The Outer Banks offers relaxation and adventure for visitors and includes an abundance of attractions and activities. Naturally, the sprawling beaches are the focal point for vacationers as well as those travelers that are just passing through. But there is so much more to explore. All considered, the list of interesting things to do seems endless, but we’ve managed to pinpoint our Top 10.
⦿ To watch our Outer Banks video, visit our YouTube channel HERE and be sure to use the highest quality playback settings. Also, take a look at our Top 10 US Road Trips to see why we included the Outer Banks among the most scenic. You can find the video on our YouTube channel HERE
Bask on the Beaches
We may as well start with the beaches since they are the main draw for many people. The Outer Banks beaches span 100+ miles of the barrier islands on the eastern coast of North Carolina. They are widely known for their cleanliness and beauty, with deep sand dunes and clusters of sea oats.
Each beach offers something different to travelers. For example, the northern shores of Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are superior for surfing, whereas the shores of Hatteras Island are better suited to fishing and sailing. Visitors will also find great campgrounds in this region and access to 4X4 driving along the beach.
No matter where you choose, remember that tides and currents can be intense and are to be respected. For more information on beaches, visit the Outer Banks tourism authority website.
Birdwatch at Cape Hatteras National Seashore
One of the most popular stretches of beach in the Outer Banks is the 70 miles that make up the picturesque Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
More than 360 species of birds make their home in the Outer Banks and the Cape Hatteras Seashore is a good place to see them. These include pelicans, gulls, terns, shorebirds, and songbirds that nest in the area. It is a major flyway for waterfowl migrations, along with other wildlife such as dolphins and several different types of sea turtles including the leatherback, hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley, loggerhead, and green turtle.
For more information, visit the National Park Service’s website.
Go Fishing at Jeanette’s Pier
This pier has become somewhat of a signature attraction in the region, especially given that it is featured in countless photos of the Outer Banks.
Located in Nag’s Head, Jennette’s Pier features excellent fishing with a wide variety of fish species almost too long to list.
The clean, wide beach is perfect for sunbathing with a convenient bathhouse and free parking offered by the pier. Take some time to look around the large aquariums located inside, with several native species of fish on display.
Discover the Lighthouses
It is in the Outer Banks that tourists will find the famed Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the tallest lighthouse in the US and can be climbed for beautiful panoramic views of the area.
Other lighthouses include Bodie Island, Roanoke Marshes, Ocracoke Lighthouse, and Currituck Beach located in Corolla.
All lighthouses in the Outer Banks are open to the public from the third Friday in April to Columbus Day, and Hatteras is no different. The fee to climb it is minimal and well worth it.
Visit the North Carolina Aquarium
If you are interested in discovering what types of sea creatures inhabit the waters of the Outer Banks, consider spending some time at the North Carolina Aquarium in Roanoke. This facility is home to a wide variety of marine life, including sharks, stingrays, and giant turtles. Also on display are some mammals that can be found on the Outer Banks shores, such as river otters, frogs, and alligators. An interactive experience awaits at the Sea Turtle Rescue exhibit. The aquarium also houses a cafe and gift shop, plus educational talks and animal feedings.
The aquarium is small but worth a visit with reasonable ticket prices. Reduced rates apply to children under 12, seniors, and military personnel. Behind-the-scenes experiences, day camps, and shark dives can be arranged at an extra cost. For additional information, visit the aquarium website.
Take Flight at Wright Brothers National Memorial
If you have ever wondered where North Carolina’s ‘First in Flight’ motto came from, the answer is the Outer Banks — Kill Devil Hills specifically, near Kitty Hawk. Although the Wright Brothers of Wilbur and Orville originally did not live in North Carolina, they pursued their aviation goals in the region and chose Kitty Hawk for their first flight, mainly due to the landscape and strong winds. Today, tourists can pay homage to these pioneers of flight by exploring the Wright Brothers Visitor Center, their restored hanger, and a 60-foot monument in the shape of an airplane tail. Guided tours are available.
The memorial is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 364 days a year (Christmas Day is the only exception). For additional information, click on the National Park Service’s website.
Witness the Wild Horses of Corolla
The Wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs of the Outer Banks provide a thrill for visitors. Located mostly in Corolla, in Currituck County (the northernmost region of the Outer Banks and accessible via Highway 12) these feral beauties are among the oldest residents of the region and can be seen running along the beaches and frolicking in the dunes.
It is said that the horses date back almost 500 years when they were left behind by Spanish explorer Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón circa 1521.
Visitors can explore the region on their own with the hope of seeing the wild horses in their natural surroundings, or opt for a ‘seasonal’ tour via the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Since Wild Horse Adventure Tours is familiar with the horses’ favorite turf, they can increase the chance of a sighting.
Visit Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Adventurers should consider a visit to Jockey’s Ridge State Park to see the tallest sand dune on the Atlantic coast. The on-site visitor’s center hosts a museum and exhibits that explain the impressive dune field and area ecology.
This is an excellent location to fly kites or hang glide on one side of the park, or sunbathe, picnic, and paddle on the other side. There is also an option to walk the extensive boardwalk that begins behind the visitor center and leads to a sitting area with benches. For hikers, consider the Tracks in the Sand Trail, or the scenic one-mile Soundside Nature Trail that leads to grassy dunes and wetlands.
Play a Round of Golf
The Outer Banks has become one of the east coast’s premier golf destinations with spectacular and scenic courses.
These professional and well-groomed courses feature memorable ocean views and include Kilmaric Golf Club, Nag’s Head Golf Links, Currituck Club, The Carolina Club, The Pointe Golf Club, and The Sound Golf Links.
Also in the region, golfers will find Sea Scape Golf Links and Duck Woods Country Club, with a practice center that includes long-range, short game, and putting facilities. Travelers can find family-friendly putt-putt and disc golf options here.
Unwind on the Water
There is no shortage of watersports and ocean-related activities in the Outer Banks, with several rental and tour facilities that help vacationers to enjoy the adventures they choose. These include sailing, kayaking and canoeing, paddleboarding, and surfing.
Diving is popular in the region, especially for shipwrecks. Plus, visitors can expect to find kiteboarding and windsurfing, parasailing, and jet ski rentals. Dolphin tours are available in the region, along with deep-sea fishing excursions.
Lead (Jeanette’s Pier) — Wallpaper Safari
Beaches — Wallpaper Dog
Cape Hatteras Seashore — HD Wallpapers
Jeanette’s Pier – WallpaperFlare
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – WallpaperFlare
North Carolina Aquarium — North Carolina Aquarium Public Facebook Profile
Wright Brothers Monument — Hip Wallpaper
Wild Horse of Corolla — Wallpaperflare.com
Jockey’s Ridge State Park – Pixabay
Golf – Kilmaric Golf Club
Sailing – WallpaperCave