Every year, the Atlantic Ocean produces a number of safety challenges for underprepared visitors. Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore) urges its visitors to check the National Weather Service’s beach forecast webpage before heading to the beach.
The daily beach forecast at www.weather.gov/beach/mhx includes rip current risk levels and information about other hazards along the beach. In addition, visitors are encouraged to sign up for text alerts from Outer Banks lifeguards, ocean rescue agencies and the National Weather Service by texting “OBXBeachConditions” to 77295.
Rip currents are powerful currents of water moving away from shore. They are responsible for numerous water rescue attempts along the North Carolina coast every year.
Lifeguarded beaches are by far the safest places to swim at the Seashore. There are four beach locations that are staffed with lifeguards from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
The locations of the four lifeguarded beaches are:
Coquina Beach Access (Bodie Island)
- Located across from the Bodie Island Lighthouse site
- Adjacent to the Old Cape Hatteras Lighthouse site
Frisco Beach Access (Hatteras Island)
- Located just south of Frisco Village
Ocracoke Beach Access (Ocracoke Island)
- 1 ½ miles south of the Seashore campground or ½ mile north of Ocracoke Village
Ocean and Beach Safety Tips
- Swim at beaches patrolled by lifeguards.
- Bring something in the water with you that floats.
- Rather than struggling through a rip current and exhausting yourself, bring something into the ocean that floats and easily float away from the rip current. Float don’t fight.
- Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean is not the same as swimming in a pool or a lake. Ocean swimming can be very physically taxing and may exacerbate underlying medical issues in older swimmers.
- A perfect day on the beach doesn’t always mean that it’s a perfect day in the ocean. If in doubt, don’t go out.
- Never swim alone. Swim with a buddy and have adult supervision for all children. Have someone on shore keep an eye on you while you swim/surf/wade in the water.
- Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current. Use flotation and make safe choices.
- Be aware that the ocean presents additional hazards, such as lightning, high surf and shore break. Learn more at www.lovethebeachrespectheocean.com.
- Avoid wearing shiny objects that may attract sharks and other fish.
- Avoid swimming where danger is present: in rough seas; inlets; around fishing piers and surfers; at night; or during thunderstorms.