The Outer Banks is a glorious stretch - 200 miles, to be exact - of barriers islands and peninsulas along the North Carolina coast. Though it boasts magnificent beaches, there’s plenty to do here year-round.
What to Do
The options are nearly endless in the Outer Banks.
- Take a hike at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on the northern end of Roanoke Island and visit the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens - a memorial to the first colonists.
- Immerse yourself in the history of flight at the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Museum in Kill Devil Hills, just south of Kitty Hawk.
- Visit the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island to feed stingrays, pet an alligator, learn about sea turtle rescues and be wowed by the largest group of captive sharks in North Carolina.
- Go Kayaking or take stand up paddleboarding lessons in Kitty Hawk Bay from Kitty Hawk Kites or Kitty Hawk Surf Company.
- Do something extreme at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. There are awesome sand dunes here - if you know how to sand-board, get a permit and come here between October 1 and March 31. You can also take hang-gliding lessons from Kitty Hawk Kites and soar over Jockey’s Ridge, or go windsurfing in the shallow Roanoke Sound.
- Play a game of golf at any of the excellent courses, from the Currituck Club up in Corolla all the way down to Nags Head Golf Links.
What to See
The Outer Banks offer miles of scenic beauty and historic treasures.
- See the many historic lighthouses on the coast. Make sure you have your walking shoes on when you climb Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on Hatteras Island - it has 248 stairs on an iron spiral staircase, the equivalent of climbing 12 stories! After all of your work, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the Atlantic. You can also visit the Ocracoke Lighthouse on Ocracoke Island at the very southern point of the Outer Banks, or head to the northernmost point to learn the sordid and mysterious history of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla.
- Visit the Roanoke Settlement Site, the first English colony in the New World and learn about the mysteries of The Lost Colony. It’s an educational experience with games and woodworking to show what life was like back then. You can also visit and board a replica of the Elizabeth II, one of the boats that arrived in the New World in 1585. There’s plenty of activities for both kids and adults to enjoy here. In the summer, the play “The Lost Colony” is performed to educate and entertain.
- Check out the views from Jockey’s Ridge and Jennette’s Pier, both in Nags Head. Sunsets here are simply unmatched.
There are plenty of festivals in the Outer Banks that harness its unique heritage and location. Check out the Bluegrass Island Festival, a newer addition to the fall lineup held the first weekend in October. It features Bluegrass by traditional artists as well as younger revival artists. Don’t forget to come for the homey Southern-style cooking!
The Outer Banks Seafood Festival is another fest celebrating coastal heritage. It’s held for one weekend in mid-October every year in Nags Head across the Roanoke Sound. Aside from enjoying various local seafood and cooking demonstrations, visitors can participate in the Fish House Olympics, including a Mullet Toss - the fish, not the hairstyle - and crab races. There’s also live music and a Dock & Dine event hosted by The Dunes Restaurant.