Jet Skiing Guide Sections:
For visitors who want a thrilling adventure on the high seas (or on the low sounds), try a little Jet Skiing on your next Outer Banks vacation. There are miles of open water to rush through and explore, as well as a number of local businesses that offer hourly Jet Ski rentals. An ideal activity for teens and adults who love a good thrill ride, Jet Skis also allow new Outer Banks visitors a chance to explore the coastline, both along the Atlantic Ocean of the area's four miles-wide sounds, from an entirely new vantage point.
Fast, speedy rides or slow touring adventures can all be part of the fun, and Jet Skiing is a watersport virtually anyone can pick up with a quick on-the-dock lessen, and a few brief safety pointers. If a thrilling ride on the water sounds like your kind of Outer Banks fun, then plan an afternoon on your next vacation to hop on board and enjoy the ride.
Where to go Jet Skiing on the Outer Banks
Every section of Outer Banks coastline has their own unique guidelines and regulations for Jet Skiers, so before taking a spin, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your vacation area's local rules, to save yourself from a hefty fine or an abrupt end to your ride.
For a list of public boat ramps, please see our boating guide.
In Corolla, Jet Skis are not permitted on the oceanside of any stretch of the Currituck Beaches, (including the 4WD beaches of Carova and Swan Beach.) However, the Currituck Sound is wide open. Be advised there are no public ramps in the North Beach area, however there are plenty of local Jet Ski rental companies in Corolla that are steps away from a launching dock.
Duck and Southern Shores have similar regulations in place. Both towns require that the Jet Ski operators be at least 16-years-old, and Jet Ski operation is not allowed between sunrise and sunset, or in Southern Shores, after 6:00 p.m. or before 9:00 a.m. These rules are in place for the safety of the rider, as well as other beach-goers.
In Duck, Jet Skis are not allowed on any oceanside beaches. On the soundside of Duck, Jet Skiers are required to go straight in and straight out of the Currituck Sound at a slow speed of 5-10mph for at least 900 feet for the safety of other folks in the water. In Southern Shores, Jet Skiers can access both the sound and ocean waters, provided they stay 200 yards offshore on the oceanside, and 400 yards offshore on the soundside. Because of these wide parameters, a boater safety course is also required in Southern Shores before embarking on a Jet Ski adventure.
Kitty Hawk prohibits the launching of engine-powered watercraft from any of its beaches. However, Jet Skiers can pass through providing they stay 600 feet offshore.
Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head are more permissive, allowing Jet Skis on both the ocean and soundside beaches. In Kill Devil Hills, Jet Skiers are instructed to stay 300 ft. offshore, in the ocean or sound waters, and in Nags Head, Jet Skiers must stay 600 feet offshore. Both towns require that Jet Skiers stay far away from the areas' fishing piers for the operators' safety.
In Nags Head, Jet Skiers are also advised to only launch from designated sites within the town, and to launch straight out into the water at a speed of 5 mph or less. A local Jet Ski rental company can easily guide riders to the nearest available launching point.
Hatteras Island and Ocracoke visitors will have to head north to embark on a oceanside Jet Ski adventure, as there are no Jet Skis or wave runners permitted within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. However, Jet Skis are allowed on the Pamlico soundside, giving riders over 30 miles of waterfront to explore. This also extends into Ocracoke Island, where Jet Ski riders can explore the tip of Ocracoke Inlet, the waters bordering the Ocracoke Harbor, and all the adventurous islands and sand bars in between.
On the surface, it may seem like a lot of rules and regulations to keep up with, however, every Jet Ski rental company on the Outer Banks is well-versed in the local rules, and can quickly and easily guide new riders on the safest routes before their ride.
Outer Banks Jet Ski Rentals
A simple cruise around the popular shopping center areas of the central and northern Outer Banks will present new visitors with a world of options when it comes to Jet Ski rentals. Many waterfront selections of shops and watersports launching points will have Jet Ski rentals on site, and the telltale sign of a line of Jet Skis sitting in a waterfront dock is generally a dead giveaway.
A couple good locales to scope out, as a rule of thumb, are the waterfront businesses bordering the Nags Head and the Manteo Causeway, the soundfront shops in Duck, and virtually any popular waterfront location in Corolla.
For example, the aptly named "Causeway Water Sports" can be found in Nags Head, just before the Washington Baum Bridge to Manteo. This area is a small series of islands with a scattering of vacation rental homes and businesses, and makes the area prime launching grounds for Jet Skis. With miles of water in virtually every direction, this is an ideal area to ride.
The Promenade Water Sports facilities on the very edge of Kitty Hawk, just across the Wright Memorial Bridge, is an ideal launching point for pontoon boats, parasailing, fishing boats, kayaks, and of course, Jet Skis. This area accesses the open waters in between Kitty Hawk, Manteo, and the Currituck Mainland, so there are miles of water to explore. Priding themselves on being the finest water sports facilities on the Outer Banks, and one of the first attractions you'll spot after crossing the bridge to the islands, Promenade Water Sports is a good spot for water sports adventurers of all genres.
Corolla and Duck are home to a number of homegrown Jet Ski rental establishments, like the Nor' Banks Sailing shop on the Duck waterfront, or the wave runner rentals available at Corolla Water Sports. Both rental locales, as well as a handful of other Jet Ski rental establishments, are stationed in small shopping centers along the Currituck Sound, so a lazy morning of shopping can easily segway into an afternoon of riding the waves.
Ocracoke Island also offers wave runner rentals right off the harbor, adjacent to the Jolly Roger Marina. This stretch of harbor dockage offers boat tours, cruises, and rentals of all kinds, allowing visitors to pick a water adventure and take off. Jet Skiers in this area can have a blast exploring the waters between Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands, but are advised to use extreme caution entering and exiting the busy Ocracoke Harbor.
Perhaps one of the best known Jet Ski rental providers is Kitty Hawk Kites, a nationally recognized water sports chain that considers the Outer Banks its home base. Kitty Hawk Kites has Jet Ski rentals available at the Whalebone Watersports locale on the causeway, the Duck location, and at their water sports complex in Rodanthe on Hatteras Island.
All three locations offer hourly Jet Ski rentals, and the Whalebone Watersports locale also features guided tours of the area. Riders can embark on an extensive tour of Bodie Island or Shallowbag Bay, and cruise the waters of Roanoke Island or Manteo. Depending on the tour, riders can expect to catch glimpses of the historic downtown Manteo waterfront and the Elizabeth II historic replica. Both tours last approximately 75 minutes, and allow vacationers to enjoy the thrill of a Jet Ski ride while exploring some of the Outer banks most scenic areas.
Most Jet Ski rental companies only rent to riders who are at least 16-18 years old, and may require a credit card deposit ahead of time. Most Jet Skis can accommodate 2-3 people on board, although additional weight on a Jet Ski can affect the peek speeds.
Jet Skiers can expect to spend between $50 - $100 per hour for a rental, depending on both the location and season. (Lower rates are often offered during the off-season and shoulder season months when Outer Banks tourism and the demand for Jet Ski rentals is a little slower.) However, many happy riders agree the cost is well worth the thrill. A fun twist to any Outer Banks vacation, Jet Skiing can help new Outer Banks visitors tour the landscape while providing the ride of a lifetime.
When it comes to riding the waves, Jet Skis offer Outer Banks vacationers a unique avenue to exploring the great wide open waters. Bear local safety measures in mind before launching, and when in doubt, contact a local Jet Ski rental agency for a primer of what's allowed and not allowed on the beaches of the Outer Banks.
Visitors can opt to book a Jet Ski rental well in advance of their vacation, or simply cruise the coastline for the dozen or so rental companies easily identified along the waterfront. However you cruise into your Jet Ski ride, you're sure to enjoy a thrilling, exploratory introduction to Outer Banks' life on the water.
General Jet Skiing Info
Before you take off on the water, there are a few key safety precautions that will ensure you have a smooth ride.
The most important step for any Jet Skier is to attach the engine shut-off clip securely to your wrist. In the event you fall off the Jet Ski during your ride, the clip will allow you to shut off the Jet Ski, protecting you as well as other riders or other folks in the water. A life jacket is another essential piece of equipment, and you'll also want to load up on waterproof sunscreen before hopping aboard. Even cloudy days can produce a nasty sunburn, especially on the water where the sun's reflection and intensity is magnified.
Once these precautions are in place, it's time to ride. Start off slowly and engage the throttle, until you're at a speed of about 5-10 mph or so. You'll want to leave and return to the dock at a low speed to ensure a safe passage, and some areas of the Outer Banks have regulations in place on how fast you can ride out to the sound, and out of crowded waters. 10 mph is also a good speed for familiarizing yourself with turning and maneuvering, though this self-tutorial generally only takes a few minutes at most. Once you have your turns under control, and are out in open water, you're ready to rev up to a steady, cruising speed.
Be sure and approach obstacles from the front, such as ocean waves or other watercraft. If the wave is large enough, the Jet Ski may become momentarily airborne. Not to worry - simply hang on and use your knees to raise yourself off the seat until the Jet Ski is once again back in the water and cruising. (This will save your backside from any rough landings.)
Make sure you are constantly alert, especially in popular Outer Banks waters like the Albemarle Sound bordering Nags Head and the Manteo Causeway, the Pamlico Sound bordering the tri-villages of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo, or off the soundside beaches of Corolla. These areas can be stocked with water sports lovers of all kinds, including kayakers, kiteboarders, and windsurfers, so it's essential to be considerate and give other folks in the water plenty of room to ride.
Finally, for new or inexperienced riders, bringing along a friend can be extremely helpful. Not only do you have a partner to help retrieve the Jet Ski in case you fall off, but you'll double your fun by sharing your Jet Ski experience with a fellow thrill seekers.