With 150 miles of pristine coastline, and some of the East Coast's largest swaths of undisturbed maritime forest, the Outer Banks is a popular destination for nature lovers. As an important spot on America's "Flyway," which is the route that migrating birds take on their northern and southern treks across the country, the Outer Banks is the temporary home to hundreds of species of birds. Combine this with the number of deer, foxes, waterfowl, fish, turtles, and even alligators, and it's clear that the Outer Banks is truly a wild vacation destination.
The Carova beaches are unique from any other region of the Outer Banks, and as such, the region has its own, and sometimes distinctive, set of rules and regulations. Review the following beach information to brush up on the do's and don'ts in the local Carova community, and along Currituck Banks shoreline.
Pets - Pets are welcome on the Carova beaches, although visitors should keep pets leashed when not in the ocean waters, to protect them from oncoming beach traffic. Use caution in the summer months, when the hot sand can be painful to a pet's paws, and always have fresh water handy.
ATVs - ATV permits along the 4WD beaches are available to Currituck County property and owners only, and can be obtained via the county's main Currituck Banks government offices in Corolla at 1123 Ocean Trail.
Alcohol - Alcohol is permitted on the Carova beaches, although it is illegal to have any open containers in the passenger areas of a vehicle, per North Carolina state law.
Fires - Bonfires are not permitted along the 4WD area beaches or the Carova dune line, (although this rule does not apply to commercial fishermen who are actively fishing.)
Camping - Camping is not allowed anywhere along the 11-mile Carova shoreline, however a number of campgrounds can be found in mainland Currituck County, which is located on the western border of the Currituck Sound and the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge.
4x4 Regulations - The only way to access the Carova region is via a 4x4 vehicle, and all licensed 4WD vehicles are allowed on the shoreline. Operators will want to keep the following criteria in mind when operating a 4WD vehicle on the Carova seashore.
- Before driving, stop and lower tire pressure to 15-20 psi in order to provide more surface contact with the sand.
- Do not stop or park in the beach ramp area to lower tire pressure, or hop out and access the beach.
- Once on the 4WD beach, keep driving, as there is no parking allowed within half mile of the beach ramp.
- The speed limit along the Carova beaches is 30-35 mph, unless otherwise posted. This limit is lowered to 15 mph when drivers are within 300' ft. of a pedestrian
- Follow the well-established tracks that are located above the high tide line. Do not drive in the dunes, or in the ocean wash where visitors may have set up beach equipment.
- Never drive through saltwater, as it can permanently damage a vehicle.
- The established sand tracks are recognized as a state road, or Public Vehicular Area (PVA.) As such, drivers should observe all rules of the road, including proper use of turn signals, speed limits, and "pulling over" for emergency vehicles.
Fishing - Fishing is allowed throughout the Currituck Banks ocean-facing beaches and in the Currituck Sound. A saltwater fishing license is required for anglers over the age of 16 to fish in the Atlantic Ocean, and a freshwater license may be required to fish in the Currituck Sound. Consult a local tackle shop in Corolla for details, and to obtain the appropriate license.
Fireworks - Fireworks that spin, are self-propelled, or that explode are illegal in North Carolina. This law is strictly enforced on the Carova beaches, due to the dry beach grass and easily-spooked wild horse population.
Glass Bottles - Glass bottles are permitted on the Carova shoreline, although beach-goers are asked to dispose properly of all trash along the beaches.
Lifeguards - There are no lifeguarded beaches in the town of Carova, however visitors can find lifeguarded stations in neighboring Corolla at the following locations. Please note that public parking may be limited, or may not be available.
- Corolla Public Beach Access on Old Stoney Road
- Currituck Beach Lighthouse Beach Access on Franklyn Street
- Pine Island Community Beach Access at the end of Audubon Drive
- Ocean Sands Community Beach Access at the end of Marlin Way, Sea Bird Way, Sand Fiddler Road, and Driftwood Way
- Crown Point Community Beach Access at the end of Crown Point Circle
- Buck Island Community Beach Access at the end of Orion's Way
- Whalehead Beach Community Beach Access at the end of Sailfish Street, Bonito Street, Herring Street and Although Sturgeon Street
- Corolla Light Community Beach Access at the end of Austin Street
Surfing - Surfers are welcome in Carova, and can easily drive along the 11 miles of beaches to find the best breaks. Surfing is at its best when an East Coast hurricane passes well offshore, or after a summer storm, although surfers are cautioned to "surf at their own risk" as the Carova beaches do not have lifeguards or have red flags posted during dangerous surf conditions.
Wild Horses - Visitors are free to admire and snap photos of the famed Corolla wild horses, but are advised to keep the following guidelines in mind.
- Please do not feed the wild horses, or leave out food for the wild horses.
- Currituck County prevents anyone from being within 50' feet of the wild horses. Please respect this boundary.
- In the last decade or so, several of the wild horses have been victims of reckless drivers or hunters. If a violation is spotted, visitors are encouraged to contact the Currituck Sheriff's Office at 252-453-8204. A reward fund has even been established for finding persons who are involved in crimes against the wild horses.
Beach Weddings - Carova is one of the most popular Outer Banks locales for beach weddings, due to its beautiful beaches and abundance of elite vacation rental homes that can cater wedding parties of 75 guests or more. Check with your local vacation rental company for specific details on an individual property's rules or regulations.
Beach-Goer Regulations - Because the traffic along the dune line tends to be high in the summer months, beach-goers are advised to set up camp just above the low tide line, and well below the established sand tracks. Please do not set up any umbrellas, chairs, volleyball nets, or other equipment on the sandy tracks, which are technically part of a NC State Road.