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Hatteras Island Customs & Courtesies

HomeHatteras Island Customs & Courtesies

Reading through the ordinances and regulations below will ensure that you have a safe and fun visit to Hatteras Island. It is important to know the regulations regarding driving, beach use, fireworks, bonfires, and protecting our natural habitat. As always, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the regulations and ordinances below. Or visit our Hatteras Area Guide for more information on planning your vacation to the Outer Banks.

Explore Hatteras


NC Driving Laws:

  • NC law does not permit passing on the right on a two-lane road, even when the shoulder is wide enough. Due to the high use of the shoulders by pedestrians and cyclists, please do not pass on the right when other cars are turning left.
  • The law requires that you turn on your headlights anytime it is necessary to use your windshield wipers, including when it is raining.
  • The law requires that all motorcycles burn their headlights at all times and that the driver and passenger wear a helmet. No more than two persons are allowed to ride a motorcycle at the same time.
  • Buckle up – it’s the law! Seat belts are required for all passengers, and all children under the age of 5 must be in an approved child restraint. Please visit here for information on North Carolina seatbelt laws.

Golf Carts:

  • Golf carts may be operated on all streets and roads in Hatteras Village west of and including Austin Road and Austin Lane where the speed limit is 35 mph or less.
  • Street-legal golf carts can also hit the roads in Buxton but will not be allowed to travel on or cross N.C. 12
  • No person less than 16 years of age may operate a golf cart on a public street, road, or highway.

Beach Driving:

  • An off-road vehicle (ORV) permit is required for beach driving along the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Learn More.
  • There are two types of permits: 10-day/$50 permits (valid from the date issued) and annual/$120 permits (valid for one year from the date issued).
  • If you have access to a printer, permits can be issued online here. Please be sure to print your permit prior to your arrival on Hatteras Island. Otherwise, they can be purchased or picked up by visiting one of three permit offices open seven days a week from 9:00-5:00 pm.
  • Before driving on designated ORV routes in your permitted vehicle, it is strongly recommended that tire pressure be lowered to at least 20 psi. Many local businesses have low cost or free air supply stations.

Beach Safety, Rules and Regulations:

  • Swim safety and RIP Current awareness is imperative for all members of your party, including even the most experienced of swimmers. It is very important for all beach visitors to check the rip current forecast before heading to the beach. Beach visitors can also sign up for ocean safety text messages by texting ‘Join OBXBeachConditions’ to 30890. Once you no longer wish to receive messages, simply text ‘STOP’ to 30890.
  • Bonfires are permitted on the beach with the distance no further back from the water than the median high tide. Here you can find the Beach Fire Permit which must be kept on hand while having a bonfire.
  • Jet skis may not be launched from any NPS land or waters. Jet skis can be launched only from private soundfront homes or public launches.
  • Any person aged 16/+ who wants to fish recreationally in any water designated as coastal and joint waters of North Carolina must purchase a Coastal Recreational Fishing License. This license can be purchased on a 10-day, annual or lifetime basis. Learn More.
  • The placement of unattended property on the beach, such as, but not limited to chairs, toys umbrellas, canopies, coolers, etc. is prohibited between sunset and sunrise. This restriction ensures the safety and enjoyment of the beach by all users and is consistent with local ordinances in nearby towns. Unattended beach equipment can be harmful to others and wildlife. People walking at night, public safety personnel who may have to drive on the beach at night, sea turtles that must make their way to nesting areas and hatchlings to the water to survive depend on safe and obstruction free beach conditions.
  • If you are vacationing during the time the sea oats are in bloom, please do not pick them. They are protected by federal law and they protect our dunes from erosion. On-the-spot tickets for up to $500 will be written by the National Park Service for violators.


  • Per Dare County guidelines for Cape Hatteras National Seashore, your pet must be on a 6’ leash at all times and are prohibited within any resource closure. Pets are not allowed on designated swim beaches or in buildings. Please, for your pet’s sake, never leave them unattended.
  • Pet owners must clean up after their pet(s).


  • Fireworks are prohibited in North Carolina. The illegal use of fireworks is a nuisance for both visitors and their pets, and are subject to stiff fines as well as confiscation of goods. Possessing fireworks of any kind, including sparklers, on any of Midgett Realty’s managed properties are grounds for eviction. In addition, fireworks can potentially cause fires that quickly get out of control with onshore winds.


  • Midgett Realty is fortunate to have many foreign visitors as guests in our Hatteras Rentals. We would like to share the difference in customs in regard to restaurant personnel. In the US, the wait staff at restaurants earn approximately $2 per hour and rely on tips to make a living. They should indeed earn their tips, and it is customary to leave a 20% tip for good service.
  • Please note that most island restaurants stay open no later than 9pm for dinner service.