May 22, 2017
Beach manners -- a matter of etiquette and the law
By IRENE NOLAN
Previously Posted July 1, 2016
Note: Irene first wrote the following story as a blog entry for
July of 2016. As she notes, she had a regular “Beach Manners” story for
years, and after the success of last year’s entry, she planned on
continuing the tradition in the years to come. Her tips on beach
etiquette are still essential and important to keep in mind as another
busy Memorial Day approaches, so we are re-printing her story for both
the benefit of new visitors and folks like me who have awful memories
and appreciate a reminder now and again.)
Years ago, I used to write a summer column on beach etiquette -- not
every year, but fairly often. I haven't done in it in a while,
and I was reminded by several recent encounters on the beach that maybe
it's time to publish something on this topic again.
So here it goes.
this isn't a column just for our visitors -- sometimes even locals need
reminding about beach manners. Also, it's not just about etiquette --
in addition to manners, beach drivers need to know the law and obey it
and use some common sense. So my list in this column includes a mixture
of all three.
all drivers need to know that all the state’s traffic laws for driving
on a paved road apply to beach driving -- buckle up, observe
speed limits, open containers of alcoholic beverages are prohibited,
current driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance and license
plate are required.
they also need to know that the National Park Service requires a permit
for driving on the beach. (For more information on permits, go to
Do not drive recklessly by cutting “doughnuts” or defacing the beach. Never drive on the dunes.
let your children play on the dunes, either, and do not pick the sea
oats. The dunes are important for protecting the island and the
sea grasses, including sea oats, help hold the sand on the dunes.
speed limit on the beach is 15 mph unless otherwise posted. When
traveling within 100 feet of pedestrians, the speed limit is 5
mph. Pedestrians always have the right of way. Watch out
for children who may dart out from between parked ORVs or might be
playing on the beach and because of the wind or the surf, not hear an
ORV trails are clearly marked. Do not cross into areas closed for
resource protection, which are also clearly marked. This applies to
pedestrians, as well as vehicles.
tires should be aired down to drive on the access ramps and the beach
-- no matter what your manual says. The Park Service recommends
you get stuck, lower your tire pressure even more. Slowly back up
in your tracks and move slowly forward. Don’t sit there and spin your
wheels or you will get really stuck.
not wait until you are in the access ramp to stop and air down your
tires -- holding up the drivers behind you. Air down your tires
before you get onto the ramp.
Don’t drive in the surf or standing water on the beach. Salt water is corrosive and can ruin your vehicle.
for emergencies by carrying in your vehicle a shovel, tire pressure
gauge, spare tire, jack and jack support board, fire extinguisher, tow
rope, flashlight and first-aid kit.
fireworks, including sparklers, are illegal on the beach. And
they are also illegal in all the villages of Hatteras and Ocracoke.
Keep pets on a six-foot leash.
wildlife, including those begging seagulls, is prohibited. If you do
feed the gulls, you will also find out that they can be annoying -- if
not threatening to small children. The gulls are so used to humans
feeding them that they can be quite fearless and demanding. I've
seen the laughing gulls dive bomb hot grills to steal a hot dog and
swoop down to take a sandwich out of the hand of a startled -- and
sometimes frightened -- child. Do not encourage this behavior --
it's not good for the birds or the humans.
should think twice about digging deep holes or tunnels on the
beach. It's tempting and looks like a lot of fun, but it can also
be dangerous. Visitors to the seashore have been killed when sand
collapsed on them while they were digging tunnels.
you do dig holes on the beach, be sure to cover them up before you
leave. Holes on the beach at night can be dangerous for
pedestrians, emergency vehicles, and wildlife.
hog the beach or try to save space for all of your friends, family, and
fishing buddies. Folks put out chairs spread along the beach or
fishing rods in holders spread over many feet of beach to "save" space
for late arriving buddies. It's not illegal, but it's not good
manners either. You can save a little space, but it's definitely
inconsiderate to spread your gear over 10 or 20 yards.
regulations prohibit leaving your equipment on the beach
overnight. This includes such items as tents, cabanas, umbrellas,
chairs, volleyball nets, horseshoe pits, wading pools and other
gear. This is especially a problem in the villages.
Visitors who rent oceanfront and oceanside properties often set up for
the week and leave everything in place. This isn't a problem if you are
heading inside for lunch or heading out for a shopping trip. But
it is a problem if you leave it up overnight. These items are dangerous
for pedestrians and emergency vehicles trying to navigate the beaches
after dark. They can also be dangerous for nesting sea turtles.
your cabana or chair is broken, don't just leave it on the beach for
someone else to have to haul it away for you. (Yes, people do
abandon their broken gear on the beach.)
Drones are prohibited on all National Park Service properties -- including the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
course, do not litter. Be sure that trash bags are a part of your
beach packing and carry out your trash with you. Some folks even pick
up trash left behind by other, less thoughtful beachgoers.
the beach and the water. User conflicts are an ongoing problem,
and most can be solved with good sense and civility. This is a
problem mostly in the summer. If you are going to fish, don't set up in
the middle of a vacationing families. And, likewise, if you want to
swim and enjoy the water, don't stop next to a group of anglers.
assume everyone shares your taste in music. Some folks like to
hear the sound of the surf and shorebirds. Keep the volume to a
A WORD ABOUT BEACH FIRES
In the past when I wrote these columns on beach manners, I always included a few words on beach fire regulations and etiquette.
under the seashore's ORV plan and regulation that became final in
2012, it hardly seems worth mentioning what used to be a favorite
activity for both locals and visitors.
beach fires are largely irrelevant, especially in the summer -- unless
you happen to have rented an expensive oceanfront house on Hatteras
Island. And this is a pet peeve of mine about the seashore's new
May 1-Nov. 15, the Park Service allows beach fires only at Coquina
Beach Day Use Area, Ocracoke Day Use Area, and in front of the villages
of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Frisco, and Hatteras. Fires are not
allowed during that time on any of the ORV routes. In the winter,
you can drive out on an ORV route and have a beach fire -- but only
until 10 p.m., even though you can stay out on the beach all night at
that time of year.
there are no public beach access areas in any of the villages, there's
really no place for folks who don't have oceanfront rentals to go
to have a summer beach fire.
Doesn't seem quite right.
Also, a permit is required for beach fires.
AND OUTDOOR LIGHTS
This one applies not only to the beach, but to all of Hatteras and Ocracoke.
not the law in the seashore or in Dare or Hyde County, but please turn
your outside lights off at night when you are not using them. We
like to enjoy our dark skies here on Hatteras and Ocracoke island, and
it's hard to do when your neighbors leave their outdoor lights,
especially big spotlights, on all night long.
communities that include both rentals and year-round residences, such
as where I live, it can be annoying when the lights of the rental house
next door are shining into your bedroom all night.
you have an oceanfront rental house, it's especially important to turn
off outside lights and pool lights when they are not in use.
Outdoor lights can disturb sea turtles coming ashore to nest and can be
especially confusing and harmful to the baby turtles when the
nests hatch. Turtle hatchlings are attracted to lights, and I've heard
more than one story about turtle hatchlings heading toward a lighted
swimming pool instead of the ocean.
Finally, have a safe and happy holiday!