration, the rules and regulations, and a proof of permit windshield decal.

10-day permittees will print their permit and proof of permit directly from Recreation.gov. The permit will be kept in the vehicle and the proof of permit must be displayed in the lower driver's side of the windshield. The proof of permit will be displayed at all times that the permittee wishes to access the beach with an off-road vehicle.

Do I have to print the permit, or can I keep it digitally on my smart phone?
You must print all three pages of the permit. Digital proof of payment, including screenshots, are not acceptable. If you do not have access to a printer, you may visit any NPS campground or visitor center to obtain a self-certification card.

  • Page one of the printed permit is the registration form. It should kept in the permitted vehicle while driving on Seashore beaches. The signature block on the permit form must be signed in order for the permit to be valid.
  • Page two of the printed permit contains all the beach driving rules and regulations.
  • Page three of the printed permit is the visible proof of permit that must be affixed (taped) to the bottom of the driver’s side windshield. The visible proof of permit must be affixed and displayed properly, in order for the permit to be valid.

If you cannot print the proof-of-permit, you can pick up a self-certification card from outside our visitor centers or at many local tackle shops. On the self-certification card, simply write in the information from your permit, sign the card, and place on your dashboard.

I purchased an annual permit; will I get an annual decal?
Yes. Annual permit holders can start using their permits immediately with the print-at-home permit. The printed temporary proof of permit can be used for up to 30 days as you wait for your decal to arrive. A permanent annual decal will be mailed to the address listed in Recreation.gov. The decal must then be affixed to the vehicle within 30 days of the date of purchase. If you need assistance regarding the shipping of the annual decal, please contact us directly at 252-475-9054.

Can I switch my permit from one vehicle to the next?
No. Permits are non-transferable to another vehicle.

I need assistance with a problem I have with an online permit order. Who do I contact?
If you need assistance with ordering an ORV Permit, please contact Recreation.gov directly. You may contact the customer service department by phone, email, and chat. Here is the information that you will need:

If I misplace my permit, or lose it, can I print another copy?
Yes. Here are the instructions:

  1. Login to your Recreation.gov account.
  2. Click on your name in the upper right corner.
  3. Click on the "My Reservations" from the list.
  4. Find the correct permit and click "Reservation Details."
  5. Click on "Print Permit."
 

Beach Fire Permits

Fires on the beach are a memorable experience. Want to enjoy the crackle of wood burning and the dancing of the firelight? Follow these simple steps:
  1. Download and print the FREE Beach Fire Permit.
  2. Read the entire permit.
  3. Sign and date the permit.
  4. Keep the permit with you.

Things to know about beach fires:
  • Beach fires are allowed all throughout the park from November 16 to April 30.
  • From May 1 to November 15, to protect nesting sea turtles, beach fires are allowed only on the ocean beaches at Coquina Beach, Ocracoke Day Use area, and the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras.
  • Fires are allowed from 6 am to 10 pm.
  • Fires no greater than 3 feet in diameter may be ignited and maintained seaward of the ocean dune, below the high tide mark, and at least 50 feet from any vegetation.
  • The Beach Fire Permit is valid only when a responsible adult (18 years of age or older) is present.
  • Fires cannot be left unattended and must be completely extinguished (cold to the touch) before leaving the area.
  • Follow the Leave No Trace ethic and clean the area of all trash before leaving the beach.
 

Special Use Permits

A Special Use Permit is required for activities that:

  • Provide a benefit to an individual, group or organization, rather than the public at large:
  • Requires written authorization and some degree of management control from the NPS in order to protect park resources and the public interest;
  • Is not prohibited by law and regulation;
  • Is not initiated, sponsored, or conducted by the Service; and
  • Is not managed under a concession contract, a recreation activity for which the NPS charges a fee, or a lease.

The following activities at Cape Hatteras National Seashore may require a Special Use Permit:

 

Special Use Permits

All weddings and vow renewals at Cape Hatteras National Seashore require a Special Use Permit. Please visit our wedding permits page for more information.

Surfing and kite boarding tournaments, races, fishing tournaments. Military ceremonies require a permit but the application fee is waived.

Permit Application Steps:

  • Complete the Sporting Events/Special Events application.
  • Pay a non-refundable $200 application fee using Pay.govYou can pay using debit, or charge cardDo not send cash or checks.
  • E mail signed application and receipt of required payment to e-mail us


The non-refundable $200 application fee covers the cost of administering the permit request and is non-refundable. Additional fees for costs incurred by the National Park Service, such as event monitoring, may apply.
You will receive a response regarding your application within two weeks of receipt.

First Amendment Examples of First Amendment Activities:

  • Religious services
  • Political speeches
  • Press conferences
  • Voter registration
  • Public demonstration, picketing, assembly or rally expressing opinions and views
A permit is required for First Amendment activities that meet any of the following criteria:
  • Groups larger than 25 participants
  • Utilizes significant equipment including generators, platforms, tents, etc.
  • Would like a guarantee of priority use of a specific location
  • Is requesting an area not otherwise open to the public
  • Complete the Permit Application if you answer YES to any of the above criteria.
A group of 25 people or fewer is not required to obtain a First Amendment Permit if you do not meet the criteria above, but you may choose to obtain a permit to prevent another group from reserving your requested area.The National Park Service has designated six First Amendment Assembly Areas within Cape Hatteras National Seashore: in front of the visitor center at Bodie Island Lighthouse; near the entrance to off-road vehicle (ORV) ramp 2 at Coquina Beach; near the parking lot at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Buxton Beach Access; at the entrance to Cape Point Campground; near the visitor center in Ocracoke; and near the entrance to Ocracoke Campground. Maps of these areas can be found in the 
 Superintendent’sCompendium,  https://www.nps.gov/caha/learn/management/lawsandpolicies.htm. Alternative locations may be requested and will be accommodated as feasible.

If your activity meets the criteria above or you wish to obtain a permit for your First Amendment activity, complete the First Amendment application and e-mail it to e-mail us. We request that applications are submitted no later than 15 days prior to the activity to allow time for processing. No application fee is required for First Amendment activities.

What is Commercial Filming?

"Commercial filming" means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature film, videography, and documentaries. Commercial filming may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.

Does filming by small groups require a permit?

Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews and personnel that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources.  

All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.

If I’m a social media influencer, do I need a permit?  

Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. This includes individuals or small groups that don’t use much equipment, but generate revenue by posting footage on websites, such as YouTube and TikTok. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources.   

All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.

Does Non-Commercial Filming require a permit?

Non-commercial filming may require a permit if a permit is necessary to manage the activity to protect park resources and values, minimize conflict between user groups, or to ensure public safety. Examples of non-commercial filming include, but are not limited to, filming for tourism bureaus, convention and visitor bureaus, student filming, and filming for personal use and enjoyment. In most cases, a permit is not necessary for visitors engaging in casual filming for personal enjoyment.

Will I need to provide proof of insurance?

You will be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States of America as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity.

What fees will I have to pay?

Federal law requires the NPS to recover its administrative costs for commercial filming and still photography activities that require a permit. Cost recovery includes an application fee of $250 and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the NPS in processing your request, Location Fees, and $55 per hour per ranger for monitoring your permit.  The application fee must be submitted with your application. 

Permit Application StepsAt Least 30 Days prior to requested filming dates

The $250 application fee covers the cost of administering the permit request and is non-refundable. Additional fees for costs incurred by the National Park Service, such as event monitoring, will apply.
You will receive a response regarding your application within two weeks of receipt.

In addition, Federal law also requires the NPS to collect a location fee that provides a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands for commercial filming and for still photography requires a permit. The NPS uses the following fee schedules for filming and photography: 

Commercial Filming/Videography Location Fee

  • 1–2 people, camera & tripod only - $0/day 

  • 1–10 people - $150/day 

  • 11–30 people - $250/day 

  • 31–49 people - $500/day 

  • Over 50 people - $750/day

     

When is a permit needed?

Price v. Barr had no impact on how the National Park Service regulates still photography, so there are no changes in how the National Park Service regulates that activity. Still photographers require a permit only when:

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  2. the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
  3. a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity

What fees will I have to pay?

The National Park Service will collect a cost recovery charge and a location fee for still photography permits. Cost recovery includes a $250 application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing your request and $55 per hour per ranger for monitoring your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.

In addition, the National Park Service has been directed by Congress to collect a location fee to provide a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands. The National Park Service uses the following still photography location fee schedule:

  • 1–10 people - $50/day
  • 11–30 people - $150/day
  • Over 30 people - $250/day

Permit Application StepsAt Least 45 Days prior to requested filming dates.

The $250 application fee covers the cost of administering the permit request and is non-refundable. Additional fees for costs incurred by the National Park Service, such as event monitoring, will apply.
You will receive a response regarding your application within two weeks of receipt.

What about photography workshops?

If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a commercial use authorization. Please visit our Commercial Use Authorizations Page for more information.

Wedding and Portrait Photographers

Paid wedding and portrait photographers must obtain a Commercial Use Authorization to conduct business in the park. If you are a photographer and have any questions please e-mail us or call 252-475-9034 for more information.

A permit is required for scattering of human ashes from cremation and is allowed at Cape Hatteras National Seashore pursuant to the following terms and conditions:
 
  •  Ashes must be fully refined with no detectable remains and shall not be distinguishable to the general public. Scattering must result in complete dispersal of ashes. Cremains may not be piled in one location or buried.
  • Scattering of human remains is prohibited in the following areas:
    • Ocean waters adjacent to Cape Hatteras National Seashore (within 3 nautical miles from land) per the Environmental Protection Agency and the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act: Burial at Sea | US EPA
    • Sound waters within or adjacent to Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
    • Beaches and sound-side areas, because of the heavy visitor use in these areas and because the activity may result in human remains entering the ocean or sound waters
    • From Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and Ocracoke Lighthouse
    • Within 100 yards of buildings, structures, picnic areas, roads, water sources, or closed areas
  • No rocks, vegetation or other natural resources will be moved, stacked, cut, or disturbed in any way.
  • No monument, memorial, plaque, structure, urn, photo, or other commemorative item may be left within the boundaries of the park area. Do not bring any potted plants, dried flower arrangements or any plant with seeds as these may introduce non-native or invasive species.
  • The permittee recognizes and is aware of the sensitivity of this activity and agrees to perform it in a discreet and private manner.
  • The use of acoustical instruments and the use of a small, portable, battery operated blue tooth speaker is acceptable as long as they meet the standards listed in 36 CFR 2.12(a)(1) and do not interfere with the use of the area by other individuals. No public address systems are allowed.
  • The permittee recognizes that the National Park Service (NPS) does not commit to treating the area as sacred or as a burial ground or cemetery. Park uses, operations, and programs will be continued without regard to the presence of the cremains.
  • Permittee will be responsible for security and orderly behavior at the event.
  • Access to the area must be kept open to the public and the memorialization cannot interfere with normal visitor activity in any manner. The park will not exclude nor allow you to exclude other park visitors from the site during the ceremony.

If your activity meets the criteria above and you wish to obtain a permit to scatter ashes, complete the application by following this link: application and e-mail it to e-mail us. We request that applications are submitted at least 15 days prior to the activity to allow time for processing. No application fee is required for scattering of ashes.

A Right-Of-Way (ROW) Permit is issued by Cape Hatteras National Seashore to allow a utility to pass over, under, or through park property. A ROW permit is required any time you want to build or install a utility on park lands. Projects could include electrical transmission lines, telephone and water lines, wireless communication towers, broadband equipment, microwave, fiber optic, and antenna. For more information please read about the Right-of-Way Permitting process, or contact our Special Park Uses Coordinator at 252-475-9034 or e-mail us.


 

 

Questions and Additional Information

For questions or information about Special Use Permits and types of uses, or if you have any questions about the process or your permit, please contact our Special Park Uses Coordinator at 252-475-9034 or e-mail us.

What about photography workshops?

If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a commercial use authorization. Please visit our Commercial Use Authorizations Page for more information.

Wedding and Portrait Photographers

Paid wedding and portrait photographers must obtain a Commercial Use Authorization to conduct business in the park. If you are a photographer and have any questions please e-mail us or call 252-475-9034 for more information.

For specific questions about Cape Hatteras ORV Permits please contact the ORV Office at 252-475-9054. Please leave a message if no one answers.

Campground Reservations

Oregon Inlet, Cape Point, Frisco, and Ocracoke Campground sites must be reserved and paid for through the Recreation.gov system.

Last updated: November 15, 2022

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Cape Hatteras National Seashore
1401 National Park Drive

Manteo , NC 27954

Phone:

252 473-2111

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