Accessing Outer Banks Beaches
by Jessie S.
One of the most frequent questions we get asked is, “How do I get to the beach?” The answer may initially seem obvious but a lot of beach towns around the country are actually quite hard to access. Many other popular beach destinations on the East Coast (Ocean City, Jersey Shore, Virginia Beach and even Wrightsville, NC) require paid parking passes or have metered public lots meaning that after an hour or so of playing in the ocean, you have to remember to run back up to the meter to add more money if you aren’t ready to leave – that isn't very relaxing. Luckily, there are plenty of free places to park on the Outer Banks!
If you prefer the beach in your back yard, we have a huge selection of great oceanfront homes to choose from, but if you’ve booked your dream vacation house and it isn’t oceanfront, don’t worry! There are dozens of community walkways and public beach accesses ialong our coast so accessing Outer Banks Beaches will be a breeze.
Note: This is not a comprehensive guide of every township, island or unincorporated territory that makes up the beautiful Outer Banks but is rather a highlight on the Oceanfront beaches and how to access them when you book an Outer Banks vacation rental.
About Designated Accesses
The local towns on the Outer Banks strive to make beach accesses convenient and available to its residents and visitors. It isn’t uncommon to see a community path or walkway to the ocean that is available for public use and these are typically located in convenient places for foot acess by semi-oceanfront and oceanside rentals. Some locations (as seen above) offer parallel street parking while others offer fully paved lots and each access offers different amenities. The following list of beach accesses are some of the largest ones in each town but the list is not all inclusive. Check each jurisdiction’s website for additional public accesses.
Because there are dozens of designated walkways to the Outer Banks beaches, it is important to follow any posted regulations or traffic laws and keep off the dunes – climbing over dunes in undesignated areas could destroy these fragile land formations. If you have specific needs or questions, feel free to speak to one our experienced guest services representatives about the best way to get to the beach from your rental home.
Corolla Beach Access
Surrounded by the Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, Corolla is a quiet town due to its fairly secluded location. As the northernmost town of the Outer Banks, it is accessible via Highway 12 from the town of Duck and even has areas that are notably accessible only by 4WD vehicles. Known for its historic landmarks and the wild Banker Mustang horses, Corolla offers a nice selection of shopping centers and local restaurants making it a great vacation destination. View our Corolla Beach Rentals.
North Beach Access Ramp
You likely won’t be swinging by this access unless you have a truck or an SUV. The North Beach Access on N. Beach Access Rd. in northern Corolla is literally where the pavement runs out and turns to sand. For those that do have 4WD vehicles, following the sandy road north is the only way to access the 4x4 area known as Carova Beach where a whole town of year-round residents and visitors live among the wild horses. *Click here to read the Currituck County regulations regarding beach driving and parking.
Corolla Village Road
Located across from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, this access is a popular sport for visitors who are exploring Historic Corolla. This location features a gravel parking lot with handicap parking, lifeguards, and a bathhouse with showers. Additionally, the beach can be accessed via a sand path or wooden walkway.
Currituck County Public Access
Located on the corner of Hwy. 12 and Yaupon Ln. in Corolla, this public beach access has a paved parking lot with handicap parking, lifeguards, bathhouse with showers and can also take visitors to the beach via sand or a wooden walkway.
Duck Beach Access
Located just south of Corolla, the town of Duck is a quaint little town aptly named after the migratory waterfowl of the area. With tranquil beaches and picturesque trails, Duck sits between the Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. The Duck Town Park and Boardwalk is home to local shops, restaurants and a host of fun outdoor festivals making it a popular location for summer travelers. When Duck was incorporated in 2002, there was no oceanfront property left that hadn’t already been deemed private land so the town itself does not actually provide any public beach access. However, there are dozens of community accesses (typically managed by the community HOA) that are available for use by residents and visitors of Duck Vacation Rentals.
Southern Shores Beach Access
Like Duck, the gorgeous town of Southern Shores also does not control any public beach accesses. Nestled between the Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, visitors who enjoy private and uncrowded beaches flock to the town every year for ultimate relaxation. The 30+ community beach accesses are all actually maintained by the Southern Shores Civic Association. Homeowners who have joined the association and guests in those Southern Shores Vacation Rentals have access to these locations. For guests in homes that do not participate in the association who prefer to drive to an access, Southern Shores borders the town of Kitty Hawk which has plenty of beach accesses with public parking.
Kitty Hawk Beach Access
When coming into the Outer Banks from the north mainland, Kitty Hawk is where the bypass splits allowing visitors to head to the northern beaches of Southern Shores, Duck, and Corolla, or continue south to Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head and Hatteras Island. Kitty Hawk is way more than a major intersection, however, and is a very popular tourist destination due to its maritime forest reserve (Kitty Hawk Woods), immaculate golf course (Sea Scape Golf Links), great beaches and fantastic restaurants. Located between the Currituck and Albemarle Sounds to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, views from Kitty Hawk Vacation Rentals can be incredible.
Byrd Street Access
Located around milepost 2 right as you are coming into Kitty Hawk (past Rundown Café if you are driving south), the lifeguarded Byrd St. Public Beach access is located at the intersection of Byrd St. and Hwy. 12 with a large paved parking lot accessible from Byrd St. The parking lot does have handicap parking spaces, outdoor showers and porta-potty style toilets. Visitors will have to cross the highway to get to the beach but can cross the dune via a sand path or wooden walkway.
Lillian Street Beach Access
Located off Hwy. 12, the Lillian Street Beach Access does not have a lifeguard stand but does have outdoor showers. The one-way paved parking lot has handicap spaces and is only accessible from the beach road and Lindbergh Ave. The parking lot exits onto W. Lillian St. beside Mattress Firm and although it does require visitors to walk across the highway, the beach is accessible via a wooden walkway.
Regional Public Beach Access
This access is located right behind the US Post Office beside Black Pelican Restaurant off of Hwy 12. This access features paved parking with handicap spaces, a bath house with showers, and a lifeguarded beach. Visitors to this access will have to cross the beach road and walk over a very short sand dune to access the beach – there is no wooden walkway to the water.
Kill Devil Hills Beach Access
One of the busiest towns on the Outer Banks, Kill Devil Hills is known for being the site of the Wright Brothers successful first flight of a heavier-than-air powered aircraft. Aside from its historic significance, Kill Devil Hills is home to plenty of fun attractions and delicious restaurants drawing in visitors from all over the country. With its wider land area, there are plenty of Kill Devil Hills Vacation Rentals along the Atlantic Ocean and the Albemarle and Roanoke Sounds so conveniently, there are plenty of beach accesses for public use.
Hayman Blvd. Beach Access
With a huge parking lot that runs along E. Hayman Blvd. from the beach road to Raymond Ave., the Hayman Blvd. Beach Access does require visitors to cross the highway and walk across a short sand dune to access the beach. However, there are handicap parking spaces, outdoor showers, and a lifeguard on site.
1st Street Beach Access
Located at the intersection of Hwy. 12 and E. 1st St. just past Goombay’s Grille & Raw Bar (heading south), the 1st Street Beach Access features a small parallel-style paved parking lot (no handicap spaces) on the ocean side meaning visitors do not need to cross the highway. The beach is accessible via a sand path and there is a lifeguard, outdoor showers, and an observation deck on site.
Asheville Dr. Beach Access
The Asheville Dr. Beach Access has a fairly large paved parking lot with handicap spaces on the ocean side so you do not need to cross the highway. The beach can be accessed by both sand walkway and wooden walkway. There is no bath house but there are outdoor showers and porta-potty style toilets. This access is lifeguarded.
Ocean Bay Blvd. Beach Access
Probably the largest public beach access in Kill Devil Hills, the Ocean Bay Blvd. Beach Access is located at the intersection of Hwy. 12 and Ocean Bay Blvd. With a huge paved parking lot with handicap spaces on the ocean side and an overflow lot across the highway, visitors can access the beach via a sand pathway and wooden walkway. The walkway also leads to an observation deck, a public bathhouse, and outdoor showers. There is a lifeguard on duty.
Atlantic Street Beach Access
At the intersection of E. Atlantic St. and Hwy. 12, the Atlantic Street Beach Access features a small parking lot with handicap spaces. There are outdoor showers and porta-potty style toilets on site. Crossing the highway is not required since the parking lot is on the oceanside but access to the beach is via a sand pathway. There is also a wooden walkway up to a gazebo with steps down to the beach. This access is lifeguarded.
8th Street Beach Access
This handicap-accessible beach access features handicap parking spaces and a stabilizing mat for wheelchair access. The paved parking lot located on the ocean side at the intersection of E. 8th St. and Hwy. 12 has both a sand walkway and wooden walkway access. There is also a lifeguard station and outdoor showers at this location.
Nags Head Beach Access
Probably the most well-known area in the Outer Banks, Nags Head is a long stretch of developed beach town just south of Kill Devil Hills and located between the Roanoke Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Known for landmarks like the Bodie Island Lighthouse, Jockey’s Ridge State Park (site of the largest living sand dune on the East Coast), and the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve (large maritime forest with land shared between Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills that is home to hundreds of plant and wildlife species). With great shopping centers (including the Tanger Outlet Mall), waterfront dining options and fun festivals that take place at the Soundside Event Site, guests love staying in Nags Head Vacation Rentals.
Bonnett Street Beach Access
This beach access features a huge paved parking lot on the ocean side, bath house, lifeguard on duty, picnic tables and a volleyball net. Additionally, there are handicap spaces and a stabilizing ramp/mat for wheelchair access. The beach is accessible by both sand and wooden walkway. This access is located at the intersection of E. Bonnett St. and Hwy. 12 across from Galaxy Golf.
Enterprise Street Beach Access
On the oceanside along Hwy. 12 around milepost 14 is the Enterprise Street Beach Access which features porta-potty style toilets and outdoor showers. Lifegaurded, this access has a paved parking lot with handicap spaces. The beach is accessible by both sand walkway and wooden walkway.
Forrest Street Beach Access
This beach access has a paved parking lot with handicap spots on the ocean side and is accessible from Hwy. 12 between the intersections at Ocean Watch Ct. and E. Lakeside St. Along with lifeguards, this access has outdoor showers, porta-potty style toilets and a wooden walkway to the beach.
Jennette’s Pier Beach Access
Located across from Sam & Omie’s off Hwy. 12, this beach access shares a paved parking lot with Jennette’s Pier and is impossible to miss. Along with handicap spaces, there is a stabilizing mat for wheelchair access. This lifeguarded access also features a bath house, outdoor showers and lets visitors get to the beach via a sand and wooden walkway.
Hargrove Street Beach Access
This access features another large paved parking lot with handicap spaces on the oceanside and overflow paved parking across the highway. A bath house with outdoor showers and a lifeguard stand are also on site. Located on S. Old Oregon Inlet Rd. in southern Nags Head, visitors can reach the beach over a sand path or a wooden walkway.
Juncos Street Beach Access
The final access on our list, the Juncos Street Beach Access features a paved parking lot with handicap spaces on the ocean side of S. Old Oregon Inlet Rd. Both a sand path and wooden walkway will take visitors to the lifeguarded beach. Outdoor showers and porta-potty style toilets are also on site.
Did you know? The term "beach road" is used to reference NC Highway 12 - Virginia Dare Trail.
Jessie has been coming to the Outer Banks since she was just 5 years old. She loved it here so much that she finally relocated in 2018. Now her mission is to show the world that the Outer Banks is an incredible place that everyone should experience. When she isn't working, you can find Jessie hanging out with her friends, chilling at home with her awesome cat, Yoji, or discovering a new Outer Banks adventure.