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25 Best Places to Stay in Outer Banks to See Wild Horses

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Are you wondering where are the best places to stay in the Outer Banks to see wild horses? The region offers a wide range of hotels, resorts, and beach cottages along the 175-mile-long chain of barrier islands.

Along with the endless swatches of sand and family-friendly attractions, the Outer Banks’ wild horses are a big draw to the area. One of the coolest things about the Outer Banks (besides the warm sun and the beach itself) is its herds of feral horses.

Where Can You See Wild Hoses in the Outer Banks?

The horses live in the northernmost Currituck Outer Banks, in the Carova and Corolla areas of the North Carolina coastline.

They’re believed to be descended from Spanish mustangs brought over in colonial ships in the 16th century. DNA analysis has determined that they are wild colonial Spanish mustangs.

Horses and White Birds in the Wild

The Corolla wild horses roam 7,544 acres of public and private land deemed a wild horse sanctuary. They can be seen relaxing and grazing in the yards of private homes.

The area is 4-wheel drive only (and a lot of it is on the sand and soft dirt) so you won’t want to do a self-guided tour in your little economy car.

Luckily, there are several Corolla wild horse tours that stay busy transporting equine enthusiasts to see these beautiful wild horses. So, just how did the Corolla wild horses manage to roam free? After all, why bring horses on a ship and then let them go?

We do have to say they chose a beautiful place to live. The best answer is that these majestic horses ended up in the area after Spanish or English shipwrecks on their way from the Southern West Indies.

The jagged rocks along the Outer Banks are famous for shipwrecks and pirate activity (Blackbeard was a regular in the area). The wild horses and other livestock floated ashore.

Local Native American tribes in the area were not happy with the human explorers who came ashore. Battles broke out (as battles will), and the Spanish explorers fled the area, leaving behind livestock. And, voila, you have the Corolla horses and wild ponies.

If you ever have the chance to take a guided horse tour in the Outer Banks, by all means, do it! It’s by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

Since there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually see horses (they are wild, after all), a guided tour is your best bet.

Ride on the Beach

Knowledgeable tour guides, driving Hummers and other open-air off-road vehicles, know where to go to best see the horses.

Horses tend to stay away from the main areas and often hide out in the grasses (especially nice for them on hot days). These off-road tours are almost as popular for the bumps and rugged adventure as they are for the wild horses themselves. Almost.

The Corolla wild horses are not to be confused with the Shackleford horses of Shackleford Banks, which are further south along the North Carolina coast on Cape Lookout National Seashore, which is part of the National Park Service.

Though, they could have the same feasible origin story dates as the Corolla wild ponies.  People did live in the Shackleford Banks area, so a more feasible origin story is that the horses were left behind to form their own herd when the local human population moved inland.

Corolla’s wild horse adventure tours are a fun and family-friendly activity for the whole crew.

No, you won’t be able to pet or feed the horses (in fact, it’s rather illegal), but you’ll get some awesome photos and memories to last forever.

Three Grazing Horses

While they look similar to domestic horses, these local horses thrive in this natural habitat where they dine on sea oats, coastal grasses, and other vegetation, so don’t even consider bringing apples and carrots into their permanent sanctuary.

Such things can be detrimental to the health of wild mustangs. If you’re wondering how to contribute to the Corolla wild horse fund, you can do so through the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund was created to provide care, conservation, and more to wild horses. There is a herd manager, as well as other experts and veterinarians, for the Corolla wild horses.

Records are kept on horse markings, Identification, and health as well as population, conservation, and fencing upkeep (there’s a gate that keeps the Corolla wild horses, and vehicles, from driving further north – you could technically drive to Virginia Beach if it weren’t for the fencing). 

The herd is well cared for. Horses designated as too sick, injured, or dangerously habituated to humans are removed from the herd. The Wild Horse Fund helps these wild horses get the care they need.

On an interesting note, the Corolla wild horses are the state horse of North Carolina. Save that tidbit for Jeopardy. Whether you’re a domestic horse fan or a wild horse enthusiast (or both), you can’t miss the chance to find wild horses in Corolla. Let’s get started!

TL;DR Best Places to Stay in Outer Banks

TL;DR Best Areas to Stay in Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is a long sliver of barrier islands along the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Albemarle, Currituck, and Croatan Sound to the west.

The area is made up of several villages that are easily accessible to wild horses on a day trip. Hatteras Island is about a two-hour drive to wild horse tours.

The most popular town, Nags Head, is about 45 minutes away. Duck is approximately 25 minutes from Corolla wild horses.

Kill Devil Hills: Best Area for First-Timers/Tourists

Located from milepost 5 to 10 along Highway 12 (or simply “Beach Road”), Kill Devil Hills is the center of the Outer Banks stretch of sand.

This is our main reason for naming it the best area for OBX first-timers. Between beautiful beaches, historic attractions, and family-friendly activities, you’ll find a variety of things to do in this area of the OBX when you’re not out hunting for horses.

Kill Devil Hills is about 45 minutes to Corolla wild horse-guided tour companies.

Here are a few things to do around Kill Devil Hills:

Budget Hotels in Kill Devil Hills

1. Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Nags Head Oceanfront

Building by the Sea
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Address: 1701 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948

The Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Nags Head Oceanfront is a great budget hotel option for viewing wild horses in OBX. It’s located on the beachfront and has a series of walkways and stairs to get out on the beach.

Hotel amenities include an indoor heated pool, a restaurant, a bar, an outdoor tiki hut, a fitness center, and free wi-fi. Some guest rooms have hot tubs.

2. Cavalier by the Sea

Building Surrounding Cavalier Pool

Address: 601 South Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948

For comfort, convenience, and location, Cavalier by the Sea is one of our top picks for budget-friendly hotels in the Outer Banks.

The property is U-shaped with oceanfront cottages opening right onto the sand.

Other guest rooms face the pool, courtyard playground, and office. Located beachfront, it has a vintage motor lodge feel and makes a great OBX accommodation choice for wild horse-watching trips.

Mid-Range Hotels in Kill Devil Hills

3. Beachwoods by Diamond Resort

Building and Garden of Beachwoods by Diamond Resort
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Address: 1 Cypress Knee Trail, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina 27949

Located on the sound side of the highway, Beachwoods by Diamond Resort has an outdoor pool, an indoor pool, water slides, and an arcade. Guest room suites have seating areas, kitchens, and patios or balconies.

The wooded setting, near the Coastal Reserve, has on-site fishing and paddle boats in a secluded setting.

See Related: Do Hotel Take Cash? Things to Know

4. Pier House Bed and Breakfast

Charming Room with Two Beds
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Address: 2048 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948

Pier House Bed and Breakfast is just off Highway 12 and a quick walk to the beach.

There’s an outdoor swimming pool and free wi-fi as well as a continental breakfast. Some rooms have a kitchenette for extended stays. Feel free to use the grill and outdoor seating areas to cook the catch of the day.

This is a great location to see the Corolla wild horses with a company like Bob’s Wild Horse Tours and soak up some sun with the fam.

See Related: Things to Do in Fayetteville, North Carolina

5. TownePlace Suites by Marriott Outer Banks Kill Devil Hills

Front Exterior of TownePlace Suites by Marriott Outer Banks Kill Devil Hills
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Address: 2028 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948

Sleek and modern with nautical touches, the TownePlace Suites by Marriott Outer Banks Kill Devil Hills is near Nags Head Beach and Kill Devil Hills Beach.

Spacious guest rooms have seating areas, a desk, and a terrace. There’s an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a stylish lobby area, and free continental or buffet breakfast.

Some rooms have a kitchenette with a dishwasher, which is convenient for extended stays. This OBX hotel is pet friendly.

Luxury Hotels in Kill Devil Hills

6. Outer Banks Beach Club Resort

Empty Lobby with Wooden Floors
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Address: 1110 South Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948

The beachfront Outer Banks Beach Club Resort offers one, two, or three-bedroom suites in unique hexagon-shaped buildings. There are two swimming pools and a hot tub as well as tennis courts and shuffleboard.

It’s the perfect location to base your trip around a Corolla wild horse tour.

Rentals in Kill Devil Hills

7. Dancing Dolphin – Oceanfront Retreat

Living Space in Dancing Dolphin Retreat
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Address: Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948

For a space of your own, check out Dancing Dolphin – Oceanfront Retreat. It features two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a full kitchen.

It’s near the Second Street beach access path. Beach chairs, sand toys, umbrellas, and coolers are available for guest use. Enjoy high-speed internet access, a DVD collection, streaming services, books, and beachfront views.

Manteo: Best Area for Budget Travelers

Manteo is a quaint waterfront area on Roanoke Island, the site of the first English settlement in America. Victorian architecture, small inns, and a variety of restaurants and historic attractions make up the area.

While you’ll have to drive to an Atlantic Ocean beach, you will have access to Roanoke and Croatan Sound for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.

It’s about an hour’s drive from Manteo to the northern Outer Banks to check into a guided wild horse tour in Corolla. Consider a tour company such as Back Beach Wild Horse Tours or Bob’s Corolla Wild Horse Tours to see these beautiful animals.

Here are a few things to do in Manteo…

  • Visit the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse and the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum.
  • Watch a production of the Lost Colony, which tells the story of the newly established English colonies who lived, and then disappeared from, the area. It’s the nation’s longest-running outdoor drama.
  • Stroll along the Manteo waterfront and check out the shops and cafés or take a sunset or dolphin-watching cruise.
  • Climb aboard the Elizabeth II, a full-scale replica of the ship that brought colonists to the Americas. It can be seen from the harbor.
  • Enjoy fine dining at 1587 Lounge located at the historic Tranquil House Inn.
  • Commune with sea creatures at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

Budget Hotels in Manteo

8. Elizabethan Inn

Bed with White Pillow and Maroon Blanket
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Address: 814 US Highway 64, Manteo, North Carolina 27954

The Elizabethan Inn is perfectly situated for walking to the Manteo waterfront. It has a fitness center, an on-site restaurant (Andy’s Pancake & Grill), free Wi-Fi, grills, and a gazebo. Pet-friendly rooms are available with prior notice.

Enjoy the dining, shopping, and sightseeing of downtown Manteo before or after visiting the wild horses of Corolla.

Mid-Range Hotels in Manteo

9. Island Motel OBX

Room with Two Beds
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Address: 706 North Highway 64, Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Island Motel OBX offers free Wi-Fi, a terrace, and a shared lounge area. The motor lodge setting features cozy rooms with tile floors and kitchenettes.

While small and inconspicuous, it offers comfort and convenience to downtown Manteo and a Corolla wild horse guided tour.

Luxury Hotels in Manteo

10. Tranquil House Inn

Charming and Neat Bedroom
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Address: 405 Queen Elizabeth Avenue, Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Located right on the waterfront, the Nantucket-style Tranquil House Inn offers the comfort and elegance of four-poster beds, canopies, and antique décor.

Mini suites have separate bedrooms and sitting areas.

Continental breakfast is available every morning. Relax on spacious decks and patios while enjoying views of downtown Manteo. Choose from harbor or village views for a luxury OBX hotel experience.

11. White Doe Inn Bed and Breakfast

Luxurious Room with a Fireplace
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Address: 319 Sir Walter Raleigh Street, Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Victorian architecture, a white picket fence, and colorful gardens greet guests at the White Doe Inn Bed & Breakfast. Tile floors, fireplaces, and seating areas with antiques and elegant wallcoverings make cozy rooms.

The inn has a spa, a wellness center, and free bikes for guest use. Breakfast is included. For a luxury adults-only getaway, you can’t beat this pet-friendly OBX inn.

See Related: Proven Ways to Get Free Hotel Rooms

Rentals in Manteo

12. Waterfront Condo in Historic District

Bed with Lampshades
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Address: Manteo Harbor, North Carolina 27954

This second-floor waterfront Manteo condo overlooks the historic Manteo harbor. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living area, a full kitchen, and a balcony. Internet access is available. There is a washer/dryer for extra convenience.

Duck: Best Area for Luxury Travelers

Located north of the main OBX beach area, Duck is a quieter location and a great anchorage for wild horse tours. It received the name Duck around the turn of the 20th century from the popularity of, you guessed it, duck hunting.

Duck is about a 25-minute drive from where you check in for Colonial Spanish mustangs tours.

Here are some fun things to do in Duck …

Mid-Range Hotels in Duck

13. Barrier Island Station, a VRI Resort

Buildings and Pool in Barrier Island Station
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Address: 1245 Duck Road, Duck, North Carolina 27949

Located in the Village of Duck, Barrier Island Station makes a great spot to relax after wild horse tours. It has a lagoon-style swimming pool, a playground, BBQ grills, picnic tables, and tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts.

Guest room accommodations at this timeshare resort offer one, two, or three-bedroom units with kitchens, Wi-Fi, spacious seating areas, and decks. Some have fireplaces and hot tubs.

Luxury Hotels in Duck

14. Sanderling Resort

Building and the Pool of Sanderling Resort Outer Banks
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Address: 1461 Duck Road, Duck, North Carolina 27949

The Sanderling Resort is on a thin strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound. From some rooms, you can see both waterways.

Guest rooms are elegant and refined with neutral shades accented with pops of color.

There’s a fitness center, tennis courts, and mixed-use trails for biking, walking, and running. Hotel amenities include three on-site restaurants, two outdoor swimming pools, one indoor pool, a spa, and a salon.

Enjoy sunrises and sunsets as well as live music, yoga sessions, and other events. If you’re planning a wedding, this is the place to have it.

Rentals in Duck

15. Blues Run Oceanfront Beach Cottage

Living Area in Blues Run Oceanfront
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Address: Duck, North Carolina 27949

With calm colors, exposed beam ceilings, and coastal décor, the oceanfront, Blues Run oceanfront cottage sleeps eight and has four bedrooms and three and a half baths.

One of the rooms has two sets of bunk beds, making this a great choice for kids and cousins spending a week together.

This pet-friendly cottage rental has a community swimming pool, internet access, a washer/dryer, a fireplace, a screened-in dining area, and a deck with ocean views.

Hatteras Island: Best Area for Safety

While all areas of the OBX are safe for families, singles, and groups, we chose Hatteras Island for its secluded location.

It’s just you and nature out here, baby. Die-hard Hatteras fans come year after year for the peace, quiet, natural beauty, and wild animals such as birds, turtles, dolphins, and whales (depending on the time of year, of course).

There are family-friendly activities and attractions, but you may have to drive a while to get to them.

Hatteras Island is approximately a two-hour drive to Corolla wild horse tours.

Check out some of the fun things to do on Hatteras Island …

Budget Hotels in Hatteras Island

16. Hatteras Island Inn

Huge Pool and Loungers in  Hatteras Island Inn
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Address: 46745 North Carolina Highway 12, Buxton, North Carolina 27920

Hatteras Island Inn, located near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, is an excellent choice for boaters as it has spacious parking for boat trailers. Guest rooms have wifi, a microwave, and a mini-fridge. There’s a swimming pool if you prefer fresh to salty water.

This Outer Banks accommodation offers comfort, seclusion, and a great spot to base a visit to Outer Banks wild horses.

Mid-Range Hotels in Hatteras Island

17. Swell Motel

Spacious Room with Two Beds
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Address: 46854 North Carolina 12. PO Box 633, Buxton, North Carolina 27953

Swell Motel is a swell pet-friendly find on Hatteras Island. Guest rooms have a patio and free wifi. Some rooms have seating areas. There’s an outdoor swimming pool, a tennis court, and a playground as well as picnic tables and grills for outdoor dining.

See Related: Hotel vs. Motel vs. Inn

Luxury Hotels in Hatteras Island

18. Cape Hatteras Motel

Single Bed Room
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Address: 46556 Highway 12, Buxton, North Carolina 27920

Within easy access to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Motel has a private beach, a pool, and a hot tub.

All rooms have a mini-fridge, a microwave, and internet access (though it can be spotty in this remote location). Some rooms have fully equipped kitchens, which is nice for extended stays.

Located along Cape Hatteras National Seashore, anglers in your group will love the fishing access. The hotel has fish cleaning stations and a deep freezer for all the big catches.

Campgrounds in Hatteras Island

19. Camp Hatteras RV Resort and Campground

Camp Hatteras RV Resort and Campground has ocean and sound side sites for RVs and tents. Full hookup sites have concrete pads and patios. There’s a clubhouse, a conference center, an indoor heated pool, an outdoor pool, a kiddie pool, and a hot tub.

Stay active with tennis, shuffleboard, and basketball. This Hatteras campground has a marina and watersports rentals as well as bathhouses, laundry facilities, mini-golf, and bicycle rental.

Nags Head: Best Area for Families

Nags Head offers a wide variety of mini golf, go-kart tracks, laser tag, and other fun attractions to make it our favorite choice for families. Seclusion is great, but when it’s time to get out of the sun for a while, it’s good to have activities to keep the kids entertained.

Here are a few things to do in Nags Head …

Budget Hotels in Nags Head

20. Surf Side Hotel

Room with a Bed and a Couch
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Address: 6701 Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, North Carolina 27959

Surf Side Hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, an indoor pool, and free wifi. Some rooms have kitchenettes and seating areas. Located on Nags Head Beach, it’s a great choice for viewing the Corolla wild horses.

Mid-Range Hotels in Nags Head

21. Shutters on the Banks

Indoor Pool in Shutters on the Banks

Address: 405 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948

The oceanfront Shutters on the Banks has an indoor and outdoor saltwater pool, a hot tub, and a gazebo. Rooms have internet access, coffeemakers, and mini-fridges. Enjoy complimentary daily breakfast before hitting the beach or heading out to see the wild Spanish mustangs.

Rentals in Nags Head

22. Beagle by the Sea

Building Front Exterior of  Beagle By The Sea
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Address: Nags Head, North Carolina

Pine walls and bright colors make this beach cottage a fun and relaxing place to spend the week. Beagle by the Sea has four bedrooms, two full baths, and two half baths.

There’s an oceanfront hot tub, decks on east and west sides, an outdoor shower, and a grill. It’s easily accessible to the wild horses of Corolla with a company such as Bob’s Wild Horse Tours or Hummer Adventure Tours.

See Related: Beautiful 7 Star Hotels from Around the World

Corolla: Best Area for Unique Experiences

While you could stay in any area of the OBX to see wild horses, Corolla is one of the closest. If you’re staying in the remote 4X4 area, you might even see this cultural treasure hanging out in the backyard (a natural habitat, of sorts, for them). Speaking of 4X4, that’s how you’ll get to this area (by 4-wheel drive vehicle) Anything else, and you’ll be stuck in the sand.

Looking for some things to do in Corolla? Here ya go …

  • Book Corolla wild horse tours with Corolla Jeep Adventures or Wild Horse Adventure Tours, which takes guests via Hummer to previously unreachable Wild Horse Sanctuary at Swan Beach.
  • Check out the Corolla Wild Horse Museum and purchase a souvenir or two. All proceeds go towards the care of the wild horses through the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
  • Drive your 4-wheel drive vehicle onto the beach and set up for a day of relaxation.
  • Climb the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

Mid-Range Hotels in Corolla

23. Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks/Corolla

Chairs by the Fireplace in Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks
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Address: 333 Audubon Drive, Corolla, North Carolina 27927

The beachfront Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks/Corolla has an indoor and outdoor pool and a hot tub. Spacious guest rooms have a microwave, a mini-fridge, free Wi-Fi, seating areas, and either a balcony or a patio. Enjoy daily continental breakfast.

24. The Inn at Corolla Lighthouse

Inn by the Lake
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Address: 1066 Ocean Trail, Corolla, North Carolina 27927

Located on Currituck Sound, the Inn at Corolla Lighthouse  Guest rooms have a mini-fridge, a microwave, and seating areas. Rooms are decked out in calm colors and comfortable furniture. Relax on the deck overlooking the sound or borrow a bike to pedal around town.

Rentals in Corolla

25. Cottage on 4X4 Beach

Fully Furnished Living Area
Photo by VRBO

Address: Carova Beach

This cottage on a 4×4 beach sits among the dunes and makes the perfect spot to spend the week surf fishing, swimming, and relaxing. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available to use. This OBX cottage is pet friendly, so bring those four-legged friends along.

How to Get Around Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks is an easy destination to navigate by car. Highway 12 runs from Corolla to the end of the land at the Hatteras Island Ferry, which then goes on to Ocracoke Island.

U.S. Route 158 (or S. Croatan Highway) runs from Kitty Hawk to the causeway where it becomes Route 64 and meets up with Virginia Dare Trail (12).

Highways 12 and 158 come together at Whalebone Junction where 12 splits off toward Hatteras and 158 goes toward Manteo.

Arriving From Elsewhere

The closest major airport to the Outer Banks is Norfolk International Airport (ORF). It’s approximately 100 miles away, so you’ll want to rent a car.


Where is a good place to stay in the Outer Banks near Corolla wild horse tours?

For quick access to the beautiful horses of the Outer Banks, you’ll want to choose Duck, Corolla, or Carova Beach. Any of the other villages in the Outer Banks are great choices. It’s just going to be a longer drive to get to the tour meeting location.

What are the best neighborhoods to stay in Outer Banks?

Diehard Outer Banks fans each have their own favorite place to stay. It’s all in what you’re looking for (and willing to drive).

If you prefer serenity and that “away-from-it-all” feeling, Hatteras Island and Corolla are good areas. For lots of activities, attractions, and restaurants, check out Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Duck.

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