Picture this: miles of pristine beaches, wild horses roaming freely, and rich maritime history waiting to be explored. Welcome to the Outer Banks, North Carolina – a 200-mile stretch of barrier islands that offer an abundance of activities and attractions that cater to every type of traveler. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture, the Outer Banks is the perfect destination for your next vacation.
In this blog post, we’ll guide you through 20 amazing things to do in the Outer Banks, from exploring the stunning barrier islands and unwinding on picturesque beaches to experiencing thrilling outdoor activities and discovering the region’s diverse wildlife. So, if you’re wondering what to do in the Outer Banks NC, pack your bags and join us on this journey through the captivating wonders of the Outer Banks!
What you’ll find below:
- Stunning landscapes, fascinating history & exciting attractions in the Outer Banks.
- Pristine beaches and Barrier Islands for exploring, activities, views & wildlife.
- Maritime history with lighthouses, shipwrecks & museums or go hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
Jump to Section:
- Discover the Beauty of the Outer Banks
- Adventure Awaits in the Outer Banks
- Immerse Yourself in Outer Banks Culture
- Wildlife Encounters in the Outer Banks
- Plan Your Perfect Outer Banks Vacation
- Wrapping It Up
- Frequently Asked Questions
Discover the Beauty of the Outer Banks
The Outer Banks is a captivating coastal region that boasts a unique combination of stunning landscapes, rich history, and diverse outer banks attractions. Renowned for its wild horses, quaint towns, beautiful lighthouses, and incredible beaches, the Outer Banks offers something for everyone to enjoy during their vacation.
Explore the Barrier Islands
The Outer Banks is home to a 70-mile stretch of barrier islands, each offering its own unique charm and experience. These islands are part of the National Seashore and are known for their diverse ecosystems, such as beach grass and salt marshes, which contribute to their rich biodiversity. You’ll find a wide range of activities to enjoy on these islands, from horseback riding on the beach to kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding in the calm waters of the sound.
Some of the highlights of the barrier islands include the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, Avalon Fishing Pier, Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden, and H2OBX Waterpark. Don’t forget to visit the stunning Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Shackleford Banks, where you can even spot wild horses in their natural habitat. Additionally, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers breathtaking views and unique experiences.
With over 350 species of birds and a variety of marine life, the barrier islands provide ample opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to observe and appreciate the diverse creatures that call these islands home.
Unwind on Pristine Beaches
The beaches of the Outer Banks are truly spectacular and perfect for soaking up the sun, taking a dip, and searching for shells. Whether you’re looking to relax by the water, engage in exciting water sports, or take long, leisurely walks along the shore, the Outer Banks has the ideal beach for you.
Beach driving is a popular activity in the region, allowing you to explore the shoreline from the comfort of your vehicle. Hatteras Island permits beach fire use year-round. From October 1 to April 30, Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills also allow beach fires. For a unique beach experience, head over to Coquina Beach, where you can enjoy snorkeling, surfing, fishing, and other water sports among its picturesque surroundings.
Embrace the Maritime History
The Outer Banks has a long and fascinating maritime history that is deeply intertwined with its landscape and culture. From the iconic lighthouses that dot the coastline to the shipwrecks that lay beneath the waters, the region’s maritime heritage is waiting to be discovered. Among the many Outer Banks things to explore, these historical landmarks are truly captivating.
One of the best ways to dive into this history is by visiting the Outer Banks’ historic lighthouses, such as the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse, and Roanoke Marsh Lighthouse. Each lighthouse has its own unique design and story, and climbing to the top offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
In addition to the lighthouses, you can also explore shipwrecks along the coast, which serve as a testament to the region’s treacherous waters and the countless sailors who braved them. The Outer Banks also has a number of museums and historic sites that showcase the area’s maritime history, such as the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
Adventure Awaits in the Outer Banks
If you’re seeking a thrilling adventure, the Outer Banks has you covered. With a range of exciting outdoor activities, from surfing and paddleboarding to hang gliding, the region offers something for every thrill-seeker.
So, get ready to unleash your inner adventurer and explore the exciting activities that the Outer Banks has to offer!
Catch a Wave: Surfing in the Outer Banks
The Outer Banks, located in Outer Banks North Carolina, is known as one of the best surfing destinations on the East Coast. With consistent waves and a variety of breaks to suit all skill levels, it’s a surfer’s paradise. In fact, the Eastern Surfing Association holds its Mid-Atlantic Regionals annually in Nags Head.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner looking to catch your first wave, there’s a spot for you in the Outer Banks. Some of the most popular surf spots include Kitty Hawk Beach, Nags Head, and Southern Shores.
If you’re new to the sport, consider signing up for a lesson or renting gear from one of the many surf shops in the area, such as Kitty Hawk Kites.
Paddle Your Way Through the Sounds
The calm waters of the Outer Banks’ sounds provide the perfect setting for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. These activities are suitable for all skill levels, so whether you’re an experienced paddler or new to the sport, you’re sure to have a great time exploring the serene waters of the region.
Some of the top spots for paddling in the Outer Banks include the Currituck Sound, Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, and Roanoke Island. Many local outfitters offer guided tours, lessons, and equipment rentals, ensuring you have everything you need for a memorable paddling experience.
Hang Glide at Jockey’s Ridge State Park
For a truly exhilarating adventure, consider hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. This popular activity offers the chance to soar above the sand dunes and experience the thrill of flight. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is home to the largest natural sand dune system on the East Coast, making it the perfect spot for hang gliding enthusiasts.
Hang gliding lessons and tandem flights are available for those new to the sport, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. Local outfitters like Kitty Hawk Kites offer expert instruction and all the necessary equipment to get you airborne. So strap in and get ready to experience the Outer Banks from a whole new perspective!
Immerse Yourself in Outer Banks Culture
The Outer Banks boasts a rich and diverse culture, influenced by its historical roots and the people who call this region home. From historical sites and iconic lighthouses to mouthwatering local cuisine, there’s plenty to discover and appreciate in this unique coastal destination.
The Outer Banks is home to a variety of attractions, from the Wright Brothers National Memorial to the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Walk Through Time at Roanoke Island Festival Park
Step back in time at Roanoke Island Festival Park, a living history museum that brings the story of the first English settlers to life. This interactive park offers a variety of exhibits and experiences, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the daily life of the settlers and learn about the challenges they faced.
At Roanoke Island Festival Park, you can explore a replica of the 16th-century ship Elizabeth II, visit the American Indian Town with re-enactors and Algonquin exhibits, and discover the interactive Adventure Museum. The park also offers a range of educational programs and special events throughout the year, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs and families alike.
Climb the Iconic Lighthouses
The Outer Banks is home to several historic lighthouses, each with its own unique design and story. These iconic structures have guided countless sailors through the treacherous waters of the region and now stand as a testament to the area’s rich maritime history.
Visiting the lighthouses is a must on any Outer Banks itinerary, and climbing to the top offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Some of the most famous lighthouses in the region include the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse, and Roanoke Marsh Lighthouse.
Be sure to bring your camera to capture the stunning vistas from the top!
Experience Local Cuisine
No visit to the Outer Banks would be complete without savoring the flavors of the region’s local cuisine. Renowned for its fresh seafood and Southern comfort food, the Outer Banks offers a culinary experience that is sure to delight your taste buds.
Some of the most popular local dishes include crab cakes, shrimp and grits, and fish tacos, all prepared using the freshest ingredients sourced from the nearby waters. In addition to seafood, the Outer Banks is also known for its barbecue, biscuits, and Calabash-style cooking, which originated in the coastal community of Calabash, North Carolina.
Be sure to sample these delicious dishes at local restaurants such as The Black Pelican, The Blue Point, and The Flying Fish during your stay.
Wildlife Encounters in the Outer Banks
The Outer Banks is home to a diverse array of wildlife, offering countless opportunities for visitors to observe and appreciate the region’s unique flora and fauna. From wild horses and dolphins to a variety of bird species, the Outer Banks is a haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.
The area, located near the Atlantic Ocean, is home to a variety of habitats, from the maritime forests of the northern Outer Banks.
Observe Wild Horses in their Natural Habitat
One of the most magical experiences in the Outer Banks is witnessing the majestic wild horses that roam the northernmost sandy beaches just north of Corolla. These beautiful creatures are descendants of Spanish mustangs that have been stranded on the Outer Banks for centuries.
To see the wild horses in their natural habitat, consider joining a guided tour such as the Outer Banks Wild Horse Tour. These tours take you over the sandy dunes in a 4WD open-air vehicle, providing a unique and unforgettable opportunity to observe these magnificent animals up close.
Alternatively, you can visit the Corolla Wild Horse Museum to learn more about the history and conservation efforts surrounding these amazing creatures.
Spot Dolphins on a Cruise
Another incredible wildlife encounter in the Outer Banks is spotting dolphins on a cruise. These playful marine mammals are a delight to observe as they frolic in their natural habitat, often swimming alongside boats and putting on a show for their human admirers.
The best time to see dolphins in the Outer Banks is between May and October, with the greatest activity occurring during the mornings and late afternoons. A variety of tour operators offer dolphin-watching cruises, providing an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.
The Outer Banks is a birdwatching paradise, boasting a diverse array of native and migratory bird species that can be observed throughout the region. With miles of beaches, maritime forests, and marshlands, the Outer Banks provides an ideal habitat for a wide variety of bird species, making it a must-visit destination for birdwatching enthusiasts.
Some of the best birdwatching hotspots in the Outer Banks include Duck and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, where you can observe a variety of bird species in their natural environment. Whether you’re an experienced birder or a casual observer, the Outer Banks offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the beauty of these feathered creatures in their natural habitat.
Plan Your Perfect Outer Banks Vacation
Now that you’ve discovered the incredible experiences that await in the Outer Banks, it’s time to start planning your perfect vacation. From choosing the ideal accommodation to navigating the region with ease and determining the best time to visit, we’ve got you covered with all the information you need to create an unforgettable getaway.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic escape or a family-friendly adventure, the Outer Circle offers the perfect escape.
Choose Your Ideal Accommodation
The Outer Banks offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. From cozy vacation rentals and charming bed & breakfasts to luxurious hotels and family-friendly campgrounds, you’re sure to find the perfect place to call home during your stay.
Some of the top spots to stay in the Outer Banks include Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Nags Head, South Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Manteo, and Roanoke Island. No matter where you choose to stay, you’ll be just a short drive away from the region’s incredible attractions and activities.
Getting Around the Outer Banks
Navigating the Outer Banks is a breeze, with a variety of transportation options available to suit your needs. Whether you prefer to rent a car and explore at your own pace, hop on a bicycle for a leisurely ride along the coast, or utilize the region’s public transportation system, you’ll have no trouble getting around during your vacation.
If you’re planning to drive to the Outer Banks, keep in mind that traffic can be heavy during peak season, particularly on Saturdays when many visitors are arriving and departing. To avoid traffic, consider arriving on a weekday or taking an alternate route to your destination.
Best Time to Visit the Outer Banks
The best time to visit the Outer Banks depends on your preferences and the activities you’re most interested in experiencing. While the summer months offer warm weather and a bustling atmosphere perfect for beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts, the spring and fall seasons provide milder temperatures and fewer crowds, making it an ideal time for those seeking a more relaxed pace.
Additionally, the Outer Banks hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, so you may want to plan your visit around a particular celebration that interests you. No matter when you choose to visit, the Outer Banks offers a wealth of experiences and attractions to explore, ensuring a memorable vacation for all who venture to this enchanting coastal destination.
Wrapping It Up
From its breathtaking landscapes and thrilling outdoor adventures to its rich history and diverse wildlife, the Outer Banks truly offers something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking relaxation on pristine beaches, an adrenaline rush on the waves, or a chance to immerse yourself in the unique culture of the region, the Outer Banks is a destination that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your unforgettable Outer Banks vacation today and discover the incredible experiences that await you in this captivating coastal paradise.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there much to do in the Outer Banks?
The Outer Banks is the perfect place to enjoy the sun, sand and surf, as well as fishing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and other activities.
With 50 miles of fantastic beaches, it’s no surprise that there is plenty to do in the Outer Banks.
What is the best month to go to the Outer Banks?
The best time to visit the Outer Banks is between March and May or September and November for lower lodging rates and fewer crowds. Avoid the summer months when humidity is high and temperatures are in the upper 80s.
What is Outer Banks NC known for?
The Outer Banks of NC are popular among tourists for their extensive beaches and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, offering diverse biodiversity in the form of beach grasses and shrubland.
The area is home to a variety of wildlife, including sea turtles, shorebirds, and dolphins, as well as a variety of fish species. Visitors can explore the area’s many lighthouses, take a boat tour, or simply relax on the beach.
Is Outer Banks worth the drive?
The Outer Banks Scenic Byway is a popular route in North Carolina, offering stunning views and plenty of stops to explore the coast. The islands are full of biodiversity, from beach grasses to shrubland.
All in all, it’s definitely worth the drive!
What are some must-see attractions in the Outer Banks?
The Outer Banks offers a range of incredible attractions, from stunning barrier islands and historic lighthouses to Roanoke Island Festival Park, Jockey’s Ridge State Park and wildlife hotspots.
These attractions provide visitors with a unique opportunity to explore the area’s natural beauty and rich history. From the Wright Brothers National Memorial to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
The Outer Banks is also home to a number of wildlife.