The world class Coquina Beach is found in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This little bit of paradise with its undeveloped bit of coastline is located a few miles south of the well known town of Nags Head. Coquina Beach may only be a couple miles outside of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head, but it seems like another world. Its at milepost 22, relatively close to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Protected from commercial development by the National Seashore status, beach vacations here are truly stress free. The perfect sand goes to the horizon allowing you to enjoy your day at the beach.
“Coquina is known for its miles of wave-drenched golden sands, its towering dunes, and its gracefully swaying Sea Oats”. Waves are usually in the 2-6′ range and suitable for beginners to advanced surfers. It’s a pretty relaxed chill beach spot. Even in the middle of summer, you will find that not much is going on. While it is not the Caribbean, the water is incredibly clear. Coquina is well maintained and spotlessly clean. It is regarded as the best place in a great area, roughly on par with trying to guess the best beach in Barcelona. Of course, that is highly subjective and intentionally vague. “Most days the water is blown out by SW winds, but fronts can pass and the wind turns more northwesterly after a protracted period of SW winds, making a perfectly enjoyable beach day”.
Where is Coquina Beach? 35°83′N 75°56′W
Getting On: Accessing Coquina Beach
There are two pretty easy ways to access this beauty of an Atlantic beach spot: walk in or with your 4 wheel drive. Close to the NPS campground and Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, you can find the National Park Service ORV Permit Office if you want to drive on Coquina Beach. It is relatively painless, but be prepared to show documentation (DL and registration) and watch a quick safety video about driving on the beach.
Order your beach driving permit before you get to the Outer Banks. Permits are available either for 10 days or annually. It costs $50 for the 10 day pass or $120 for the year. Permits can be shipped to your address for an additional charge or you can pick it up at the local NPS office.
To drive to Coquina Beach: go to 4WD access Ramps 1 or 2, located between Nags Head and Oregon Inlet. Deflate your tires to 15-20 psi before going on the beach, follow the speed limit and don’t drive into the water. If your vehicle gets stuck, there are commercial tow trucks available. Be prepared for some outrageous stupidity fees though. The Park Service staff are not allowed to help pull or tow your beached car. Obviously four wheel drive is suggested, but two-wheel drive vehicles are allowed on the soft and sandy beaches.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is nearly 70 miles of pristine beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The islands of Ocracoke, Bodie, and Hatteras are all a part of the National Seashore. The area is famous for the beautiful lighthouses, great surf, world class fishing opportunities, and soft sandy beaches.
Getting to Coquina Beach On Foot
It’s a pretty simple walk into Coquina Beach from the public parking by the two beach access ramps for vehicles. A little past the Park Service Road, there is another small parking area that is unfortunately not marked that gives access to the beach. Whatever you do, keep an eye out for beach traffic and stay away from the sand tracks that are the beach road.
What is the History of Coquina Beach?
This beautiful beach spot was named for the abundant colorful clams, the coquina. Coquina clams are frequently seen in Outer Banks during the spring and summer seasons. Coquina beach is the east coast version of Pismo Beach, the Clam Capital of the World.
On the first of June in 1921, the Laura Barnes, a four masted schooner from Maine wrecked on the shore of Coquina Beach. The nearby Lifesaving Station at Bodie Island made sure that no lives were lost. Unfortunately, the ship was destroyed by the pounding surf. The majority of the Laura Barnes would be stripped and ultimately salvaged and sold.
Things to do on a Coquina Beach Vacation
Guests to the Outer Banks have a wide variety of options when it comes to fun. Coquina Beach and the other coastal towns offer a wide variety of fun diversions for all budgets and aptitudes. Of course, staring at the sea, slowing turning the pages of a novel, surfing, fishing, bird watching, sailing, swimming and beach-combing are quite easy to arrange.
Surf fishing along this portion of the Central Outer Banks is famous. That is partly due to the ease of access via 4WD, so fishermen do not need to lug in all of their gear on foot. No matter what time of year it is, fishing in Coquina Beach will most likely be a success. However, prime surf fishing season is either spring or fall. Some local catches usually include mullet and bluefish.
The combination of the Oregon Inlet and the vast remote location combine to produce a fertile hunting ground for seashells and beach-combing. Both are fairly popular past-times. A few days after a storm, sea glass might be found along the beach. Typically coquina and scallop shells are mixed with whelks, moon shells, and more.
Coquina Beach is also a good surf spot. The Eastern Surfing Association holds its championships in Nags Head. Along the East Coast, the waves are usually best in hurricane season. Exercise caution when surfing or otherwise enjoying the water near the many fisherman.
Another low impact activity to enjoy along Coquina Beach is birdwatching. Due to the quiet shore, the area is popular with Mid-Atlantic shorebirds. Birdwatchers may see gulls, cormorants, plovers or sandpipers. Like fishing, the best time of year is again the spring and fall to observe the birds and other wildlife.
I’d like to thank my old friend and former classmate, John S., for the help with the pics of this stunning OBX locale. John is one of the few people that is still able to discuss politics publicly with grace. A fine example of a Jesuit education put to good use. John plays with satellites for his day job.