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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Outer Banks has its fair share of attractions for vacationers, including the Wright Brothers Memorial, 4 famous North Carolina lighthouses, the NC Aquarium, the Lost Colony, and enough shopping and dining to keep any family entertained for a week-long vacation. But the biggest attraction that draws seasoned Outer Banks vacationers back every year are the miles and miles of pristine beaches.
Flight takes many forms on the Outer Banks, from the thousands of migratory birds that travel along these barrier islands to and from their winter destinations, to aviation pioneers like the Wright Brothers who launched the world's first airplane off the sand dunes of Kill Devil Hills. Visitors can also experience the Outer Banks' inherent love of all things aerial by taking flight themselves with a day of Hang Gliding.
Jockey's Ridge State Park is an unmistakable landmark for Nags Head vacationers and virtually everyone passing through along the main beach bypass, US 158. This park is marked by its towering sand dunes, which reach 80' - 100' feet tall and look more at home in a vast dessert than in a coastal beach town. These dues are barren, and made up of nothing but Outer Banks sand, providing an incredible playground for hang gliders, sand boarders, and anyone who doesn't mind a long hike and some incredible island-spanning views.
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.
The Outer Banks coastline is beautiful, but it is also incredibly fragile. Storms, high winds and tidal changes all contribute to beach erosion. In an effort to restore and preserve this fragile coastline, Dare County—as well as the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head—will all perform important beach nourishment projects that are critical to the future of our communities in 2022.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is a "Must See" attraction for any Outer Banks aviation enthusiast, history lover, and virtually any Kill Devil Hills vacationer who wants an up-close look at the towering granite structure that towers over the town's landscape.
The Ocracoke Island Lighthouse may not be the most imposing of the Outer Banks lighthouses, but as North Carolina's oldest lighthouse in operation, (and the second oldest in the United States), it is certainly one of the most beloved. At just 65' ft. tall, it is by far the smallest lighthouse on the Outer Banks, but it still towers over the 4 square miles of Ocracoke Village, and its beacon can be spotted up to 14 miles into the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
For a quick list of local businesses that offer great rainy day activities, check our Rainy Day Listings. Most Outer Banks vacations revolve around the great outdoors, with miles of undeveloped beaches to explore, dozens of watersports, and plenty of activities that thrive under the sun. But even a sunny vacation destination like the Outer Banks experiences a rainy day every now and then, so when the weather drives you off the beach, spend a day exploring these indoor and rainy-day friendly Outer Banks activities.
Lace up your running shoes and see the sights. Add the fun of a run and fitness to your vacation joining us for a Summer morning 5k run/walk through the Historic Village of Corolla Light. Enjoy the sights of the Northern Outer Banks. The WhaleHead Club, Corolla Light and the magnificent Currituck Beach Lighthouse are all along the course. Unique finisher medals and t-shirts to all participants. Race Start/Finish in front of the Historic Mansion at The Whalehead Club in Corolla.
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Rustic waterfront pub at a fishing pier with a large deck for seafood eats, draft beer & live music. Fish Heads Bar and Grill is THE tiki bar of the Outer Banks. Located at Mile Post 18.5 in Nags Head, we offer a view that is second to none! Check us out!
With a laid-back, get-away-from-it-all ethos, Hotel Manteo captures the historical significance of Roanoke Island and the small-town charm of downtown Manteo in a lifestyle-driven experience that goes far beyond that of the traditional beach town hotel. Rooted in Manteo’s rich history and the coastal Carolina way of life, Hotel Manteo offers an immersive stay, warm and friendly hospitality, and access to the very best of the Outer Banks. It’s time to unwind, and to let go.
You haven’t experienced North Carolina until you’ve experienced North Carolina BBQ, and Pigman’s Bar-B-Que offers excellent North Carolina BBQ meals served with southern hospitality. Pigman’s offers traditional eastern North Carolina style BBQ, a vinegar-based variety smoked on site. All bar-b-que is cooked slowly with hand-crafted sauces to perfection. Pigman’s offers a tomato or “ketchup-based” BBQ option as well. Choose from Pork BBQ, Beef BBQ, Turkey-Que and Tuna-Que all perfected with incredible sauces. It’s hard to choose among the many sauces and options. Aside from the regular sauce, there’s Hot Sauce, Grilln’ Sauce, Rib Roarin’ Sauce, Rub-a-Dub Rib Rub options. And if you really love a sauce, Pigmans will share their sauce recipes with you!
The Outer Banks is a 100-mile long chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina known for its wide sandy beaches, lighthouses, and historical landmarks. Our islands are a popular vacation destination, with a range of activities available including swimming, surfing, fishing, and birdwatching. The Outer Banks are also home to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, commemorating the first successful powered airplane flight. The region has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters.
Unlike many beach destinations, lodging options on the Outer Banks are dominated by vacation rental homes.Part of the charm of the Outer Banks is the unique experience each town offers. You can view our overview of each town on our Outer Banks Vacation Planning Guide. Virtually every town offers waterfront rental homes and a great assortment of activities & attractions.
Vacation Rentals - We have a list of the best vacation rental companies here. There are several thousand vacation rental homes in the Outer Banks. In fact, vacation rental homes are the most popular accommodation. We have indexed thousands of rental homes that you can't find on any of the national search sites.
Hotels - The Outer Banks also has several hotels (many oceanfront) from Corolla to Ocracoke. Check out our list here.
Campgrounds - Camping opportunities exist on Hatteras Island in the tri-villages, Frisco, and Buxton, and on Ocracoke Island.
Summer is the Outer Banks'' most popular season, but there are great reasons to visit all year.
Spring - April brings a warmer average 69 degree temperatures. Seasonal shops, restaurants and activity companies begin opening. Vacation rental homes are still a bargain, with lower rates until late May. The ocean remains brisk at around 60 degrees. Bird watching and fishing are popular activities in the early Spring.
Summer - High season - the most popular time of year. Book your accommodations early! As school lets out, families fill the Outer Banks for Summer vacation. Most vacation rental homes rent weekly and turn over on weekends. All restaurants, shops and activities are running full schedules, and the area is abuzz with activity. The #1 Outer Banks attraction is the beach, but it isn't densely crowded like hotel-heavy resort areas. Average high temperatures hover in the mid to high 80's. The ocean is refreshing, but not cold in the upper 70's.
Fall - September and October are fantastic in the Outer Banks. Most shops and restaurants are open. Temperatures hover in the mid 70's. Vacation rental homes and hotel pricing drops. Nothing is crowded. This is a popular time for wind surfers and kiteboarders, as well as nature enthusiasts and visitors seeking a relaxing retreat.
Winter - Winter is perfect for those wanting relaxation, seclusion and quiet. Core amenities like grocery stores remain open. The central towns of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head offer the best opportunities for dining, shopping and entertainment. Carova, Corolla, Duck, Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands offer the most solitude. Hotel and rental home rates are generally the least expensive. Expect high temperatures in the mid 50's.
The Outer Banks offers activities for everyone. Here is a brief list of some of our favorites.
The Beach - The beach is the #1 attraction for Outer Banks visitors. Check out our Beaches Guide, Driving on the beach guide, and beach regulations guide.
Events - The Outer Banks is home to several music festivals, running events, water sports competitions, fishing tournaments, foodie festivals and parades. Check out our events calendar.
Amusements - Spend the day at a water park. Try a great miniature golf course. Play video games and sports. Try a rope course. Go karting.
Educational Activities - Learn to surf, wind surf, kiteboard, sail, paddleboard, kayak or ride a horse. Take a tour to see the wild Spanish mustangs of Carova. See dolphins in their natural habitat. Visit the NC aquarium to learn about local aquatic life.
Tours - Have a local expert show you around. See wild horses or dolphins. Kayak to a wildlife refuge. Ride a horse along the beach. Parasail above the Currituck Sound. Try a deep sea fishing charter.
Parks - Climb a lighthouse, visit the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education and see the sunset at Historic Corolla Park. Spend an afternoon climbing dunes or hang gliding at Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head. Tour the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo. Visit the grounds of the Wright Brother's National Memorial. Walk along the Currituck sound on the famous Duck Town Park boardwalk.
Fishing piers - Take a walk out over the ocean from one of the Outer Banks fishing piers. Try your luck with some pier fishing.
Lighthouses - Climb one of the Outer Banks' famous lighthouses. Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse all offer seasonal self-guided climbing tours.
Spend time in nature - We recommend the Elizabeth Gardens, Jockey's Ridge State Park, Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, and the boardwalk at the Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve in Corolla.
Learn the local history - Great spots include the Wright Brother's National Memorial, Outer Banks History Center, Roanoke Island Festival Park, Fort Raleigh, Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, Frisco Native American Museum, one of the local lighthouses, the Club at Whalehead and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras Village.
Shop - The Outer Banks is home to hundreds of charming, boutique shops. Find that special item you can't find anywhere else. Highlights include Timbuck II in Corolla, the Waterfront Shops in Duck, and Outlets Nags Head.
Eat Fresh and Local - Many Outer Banks seafood restaurants serve today's local catch. It doesn't get any fresher. And don't miss out on our local NC produce. Or, have it delivered to your rental home. You're sure to have an unforgettable meal.
For your rental home - Some rental homes include linens. Others do not. Check to see whether you'll need to bring your own bedding and towels. As for general supplies, we recommend packing (or buying locally upon arrival) soap, toilet paper, paper towels, food, snacks and condiments to get started. We also recommend a laptop or tablet so you can keep coming back to OuterBanks.com for more great ideas.
For the Beach - Check out our list of favorite beach umbrellas, carts and favorite beach games. If you are going to drive on the beaches, check out our 4x4 driving on the beach guide.
For everybody - Don't forget to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a camera and your sense of adventure! Also, don't forget to check out our coupons page. Print or bookmark several offers and save money during your visit.
Don't bring it.. RENT it!- Multiple equipment rental companies offer everything from bicycles, kayaks, carts, strollers, umbrellas, beach chairs, golf carts, grills, surf boards, body boards, paddleboards, linens, towels, and more!
Are you looking for filming location information on the popular Outer Banks series by Netflix? Although Outer Banks is set in a coastal Outer Banks town, it isn't filmed on the Outer Banks. Most of Netflix's filming locations for the series are in the Shem Creek and Mount Pleasant areas of South Carolina, adjacent to Charleston.
OuterBanks.com is the official website of the Outer Banks Visitors Guide Magazine. We're excited to share the best of the Outer Banks with your family!