Love the beach? Help protect it!
The Outer Banks is a giant sandbar with a fragile and diverse ecosystem. (From wild horses and sea turtles to maritime forests and sand dunes!) We’ve outlined some simple ways you can help protect this special place during your next stay.
Pack your reusables.
Metal straws, reusable shopping bags, and reusable water bottles can considerably reduce your single-use plastic consumption during vacation. When you go out to eat, bring your straw along! Ask for paper bags instead of plastic when your purchases don’t all fit in your reusable bags. Pack your beach cooler with everyone’s reusable water bottles to stay hydrated with no waste.
When possible, please recycle.
If your vacation home provides a recycling bin, please take advantage! If there are no bins available, you can drop off recyclables at the following locations:
Duck, Southern Shores, and Kitty Hawk: Guests without a recycling bin in these three towns can drop items off at the Kitty Hawk Recycling Center, typically open 8 AM – 3 PM Monday through Friday and 8 AM -12 PM Saturdays at Bob Perry Road.
Kill Devil Hills: The Kill Devil Hills Recycling Center is typically open 8 AM – 4 PM Monday through Friday and 8 AM – 2 PM Saturdays at 701 Bermuda Bay Boulevard.
Nags Head: Nags Head guests without a recycling bin can choose from two drop-off locations, and both are available every day at any time: Nags Head Town Hall at 5401 South Croatan Highway and Nags Head Public Works at 2200 Lark Avenue.
Rent vacation gear vs. buy.
Vacation gear can make a beach trip even more fun! Instead of buying something you won’t use regularly after vacation, consider renting it for your stay instead. There are several reputable vacation gear rental companies here on the Outer Banks, including Ocean Atlantic Rentals and Duck Village Outfitters. They carry bikes, beach chairs, boogie boards, skimboards, SUP boards, baby items — just about anything you can imagine needing for your stay. Renting gear also means not filling your car to the brim, which can save on gas!
Keep off the dunes.
Dunes are important barriers between the Atlantic Ocean and Outer Banks homes, shops, and roads — but they’re fragile. Wind and waves can erode dunes, but so can people. This is why it’s extremely important for everyone to stick to established beach accesses rather than make new paths through the dunes. Planting certain types of beach grass and adding beach fencing can help stabilize a dune over time, but that progress can easily be undone by foot traffic.
Leave only footprints.
The urge to build sandcastles and dig holes is strong at the beach! Just remember to knock them down and fill them in before you head back to your vacation rental. Not only can they cause unnecessary hazards for beachgoers, lifeguards, and emergency vehicles, but they can also create barriers for wildlife — including nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings. A good rule of thumb is to only leave footprints. Note that items not removed from the beach at the end of the day are collected and disposed of by the towns — for safety and to prevent items from ending up in the ocean where they can harm sea life.
Never approach or feed Corolla’s wild horses.
Corolla’s protected wild horses were originally brought to our shores by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. They are feral animals that can only be admired from afar for their safety as well as ours. It is illegal to feed or come within 50 feet of them; leaving food out for the horses can be life-threatening for them as their diet includes only native plants and grasses.
Wild Horse Adventure Tours provides a safe and educational way to view Corolla’s wild horses. If you plan to drive on Corolla’s 4×4 beaches on your own, it’s extremely important to abide by the speed limit (15 mph when within 300 feet of beachgoers and wild horses, 35 mph unless posted otherwise). Accidents have happened, so please be vigilant.
If you see an injured or sick horse, do not approach. Call the Corolla Wild Horse Fund at 252-453-8002. If you see an injured or sick horse after hours, please call the Currituck County sheriff’s dispatch at 252-232-2216. The Currituck County sheriff’s dispatch is also the best number for reporting anyone approaching, feeding, or touching these protected animals.
Celebrate! (Without balloons, fireworks, or sky lanterns…)
Sky lanterns and aerial fireworks are illegal in North Carolina due to the risk of fire. Balloons are extremely dangerous to wildlife, whether released intentionally or accidentally. They are often blown into the ocean where, much like plastic grocery bags, they are easily mistaken for food and ingested by sea life that can’t digest them. By celebrating without balloons, you are helping to keep a non-biodegradable item out of the food chain.
Always secure a permit for a beach fire.
Beach fires are strictly prohibited in Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills due to the risk of fire. High winds are common in our area, which increases the danger. Beach fires are allowed in the town of Nags Head as long as you have secured a same-day permit from the Nags Head Fire Department and abide by all of their safety regulations. If a permit is secured and winds pick up to 10 knots or higher, the permit becomes void, and you must fully extinguish your fire right away. The fire must be a minimum of 50 feet from any combustible materials (including seagrass and brush) on the seaward side of the dune; it must be contained to a pit no larger than 3 feet in diameter and at least 1 foot deep; it must be attended to at all times; and must be fully extinguished with water by midnight. Only plant growth can be burned; it is illegal to burn trash, lumber scraps, and other non-vegetative materials. All debris must be removed from the beach once the fire is extinguished, and all holes must be filled in.
Turn off the lights.
Sea turtles and other coastal wildlife are extremely sensitive to unnatural lights after sundown. Turtle hatchlings follow moonlight to find the water and can be easily confused by residential and commercial lights on land. Turn off exterior lights and interior ocean-facing lights when not in use, and close any window treatments at night, especially during sea turtle nesting season (May through September).
Bring your electric vehicle.
Many Carolina Designs Realty Outer Banks vacation rentals provide on-site access to an electric vehicle (EV) charger, and you can easily search for homes with this amenity on our website. Many homes offer complimentary charging, or payment can be made by scanning a QR code. Don’t have an EV? Try limiting the number of vehicles your group drives to the Outer Banks by carpooling together. Road trip time!
Purchase locally-made products and souvenirs to reduce your carbon footprint while supporting local businesses. The Outer Banks Chamber’s “OBX-Made” designation and logo can help you spot these special products, and our area hosts several farmers markets and craft shows where you can meet local vendors and artisans and shop their wares. Explore Outer Banks shops, restaurants, and more in our online Travel Guide.
Support organizations committed to protecting the OBX.
The Outer Banks is lucky to have a number of organizations whose mission is to preserve and protect our coastal environment and wildlife. Check out some of our favorites!