What You Need To Know for ORV Permits in the Outer Banks


While in the Outer Banks we woke up super early one day to take the Jeep down to Bodie Beach and watch the sunrise. Bodie Beach is one of the few places in the Outer Banks where there is ORV access during the tourist season. We packed the Wrangler with some cozy blankets and snuggled to watch the sun come up. There wasn't much of a sunrise because there was a slight cloud bank on the horizon but we still got some beautiful color and there were hundreds of birds fishing and feeding over the ocean as well as multiple pods of dolphins that swam by. After watching the sunrise we drove the Jeep further down the beach just because driving in the sand is so much fun but we were stopped by a park ranger and he kindly informed us that you're technically not supposed to drive on the beaches before 7:00am. Whoops! Lucky for us we had been there since 5:15 so we had spent a good amount of time there before we had to turn around.

Where to get an ORV (Off Road Vehicle) permit:

  • Online here. You can either spend $50 for a week or $120 for the whole year.
  • Any of these three locations in the Outer Banks. Bodie Island Permit Office, Hatteras Island Permit Office and Ocracoke Island Permit Office.
  • The permits are vehicle specific so if you're with a group of people you have to buy a permit for every vehicle that plans to go out on the beaches.

Where you can drive:

  • Corolla: located at the very northern end of the OBX. Here Highway 12 dead ends into the beach and you can drive for miles. This beach also has wild horses that will walk right by your car! No permit needed.
  • Bodie Island: located south of Nags Head. There is a little stretch of beach where you can drive out. This is where we went and you'll need a Cape Hatteras ORV Permit.
  • Hatteras Island: southern end of the OBX. This is where you'll find the most ORV areas along the beach. You must have a Cape Hatteras ORV Permit.
  • Ocracoke Island: Ocracoke has a bunch of beach front where you can drive and you will also need a Cape Hatteras ORV Permit for this area. Ocracoke is south of Cape Hatteras Island and you have to ferry across to get there. See pictures from my trip last summer here.
  • For a list of access points go here.

What you need:

  • An ORV Permit if you're driving on Bodie Island Beach, Hatteras Island Beaches or Ocracoke Island Beaches. 
  • A 4x4 vehicle. The website says you don't have to have 4-wheel drive but honestly you're going to get stuck if you dont. However, all vehicle are permitted on the beach regardless of whether they have 4 wheel drive. If you do get stuck National Park Service staff are not allowed to pull you out, you have to contact a commercial towing company and pay for the tow.
  • A shovel
  • Piece of wood and rope. If you get stuck, tie a plank of wood along either wheel so when the wheel spins, the wood hits the ground and gives your car momentary traction.
  • All tire changing supplies & make sure you know how to change a tire before you hit the sand.
  • Towels, fishing gear, bathing suits, umbrellas, surf boards, cameras or whatever gear you need while you're there!

If you're nervous about driving in the sand, as long as you have a good 4x4 SUV, don't be! It's such a blast. My advice if you've never been before is to start off slow and don't ever over-correct yourself if you feel like you're sliding out. Otherwise you learn as you go! It's the strangest sensation because you feel like you're just sliding along but it's so fun. Ever since going to Ocracoke last year I told myself I would always purchase an ORV permit whenever I go to the beach!