Play on Ocracoke's Beautiful Beaches
Ocracoke has a special beach atmosphere. Known as the Pearl of Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island has miles of wild, secluded beaches. A special part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke beaches feel far away from the rest of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. You can easily access the beach just outside of Ocracoke Village. Beachcombing is a way of life on Ocracoke, and shelling, beach driving, and surf fishing are a fun part of every Ocracoke vacation.
Ocracoke Village Beach
Ocracoke Island is a beach paradise. As you leave Ocracoke Village and head toward the Hatteras ferry terminal, you can access the beach right away. There is also a beach near the airport, which has easy vehicle access.
South Point is one of Ocracoke’s most popular fishing and shelling spots. To access South Point, look for a sign on your right for a path to the south. Take this path for three miles and you will arrive at South Point, the southern tip of Ocracoke Island. South Point is a classic Ocracoke beach. If the tide and current are right, you will see lots of wildlife and maybe find a Scotch Bonnet, the rare state shell of North Carolina.
Designated by Dr. Beach as one of the best beaches in America, the Lifeguard Beach is the place to go if you have a car and want to go to the beach. To get to the Lifeguard beach, most people drive or ride bikes rather than walk. Lots of parking and primitive restrooms are available. The Lifeguard Beach has a water bottle filling station, pet water fountain, a wheelchair friendly beach access ramp, and a viewing platform.
Lifeguard Beach is the only lifeguarded beach on the island. During the summer season, pets are not allowed in the designated lifeguarded area while lifeguards are on duty.
Heading north toward the Hatteras ferry terminal, the next access takes you to the NPS campground. There are other campgrounds around the island, but the official National Park Service campground is right over the dune from the ocean. There is 4WD vehicle access here, as well as some parking spaces. NPS is a good beach if you don’t have a 4WD, but want to avoid the relatively more popular crowded Lifeguard Beach. There is another 4WD access a mile to the north, with no parking.
Pony Pens Beach
Pony Pens is located close to the center of Ocracoke Island. As you head further north on the main road from NPS, and wind through the trees, you’ll see the Pony Pens ahead on the left. Beach parking is across from the Pony Pens on the right. There are only a few spots here, but there is a nice wheelchair friendly access ramp. Another half mile north is a slightly larger parking lot that is practically on the beach, with almost no dunes to walk through. Then about the same distance farther is another 4WD access ramp.
Four miles past Pony Pens, you reach the northernmost 4wd access, just before you get to the ferry docks. Ocracoke’s northern beaches feel remote and secluded. Visitors come here to celebrate freedom, find rare shells, and enjoy the open ocean.
The trailhead for Springer’s Point is on Loop Road, a short walk beyond the lighthouse. You will find the entrance right as the road loops past private sound front properties. Although there are bike racks, there is no parking for cars or golf carts. Follow a windy path through the trees, past the graves of Sam Jones and his trusty horse Ikey D. The trail opens onto a sandy beach and the waters of the Pamlico sound.
There are tons of hermit crabs and the water is shallow and kid-friendly. Kids love to play at Springer point and water shoes are recommended. Unlike sound beaches on the northern Outer Banks, the water here is saltier and the bottom is sand rather than silt or grass.
Robbie’s Way – Sound Side Beach Access
Dedicated to honor Charles and Robbie Runyon’s estate, Robbie’s Way a 15-foot wide access way to the Pamlico Sound from the south side of the island (Down Point) to OPS. Robbie’s Way is one of the few remaining publicly accessible paths to the Sound. Another popular sunset spot further down the road is actually private property.
Ocracoke Beach Information
All of the Ocracoke Island ocean beaches are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, so National Park Service rules apply everywhere. No metal detecting is allowed. Dogs must be leashed.
During the Season (5/1 – 11/5), beach fires are only permitted at Lifeguard Beach, which the NPS refers to as Ocracoke Day Use Area. In the off-season, fires are permitted on the other beaches. You can have a bonfire if you fill out this handy online permit:
Driving on the beach is a fun Ocracoke Island activity. You can access remote seashore and feel as though you’ve escaped the modern world. To drive on the beach, be sure to get a ten-day or annual permit from the NPS. For permits and information on driving on the beaches click the button below.
Beach Closures, Hours and Access
Always check updated beach information. Beach hours and general access are dependent upon the season and wildlife protection closures. Closure conditions may occur on short notice. On-site signage, rather than a beach access map, is the most accurate and current indication of what is open or closed to the public. Closed areas are clearly marked. Closures occur during breeding seasons of protected birds and sea turtles.
Thanks for learning about Ocracoke’s beautiful beaches. We look forward to sharing our island with you!