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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
More than 2,000 shipwrecks sunk off the Coast of North Carolina in what’s called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. With all that history floating around, it was only natural to build a museum to honor and preserve the maritime culture of the Outer Banks. A state-of-the-art structure, the year round museum houses and displays artifacts, and presents a variety of exhibits and interprets the rich maritime culture that includes war, piracy, ghost ships and more. Artifacts include thoseex from the USS Monitor, which sank 16 miles off the Hatteras coast. The lobby features the stunning and original, 1854, First Order Lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Current hibits include those on piracy and the Civil War on Hatteras Island.
Vacationers will notice a handful of sailboats at every local Outer Banks port, either saddled up to the docks or breezing across the harbor, en route to the nearest sound for a cruise, or to the continent-spanning Intracoastal Waterway to continue a long coastal voyage. Some vacationers are even in it for the long haul, docking for a summer or a winter season at a number of local marinas that offer all the comforts of home. Clearly, sailing lovers of all varieties have plenty of options, but even newcomers to the sport can experiment with life on the water with a local sailing lesson, rental, or waterfront cruise.
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.
The Ocracoke Harbor is easily the busiest quarter mile stretch of Ocracoke Island. Consisting of a small, lagoon-like section of saltwater, and lined by a semi-circle of docks, restaurants, shops, marinas and motels, visitors will find that any and all of the activities on Ocracoke Island can most certainly be found harbor front.
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Whalehead’s Christmas Candlelight Tour is a step back in time to the 1920’s décor and customs taking place during Mr. and Mrs. Knight’s time here. Whalehead is decorated in the tradition of the times with greenery, Christmas trees, music and luscious food, fruit, candy and nuts. The tour will feature a live performance on the original Steinway piano, custom designed for Mrs. Knight. Tour participants will see four floors of this magnificent mansion including the newly designed Starkey room exhibit. Enjoy hot chocolate, cider and homemade Christmas cookies at the close of the tour.
WITH EACH BREAKFAST PURCHASE NOT AVAILABLE WITH LIGHTER FARE OR SIDES NOT VALID WITH ANY OTHER OFFERS
The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station is one of Rodanthe's greatest treasures. This historical lifesaving station has been a popular attraction for Hatteras Island visitors for decades, and stands on the very edge of the small town of Rodanthe. Over the years, this station has been battered by hurricanes, ocean and soundside flooding, and ferocious gusts of winds, and yet it is still standing, and serves as a proud reminder of Hatteras Island and the Outer Banks' rich lifesaving history.
If you love Thai food (or have been wanting to try it), you must stop at the family-owned Thai Room in Kill Devil Hills. This authentic Thai restaurant is owned by an incredibly friendly and cheerful Thai family who will make you feel right at home the moment you walk in the door.
Located 1 ½ miles north of the Wright Memorial Bridge, Holly Ridge is open to the public. They offer affordable golf on an enjoyable 18 hole, par 71 course. The front nine winds through the forest and includes many holly trees that gave the course its name. The back nine is more open but has a few water hazards to challenge golfers. Holly Ridge offers a large driving range and a practice putting green. They have a fully stocked pro shop, and rental clubs are available. Lessons are available by LPGA Tour Professional and major championship winner, Cathy Johnston-Forbes. Holly Ridge is a family friendly facility with a relaxed atmosphere. They offer discounts for junior golfers.