Educational Guide Sections:
On the Outer Banks, it's easy to throw in a little education in with a vacation filled with fun, adventures, and new explorations.
The same attractions that draw thousands of visitors every year are steeped in history, local culture, and new experiences, and any day at the beach or trip to the nearest lighthouse can turn into a Science or History lesson. Whether your scholastic pursuits lead you to Elizabethan Era history, Maritime botany, Seashell studies, or a little physical education with a kiteboarding or surfing lesson, you'll find there are plenty of educational opportunities on the Outer Banks.
Book a week's vacation, plan a local Outer Banks day trip or afternoon tour, and bring the whole family along for a little summer school that no one will mind attending.
Water Sports Lessons
With hundreds of miles of water to explore on the Outer Banks, locals and visitors alike have discovered and mastered virtually every type of sport that thrives in saltwater. As a result, sporty types adore the Outer Banks for the world of new and thrilling activities, from kiteboarding to kayaking, that can be launched from a neighboring sound or the Atlantic Ocean. With access points along every corner, and dozens of local water sports shops that offer seasonal lessons, there's no reason why the water lovers in your group can't indulge in a lesson or two.
Try something new, or hone your skills at Outer Banks sports favorites like windsurfing or surfing, and discover how much fun leaning can be on the water. Water sports giants like REAL Watersports or Kitty Hawk Kites offer lessons at all of their satellite locations along the Outer Banks, and there are plenty of locally owned and operated lessons and rental businesses in every village as well, from Corolla to Ocracoke.
Have fun deciding which sport matches your style best, and whether you're up for an hour lesson or a week-long camp, but be sure and book well in advance. In the busy summer months, it's not unusual for lessons to fill up fast as everyone can't wait to get their toes wet in a new adventure.
Kayaking is an ideal sport for water lovers of all ages, and the basic maneuvers are a breeze to pick up. Kayak lessons are typically brief, lasting anywhere from a 5 minute tutorial pre-launch for leisurely paddles through the sound, to a 60 minute lesson for trickier oceanfront kayaking. In this sport, particularly for kayakers who want to venture out to the Currituck, Albemarle, Roanoke or Pamlico Sounds, an afternoon rental and a little self-teaching can work just fine for picking up the basics. Just be sure the youngest kayakers in your group have a little assistance to get the hang of paddling, and stay close by in the open water.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (or SUP) is another sport that's easy to pick up, and can be enjoyed virtually anywhere there's water. Generally, most new riders only need an hour or two to acquire the skills of boarding, launching, and paddling, and the sport's ease allows water lovers of any age to give it a try. Lessons only last a couple hours, and once complete, visitors can grab some rental equipment, (namely a longboard and a long paddle), and spend the rest of their vacation exploring the sounds, canals and ocean waters of the Outer Banks. Perhaps best of all, because of SUP's up-and-coming popularity, virtually every water sports center on the Outer Banks has lessons available.
Windsurfing requires a little training to get the hang of managing all the bulky equipment involved, including the large 12'+ kite, the wide board, and the handles, straps, and harnesses that keep the rider afloat. That said, after an afternoon of windsurfing lessons, a new rider basically has all the general knowledge they need to propel themselves into gentle, breezy rides across the sound. A few days or even a week of lessons, and a rider may even graduate to the Oceanfront level, where windsurfing is more of a challenge, and requires navigating through the Atlantic waves. Because Windsurfing is considered a gentler sport, with little muscle strain involved in slower sound rides, it's perfect for young and old riders alike who want to take their basic water sports knowledge to the next level, while enjoying a smooth and stress-free ride.
Surfing is arguably the most popular water sport on the Outer Banks, and the beaches off of Nags Head, Rodanthe, and Buxton are considered some of the best surfing locales on the East Coast. This is why water sports lovers flock to locally offered surfing lessons, and learn to ride the waves at some of the best surfing spots this side of California. Lessons can vary, from an hour or two to a full week of in-depth tutorials, and the speed at which a new surfer picks up the sport can vary greatly. Some surfers, even the young ones, can be standing on a board and riding a wave to shore after just a lesson, while others may take years to get the hang of the balance and timing involved. Enjoy a lesson or two, and familiarize yourself with the basics of paddling, jumping on the board, and catching the wave at just the right time. Once these skills are acquired, all a new surfer has to do in spend some time in the ocean and practice.
Kiteboarding has taken the Outer Banks by storm, as the consistently superb wind and water conditions, as well as miles of open water to play in, has made the area a Mecca for kiteboarders from around the world. Kiteboarding goliaths, like REAL watersports, have made the Outer Banks their home base, with week-long camps, rentals, lessons, and even accommodations for visiting kiteboarders who want to immerse themselves in the sport. New kiteboarders may require a couple lessons to master the rigging, launching, and maneuvering, but the reward is a skill set that will allow them to fly across any stretch of Outer Banks water. Visitors can opt to take a lesson or two to get their feet wet, or enjoy a full week of training to be high-flying by vacation's end. Available lessons and camps are plentiful, and with the growing popularity of kiteboarding, it's clear this sport isn't leaving the water anytime soon.
Science and Nature on the Outer Banks: Eco Tours and Nature Trails
There's a reason why so many North Carolina colleges and universities take exhibitions to the wetlands, maritime forests, and beaches of the Outer Banks. Their relative lack of development, with acres of preserved refuges, reserves and parks to explore, makes the ecosystems of the Outer Banks fantastic learning grounds for budding botanists, zoologists, and wildlife lovers of all ages.
Learning about the delicate eco-systems and the wildlife that call the Outer Banks home can be as simple as wandering down a nature trail, or as in-depth as attending a weeklong festival or retreat. With eco-tours provided by local watersports companies, and a host of activities offered by the National Park Service or the US Fish and Wildlife Service, visitors will find no shortage of new ways to walk on the wild side.
Kayaking Eco Tours
Locally owned watersport companies, as well as nationally recognized companies like Kitty Hawk Kites, offer seasonal kayak eco-tours of the marshlands, canals, and open water sounds of the Outer Banks. Tours generally last 2 hours or so, and can be launched from a variety of sound access points all across the Outer Banks. In Corolla, kayakers can expect to explore the outlaying areas of the Currituck Sound while brushing by thickets of maritime woods. On Hatteras Island, many eco-tours depart Avon, and snake through shaded canals where ibises and great blue heron hunt for baiting mullets on a regular basis. Regardless of where your adventure begins, an eco-tour ensures you'll get first-hand tutelage and an accompanying view of all the wildlife that calls the Outer Banks home. Be sure and bring binoculars, and a camera, specifically for sunset tours which showcase the gorgeous waters of the local sounds at their very best.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Many visitors may just consider the National Seashore as miles of empty beaches that remain undeveloped and open to the public under the National Park Service's care. But in addition to patrolling and managing the beaches of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, the National Park Service also offers a number of seasonal (and mostly free) classes, seminars, and tours of the local wildlife and natural landscape. Visitors can opt to go shelling with a park ranger, and learn the different names and identities of the hundreds of different shells that wash up on the shores daily. Red wolf tours and classes are offered along the Dare County mainland, one of the last spots in eastern North Carolina where the red wolves thrive, and young ones can try their hand at crabbing, fishing, or just going on a nature walk with a local Park Service ranger as a guide.
Classes and seminars are available for visitors of all ages, young and old alike, with special kids' classes seasonally available. For more information on upcoming classes during your stay, visit the National Park Service's website.
Currituck Banks National Estuarine Preserve
The nearly 1,000 acre Currituck Banks National Estuarine Preserve spans from the town limits of Corolla well into the northern 4WD beaches of Carova. Within the preserve, visitors will find a slice of all coastal ecosystems, including the wild and unpopulated beach landscape, parcels of marshlands, and sections of maritime forest. In between are a healthy sample of the different birds, mammals and reptiles that call the Outer Banks home, including shorebirds such as sandpipers, plovers, and gulls, as well as geese, mallards, heron, and egrets found deeper into the brushy preserve. Visitors may also spot fox, deer, and different lizards and fish that frequent the marshy channels throughout. In short, northern Outer Banks nature lovers will find a day of exploring the reserve well worth the trek, any time of year.
Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve
For central Outer Banks vacationers, a hiking trip through the 1800+ acre Nags Head Woods can be a day-long lesson in the local barrier island environment. The preserve spans across the Currituck Sound to several outlaying islands, making an exploration of this area a true adventure. Pack a kayak or a small skiff, and enjoy watching the pelicans, egrets, and other water birds, both year-round residents and migratory species, that flock to this quiet and undeveloped section of the Outer Banks.
Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden
Take a trip to Kill Devil Hills in the central Outer Banks and you'll find the Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden. Opened in 2002, this year-round attraction is just around the corner from the Atlantic Ocean, but features its own contained world of native plants, coastal micro-climates, maritime forests, beach dunes, and gorgeous foliage virtually guaranteed throughout the year. Local plants and native species are labeled for easy identification, and visitors can take their time admiring the flora and fauna from a wandering line of brick walkways that circle through the Arboretum. With a number of workshops offered throughout the year, as well as seasonal events, botany enthusiasts will find plenty to love about the Outer Banks Arboretum.
Jockey's Ridge Sate Park
Nature lovers who would rather stick to well-tended trails than setting off on their own expeditions through acres of unmarked terrain will love Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head. Suited for nature and wildlife scholars of all kinds, the park is veritably a study in all things Outer Banks. Here, visitors can explore miles of barren sand dunes, maritime woods, marshy wetlands, and even soundfront beaches where kiteboarders and windsurfers fly by on a regular basis. A "Must See" on any central Outer Banks vacationer's list, Jockey's Ridge Sate Park basically has something for scholars of all genres.
The Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo on Roanoke Island is another blossoming botanist's paradise on the Outer Banks. The acres of tended grounds feature well-marked indicators of all the native plant species that are indigenous to the Outer Banks, as well as carefully transported species from Elizabethan England. In fact, one of the rose bushes in the formal Queen's Rose Garden was a gift from Elizabeth II herself, and is well-marked among the dozens of other rose varieties. Volunteers are also on hand to answer questions, offer advice on transporting and planting local species at home, and fill in any blanks that a self-guided tour could possibly leave. Though with acres of local foliage to explore, with statues, markers, and maps along the way, a self-guided tour is an excellent afternoon education on local Outer Banks greenery.
North Carolina Aquarium
Marine Biologists of all ages will adore the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo, as this complex that pays homage to local marine species has plenty of educational opportunities waiting in every exhibit. Discover the critters that comprise the Inner Banks' marshes and wetlands, including sea otters, turtles and alligators, or head to the Touch Tank room to take a closer examination of North Carolina's native seashells, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, and even manta rays. A special section of the museum designated for kids' education even allows children to nurture and study a sea turtle egg, from the first signs of hatching to re-releasing it into the wild. Without a doubt, the North Carolina Aquarium provides a thorough immersion into the local wildlife scene that everyone in the family will enjoy.
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is by far the largest of refuges or preserves on the Outer Banks, comprising of over 28 miles of woods, marshes, and delicate sound shoreline. Not for nature novices, the refuge features a small series of guided trails with informational markers along NC Highway 64 and NC Highway 264, although newcomers may want to take in an educational session, offered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Seasonal guided tours of the refuge are available, as well as special evening "Howlings," which are spring, summer and fall events that pay homage to the red wolves that call the area home. Guided tram tours are even available from March until October on a first come, first serve basis. For more information on the refuge and upcoming events, visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service's website.
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
The nearly 6,000 acre Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most unique refuges on the Outer Banks for both its 400+ species of birds that migrate through the area, as well as its barrier island location. The refuge lies between the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge and the town border of Rodanthe, and as such, comprises a huge section of Hatteras Island. The lone Visitors' Center on the refuge, which is also the launching point for several self-guided nature trails, is also a hotbed of activity in the summer season as the US Fish and Wildlife Service offers a number of events geared towards visitors who want to learn more about the delicate barrier island ecosystem.
Tours and educational sessions available to visitors include guided bird walks, turtle talks which cover he varying turtles of the Outer Banks from Green Sea Turtles to the timid box turtles who take up residence within the refuge, and even canoe trips through the marshes and soundfront areas of the area. Reservations are often required for educational trips, classes and seminars, and more information can be found here.
Buxton and Frisco Woods
Naturalists who want to learn and explore on their own will want to travel to the oceanside outskirts of Buxton and Frisco Woods on Hatteras Island. These towns border the largest example of maritime forest on the East Coast, and a series of unmarked trails wind their way through residential side streets to deep patches of cedars, ancient live oaks and sand dunes, and eventually, the Frisco and Buxton oceanfront. Due to its size, all species of Outer Banks wildlife congregates here, from swooping great blue herons to even the occasional alligator, according to local legends. Feel free to explore at will, but remember that this wide parcel is truly wild, so bring supplies, a phone, a friend, and a supplemental sense of adventure.
Ocracoke Island visitors with a love of nature also have a respite from the bustling harbor and busy summer activity at Springer's Point Nature Preserve, a .5 mile nature preserve that is tucked along the Ocracoke soundfront just a quick walk away from the heart of the village. The Preserve features 8 different species of egrets, herons and ibises, which nest within the park's limits on a regular basis, as well as acres of red cedars, live oaks, flowering yucca, and the exceptionally rare Georgia Sunrose. Ocracoke visitors who want an up-close-and-personal tutorial on native local species will find Springer's Point a fantastic place to explore that's also close to home.
Upcoming Educational Events
Monthly Kayak Fishing Clinic
Royal Tea at the Lost Colony
Fishermen and watersports fans alike will appreciate this opportunity to learn the basics of one of the Outer Banks’ fastest growing sports – kayak fishing – via a free...more
- August 22nd, 2019 6:15 PM - 7:30 PM
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Full Moon Climb
Join us Thursday evenings at 6:15 PM for a once-in-a-lifetime experience – Royal Tea. Enjoy tea and sweets with the Queen’s Master of Ceremony and Sir Walter Raleigh, while...more
- September 14th, 2019 7:30 PM
Pumpkin Patch Saturdays
Enjoy a special opportunity to see Hatteras Island after hours from a bird’s eye perspective with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Full Moon Climb. This one-night-only tour leads a small...more
- October 5th, 2019 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Celebrate the fall season at one of the prettiest outdoor attractions in the heart of Roanoke Island with this special weekly event that has become a favorite activity for locals and fall...more
History on the Outer Banks: World-famous Locales
The Outer Banks has literally centuries of history, from the original Native Americans who built a happy and plentiful life on these barrier islands, to the European sailors who set up fragile settlements in the late 1500s, to the aviation pioneers who descended on Kitty Hawk to prove flight was possible.
The story of America can be found on the Outer Banks, and every world-renowned location or hidden historical landmark is a testament to how much the Outer Banks has affected the history of a county, and even the world.
The most prominent of the Outer Banks historical attractions are, of course, the four lighthouses that dot the landscape from Corolla to Ocracoke Village. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton are both open to climbers, for a first-hand view of two of the East Coat's most famous working 19th century lighthouses. The Bodie Island Lighthouse, located south of Nags Head and just a couple miles north of Oregon Inlet, is scheduled to open for climbers as well in 2013. Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, North Carolina's oldest functioning lighthouse, can be visible from virtually any point in Ocracoke Village and can be explored by any biker or pedestrian taking a stroll through the quieter areas of the town.
All four lighthouse date back to the 19th century, and with careful care and maintenance, remain in pristine condition with original Fresnel lights still glowing nightly, as well as their original brick structures and facades. Visitors are encouraged to visit their local lighthouse, or take a scenic day trip throughout the Outer Banks to experience all four. Either way, the lighthouses of the Outer Banks certainly make an impressive example of the local maritime history.
The Corolla Schoolhouse was built in the early 1900s as a learning center for the children of the handful of northern Outer Banks residents, as well as the children of servicemen stationed at the local Currituck lifesaving station. The school operated as the sole learning center for Corolla youngsters until well into the 1950s. Today, the schoolhouse has been restored and functions as an essential part of the Corolla Wild Horse Museum and Corolla Wild Horse Fund offices. This organization is dedicated to protecting and preserving the Corolla Wild Horses that live on the beaches of Carova, and visitors can enjoy learning their story, as they walk through the halls of the original schoolhouse.
Wright Brothers Memorial
Modern aviation was born on the Outer Banks, with Wilbur and Orville Wright, who flew the first engine powered airplane off the dunes of Kitty Hawk in 1903. The site of their feat is now home to the National Park Service's Wright Brothers Memorial, a granite statue that towers over an ample visitor's center and museum. Two museums, in fact, are found on the premises, including the original Wright Brothers Memorial museum which showcases artifacts and replicas from the original flight, and the new Millennium museum, which was constructed in 2003, a century after the first successful flight took off. At the Millennium museum, history buffs will find a trove of aviation history almost as large as the Monument itself, with special exhibits from NASA on display. Aviation lovers are all but required to visit the Wright Brothers Memorial for a taste of flying history at its earliest roots.
The Lost Colony and Roanoke Island Festival Park
Manteo has a history all its own, as the settlement site of some of Europe's earliest explorers, and the birthplace of America's first English child, Virginia Dare. Today, visitors can visit this tumultuous but revered history at both the Roanoke Island Festival Park, an interactive outdoor display that captures the essence of life in the late 1500s, and The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama, a beloved staged event that explains the history and legends behind the famed Lost Colony.
For a taste of local history without opening a book, both venues deliver. Roanoke Island Festival Park is a fully functioning community with costumed interpreters, full-scale replicas of European and Native American villages, and plenty of demonstrations and interactive learning sessions in between. The Lost Colony stage production delights theater lovers of all ages with its intricate display of dance, drama, and incredible fire stunts, all while presenting the true story of the historical colony that disappeared off the face of the Outer Banks.
Advance tickets are required for The Lost Colony drama, and the Roanoke Island Festival Park is open seasonally, generally from spring until late fall, for visitors of all ages. Young ones won't want to miss these attractions, and the interactive learning adventures will give kids of all ages a taste of the Outer Banks right before the turn of the 17Th century.
Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station
The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station in Rodanthe was operational for just 50 years or so, finally closing its doors in 1954. However, the historical rescues and dedicated preservation of the rescue techniques and history made this little station a flagship for the modern US Coast Guard. Today, the station has been carefully preserved in its original glory, with the main building serving as a museum and gift shop. In the summer months, visitors will find a new interactive exhibition or educational display almost daily, including a Beach Apparatus Drill performed by current US Coast Guard service men and women, who use genuine early 1900s equipment in their reenactment of an ocean rescue. The station is clearly visible along NC Highway 12, standing out in front of a cluster of modern vacation rental homes, and is open seasonally, from spring until late fall. Winter visitors can also still enjoy the historical station when the outside decor is decked out in Christmas lights and decor.
Little Kinnakeet Lifesaving Station
The Little Kinnakeet Lifesaving Station allows visitors to enjoy a piece of virtually untouched Outer Banks history. Currently in the process of an extensive restoration, only a handful of outbuildings have been carefully painted and restored by the NPS, but the impressive main station, with a cedar shaked tower stretching above the rest of the lifesaving station complex, is still in its original condition with weather worn porches and early 1900s windows and decking. Visitors can take the nondescript sandy trail on the soundside of NC Highway 12, about 3 miles north of Avon Village, to explore the site and view an untouched relic and testament to the Outer Banks' legacy of flagship lifesaving stations.
Frisco Native American Museum
The Frisco Native American Museum honors both local and national tribes that walked the sands of the Outer Banks for hundreds of years before the European settlers first appeared. The bright yellow building is hard to miss on the soundside of NC Highway 12 in Frisco, and visitors will find cluttered halls filled with local, regional and statewide Native American exhibits. Outside, a well-marked nature trails guides visitors through the Frisco Maritime Forest, and an extensive gift shop, manned by the museum owner, allows visitors to explore the local Native American culture and ask questions to learn more. In April, the museum lights up the landscape with the annual Powwow, and visitors are treated to real life lessons on both historical and modern Native American culture. The museum is open year-round for a small fee, and the Powwow commences over a full weekend of celebration of the local and regional Native American heritage.
Hatteras Village Weather Station
Many history buffs don't know that the SOS call regarding the sinking of the Titanic was received on the Outer Banks, at the tiny Weather Bureau Station of Hatteras Village. This is just one of the historical surprises in store for visitors to the small restored lemon-yellow station, located in the heart of Hatteras Village adjacent to the decades-old Burrus Red and White grocery store. The station served as a crucial communication center for the US Weather Bureau from 1901 to 1946, keeping watch on incoming hurricanes and storms, and relaying distress calls like the 1912 cry from the Titanic. Today, the station serves as both a small museum and visitors' center, with local volunteers on hand to answer questions as well as provide insight to the station's history. Free to everyone, the station is definitely worth a stop for anyone with a love of Hatteras Island history.
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
Hatteras Village's Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is hard to miss, with an arc-like exterior and a prominent location bordering the Hatteras Village / Ocracoke Island ferry docks. Inside, visitors will find the original Fresnel Light from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse as well as hundreds of artifacts rescued from the treacherous seas of the Diamond Shoals, Hundreds of ships from the 15th to the 20th century met their end off the coast of Hatteras Island, and today visitors can get a glimpse of maritime life over the past 500 years by taking a tour through the various Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum exhibits. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated, and with the ocean and the outskirts of the Diamond Shoals literally just across the street, museum-goers can have an insider's look at history both on and off the shore.
Ocracoke Island British Cemetery
During World War II, many British Soldiers lost their lives off the coast of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands in the dangerous parcel of water that was known as "Torpedo Junction" for the number of German U-Boats that lay in wait for passing prey. In Ocracoke, the soldiers that were found are honored at the 2,290 square foot British Cemetery, guarded by the English Flag, and serving as a somber but fascinating distraction for Ocracoke Harbor strollers. Military history scholars will want to tour the site, to honor the European soldiers who lie here, and who helped keep America safe from the threat of invasion.
Ocracoke Preservation Museum
Advanced scholars will love a self-guided tour through Ocracoke Preservation Society's (OPS) Ocracoke Preservation Museum. Securely housed in the mid-1800s constructed David Williams House, and adjacent to the Anchorage Inn, the museum features a full floor of historical archives that are open to visitors by appointment. Here, history lovers can schedule some time to visit the top floor research library and wade through various deeds, diaries, photographs, maps and historical records, and get a true sense of Ocracoke Island history. History and Ocracoke Lovers alike will find no closer avenue to Ocracoke's true roots than with a visit to the Ocracoke Preservation Museum, and the records here have found fame across universities and historical documentaries and news programs across the county.
Arts on the Outer Banks: Scenic Locales and Lessons
Art lovers on the Outer Banks will find no shortage of scenic locales to set up an easel and capture a quiet scene of majestic shorebirds waiting for passing minnows and mullet, or a full blown explosion of watersports activities cumulating on a stretch of Outer Banks soundfront beach.
The soundside waters of Canadian Hole in between Avon Village and Buxton, Rodanthe on Hatteras Island, Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head, and the soundfront beaches of the Whalehead in Historic Corolla in Corolla can serve as ample action-packed backdrops, with dozens of kiteboarders and windsurfers flowing through the scenery at any given time of day.
For more tranquil painting locales, head to the local preserves, such as the Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve, the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island, or Springer's Point in Ocracoke, for a natural setting to paint or draw a day away.
Of course, budding Outer Banks artists may need a lesson or two to get started, but thankfully, there are countless avenues available in this scholastic area as well. For the artistic types in your group who would excel with a little extra art education in the natural setting of the Outer Banks, a setting that has inspired dozens of locally renowned artists, you might want to check out these local options.
Paint your Own Pottery
Many spots on the Outer Banks, from Kill Devil Hills to Hatteras Island, have small shops available to paint your own pottery. Here, artists-in-training can experiment with different pieces, colors, and even mosaic tiles to create their own Outer Banks masterpiece. If completed early in the week, the pieces will be fired and ready to take home as a personalized souvenir. Otherwise, shipping options are always available for an occasional late-week rainy day activity. For advanced students, classes are available at most Paint your Own Pottery shops in both painting and mosaics, all with a beach theme, to make capturing the Outer Banks' beauty ever easier.
Watercolor classes are also available at local galleries, vacation rental companies, and historic sites from Corolla to Ocracoke. In these 1-3 hours sessions, visitors can learn the basics of capturing an ocean break, or a shorebird grazing on the sand. For a nominal fee, supplies, paints, and canvases are included, ensuring that every lesson ends with a work of art to take home. One of the most popular venues for watercolor classes is the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo which offers two-day seminars that take students from the workshop classrooms out into the scenic grounds of the gardens to find real life inspiration. Adaptable to skills of all levels, watercolor classes allows all students to hone their natural skills while creating a much treasured souvenir.
Art Shows and Galleries
Of course, an ideal way to be truly inspired is to visit one of the area's many art galleries. The Outer Banks attracts artists of all mediums, evident in the sheer number of galleries that can be found throughout these barrier islands, particularly in Manteo, the shopping center of Duck, Gallery Row in central Nags Head, and the shops that are sporadically located around Ocracoke Village. Enjoy a day of browsing, and in finding inspiration, with some of the area's most famous and beloved artists at any of these galleries. Select galleries also offer occasional classes from their featured artists, so art students should most definitely ask if any sessions are available during their Outer Banks vacation.
Just for Kids
While children can certainly have a ball at any of the Outer Banks' attractions, sometimes, it's fun to take them to a local attraction that was designed with just them in mind. For an educational opportunity for your young ones, that feels nothing like a tedious class, try out these attractions on your next Outer Banks vacation.
Children at Play Museum
The Children at Play Museum was founded in 2007 as a local attraction where kids could play, explore, have fun, and also learn, and thousands of happy kids later, the museum is still going strong. Here, kids can try their hand at gardening and fish-mongering at the open air exhibit, explore the geography of the Outer Banks at the Lighthouse exhibit, learn the tricks of the commercial fishing industry at the Fishing Exhibit, or just leave their mark with personalized paint at the Wonder Wall. Located in Kitty Hawk, the museum gives kids ample room to explore, build, paint and play while providing snippets of the Outer Banks' lifestyle, history and culture. For education that is completely disguised as fun, the Children at Play Museum is a must-stop for all beach loving families.
Teach's Hole Blackbeard Exhibit
Kids and pirates go together hand in hand, so the youngest in your group will love an afternoon of exploring the Teach's Hole Blackbeard Exhibit, located in a hard-to-miss brick red building on Ocracoke Island. At this privately owned museum and gift shop, kids can get a taste of the real Outer Banks pirates, with a life-sized replica of Blackbeard, artifacts relating to Blackbeard-era ship life, and a collection of pirate flags from all across the East Coast. Both the gift shop and museum are open seasonally, from spring until fall, and the gift shop features thousands of pirate souvenirs, so be prepared to pick up a couple Ocracoke Island treasures to take home for the little pirates in your group.
Clearly, there is a lot to learn on the Outer Banks, from ancient Native American history, to the country's earliest European roots, to the wildlife that thrives on the barrier island today. Basically, a student of any discipline can find a little education on the Outer Banks, and lovers of the arts, history, science and nature will surely fall in love with the world of culture and wildlife the Outer Banks has to offer.
No need to make a special trip to further your education - every major attraction and desolate beach is a potential classroom, and new visitors to the Outer Banks will find themselves happily and inadvertently educated on everything from the types of seashells that wash ashore to the history of aviation.
Obviously, vacations aren't generally meant to be a learning experience, but on the Outer Banks, history, culture and fun all go hand in hand, so visitors might as well sit back, and enjoy the lesson. This is one summer school session that everyone will signing up for again and again.