Vacation Planning: Outer Banks Beach Safety & Tips


outer banks beach and ocean safety

You should always use caution before entering the ocean. Stay alert for red warning flags. If the red flags are flying, it means swimming is prohibited. Although flags may be posted when the weather seems fine, it means that the water conditions are not safe to swim in. Strong rip currents can make swimming dangerous; please read and follow the safety instructions at lifeguard locations.

Helpful tips for ocean goers:

  • Never swim alone!
  • Check the ocean forecast.
  • Watch Channel 16 for weather and ocean conditions.
  • Be aware that even on low risk days rip currents can still exist.
  • Swim in front of a lifeguard.
  • Don't swim out too far.
  • Bring your cell phone and know your exact location at the beach.
  • In an emergency, to get the fastest response, a phone and address can save lives.
  • Also have someone on shore watching you.
  • Educate yourself and your family on rip currents.

Sun Protection

Bright, sunny days seem like the perfect recipe for a great Outer Banks vacation. However, if you aren't careful, the summer sun can be too much of a good thing. During the summer months, the sun's rays are especially intense. The reflection of the sun off of the ocean and sand can increase your chance for sunburn.

The following tips can help you avoid heat-related illnesses - including sunburn:

  • Remember, you can sunburn even on a cloudy day!
  • Avoid dehydration and drink plenty of water when outdoors.
  • Be watchful of children and older adults, their bodies don't regulate their temperatures efficiently.
  • Try to avoid exposure to the sun during the most intense hours of the sun’s rays (10:00AM - 5:00PM).
  • Apply sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15, paying special attention to the face, nose, ears scalp and shoulders.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV Protection.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Make sure you reapply sunscreen often - especially after swimming.
  • Whenever possible, wear a shirt or coverup to minimize your sun exposure.
  • Umbrellas, tents or cabanas are great devices for staying out of direct sunlight and will also help keep you cool.

Keep Our Beaches Clean and Beautiful

We need your help to keep our beaches clean and beautiful for years to come. When you head to the beach, be sure to bring some sort of trash bag with you to gather all of your trash items at the end of the day.

Also, be sure to always clean up after your dog. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that spreads disease. Please be sure to pick up your pet's waste, seal it in a plastic bag (some beach accesses provide bags for this) and dispose of it in trash cans. Do not bury/cover it with sand!


Lifeguarded Beaches

Remember, it's always safer to swim in front of a lifeguard! Many people are not used to swimming in the ocean, particularly one with as many currents as we have along the coast. Even if you are a good swimmer, the ocean is unpredictable. Keep in mind that other injuries requiring assistance may occur (jellyfish sting, physical injury, dehydration, wandering child, etc.) so consider swimming at lifeguarded beaches.

The following Outer Banks beaches provide manned lifeguard stands and several areas also have roving lifeguards on atvs/bikes. Generally, lifeguard stations are operated during peak season but each town has set hours and date ranges depending on the beach access. Check each town's website for additional information on their surf rescue program and beach safety regulations. This list is current as of February 2019 but hours and locations are subject to change without notice so please always check your town's individual hours and read any signs posted at the beach access.

>> Remember, in an emergency on the beach, dial 9-1-1. Know your location - mile marker, oceanfront home address or beach access name.

Corolla

Website | Lifeguards on duty from 9:30am - 5:30pm (Roving patrol travels from county line to Penny's Hill in the 4x4 area).

  • Ocean Hill
  • Bismark Street
  • Lighthouse Ramp
  • Shad Street
  • Stergeon Street
  • Herring Street
  • Bonita Street
  • Sailfish Street
  • Buck Island
  • Crown Point
  • Section P Ocean Sands
  • Section O Ocean Sands
  • Section F Ocean Sands
  • Section D Ocean Sands
  • Section B Ocean Sands
  • Currituck County Beach Access
  • Hampton Inn

Duck

Website | Lifeguards on duty from 10:00am - 6:00pm: May 26th through September 4th. (Roving patrol on ATVs May 1st - October 31st)

  • Caffey's Inlet
  • Sprigtail Drive
  • Barrier Island Stations
  • Schooner Ridge Drive
  • Christopher Drive
  • Four Seasons Lane
  • Ocean Pines*
  • South Snow Geese*
  • Scarborough Lane*
  • Plover Drive*

*Lifeguard stands at these beach accesses are only manned June 16th - August 12th

Southern Shores

Website | Lifeguards on duty from 10:00am - 6:00pm: Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend. (Roving patrol late May through September)

  • Hillcrest Drive
  • Chicahauk Trail
  • E. Dogwood Trail*
  • 142 Ocean Blvd.*

*Lifeguard stands at these beach accesses are only manned mid-June through mid-August

Kitty Hawk

Website | Lifeguards on duty from 10:00am - 6:00pm: Memorial Day to Labor Day (10:00 am to 5:00pm Labor Day - September 30th). (Roving patrol May through September)

  • Byrd Street
  • Eckner Street
  • Kitty Hawk Bath House

Kill Devil Hills

Website | Lifeguards on duty from 10:00am - 5:30pm: Memorial Day to Labor Day. (Roving patrol through October 15th)

  • Helga Street
  • Hayman Street
  • Eden Street
  • Avalon Drive
  • 5th Street
  • 3rd Street
  • 2nd Street
  • 1st Street
  • Coral Drive
  • Asheville Drive
  • Woodmere Avenue
  • Carlow Avenue
  • Ocean Bay Boulevard
  • Oregon Avenue
  • Baum Street
  • Clark Street
  • Martin Street
  • Atlantic Street
  • Ocean Acres Beach Access (Neptune Drive)
  • Lake Drive
  • Eighth Street

Nags Head

Website | Lifeguards on duty from 10:00am - 6:00pm: Memorial Day to Labor Day. (Roving patrol until 6pm through September 30th and until 5:00pm October 15th)

  • Albatross
  • Abalone
  • Bonnett
  • Hollowell
  • Enterprise
  • Town Hall
  • Epstein Bathhouse
  • Forrest
  • Grey Eagle
  • Gulfstream
  • Hargrove 
  • Ida
  • Indigo
  • Juncos
  • Limulus

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Website | Lifeguards on duty from 9:00am - 5:00pm: Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.

  • Coquina Beach
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Beach
  • Frisco Beach (South of Frisco Village)
  • Ocracoke Day Use Beach

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