If you’re planning things to do in the Outer Banks for an upcoming beach vacation or weekend getaway, you’ve surfed to the right place. We’ve got the lowdown on all the highest-rated and most favored activities and attractions for families, couples, and single travelers.
The East Coast barrier islands known as the Outer Banks consist of a slim sliver of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck, Albemarle, and Pamlico Sounds. It’s nearly 175 miles long in a north-south direction.
The area features a wide range of sandy beaches, surf shops, a massive sand dune, historic lighthouses, national parks, outdoor activities, wild horses, and some of the most pet-friendly beaches you’ll find (though, pets do need to be leashed during certain times).
Hollywood even has its hand in the OBX spotlight. The 2008 Nicholas Sparks novel-turned-movie (starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane), Nights in Rodanthe, was filmed along these barrier islands. The famous, blue-shuttered house can still be seen and even rented. It’s known as the Inn at Rodanthe.
Fishing fans may have heard of the National Geographic Channel’s Wicked Tuna: North vs South (the boats leave out of the OBX Marina). The Netflix series Outer Banks is set there (but obviously filmed elsewhere).
If it’s good enough for Gere, it’s good enough for us. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Fun Things to Do in Outer Banks, North Carolina
- Southern Shores
- Kitty Hawk
- Kill Devil Hills
- Nags Head
- Roanoke Island
- Hatteras Island
- Ocracoke Island
- 48. Ocracoke Island Lighthouse
- 49. Ocracoke’s Lifeguarded Beach
- Getting Around Outer Banks
- What are the best tourist attractions in Outer Banks?
- What are some fun things to do in Outer Banks?
- What is the best thing to do with kids in Outer Banks?
- What are some things to do in Outer Banks when it’s raining?
- Most Significant Landmark in Outer Banks – Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
- Best Park in Outer Banks – Jockey’s Ridge State Park
- Best Free Activity in Outer Banks – The Hatteras – Ocracoke ferry
- Best Activity for Kids in Outer Banks – Kite flying and crab hunting
- Best Activity for Adults in Outer Banks – Live music at Fish Heads
- Best Food in Outer Banks – Basnight’s Lone Cedar Café
- Best Nightlife in Outer Banks – Karaoke Night at the Jolly Roger
- Best All-Around Accommodation in Outer Banks – Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Nags Head Oceanfront
Fun & Best Fun Things to Do in Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Corolla Beach section is the northernmost region of the Outer Banks chain. It’s along the northern shores, which are north of Duck and just south of the 4WD beaches of Carova. Corolla Beach is a more secluded area than some of the more southern areas of the region.
1. Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Visit the 162-foot-tall Currituck Beach Lighthouse to climb its 220 steps for panoramic views. Or stay on the ground and look up. Either way, don’t forget your camera!
The red brick lighthouse was first lit in 1875 and is always a fun stop on any Outer Banks vacation.
2. Whalehead in Historic Corolla
Built in 1925 the historic home of Whalehead (now an event venue) is a 24,000-square-foot mansion with a copper roof and mahogany doors. The interior is a stunning display of art nouveau-style décor, antique furnishings, and Tiffany glass.
The bright yellow Whalehead mansion sits on 39 acres along Currituck Sound in historic Corolla Park. On the National Register of Historic Places, it’s a popular spot for anniversaries, receptions, birthdays, wedding ceremonies, and other special events.
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3. Wild Horse and ATV Dune Tours
Gather the whole crew and book wild horse tours or ATV, 4-WD, and off-road dune tours. This is one of the most fun things to do on the North Carolina coast. Tours travel to the four-wheel drive areas of Corolla and Carova beach.
Experienced, knowledgeable, and sometimes hilarious tour guides know where the wild horses hang out. The Corolla wild horses live on a 7,544-acre wild horse sanctuary and can be seen around private homes and on the beach.
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4. Wild Horse Museum
Operated by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, the Wild Horse Museum features information and interactive displays on the Colonial Spanish mustangs that live on the island. You’ll find it in the Old Corolla Village.
5. Kilmarlic Golf Club
For the golfers in the group, the Kilmarlic Golf Club has previously been rated by Golfweek as the #14 Best Courses you can Play in North Carolina. Tee off and practice your swing along coastal ponds, lakes, and scenic natural hazards.
Looking for a hotel in the Corolla area?
The Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks/Corolla has an indoor and outdoor pool, a hot tub, meeting facilities, a fitness center, and a convenience store.
Guests can enjoy daily continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and patios or balconies at this beachfront hotel. Some rooms have kitchenettes and extra living areas.
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Quiet and quaint, the small town of Duck offers a beautiful sandy beach, high-end and casual restaurants, shopping, and the Duck boardwalk. It got its name from its duck hunting history.
6. Soundside Duck Boardwalk on Currituck Sound
You won’t find the bustling entertainment avenues of boardwalks in Virginia Beach, Ocean City, or Myrtle Beach in the Outer Banks. Instead, the mile-long Duck Boardwalk offers a relaxing place to enjoy the view or watch the sunset.
7. Scarborough Lane Shoppes
Scarborough Lane Shoppes is a two-story complex filled with toy, jewelry, apparel, candy, and even Christmas shops. Head across the street for home décor, souvenirs, surf apparel, and more at The Farmer’s Daughter and Surfside Casuals waterfront shops.
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8. Duck Doughnuts
Duck Doughnuts, at Osprey Landing Sound Front Shops, is one of those can’t miss treats. Fresh and made-to-order circles of goodness are a staple of every OBX visit.
Cake doughnuts are drizzled with flavored toppings that include blueberry, lemon, strawberry, and peanut butter icing. You can even get a bacon-topped one.
There are several other Duck Doughnuts locations around the Outer Banks, including Nags Head and Hatteras Island.
9. AQUA Restaurant & Spa
For live music, entertainment, and a delicious meal with a sunset view, AQUA is a top spot in Duck. The sound side restaurant is open for lunch and dinner with a menu of specialty dishes like roasted French cut chicken breast, seared duck breast, crab cakes, shrimp and grits, and other local seafood and farm-fresh produce.
The on-site full-service spa offers facials, Swedish and aromatherapy massages, waxing, manicures, and pedicures.
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Again with the beautiful beaches, you won’t find a lot of restaurants and shopping in the Southern Shores community of Outer Banks, North Carolina. It’s a more residential area of the Outer Banks. Located just south of Duck, it’s within easy access to other towns around the Outer Banks.
There’s a paved walking and bicycling path between this area and Duck. This is a great spot for those who like a natural and secluded setting but still want to be close to attractions and activities.
10. Ghost Crab Quest
This super fun and unique activity is a hit with the kids. You’ll join a tour guide who will take you on a nighttime hunt for Atlantic ghost crabs. This is ecotourism at its best as you and the youngsters search for and discover all there is to know about these sneaky creatures.
You can also learn about birdwatching, astronomy, pirate history, and other ocean critters on these fun tours. Bring the whole crew!
11. OBXscape Rooms
Looking for an indoor Outer Banks activity?
Escape rooms are all the rage these days, and the OBX has a fun one.
Located in the Southern Shores Crossing shopping center, the gist of the experience is to solve riddles, search for clues, and escape the room before the time’s up. Themes include a cold case murder mystery, a lab meltdown, a speakeasy, a prison, a ship mutiny, and more.
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This town is home to parks and nature reserves and is famous for those two guys from Ohio, the Wright Brothers. They found that the soft Kitty Hawk beach sand was the perfect landing spot for flight practice (though, the actual flights took place in Kill Devil Hills).
12. Pier Fishing
Many OBX anglers like to fish from the beach or on an offshore boat charter. If you prefer to cast from a pier, head to the Avalon Pier at milepost 6. There is a fee, but it’s an excellent spot for teaching the kids to fish and sunrise viewing. There’s an arcade, a snack shack, a sandy beach, and the Stonefish BeachBar.
If you happen to be staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Kitty Hawk, you can use their pier (which used to be the Kitty Hawk Pier before the Hilton purchased it).
The pet-friendly Hilton has two pools, a fitness center, banquet rooms, on-site dining, and a game room. Guest rooms have a mini fridge, a microwave, balconies or patios, and beach access.
13. H2OBX Waterpark
Pirates, dunes, and wild horses are the themes at H2OBX Waterpark. While not technically in the Outer Banks, this fun water park is within easy access (about 13 miles away in Powells Point) and makes a great day trip from Outer Banks beaches.
Enjoy colorful slides, water obstacles, a Flow Rider surf simulator, and a meandering lazy river.
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14. Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve
Search for otters, turtles, and other animals. The 1,890-acre area is located along Albemarle Sound and Kitty Hawk Bay. It’s a great place for hiking, kayaking, and nature watching. Sandy Run Park, which runs through the reserve, has a boardwalk, nature trails, picnic areas, and a basketball half-court.
Habitats include a deciduous forest, an interdune forest, and a maritime swamp forest. Along with animals, you might also notice orchids, rare plants, and birds such as the great blue heron, laughing gulls, hummingbirds, starlings, and more.
15. Monument to a Century of Flight
The Monument to a Century of Flight, located in Memorial Park near the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, is a unique tribute to the first flight of the Wright Brothers – the first powered flight in human history.
It features 14 stainless steel pylons that range in height from 10 to 20 feet. Aviation history milestones are printed on the pylons.
The pylons form a length of 120 feet rotating around a bronze dome on the ground, which symbolizes the earth’s continents. The Wright Brothers’ first flight on December 17, 1903, while a huge leap in terms of human engineering, was a mere length of 120 feet.
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16. Sea Scape Golf Links
Built into the natural beauty of the Outer Banks, Sea Scape Golf Links is a premier golfing destination. There’s a pro shop, club rentals, and the Sandtrap Tavern restaurant.
Located near the Wright Brothers Memorial and Sea Scape Golf Links, the Baymont by Wyndham Kitty Hawk Outer Banks is a mid-range Outer Banks hotel option. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool, and free Wi-Fi. Guest rooms have a mini-fridge and a microwave.
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Kill Devil Hills
About four miles south of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills offers a variety of activities for beachgoers and families. Among the many attractions in Kill Devil Hills are historic landmarks, entertainment options, mini golf, and other activities.
17. Wright Brothers National Memorial
One of the most well-known stops in the Outer Banks, the Wright Brothers National Memorial pays tribute to the research, planning, and test flights that took place along the soft OBX sands in the early 1900s.
Check out the Wright Brothers Visitor Center at the Wright Brothers National Memorial to see interactive exhibits and displays on aviation history and the achievements of Wilbur and Orville Wright.
Other sites on the Kill Devil Hills property include reconstructed 1903 camp buildings, a sculpture depicting the 1903 flight, and the actual commemorative 60-foot-tall monument itself (located at the top of Kill Devil Hill where the gliding tests took place).
18. Brew Thru Drive-Through Convenience Store
You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the cool factor of a drive-thru beverage and convenience store. Yes, really. It’s like pulling into a car wash. Except you need your window down to let attendants know what you want.
Here you can buy beer, wine, soft drinks, and a bunch of other items. They’re all lined up in refrigerators along the sides of the drive-thru. Don’t forget to pick up a t-shirt – each year is a new design! But remember, just because you purchased it from your car doesn’t mean you can drink it in your car!
Brew-Thru isn’t just a Kill Devil Hills institution. There are several locations in the Outer Banks, including Nags Head.
Conveniently located between Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head, the Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Nags Head Oceanfront makes a terrific beachfront address to anchor your OBX vacation.
Free Wi-Fi, an indoor pool (Yay, winter OBX visits!), a hot tub, an on-site restaurant and tiki hut, indoor and outdoor event space, a business center, and that beachfront view are all winners in our opinion. It’s also pet-friendly, so bring those fur babies along!
Shutters on the Beach is another conveniently located Kill Devil Hills hotel with beach access along Outer Banks beaches. Guests can enjoy the outdoor pool, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a fitness room, a complimentary daily breakfast, and free Wi-Fi as they relax at this beachfront location.
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The central portion of the Outer Banks, Nags Head is a popular vacation destination for families and groups of all sizes. If you hear travelers say they’re “going to Nags Head,” they don’t necessarily mean the town of Nags Head.
They may simply mean anywhere along the Outer Banks (but not Hatteras Island). The name is just so well known that it’s just the first thing out of a person’s mouth. You can take that from the horse’s mouth!
19. Jockey’s Ridge State Park
The most interesting of the state parks, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is made up of a gigantic sand dune (they’re the tallest active sand dunes in the eastern U.S. in case you were wondering). There are also trails and a sound side beach area and nature trail, but really, it’s all about the sand dunes.
The 427-acre area is popular in the evenings for kite flying and sunsets (that sand is HOT during the day).
Hang gliding lessons and “sand-surfing” (careening down the dunes on either a boogie board or your body – typically done by the younger set) are also popular. Hang gliding lessons are offered by Kitty Hawk Kites. There’s a visitor’s center, a museum, and a 360-foot boardwalk for viewing and learning.
The Holiday Inn Express Nags Head Oceanfront, an IHG Hotel (formerly known as the Nags Head Inn) is right on the soft sand of the beach near Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
There’s an indoor heated pool, a complimentary buffet breakfast, a business center, and a fitness center. Spacious rooms have a mini-fridge, a Keurig machine, a microwave, and free Wi-Fi. Some guest rooms have a sofa bed.
20. Bodie Island Lighthouse
Built in 1872, the horizontal black and white stripes on the Bodie Island Lighthouse give it a distinctive look. The Bodie Island Lighthouse is 156 feet tall and shines a beacon that reaches 19 miles off the national seashore.
Climb the 214 steps to the top (for a small fee) for panoramic views of marshland, Bodie Island, the Atlantic Ocean, maritime forests, and saltwater ponds.
The Bodie Island Lighthouse is located on the Roanoke Sound side of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Bodie Island has a visitor center, a museum, and the Bodie Island Lighthouse.
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21. Reel ‘em In
The Fishin’ Fannatic, a 53-foot Viking Sportfisher, leaves out of Wanchese Marina and heads about 40 miles offshore. Spend the day casting a line for mahi, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, and billfish.
Everything is provided on this full-day charter (you do need to bring your own lunch and beverages) on Hatteras National Seashore. The boat has an air-conditioned interior for when that Outer Banks sun comes on strong (and it does). A built-in box to store the day’s catch.
For pier fishing, check out the Outer Banks Fishing Pier at milepost 18.5. There’s a tackle shop, rod and reel rental, boat rental options, and video games.
Located by the 600-foot pier, Fish Heads Bar and Grill is one of the most popular places for nightlife. Enjoy live music and drinks right on the beach.
22. Nags Head Golf Links
The 18-hole championship golf course blends the dunes, sea grass, and coast of the OBX with a traditional Scottish design. The course fronts Roanoke Sound and is an excellent idea for Nags Head things to do.
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23. Souvenir and Surf Shopping
The Kitty Hawk Kites shopping complex at Jockey’s Ridge Crossing, across from Jockey’s Ridge State Park, is one of the most popular spots for surfing, surf shops, ice cream and fudge stands, souvenirs, and more.
For a side trip you can book a surfing lesson on the Outer Banks.
24. Carolina Cuisine
Pay a visit to some, or all (Hey, you’re on vacation, calories don’t count, right?), of these OBX favorites. Not in your Sunday best? No worries. There’s no such thing as Sunday best in the OBX. It’s as beachside casual as you can get.
The Food Network’s main man, Guy Fieri, has filmed several episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives among the eclectic eateries dotting the OBX seascape. Check out Tortuga’s Lie, Ortega’z Southwestern Grill & Wine Bar, The Weeping Radish, The Black Pelican, and The Outer Banks Brewing Station.
Other Outer Banks restaurants include:
- Rundown Café
- Sooey’s BBQ
- Hurricane Moe’s Beachside Bar and Grille
- Barefoot Bernie’s Tropical Grill & Bar
- Surfin’ Spoon
- Sam & Omie’s
- Basnight’s Lone Cedar Café
- Tale of the Whale
- Sugar Creek Seafood Restaurant
- Dirty Dick’s Crabhouse
- The Colington Café
- Mama Kwan’s Tiki Bar
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25. Seaside Art Gallery
Whether you’re looking for nautical, animals and wildlife, abstract, contemporary, or animation art (or just browsing), Seaside Art Gallery is your place to be. There’s also estate jewelry, art shows, and a gift shop at this North Carolina art gallery.
26. Pier fishing
Cast a line at Jennette’s Pier or the Nags Head Pier. Both are excellent spots to spend a leisurely time enjoying the wind and water. The Nags Head Pier has a restaurant, tiki bar, and a tackle shop with rod and reel rentals.
Jennette’s Pier, located at milepost 16.5, has a pier house with science exhibits and a 3,000 lb. aquarium. Outdoors, there are 1,000 feet of concrete pier to wander. The pier was originally built in 1939 and is the oldest in the OBX. You can’t miss it with those cool wind turbines spinning above the water.
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27. Bumper Boats at Kitty Hawk Watersports
Get competitive (or just plain silly) on water bumper boats. Two-person boats float around in a pool and feature steering wheels and super soaker-like nozzles to spray, splash, and all-out soak your friends, family members, or complete strangers.
28. Watersports around Nags Head
If there’s a watersport you’ve always wanted to try, the Outer Banks is the place to try it out. You can take lessons and eco-tours with Nags Head Watersports, Kitty Hawk Watersports, and others around the area.
Already know how to manage these activities but just don’t have the space in your vehicle to bring everything?
You can rent kayaks, canoes, surfboards, SUPS, and more from a wide range of businesses in the OBX. Don’t forget to book a Nags Head kayak tour too.
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29. Full Throttle Speedway Go-Karts
Channel your inner speed demon as you zip and zoom around the go-kart track. Two tracks can hold up to 20 cars at a time. Double and single cars are available. There’s even a track just for the little ones.
After the race, fill up on ice cream, cotton candy, and pretzels before heading back to the Outer Banks beaches.
30. OBX Laser Tag
Convince the whole gang to run around in the dark zapping each other with lasers is a fun idea. It is, trust us!
OBX Laser Tag has two levels and more than 20 different laser games. There’s also an arcade for those who prefer old-school entertainment.
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31. Live Like a Pirate!
The Outer Banks Pirate Festival takes place at Kitty Hawk Kites round about the second week in August (the 2022 event was held August 9 -11). Learn about all things piracy, whether real or folkloric. This is a favorite among kids of all ages.
If you’re looking for hotels in this section of the Outer Banks? The oceanfront Colonial Inn is a great choice for families.
It offers rooms with a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a flat-screen TV. Some rooms have a full kitchen, which is nice for an extended vacation. There’s an outdoor pool, oceanfront deck seating, and direct access to the beach.
Prefer the comfort and convenience of an Outer Banks beach cottage?
It’s in the Village at Nags Head community. Visitors can use the Village Beach Club’s oceanfront pool, kiddie pool, and tennis courts.
Famously known as the site of the first English settlement (and perhaps the biggest mystery of the New World), Roanoke Island has a fishing village vibe among its harborside restaurants, shops, and attractions.
32. The Manteo Waterfront
The Manteo, North Carolina waterfront is always a fun spot for an evening stroll. Go boat-gazing, visit the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, or just sit and relax as the sun sets and the kids get out some energy on the playground in the town park.
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33. Elizabeth II Replica Ship
As you’re enjoying the Manteo waterfront, you’ll probably notice a ship across the way. That would be the Elizabeth II. The 69-foot square-rigged sailing vessel was built in Manteo to represent the vessels that sailed in 1584 through 1587.
It was built as part of America’s 400th birthday celebration in 1985. It’s named after one of the original ships that sailed (in the 1585 expedition), not the current Queen Elizabeth II.
There were three voyages and a total of seven ships. Sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh, the was charter issued by Queen Elizabeth I – whom the ship is named after (phew!).
Encounter costumed 16th Century costumed sailors, learn how to use an astrolabe, check out the quarterdeck, and raise the anchor.
34. Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
This small cottage-like lighthouse sits in Shallowbag Bay on Roanoke Sound. Educational exhibits inside include an 1800s Fresnel lens and other pieces of North Carolina maritime history. It’s one of our favorite Outer Banks attractions.
35. Roanoke Island Festival Park
The Outer Banks History Center, the Adventure Museum, and the American Indian Town are located within the Roanoke Island Festival Park on Roanoke Island.
This walk-through Outer Banks exhibit displays the life and times of the 16th Century through exhibits on harvesting, hide tanning, weaving, net making, canoe making, boat building, and more. It’s located at Roanoke Island Festival Park just across from the Manteo harbor.
Roanoke Island is also the site of an annual Outer Banks bluegrass festival. For a side trip, book a Manteo Historic Walking Tour.
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36. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
This is the actual site of the Roanoke Colony, the first English settlement in the U.S. in 1587. There’s no fee to enter the park. You can explore the visitor center and Raleigh National Historic site grounds as much as you like.
Two popular sites at the park do require a fee, and that’s the Elizabethan Gardens and the Lost Colony outdoor drama performance.
37. Get Lost in History at the Lost Colony
The waterfront Lost Colony, performed at the Waterside Theatre, is the longest-running outdoor symphonic drama in the nation. Through comedy, drama, music, dance, and romance, you’ll learn the story of the people who settled in the area in the 1500s
It was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green and first performed on stage in 1937.
A bit of trivia; Former Manteo, North Carolina resident Andy Griffith performed with the Lost Colony in the early part of his career!
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38. Elizabethan Gardens
Also located at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Elizabethan Garden features elaborate botanical displays. Italian marble statues and art are mixed in among the flowering plants, trees, and shrubs.
There’s a bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth I and Virginia Dare (the first child born in the New World) at this Outer Banks attraction.
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39. North Carolina Aquarium
Whether it’s raining or you need a break from the Outer Banks sun along Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the North Carolina Aquariums is a great way to spend some time.
Habitats and exhibits at this Atlantic museum include wetlands, rivers, the sea, and shipwrecks. Visit with otters, stingrays, jellyfish, sharks, alligators, and other marine life while learning about sea turtle conservation and local coastal waters and ocean waves.
40. OBX Parasail
Motor out of the Manteo, North Carolina waterfront as you soar high above the Outer Banks sound on a parasail. This is an excellent (albeit fear-inducing for those hesitant of heights) Outer Banks activity to get in a good view of the area.
41. Get with the Ghosts
Book an Outer Banks Ghost Walking Tour to learn all about Manteo’s history, folklore, and pirate past. You’ll tour downtown by lantern light on this two-hour tour. Meet at 105 Sir Walter Raleigh St. beside Ortega’z Southwestern Grill and Wine Bar and Reynolds Barber Shop.
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42. Sunset and Dolphin Watching Tours
After a day in the sun and sand of the Outer Banks, a leisurely boat ride sounds just about right. Tours leave out of Pirate’s Cove Marina. Of course, you’re not guaranteed to see dolphins, but these captains know where to find them. Even a traditional sunset cruise can result in the viewing of dolphins.
Hatteras Island – which includes the towns of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras Village – sits along a secluded stretch of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Many OBX travelers swear Hatteras National Seashore is the best region of the Outer Banks barrier islands. For seclusion, long stretches of beach, and a nature lover’s ambiance, they have a valid point for choosing Cape Hatteras.
42. Oregon Inlet Fishing Center
Live out your favorite Wicked Tuna: North vs South episodes aboard a sportfishing charter as you cast or troll for Spanish mackerel, bluefish, flounder, trout, and more along the shores of the Outer Banks.
The largest charter fishing fleet on the East Coast, Oregon Inlet Fishing Center has a full-service marina and a fleet of serious offshore fishing vessels.
For Outer Banks pier fishing, check out the Avon Fishing Pier.
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43. Chicamacomico Life Saving Station
The Chicamacomico Life Saving Station, located in Rodanthe, is one of the most complete life saving stations in the nation. It’s dedicated to preserving the history and sacrifice of members of the U.S. Life Saving Services.
Buildings at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Chicamacomico Life Saving Station include an 1874 life saving station, an 1892 cook house, a 1911 cook house, a 1911 life saving station, and an 1897 boathouse.
44. The Futuro House Photo Op
Roadside oddities put the interest in any vacation. And the Outer Banks has an excellent one for you. The prefab Futuro structure, designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, makes the perfect photo op.
Shaped like a flying saucer, and sitting on a barren-looking spot of Outer Banks land, cardboard aliens peek out the window. You can’t go inside, but you’re welcome to walk around and admire this site, one of the unique things to do in Outer Banks.
The original concept of the Futuro house was to design a portable house that could be constructed on any type of terrain. They were built in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. We think it fits right in. It’s located along Highway 12 in Frisco.
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45. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The tallest brick lighthouse in the country is also one of the most historic lighthouses on the Atlantic coast.
The black and white spiral striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, located in the town of Buxton, was built in 1870. It’s 198.49 feet tall and has 200 steps. You’ve got to be invested to make that climb.
The east coast area guarded by the lighthouse is one of the most dangerous on the Atlantic coast, resulting in the nickname Graveyard of the Atlantic. One of the best things you can enjoy on your visit is the book Cape Hatteras Kayak Adventure in Rodanthe.
46. Hatteras Island Horseback Riding
If you’ve always dreamed of trotting across the sand on horseback, you’ve found your chance on Cape Hatteras. Hatteras Island Horseback Riding takes riders along the southernmost part of the Hatteras beach area.
You’ll be able to see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the Atlantic Ocean, Pamlico Sound, and other beautiful views on your ride.
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47. Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
The waters surrounding Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks are known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic due to the shipwrecks beneath the surface. Discover all there is to know about OBX maritime history at the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum.
The North Carolina Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum features exhibits on pirates (Blackbird and his cronies hung out here), the ghost ships sunk around the coast, Civil War battles, and the commercial fishing industry on Hatteras.
This charming oceanfront cottage in Avon is perfect for an Outer Banks vacation along the Graveyard of the Atlantic. It has four bedrooms, and three bathrooms, and can accommodate eight guests.
There’s Wi-Fi, an outdoor shower, a screened porch with a table and chairs, a rooftop seating area (all the better to watch the sunrise), and a charcoal grill.
For seriously secluded beaches and dunes, the fishing village town of Ocracoke Island, North Carolina is a winner. You’ll have to take the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry to get to Ocracoke Island. There are a couple of hotels, restaurants, and small shops for souvenirs, arts and crafts, t-shirts, and the like.
Stop into local restaurants such as Howard’s Pub and Raw Bar, Ocracoke Oyster Company, Helio’s Hideaway, SmacNally’s Waterfront Bar & Grill, Ocracoke Coffee Company, Back Porch Seafood, Old Salt Sandwiches and Such, and Sorrella’s Pizza and Pasta.
There are taco, slushy, and ice cream stands to appease the snack attacks.
48. Ocracoke Island Lighthouse
If you’re keeping up, this is our fifth Outer Banks lighthouse on this list. The white brick Ocracoke Lighthouse, built in 1823, is 75 feet tall. The grounds are open to visitors, but the lighthouse isn’t open for climbing. While it’s the smallest lighthouse in the Outer Banks, it’s the second oldest in the U.S.
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49. Ocracoke’s Lifeguarded Beach
Ocracoke’s Lifeguarded Beach, voted #1 by Dr. Beach in 2007 and 2022, is a stunning stretch of the North Carolina coast to relax, build sandcastles, and search for seashells.
What makes this beach really great for families is that there’s a restroom, outdoor showers, a boardwalk to the beach, and lots of parking. Per the name, there are lifeguards from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
50. Ocracoke Ghost & History Tour
Learn all about Outer Banks island lore such as the Phantom freighter and the ghost of the Ocracoke Harbor Inn. You’ll explore either the Creekside or Point area. Tours are about a mile and a half long and last 90 minutes.
Book an OBX Ghost Tour now.
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51. Further Afield
Portsmouth Island, also known as North Core Banks, is your next point of (very isolated) land after Ocracoke Island. Portsmouth Island is further south across Ocracoke Inlet (in between Ocracoke and Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Part of Cape Lookout, it’s about 16 miles of the uninhabited island protected by the National Park Service. Beach camping is allowed but there are no facilities.
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Getting Around Outer Banks
If you’re intent on exploring the Outer Banks (and especially if you’re going to hit up everything on this list) you’ll find it much easier if you drive. Do yourself a favor and get squared away with a rental from somewhere like Kayak ahead of time.
Croatan Highway/158 is the main road into the Outer Banks. Highway 12/Virginia Dare Trail (or simply the Beach Road) runs parallel to it along the beachfront from Corolla and Duck, through Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head, and all the way to Hatteras Island.
Hotels, beach cottages, vacation rentals, hotels, and attractions can be found along these two roads.
You’ll definitely want a vehicle to be able to navigate around the area and visit all the different towns and attractions, which are spread out. If you plan to head to the northern beaches of Corolla for the thrill of driving on the beach, you’ll want a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
At Hatteras Island, on the southern end of the chain, you’ll have to board a ferry (your car is allowed) to get to Ocracoke Island. After disembarking the ferry, it’s about six miles to the town of Ocracoke. Along the way, you’ll pass beaches, sand dunes, sound side inlets, and marshland.
What are the best tourist attractions in Outer Banks?
The Outer Banks is popular for historic attractions and landmarks like the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the North Carolina Aquarium, and the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.
What are some fun things to do in Outer Banks?
For many visitors, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is an Outer Banks staple. Flying kites, walking the trails, watching the sunset, and tumbling down the dunes are all fun things to do. Additionally, you can book wild horse tours, parasailing adventures, and fishing charters to round out the OBX adrenaline rush.
What is the best thing to do with kids in Outer Banks?
Besides the beach, there are lots of things to do with kids in the Outer Banks. Fun attractions and activities include mini golf, laser tag, kayaking, and paddleboarding adventure to take. Don’t miss sliding down the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
What are some things to do in Outer Banks when it’s raining?
When it’s raining in the Outer Banks, many folks head to the stores, a gift shop, or the outlet shopping center. Outlets Nags Head features stores such as American Eagle Outfitters, a Gap Factory Store, Polo Ralph Lauren, and more.
Check out the Scarborough Faire Shopping Center in Duck or a variety of other Outer Banks beach and surf shops.
On the other hand, you might want to find a beach bar or ice cream shop and relax with a cold drink. Awful Arthur’s, Tortuga’s Lie, the Surfin’ Spoon Frozen Yogurt Bar, and Hurricane Mo’s are popular spots.
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