4×4 driving tips for the Carova beaches

Located just north of Corolla, there are nearly 10 miles of national seashore where folks are still permitted to drive on the beach. If you drive all the way north on NC 12, it will end at a beach access to enter the beach.


No permits or special passes are needed to enter this area, but some preparation will help. Four wheel drive vehicles are strongly encouraged to drive on the sand. Below are some tips to have a fun time on your beach drive!


  1. Deflate before you go. While at your beach house, or a shopping center in Corolla, deflate your tires. Yes, softer tires will make your vehicle glide over loose sand, rather than digging. I usually drop my truck tires from 80psi to 35psi. From trial and error, that just seems like the right spot for my vehicle to handle even the loosest of sand. On other vehicles, I have dropped from 50psi to 20psi as a start. Remember, you can always drop down more on the beach, but it is best to start out right, and not get stuck!*do not pull over in the “no stopping for any reason” areas. You may be ticketed by sheriffs patrolling the area.  PLEASE REMEMBER! The county parking lots (both at the lighthouse and beach access- less than a mile south of the ramp) are also legal places to park, and that the Currituck Banks Reserve parking lot is NOT a legal place to park.  This is true both for airing up and airing down, as well as for leaving vehicles in order to carpool on the beach. 
  2. Observe low tide. It is usually harder to drive on the beach at high tide, as there is “less” beach. Check the weather channel or a local tide chart for zip code 27927 for the best experience. Often, driving near the ocean on the hard-packed sand is the best spot, at low tide, which brings us to…
  3. Do not drive in the water. Salt water is very corrosive, and terribly hard on brake lines, brake pads, and other parts of your vehicle. Worse, you could get stuck in the soft, saturated sand, and lose your vehicle in the surf! Trust me, a few vehicles are lost in the Atlantic every year, don’t do it!
  4. Give pedestrians the right of way, and watch for children. The posted signs state 15MPH within 300 yards of pedestrians, and 30MPH when outside of pedestrians by 300 yards. Be safe, enjoy the ride, and slow down.
  5. Use 4 high setting, not 4 low, in your vehicle. Usually 4 low is geared just too low for loose sand. It is better to let out more air, and go in reverse, and forward slowly, than to dig deeper, requiring a tow.
  6. Next, a few items to consider taking with you:
  • tire gauge
  • shovel
  • camera (you may see wild horses!)
  • cellphone (for google maps, or if a towing company is needed, A1 is located in Corolla)
  • drinking water

*Lastly, air to re-fill your tires can be found at the Winks Convenience store in Corolla, just a mile from the ramp, south.

Have fun!