Duck Guide Sections:
The little town of Duck has garnered quite a reputation as one of the best vacation spots on the Outer Banks. Regularly appearing on a number of national Best Beaches' lists, (including the Travel Channel's best beach directory), Duck features all the elements of a fantastic Outer Banks vacation destination. Enjoy waterfront access on the ocean and soundside, sublime shopping and dining, and plenty of hiking, surfing, kayaking, kiteboarding, and beach space to go around. Despite bordering the larger Outer Banks towns of Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, and even Corolla, Duck retains its small town quirky character and distinctive draw to vacationers from all around the country.
There are no hotels, campgrounds or resorts in Duck, only a small inn and vacation rental homes, so most vacationers opt to rent a home during their Duck vacation. Dozens of Outer Banks property management companies represent vacation rentals in the area, so the selection of homes varies greatly. Visitors can opt to stay in a soundfront or oceanfront home with a private pool, hot tub, game room, or theater room, or spend their vacation in a smaller, modest beach box, tucked away under the Live Oaks.
Vacation rentals in Duck generally fill up fast, but many rental companies allow reservations up to a year in advance, so booking your vacation early is easy to do. A number of companies even allow visitors to "reserve" their favorite beach home for the same time the following year while on vacation, allowing guests to have first dibbs to their favorite vacation properties. Be sure and book early, and be prepared to stay for at least a week, as unless it is a last minute reservations, most homes are only rented from Saturday to Saturday, or Sunday to Sunday. The good news is that you'll surely savor every day that you're on your Duck vacation. Vacation Rental companies offering homes in Duck include:
Duck Town Park and Boardwalk - This 11 acre park in the heart of Duck offers Maritime forest, willow swamp, an open lawn with ampitheatre and public shelters, and a beautiful over-water boardwalk winding along the Currituck Sound. The Duck boardwalk is a wonderful place to view a soundside sunset. It also links several boutique shopping centers.
The Beach - The beach in Duck is public and open to everyone, there are no public beach access points. Most rental homes and communities offer private access, so if you are staying in Duck, beach access shouldn't be a problem. Here are some things to know about Duck beach policies:
- Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round, unleashed (although leashes are recommended). Owners must keep their dogs under control at all times.
- Fireworks and beach bonfires are not permitted in Duck.
- Beer is allowed on the beach. Wine and liquor are not officially permitted. Please drink responsibly.
- Metal detecting is allowed.
- Red flags = no swimming. When you see red flags flying, dangerous conditions are present and swimming is prohibited.
- It is illegal to walk on the dunes, and it is also illegal to pick live sea oats growing on the beaches.
- Fill in any holes you dig. Holes in the sand can be a hazard.
- Be mindful of Noise. Most communities consider a violation of the noise ordinance to be any sound that can be heard from inside a nearby residence, and any load noise after approximately 11:00 p.m.
- No glass on the beach. Be mindful of glass bottles. Alcohol is allowed on all beaches, but if at all possible, stick to cans and plastic to save future beach-goers from any bare foot injuries.
- Surf fishing is allowed. A fishing license is required in North Carolina and can be obtained before your vacation via the NC Marine Fisheries and Wildlife website, or a fishing license can be purchased at most any tackle shop on the Outer Banks.
- 4x4 Driving on the Beach - There is no public 4x4 access in Duck. Private access allows vehicles vehicles on the beach between October 1 - April 30.
If you can pull yourself away from the pristine beaches, which offer seasonally warm temperatures, decent surfing and shelling, and plenty of room to stretch out, you'll find lots of places to explore in Duck.
- Shopping - One of the largest draws to Outer Banks visitors is the fantastic collection of locally owned shops in the center of Duck. The stores are arranged in a series of low-key, coastal shopping complexes, and are close enough to each other that it's easy to park the car and explore all the stores on foot. Visitors will be delighted to find a number of local art galleries, gourmet markets, surf shops, clothing boutiques, and funky gift stores for some of the Outer Banks' best shopping opportunities.
- Restaurants - Duck is also home to some of the Outer Banks's favorite restaurants. Visitors can take advantage of four star dining while overlooking the Currituck Sound, grab some fresh veggies for a home cooked meal from local produce stands, or pull up to the soundfront docks of local restaurants for a round of tropical drinks and a waterfront sunset.
- Watersports - Because of Duck's ocean and sound borders, water sports are a must for any Duck vacation. Local businesses offer rentals and lessons for a number of beach sports, allowing everyone in your group to try something new. Rent an ocean kayak or enjoy a guided sound kayak tour, spend a couple afternoons learning how to surf, kiteboard, or stand up paddleboard (also known as SUP), or rent a Jet Ski for the afternoon and cruise the Currituck Sound. Off the water, visitors can explore the endless walking trails that meander around Duck and take in the lush maritime forest setting. Be on the lookout for Duck natives including dozens of species of waterfowl, like herons, egrets, cormorants, and wild geese.
Regardless of how you spend your sunny days, whether it's shopping, eating, or just lounging by the water, you'll discover there is no shortage of activities both on and off the beach.
- 4th of July Parade - The morning of July 4th each year, a parade is held in Duck. The route begins at on the hill of Scarborough Lane, heads toward the ocean, turns left onto Ocean Way, and then down Christopher Drive, ending on Duck Rd (NC 12). Immediately following the parade, live music is played from Duck Town Park.
- Duck Jazz Festival - Each October in Duck Town Park, jazz musicians come together for a non-ticketed, free event. Live music plays and local food vendors are on site, feeding hungry crowds. Chairs are available to rent, and picnic blankets are welcome.
Like Corolla, Carova, and the other Currituck County beaches, Duck remained relatively undiscovered for hundreds of years after its initial settlement in the late 1600s. Populated by a small number of resilient locals, and providing little income to Currituck County, the 7 miles of Duck was eventually transferred over toDare County to tend to in the early 1900s.
While Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk were gaining notoriety as beach vacation destinations in the 50s, 60s and 70s, Duck remained isolated and unknown. With no paved roads, just a collection of mud and sand trails that were nearly impossible to travel, there was little interest by regular Outer Banks vacationers in Duck. The area did, however, draw dozens of fishermen and hunters. Notorious for its fantastic waterfowl hunting, locals became fishing or hunting guides to bolster their income, and a small but steady stream of adventurous vacationers flocked to Duck for many years.
In the early 80s, the paved NC Highway 12 was underway throughout the Northern Outer Banks, providing easy access to the area. As developer attention grew in the northern Dare County and Currituck beaches, the county and local governments stepped in to ensure that Duck would retain its small, natural character. In 1984, The North Carolina General Assembly established Duck as a North Carolina Beautification District, and in 1986 the community agreed to develop a seven-mile multiple use trail within the town limits. Development grew slowly in Duck, and over the next few decades, vacation rental homes were built throughout the area, but chain hotels, massive stores, and other large commercial complexes were purposely kept out due to cautious community building restrictions.
The careful planning paid off, as today Duck is a picturesque seaside community with plenty of accommodations and amenities, but not too much clutter. Considering the area's national popularity as one of America's best beaches, it's hard to believe that just a few decades ago, Duck's only visitors were hunters and fishermen in search of, well, ducks.
Located on the Northern Outer Banks just past Southern Shores and a few miles north of the busy Outer Banks 158 bypass, Duck is a 7 mile stretch of beaches in the middle of NC Highway 12. Visitors love Duck because of its lovely, natural setting. The Currituck Sound and Atlantic Ocean are buffered by acres of maritime forest, and vacation rental homes, walking paths, shops and restaurants are hidden under centuries old Live Oaks and tall patches of cedars. Like all Outer Banks vacation destinations, the beach is the big draw, and while the beaches are seasonally popular, they are generally quiet strips of sand with no commercial businesses or vehicular traffic to drown out the sound of the ocean.
Visitors are treated to waterfront sunrises and sunsets with miles of oceanfront and soundfront to explore, and the modest collection of rental homes and locally owned businesses provides plenty of places to stay and activity, without interrupting the natural Outer Banks landscape. In fact, all the shops are centrally located with a half mile radius, so visitors can enjoy a little retail therapy on foot.
Vacationers should note that there are no public beaches in Duck, however most all of Duck's communities have private access to the ocean, so hopping over to the beach shouldn't be a problem for vacation rental guests. Be sure and check with your vacation rental company when booking to find out the most convenient beach access for your rental home.
You'll also want to bring a good pair of walking shoes. With so many walking paths around the village and bordering NC Highway 12, and with summer traffic along the two lane highway a minor concern, one of the easiest ways to explore Duck is on foot.
While deciding when to book your vacation, be sure and keep an eye out for upcoming festivals and special events. The community of Duck regularly has seasonal events including wine tastings, tapas crawls, outdoor live music, and special festivals, like the much loved annual Duck Jazz Festival. Held every year at the Duck Town Park and Boardwalk in the fall, the Duck Jazz Festival has become of the Outer Banks' favorite events and features a weekend of renowned local and national Jazz musicians, with plenty of food, drinks, and fun to go around.
For winter visitors, the annual Duck Yuletide festival provides late-night shopping opportunities, one of Duck's famous tapas crawls, and live music performed in the Duck Town Park.
No matter when you come, you'll want to keep an eye on the Town of Duck's calendar of events, because in Duck, community celebrations are always in season.
Duck has developed its reputation as one of the best beaches on the East Coast through decades of careful community planning, and vacationers are welcome to visit and reap the rewards. Offering the very best of Outer Banks' dining and shopping locales, and boasting miles of gorgeous ocean and sound beaches, vacationing families will surely fall in love with Duck's modern amenities and small town atmosphere, intertwined with that signature laid-back Outer Banks style.