Dynamic Variation:

Responsible Travel on the OBX

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a different kind of place in part because of its unique ties to nature. Two ocean currents converging, dynamic barrier islands dancing with the waves of the Atlantic. Did you know half of Dare County is water? Or that around 80% of the land within the County cannot be developed because it belongs to a National or State park, preserve or wildlife refuge? Even with these assurances, we're working hard to ensure the Outer Banks remains a place dedicated to sustainable tourism and natural oceanside beauty.

Small but mighty actions make all the difference as we all work together to protect our natural wonders and vibrant cultures for future generations to come. Every person who visits the Outer Banks leaves an impact on this tiny sandbar. Take a look at these awesome resources to ensure you're prepared to visit the OBX thoughtfully. If you are ready to be more involved, visitors can check out our "Voluntourism" opportunities to volunteer their time with a local non-profit such as beach clean ups or planting sea grass. Find a full list of Dare County non-profits and events that are helping to Keep OBX OBX.

Are you prepared?

Traveling responsibly means planning, learning, and slowing down to appreciate all that surrounds you. Before traveling, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I familiar with Leave No Trace principles? Packing out your trash, extinguishing fires completely, and traveling on designated routes and trails are a few of the principles to follow. 

  • Does this activity put me at risk for potential rescue or does it strain local resources? Beach safety and weather alerts can save lives. Be prepared with updated forecasts and the proper beach safety knowledge. Text OBXBEACHCONDITIONS to 77295 to sign up for beach-related weather and ocean condition alerts.

  • Am I doing what I can to avoid crowded locations? View our tips for getting here and around to avoid long waits or being stuck in traffic. 

  • Are there ways I can make a positive impact on the communities I plan to visit?

Below we've answered some important FAQ that impact travelers and locals on the Outer Banks.

What are the 7 Leave No Trace Principles

Our coast's public lands are a great resource for hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, relaxing and so much more. Because of this, we want to ensure that our land and natural resources are protected and we encourage our visitors and locals to practice leaving no trace. These principles remind us to be conscious of the effects on our actions on the environment and can be applied anywhere, at anytime, not just the Outer Banks of North Carolina. 

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect the Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

© Leave No Trace: www.LNT.org


How to pack for the beach

We’ve gathered your essential beach packing items into one convenient spot so you don’t forget anything. Whether you are staying for a quick overnighter or a weeklong stay, traveling solo or with a group, this beach packing list will set you up for a successful trip. 


How to "beach" safely

A trip to the Outer Banks' beautiful beaches is an enjoyable and memorable experience for many visitors and families. Whether you’re going swimming, sailing or surfing, taking strolls in the sand or laying out to catch some sun, or participating in any of the many other activities at our coastal attractions, we want your time at the beach to be as safe as it is fun.


Is the OBX accessible?

Everyone can enjoy this world-famous destination. 

Beach Handicap Accessibility

Accessibility Within our National Parks


How to travel with dogs 

The Outer Banks will always be a pet-friendly destination. Our beaches, towns and villages can be fun and rewarding for both pets and their owners, discover all rules and regulations regarding pets on the OBX. 


How to off-road responsibly

The use of off-road vehicles (ORVs) is a long-standing way for visitors to enjoy the Seashore’s ocean beaches and soundside waters. To provide for both visitor enjoyment and the protection of park resources, please observe the following regulations and recommendations when using ORVs at the Seashore


How to visit our parks and refuges

Read these insights on how to best travel through our National Parks, State Parks and refuges.

Your Guide to Recreating Responsibly in our National Parks

Exploring Our Protected Lands in the Outer Banks

What to do if you find a baby sea turtle on the beach?

Whether it’s sick, injured, or nesting, it’s important not to touch or disturb the turtle. Sea turtles do not come onto the beach unless they are nesting or something is wrong. Please just give N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) a call so they can have a team come immediately to assist the turtle. Their hotline number is 252-441-8622. 


Where are electric vehicle charging stations on the Outer Banks?

You can find a full list of charging stations at https://pluginnc.com/find-a-charging-station/

How to build a beach fire

Sitting around a fire on the beach can be romantic and relaxing. Beach fires are allowed, with regulations, on beaches in Nags Head and along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.


Cultivate Diverse Visitation & Equitable Representation

The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau recognizes the power of travel as an opportunity to build inclusive communities here on the Outer Banks and beyond by the exchange of culture and commerce through visitation. The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau is committed to promoting tourism to Dare County in a fair and equitable way, reflective of the organization's own employment opportunities, that invites visitation to the Outer Banks by all, with the intention of connecting with people inclusive and without exclusion of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status. Read a few recent posts below:

5 Ways the OBX Celebrates Diversity

Accessibility Within our National Parks

Best Free Things To Do 

First in Freedom

Where and when do I dispose of my trash or recycle while I'm visiting the Outer Banks? 

Find a full list of trash pickup schedules and recycling centers on the entire Outer Banks.


For Road Trippers

Find the best way to get here. Look at cool spots to park your RV and find public beach and sound accesses. Driving down Highway 12 is the perfect opportunity to get a sense of the community you're visiting at a family diner and book a guide experience, so a local can show you the region’s best kept secrets.  As you plan your next road trip through OBX, look for opportunities to visit less-crowded destinations. While the national parks are open, so are many less crowded and equally brilliant nearby destinations. Read our blog post "A Fantastic RV Destination"


For Adventure Seekers

Last year many of us missed out on the adrenaline-pumping experiences that we seek to shake off a sense of cabin fever. Now, as the Outer Banks’ parks and natural destinations welcome back surfers, bikers, fish fiends, beach bums and hikers it’s more important than ever to recreate responsibly. With more and more travelers visiting OBX each year, our natural resources are under immense pressure. Be sure to double check your gear list before heading out, avoid high-traffic destinations when possible, and seek out guidance to help you preserve the places we play. 


For Foodies

Probably as legendary as our beaches are the bistros, beach dives, and seafood shacks that dot the barrier islands from Duck to Hatteras and Roanoke Island. By far, most of our restaurants and cafes can only be found on the OBX, and we think that’s a good thing. What that gets you is personal attention to detail and family-run businesses working hard to keep you safe like they would their own. The industry is taking on additional best practices in the coronavirus era, adding to an already impeccable reputation. Visit our Restaurant page to be inspired  or view specific Culinary related blog posts


For History Buffs and Creative Minds

There are those talented voices among us in the Outer Banks fan community who can evoke emotion using glass and clay, or transport you back in time with gentle strokes of brightly colored oils on canvas. If you let the OBX in, it’ll change the way you see the world around you. There’s something intimate and relaxing about combing the beach for nature’s treasures. Your keepsakes from what the sea has given up become pieces of art on your windowsill or work desk, reminders that there is more to life, and more to you. We invite you to experience the OBX with a new filter, through creativity of individuals with the ability to see beyond the horizon of the five senses. Share a deeper understanding of what it means to have an Outer Banks soul with those who create tangible connections to it every day. We've gathered History and Heritage related blog posts.


For Solace Seekers

The 100 miles of OBX shoreline has long offered so much solace, but it’s up to you to find it. Hike a trail that’s not on a top-ten list or rest beneath a live oak tree that overlooks a network of marshes. As you seek solitude, ensure you're prepared to do so, and look to give back to the communities you're passing through. Consider exploring the outdoors on non-busy times such as early mornings or mid-week. Hiking and Biking Trail on the Outer Banks.


For Families

Family-friendly beaches include rolling sand dunes to run down and the legendary Big Kill Devil Hill, in what was then the town of Kitty Hawk, where the Wright brothers first took flight. The spot is still popular for kite flyers, and a little farther down the beach, for hang gliders because of the reliable gusts of wind. If your family includes a dog, you’ll be right at home on the beaches of The Outer Banks, where the town of Duck was recently voted one of the most pet-friendly beaches in America. And the season runs year-round both offshore and inshore. Canoeing, boating, biking and birdwatching are other great ways to make your way around The Outer Banks. And whenever you’re on a beach keep your eyes out for sea glass and sea shells. These are treasured keepsakes. Check out our trip ideas and itineraries here.