Swim near a lifeguard and Beach Safety Tips

By on May 24, 2024

Lifeguard stand at Coquina Beach Access on Bodie Island. (CHNS file photo)

Dare County

Lifeguards are on duty beginning Saturday, May 25 and will remain through Labor Day, with roving patrols on some beaches through mid-October. Never swim alone. Lifeguards and information located on lifeguard stands provide beachgoers with valuable information about current beach conditions. Lifeguards are on duty at the following Dare County locations.

Check the NWS beach forecast before you head out at  BEACH FORECAST and click the umbrella for your beach. For more information, visit Dare County Beach Hazards.


Town of Nags Head

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day (with a roving patrol through October 15)
  • Albatross Street*
  • Abalone Street
  • Bonnett Street
  • Hollowell Street
  • Town Hall*
  • Enterprise Street
  • Epstein Street Bathhouse
  • Forrest Street
  • Gray Eagle Street*
  • Gulfstream Street
  • Hargrove Street
  • Ida Street*
  • Indigo Street
  • Juncos Street
  • Limulus Street*

Stands with a * will not be staffed from May 30 – June 18.



Town of Kill Devil Hills

10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day (with a roving patrol through October 31)
  • Helga Street
  • Hayman Boulevard
  • Eden Street
  • Avalon Drive
  • Fifth Street
  • Third Street
  • Second Street
  • First Street
  • Coral Drive
  • Asheville Drive
  • Woodmere Avenue
  • Carlow Avenue
  • Ocean Bay Boulevard
  • Oregon Avenue
  • Baum Street
  • Clark Street
  • Martin Street
  • Atlantic Street
  • Neptune Drive
  • Lake Drive
  • Eighth Street


Town of Duck

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Memorial Day through Labor Day)
  • Caffey’s Inlet
  • Sprigtail Drive
  • Barrier Island Station
  • Schooner Ridge Drive
  • Christopher Drive
  • Four Seasons Lane
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (June 18, 2024 through August 14, 2024)
  • Ocean Pines Drive
  • Widgeon Drive
  • South Snow Geese Drive
  • Dune Road
  • Scarborough Lane
  • Plover Drive
  • Charles Jenkins Lane


Town of Kitty Hawk

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day (plus a roving patrol)

Kitty Hawk Beach Information & Safety

  • Byrd Street
  • Eckner Street
  • Lillian Street
  • Kitty Hawk Bath House


Town of Southern Shores

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day
  • Hillcrest Drive
  • Chicahauk Trail
  • (plus a roving patrol through October 31) 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mid-June through Mid-August East Dogwood Trail
Mid-June through Mid-August
  • 142 Ocean Boulevard
  • E Dogwood Trail


Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Lifeguards are on duty from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day at the following beaches:
  • Coquina Beach (across from the Bodie Island Lighthouse site),
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Beach (adjacent to the Old Cape Hatteras Lighthouse site),
  • Frisco Beach (located just south of Frisco Village),
  • Ocracoke Beach (1 1/2-miles south of the NPS campground OR 1/2-mile north of Ocracoke Village).
  • Rodanthe Beach Access (23731 N.C. Highway 12, Rodanthe)

Please note, should conditions on the beach change, stand locations may be shifted. Please heed words of caution, advisories, and/or the flying of red (no swimming) flags. They are issued for your safety.


Know Before You Go

As residents and visitors head to the 110 miles of shoreline along Dare County’s Outer Banks, Emergency Management officials urge beachgoers to beware of potential hazards and safety concerns they may encounter when they arrive on the county’s beaches. To give beachgoers information on how to enjoy our beautiful ocean beaches safely, Dare County Emergency Management maintains a LOVE THE BEACH, RESPECT THE OCEAN website.  Please visit the site for local tips on how to make your beach visit safe and memorable.

Beach safety tips from LOVE THE BEACH, RESPECT THE OCEAN


Monitor the Weather

Weather forecasts can change rapidly. Check the forecast before you head to the beach. If thunder roars, head indoors. Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.



Stay Alert

Rip currents, encounters with marine life, submerged objects, sand bar drop-offs, and jellyfish are just a few of the hazards found in near shore waters. Stay alert to your surroundings and keep an eye on family and friends. Don’t let alcohol impair your common sense. When visiting the beach with children, adults should take turns as the designated “water watcher” and keep an eye on children in the water at all times, avoiding all distractions including smartphones.



The force of shorebreak waves can catch unsuspecting swimmers off guard driving them into the sand, causing neck and back injuries, and in some cases, even drowning.


Marine Life Encounters

Ocean and sound waters are the home to a wide variety of marine life including predators like sharks. Beachgoers need to be aware of their surroundings before they make the personal decision to enter the water. Some tips to reduce your risks include: avoid swimming in areas where people are fishing and near fishing piers, avoid areas where schools of fish are active, don’t wear or take jewelry and shiny objects into the water as reflective light resembles fish scales, stay out of the water if you are bleeding or have open sores.


Outer Banks Accessible Beaches
Outer Banks Visitor Bureau


Beach Wheelchairs

Do you or someone you’re traveling with have mobility issues? Cape Hatteras National Seashore and ocean rescue divisions along the Outer Banks offer beach wheelchairs to assist with doing what we all love – getting outside and enjoying the beach!

Beach Wheelchair Locations
  • Duck: Call Duck Surf Rescue (252) 982-6747.
  • Kitty Hawk: Call Fire Department (252) 261-2666 for availability.
  • Kill Devil Hills: Call Ocean Rescue Headquarters at (252) 480-0080 for availability. A fully handicap-accessible beach access with wooden ramp and 6 roll out mats on sand is located at Ocean Bay Boulevard.
  • Jockey’s Ridge: State Park (252) 441-7132 or visit the park office for availability.
  • Nags Head: Beach wheelchairs are available from Ocean Resuce at the Bonnett (Milepost 11) and Hargrove (Milepost 17) beach access, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, Memorial Day – Labor Day on a first come, first serve basis. Call Nags Head Fire and Rescue at (252) 441-5909 for additional help accessing the beach.
  • Coquina Beach: Call Cape Hatteras National Seashore at (252) 473-2111 for availability. From Memorial Day – Labor Day, available at the beach.
  • Hatteras: Call Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Information at (252) 995-4474 for availability.
  • Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo: Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue has three beach wheelchairs loaned out on a weekly basis first-come, first-serve, located at Station 50 in Rodanthe.
  • Ocracoke: National Seashore/Ocracoke Visitor Center (252) 928-4531.
  • Southern Shores: The Town of Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department has two specialty wheelchairs that work on the beach. They are free to rent for visitors and residents and the department will deliver to any location in Southern Shores. To rent a wheelchair, call 252.261.2272
  • You may also inquire about beach wheelchairs at any visitor center if you’re traveling outside of the Memorial Day – Labor Day window.


Dangers of Hole Digging

  • Fatal sand collapses have occurred in holes just a few feet deep.
  • Never dig a hole deeper than it is wide. Children and adults should not dig holes deeper than their knees when standing in them.
  • If you do dig a hole, please fill it in before you leave the beach. Holes in the sand cause dangerous obstacles for ocean rescue personnel who are trying to quickly provide emergency services to those in need.
  • Holes in the sand also often become fatal obstructions for female sea turtles laying nests on the beach at night and hatchlings heading out to sea.


Know Your Location

In an emergency, every second counts. The Dare County Sheriff’s 911 Communications staff may not be able to immediately identify your location from a cell phone. Pay attention to what street you access the beach or sound from and what milepost you are located near. If you are unable to provide an address or location of the emergency, response times can be hindered in life or death situations.


Beach Warning Flags


Red Flags

Red indicates NO SWIMMING, usually due to rough surf and/or strong currents.

Why Are Red Flags Flying?

If red flags are flying, swimming is prohibited. For your safety and the safety of ocean rescue staff. Although flags may be posted on sunny warm days with blue skies, it means the water conditions are not safe to swim in.

Yellow Flags

Yellow indicates strong currents, swim with caution.  If in doubt, ALWAYS ask a lifeguard.

Please visit Beach Safety Tips page to view what typical flags look like. Click on an image to see when each flag will fly and actions you should take to ensure your safety at beaches along the Outer Banks. 


Not every day is the perfect beach day.  While weather forecasts for rain, wind and temperatures are pretty easy to understand, we can’t say the same for the ocean.

The National Weather Service issues forecast and hazard statements for all ocean beaches on the Outer Banks. When they do, a “rip current risk level” is set at LOW, MODERATE or HIGH.  While the title seems to focus on life threatening rip currents, other “hidden hazards” like longshore current and shorebreak are also included.

With ocean rescue staff always having a keen eye on the actual conditions, the forecast “risk level” at times needs to be adjusted, leading local lifeguards to work with the pros at the weather service to get it right.

To help keep you safe, expected ocean hazards and risks you may face at ocean beaches are then shared using Beach Warnings Flags.  The flags are flown at lifeguarded beaches and on roving ocean rescue patrol vehicles.

No matter what flag is flying, whenever you are on the beach know your location, when possible swim near a lifeguard and always heed the advice/directions provided by local ocean rescue personnel.

For more beach safety tips visit LOVE THE BEACH, RESPECT THE OCEAN


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