Outer Banks newcomers are often surprised at the number and variety of weekly vacation rentals throughout the beaches, from Carova to Ocracoke Island. Vacation rentals are, in fact, the predominant accommodations available to vacationers, and visitors will find that the sheer number of rentals available allows them to find an ideal retreat to fit their Outer Banks crew, from quiet condo complexes to brightly colored oceanfront sand castles.
The Outer Banks is considered one of the best family vacation destinations on the East Coast, and the wide-open natural setting of sand, surf and sun lends itself easily to fun activities for "kids" of all ages. While rival vacation destinations may have more diversions, bars, and beach boardwalks, it's easy for vacationing families to stay simply entertained on the Outer Banks, particularly the younger ones in the group.
It might seem tricky to fit in all the attractions, historical sites, and fun activities off the beach into an Outer Banks vacation, and still have plenty of time left over to just lounge on the sand. That said, there are a number of attractions up and down the North Carolina coastline that any new visitor would be remiss to miss.
One of the reasons so many vacationers flock to the Outer Banks is the thrill of driving on the beach, a rare privilege that few East Coast beach vacation destinations can offer. On the Outer Banks, beach driving enthusiasts will find miles of shoreline to explore, from the uninhabited shoreline along Ocracoke Island to the solely 4WD accessible beaches of Carova, north of Corolla.
Find your perfect beach, amenities, beach guidelines, and more. The Outer Banks is unique in that every beach community along the skinny chain of barrier islands is distinctive, with its own enticing atmosphere and long list of perks. From lifeguard stations in some of the most popular spots in town, to desolate shorelines where visitors won’t see another person for miles, it’s easy to pick a beach destination along the Outer Banks that perfectly suits a family’s vacationing style.
Swimming is a local sport that never goes out of style on the Outer Banks, and with literally miles of ocean and sound waters to paddle around, there's no shortage of refreshing locales to enjoy a dip. Vacationers will find they have their choice of swimming destinations, from the fun and challenging ocean waves, to the shallow splashing waters of the sound, to the assortment of public and community pools found all along the islands.
Northeast North Carolina may be best known for its miles of uncluttered beaches, farm land, and assortment of seafood restaurants and charming local shops, but for golfers, the Northeast NC can be an ideal and serene golfing retreat. While neighboring vacation destinations, like Myrtle beach, SC, may boast dozens of golf courses clustered together, Northeast North Carolina's courses are scattered throughout the Outer Banks, the Currituck mainland and nearby towns just a short drive away.
Each of the Outer Banks five lighthouses is unique. For a beautiful view, visitors can climb Currituck Beach Light, Bodie Island Light and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for a small fee in season. It's an unforgettable way to see the Outer Banks! Don't forget to bring your camera, as these unique structures and surrounding grounds are some of the most picturesque and iconic attractions in the area.
Like an unexpected gift, the sighting of dolphins along the Outer Banks delights and amuses many summer visitors. Many people view these chance encounters as a treasured highlight to a relaxing vacation and will happily spend hours observing the dolphins' antics. What few people realize is that they are likely viewing the same group of dolphins, day after day and summer after summer. Some bottlenose dolphins will spend their summers in the waters of the Outer Banks and then migrate south for the winter only to return again in the early summer the next year. This early migration has led some people to call them the "Retirees of the Sea."
Visitors to the 4WD accessible beaches just north of Carova may experience a truly remarkable encounter with the area's oldest and most beloved residents, the Wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs. Stranded on the Outer Banks for centuries, but still enjoying the laid-back beach lifestyle, these feral and wild creatures are tolerant of the visitors who visit their beaches for the warm sun, cool waves, and miles of space.
The drive to your Outer Banks destination can and should be part of the fun of heading to the beach, and with the wealth of roadside attractions, iconic destinations, and hidden gems, it’s easy to transform a long drive into an integral part of your getaway. So instead of making a beeline to the beach, take some time to check out the variety of activities and sites that are found along both the main routes and just slightly off the beaten path. Whether you come to the Outer Banks from the north, south, or west, you’ll find that there’s tons to discover along the way.
It's easy to see why vacationers fall in love with Carova. Located almost literally off the Outer Banks map, while other towns along the barrier islands of North Carolina grew and developed over the decades and became popular East Coast tourism destinations, Carova never really changed.
The Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry is one of the most popular of the seven coastal ferry routes that are orchestrated and managed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT.) Open for everyone, with daily runs that occur 365 days a year, the short 40-45 minute island-hopping ferry provides an integral link for Ocracoke Island to the rest of the Outer Banks, and provides visitors of all seasons with an exciting way to enjoy a coastal day trip. For a little bit of completely free entertainment, hop aboard via car, truck, bike or even just on foot, and discover a scenic boat ride that's just as thrilling as discovering the island of Ocracoke itself.
For bird lovers, the Outer Banks is hard to beat. This delicate chain of barrier islands is not only home to dozens of different native shorebirds, but also thousands of migrating birds who make a rest stop on the Outer Banks every year. Add to this the fact that the islands have hundreds of miles of deserted beaches, maritime forest, and marshlands for species to quietly flourish, and it's clear that the Outer Banks is literally for the birds.
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Anyone with a fascination of history and America's European roots will love a day exploring the Elizabeth II, a historic 16th century sailing vessel that is docked along the borders of the Roanoke Island Festival Park. This ship can be admired by virtually anyone who takes a stroll along the downtown Manteo waterfront, as it sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the modern day sail boats, yachts, and fishing boats that are docked nearby. The wooden exterior and brightly colored Tudor flags sail in the breeze, and the sight of the resting ship certainly feels like a step back in time.
Sound Feet Shoes is family owned and operated. Sound Feet has been in the retail shoe business for over 60 years, opening their first store in 1954. They provide the best customer service and are the only Outer Banks’ area full service shoe store since 1987. Now, the family owned business boasts eight stores in the region, including two outlets. Their shoe specialists can help you find the right fit and comfort for your family’s needs.
Owned by Garry Oliver, the proprietor of the Outer Banks Fishing Pier, this small wooden aqua blue-colored store on the Nags Head-Manteo causeway has been serving the needs of fishermen for decades. A full line of tackle is available for all types of fishing --- surf, pier, inshore and offshore --- with fishing rods stored on the ceiling as well as along the walls. The store is an authorized dealer for major tackle brands, including Fish Bites, Daiwa and Gulp, and has a large selection of fresh, frozen and live bait. In addition, it stocks crabbing supplies, and sells sunglasses, jackets, hoodies, T-shirts and hats. The store also rents outboard and pontoon boats for sound fishing, and is an authorized outlet to purchase state-required recreational fishing licenses. We also offer Dolphin Watching Tours!