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A string of barrier islands more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) long, the Outer Banks offers the serenity of an old-school beach vacation—think: quiet boardwalks, seafood shacks, and boutique B&Bs. Spanning Duck to Hatteras, you’ll find a surprising amount of things to do in the Outer Banks, from wandering Cape Hatteras (the country’s first national seashore) to hang-gliding off sand dunes, and following in the footsteps of the Wright Brothers to searching for wild horses and the lost colony of Roanoke. Here, there are no skyrises and no sprawling resorts. Just wild, nostalgic adventure.
A classic “school’s out” destination, the Outer Banks has a high season of June–August. While this is a great time to visit for warm weather, the region’s shoulder seasons offer fewer crowds, better deals, and still-temperate days. Plus, you’ll catch events like Day at the Docks, Duck Jazz Festival, and the Outer Banks Seafood Festival in September and October.
The barrier islands of the Outer Banks run for much of the North Carolina coastline—about 130 miles. While there are a smattering of taxi services and tours to take, you’ll want a car. The drive from Currituck Beach Lighthouse in the north to Ocracoke Island in the south, for example, is close to four hours. Even if you’re staying in one region, having four wheels will keep your trip independent and spontaneous.
When you’re scouting out the visitor’s center, boardwalk, and nature trail at Jockey’s Ridge State Park—plus the tallest sand dune on the East Coast—add nearby Jennette’s Pier for fishing, Duck Donuts for a sweet snack, and Outer Banks Brewing Station for a brew to your itinerary. Kitty Hawk, famous for the Wright brothers’ flight and Kill Devil Hills are can’t-miss stops in OBX’s Northern Beaches area, too.
Being over 100 miles (160.9 kilometers) long, there’s a lot to do in the Outer Banks. Most travelers prioritize visiting the sites like Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, hanging out on sugary beaches like Nags Head, scoping out the massive sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and, of course, eating lots of fresh seafood....More
With 100+ miles (160.9+ kilometers) of barrier islands to explore, visitors have many options for things to do in the Outer Banks. Most of the activities revolve around the white sand and salty water—think swimming, exploring the piers, hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge, scoping out lighthouses, and more. There’s also fantastic seafood, great shopping, and so much history (hello, lost colony of Roanoke)....More
The “best” part of the Outer Banks depends on your interests. As a general rule, the farther north or south you go, the fewer people there will be. You’ll find lots of amenities and attractions in easier-to-reach spots like Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Kitty Hawk; further out, you’ll find quieter destinations like Corolla—and its famous wild horses—and the undeveloped Ocracoke Island....More
The Outer Banks is most known for its superb access to the Atlantic Ocean—there are 100+ miles (160.9+ kilometers) of barrier islands here, and they vary from touristy beach hubs to undeveloped natural wonders. The area is also relatively famous for its spectacular lighthouses and human history: Blackbeard, the Wright Brothers, and the lost colony of Roanoke all have OBX connections....More
The Outer Banks’ high season is typically June through August, when crowds flock here to cool off from summer’s high temps. If you can swing a shoulder season visit, i.e. March–May or September–November, you’ll be rewarded with 60-80ºF (15-26ºC) temperatures, discount prices, fewer lines, less traffic, and smaller crowds....More
North Carolina’s Outer Banks area is known for its ultra-fresh seafood. Tuna is popular as it’s available year-round, but you’ll also find delectable softshell crab, shrimp, scallops, oysters, grouper, mahi, swordfish—the list goes on. To get a taste, check out spots like Outer Banks Boil Company in Corolla, Mahi Mahi’s Island Grill in Nags Head, and Harbor House Seafood on Hatteras Island....More
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