Most vacationers consider their pet to be a part of their family, and as a result, thousands of Outer Banks visitors bring their furry family members in tow year after year. While planning a vacation that includes everyone in the family, including a beloved dog or other pet, can initially seem a little daunting, on the Outer Banks, it's actually an easy affair.

A dog on the beach

The OBX has always been nationally renowned as one of the East Coast's most family friendly vacation destinations, and that includes everyone in your crew. With a number of pet-friendly rental homes and hotels, miles of wide open beaches so your dog can stretch out his paws, and countless services in every section of the islands to assist you with any pet needs, bringing a pet along on your next vacation is actually a day at the beach.

Have questions on what a full-family vacation entails? Read the following guidelines for bringing along your fuzzy family member, or simply call your vacation rental company or accommodations provider for more information, tips and guidance on a furry Outer Banks vacation.

Pet-Friendly Accommodations

The first step to planning a pet-friendly vacation is to find pet-friendly accommodations, which luckily on the Outer Banks, is an easy endeavor.

The majority of accommodations on the Outer Banks are vacation rental homes and condos, and a number of these units and residences welcome pets, (particularly dogs), along with their weekly rental guests. Most property management companies like Twiddy & Company have an online website portfolio of pet-friendly homes. When searching for your vacation home, be sure and look for the "pet-friendly" or "dog-friendly" designation or search filter to find only properties that welcome your furry family member.

It should be noted that the majority of vacation rentals that accept pets may have restrictions, such as 1 or 2 pets only, or dogs only. This should be mentioned in the online property description, or your local company's vacation specialists should be able to fill you in on both company and individual property guidelines. In addition, most vacation rentals charge a small additional fee for bringing along a pet, to compensate for additional wear and tear on the property, as well as any extra cleaning that may be involved. This fee varies from company to company, but is comparable to a pet fee for a nightly stay in a hotel, and is certainly much cheaper than a week at your local hometown kennel.

Hotels and motels have similar guidelines, with rooms reserved for pet-friendly patrons, and slight rate increases per pet. Bed and breakfasts may be slightly less accommodating due to the smaller number of rooms available, but a simple call to the innkeeper can easily clear up any questions on whether pets are allowed. For hotels and motels, be sure and mention that you are bringing a pet along when booking your reservation. A slightly increased security deposit or down payment may be charged, but this will either be refunded at the end of your stay or taken out of your total bill.

Most all campgrounds also welcome pets with open paws, although guests should be advised to observe any pet or leash restrictions in certain community campground areas, such as community pools, beaches, playgrounds or other common areas.

Above all else, please never try to sneak in a pet at a non-pet friendly rental, whether it's a vacation home, a hotel room, or a small nook of a Bed and Breakfast. Strict pet guidelines are in place to protect future vacationers who may have severe pet dander allergies, and bringing a pet along to an Outer Banks rental that does not accommodate them may cause the next guest to have a bad time.

A dog on the sound

What to Bring to the Outer Banks for your pet

While vacationers will find that the Outer Banks has basically everything they'll need for their pet, from chew toys to flea medications, there are a few conveniences that every vacationer should bring along to make sure their stay, (and their pet's stay), is as hassle free as possible.

  • Be sure and bring along all of your pets' medication, if applicable, or any specialty foods or dietary items. While the local grocery stores have a wide range of pet food and products available for sale, they may not carry a unique specialized item if your pet requires it.
  • You may also want to consider bringing along any important medical papers, such as vaccine certifications or other vet paperwork. Though this information will most likely not be needed during your stay, in the unfortunate event of a medical emergency, having this information on hand will come in useful during an unplanned trip to a local Outer Banks vet.
  • Make sure you pack along any of your pet's favorite toys. A new place, even one in the beautiful Outer Banks, can always be a little intimidating upon initial arrival, and a couple comforts of home will go a long way.
  • In addition to toys, you'll also want to bring along your pet's bed, food and water dishes, leash, and anything else he / she uses on a daily or near-daily basis. While some vacation rentals offer pet friendly amenities, such as enclosed dog runs or "baby gates" to keep your pets out of certain areas, it's always best to come prepared.
  • Don't forget the treats! An Outer Banks vacation should be enjoyed to the fullest by everyone, after all, and it is an ideal time to spoil everyone in your family, especially the furry members.

A pup on the beach in Carova

Where to go on the Outer Banks with your Pet

Visitors will find no shortage of hot spots along the Outer Banks to bring their pet along on an outdoor adventure. With literally miles of the great outdoors to explore, both on the oceanfront and the soundfront and everywhere in between, Outer Banks newcomers will soon discover that those same beaches and wildlife that attract human vacationers also attract furry vacationers as well.

The beaches are usually the first spot on an Outer Banks vacationer's list to bring a pet. Most all beaches on the OBX allow pets, although pet owners should be mindful of different laws and guidelines that can vary from town to town.

The northern Outer Banks and central Outer Banks towns of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Kitty Hawk allow dogs on the beach provided they are leashed and the owner picks up after them. In addition, there are generally certain times of the day when pets are allowed, usually from the early evening hours until the early morning.

Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island are both under the jurisdiction of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and as such, the open beaches along these 70 miles of shoreline allow dogs year-round, during any time of day. Dogs must be leashed at all times, and owners are responsible for making sure their dogs leave the local wildlife alone. These beaches may have seasonal summer closures for endangered or threatened species that are breeding or nesting in certain sections of the shoreline, so visitors are advised to note the local National Park Service brown signs that will indicate whether vehicles, pedestrians, and even pets are permitted within a particular area of beach.

If making a beach visit, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Be sure and bring plenty of water along, as a warm day on the beach can make everyone thirsty, especially your pet. Also, try to avoid bringing your pet in the middle of the day, particularly in the summertime, when the scorching hot sand can hurt a dog's paws as easily as it can hurt a human's feet. If you intend to stay for the day, be sure your pet has a shady spot to retreat to, either under a shaded tent, canopy, or even a truck on a 4WD accessible beach. Finally, make sure your pet does not drink the ocean water. Although most pets instinctively know to steer clear, saltwater can be detrimental to a dog and can cause severe dehydration and the need for an immediate vet appointment.

On the other side of the spectrum, literally, Outer Banks vacationers can also bring their pet to the soundside. The Croatan, Roanoke, Currituck and Pamlico Sounds are perfect for dogs, with parcels of maritime forest and sandy beaches combined with gently lapping and shallow waters to play in. There's also plenty of wildlife to scope out and sniff for, and miles of water that reach a total depth of about 5' ft., ideal for a refreshing game of open-water catch. Essentially, with all this to offer, the sounds along the Outer Banks are a dog's paradise.

The same rules apply as a beach visit, and vacationers should bring plenty of fresh water and shade for a well-deserved soundside beach break. However, visitors will find the soundfront beaches slightly less restrictive, with many lesser-known or lesser-used public access areas open all day for your canine comrade, and few other people and other distractions, leaving your pet with plenty of room to roam.

For example, Hatteras Island visitors with their dog in tow would be well-served by making a stop by the public sound accesses in between Avon and Salvo. This stretch of NC Highway 12 has approximately a half dozen small, soundside access roads that lead right out to the Pamlico Sound, with parking available for 4WD vehicles right along the beach, or off the side of the road for regular cars.

These areas are rarely visited, even in the height of the summer season, allowing your dog to enjoy a full morning or evening of sniffing, splashing, and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the marshes and parcels of maritime forest that border the beach. A full day for everyone, the soundside is a perfect playground for dogs who are a little shy around the big ocean waves but love the water, or who just love a good round of sniffing out the local wild natives.

The Outer Banks also has a number of nature trails that snake through the local preserves, refuges, and parks, and are ideal walking trails for a little exercise for both you and your pet. With the majority of these hiking and nature trails located in wooded areas, both humans and their dogs can enjoy a bit of shade, and a unique slice of Outer Banks wildlife to explore.

Vacationers are advised to make sure and check beforehand to ensure that their desired hiking trail allows canine visitors. While the majority of national refuges and state preserves allow pets on a leash, town parks or certain sections of said preserves may be closed off to furry visitors. Trailheads will be well-marked with area-specific guidelines, and vacationers can find more information on local preserves and refuges by visiting their respective sites online.

Many visitors will find their own neighborhood an ideal place for an evening stroll as well, particularly if they are staying in a vacation rental home. Most homes and accommodations located off the busy US 158 Bypass or NC Highway 12 are situated in small, residential communities with lightly travelled roads and plenty of room to explore. When bringing you pet along on an Outer Banks vacation, be sure and make an afternoon or evening stroll around the neighborhood a fun part of your vacation routine.

Angus playing in the surf

Services for your Pet

In the unfortunate event that you need to make a vet visit during your Outer Banks vacation, rest assured that there are plenty of professional and local renowned options.

There are two animal hospitals on the Outer Banks that can accommodate emergency visits, located in Manteo and Nags Head. In addition, there are a number of veterinarians that service the area from Corolla to Ocracoke, including satellite vets who have seasonal hours or who can even make house calls right to your vacation accommodations.

Appointments are generally required for non-emergency visits, with most local vets operating at standard Monday through Friday business hours, although walk-ins can sometimes be seen depending on availability. All of the vets from Manteo to Hatteras Island have been serving the area for years and have developed an acclaimed local reputation, so in case of an unexpected medical visit, vacationers can rest assured that they are in great hands.

In addition to veterinarians, pet owners will also find an abundance of other services along the Outer Banks, including pet groomers, kennels and boarding services, and locally run pet supply stores. Many groomers and local kennels can accommodate last-minute appointments, although it's best to reserve as far in advance as possible to ensure availability.

As for the pet stores, the local pet stores on the Outer Banks are locally run and offer everything from unique dog toys to beach-themed collars. Whether you bring your pet along or leave him at home, these spots are an ideal place to pick up a souvenir for your beloved family member.

Adopting and Pet Organizations on the Outer Banks

There are a number of local organizations that pride themselves on providing life-saving services and temporary shelters to the Outer Banks' abandoned or homeless animals.

In the central Outer Banks, Feline Hope is a Kitty Hawk based no-kill refuge for abandoned or unwanted kittens and cats along the Outer Banks. The ASPCA shelter in Manteo also does its best to find homes for its misplaced animals and pets, and the Friends of Feline organization on Hatteras Island tries to find homes for abandoned kittens while providing safe shelters for the local feral cat population. Ocracats, based out of Ocracoke Island, makes similar efforts toward protecting its feral cat population, and all of the above programs are staunch supporters and advocates of Outer Banks-wide spay / neuter initiatives.

If you're a pet lover and an Outer Banks lover who wants to give back to the community you love, or take a lost and displaced OBX resident to a new home, contact any of the above organizations for ways that you can help. On the Outer Banks, countless animals are displaced by passing storms or hurricanes, neglectful owners, or even dropped off by seasonal visitors, and with the help of both locals and vacationers, these animals have a good chance of finding a new, loving, and permanent home.

A dog lays on the beach

Tips and Tricks for Vacationing on the Outer Banks with your Pet

  • Make sure you bring your leash along. While all Outer Banks towns and regions have pet laws and guidelines that vary by both area and season, one universal law is to keep pets on a leash at all times.
  • For a truly pet-friendly vacation, consider making a trip to the Outer Banks in the shoulder seasons or the off season, when regional restrictions are relaxed, and the beaches and outside temperatures are much cooler, allowing your dog to enjoy the great outdoors during any kind of weather.
  • Bear in mind any local noise ordinances and accommodate accordingly. It's OK to leave your pet in an enclosed dog run or on an enclosed deck of a vacation rental home or condo for a little while, but make sure not to do it for too long, and make sure that any barking that ensues isn't disrupting the relaxation of your neighbors.
  • Keep an eye on pool gates and hot tubs, and make sure both are closed when your pet is roaming around. Dogs are not allowed in private pools at vacation rental homes, as their hair can clog up the vents, so you'll want to make sure that your pet doesn't take an accidental swim.
  • Keep an eye on the ocean waves. Most dogs love the beach, but obviously aren't aware of passing rip currents or waves breaking close to shore. For water loving canines, consider an expedition to your local soundside beach for a little refreshing fun that's much safer.
  • If embarking on a deep woods hike, be sure and check your dog for ticks when you return. Although unheard of on the beaches, ticks can be sometimes found in the maritime forests and hiking trails along the Outer Banks.
  • Be sure and make sure your furry family member is included! Dogs love the local Outer Banks beaches, hiking trails, and spending time with their family, so be sure that your pet-friendly Outer Banks vacation includes your pet as much as possible.

When it comes to the Outer Banks, pets are always welcome. The beaches both on the oceanside and soundside provide perfect playgrounds, and the wooded nature trails in between are ideal for family expeditions of the local sights and smells.

Before planning your next family vacation, consider inviting all members along. With plenty of pet-friendly accommodations, professional veterinarians servicing all areas of the OBX, and lots of new areas to explore, the Outer Banks are a perfect haven for every member of the family, even the furriest ones.

By bringing your furry family member along, or by simply honoring them with a donation to the local pet organizations who take care of the Outer Banks pets in need of a home, you're certain to add an extra layer of enjoyment to an already stellar beach vacation.

A dog with owner next to the sound on a windy day


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