When, Where and Why
The Outer Banks (OBX) is a popular beach destination in North Carolina, US. It’s a string of barrier islands that separate the Atlantic Ocean from the state’s mainland. A visit between May and September is sure to bring nice weather your way! My friends and I joke that the sun always shines on the OBX. It’s essentially a huge relaxed beach community with something enjoyable for everyone! From surfing, kayaking, SUB and other water sports to historical museums, epic sunsets, and mini/standard golf! It’s great for a friends- or family-trip, and both young and old will enjoy their time.
I’m super lucky to have a best friend with a house in Duck, OBX, so I’m able to go yearly! We usually go in early May to celebrate her birthday with a group of friends, and have been met with perfect weather each year. I’ve also had a few friends get married in the OBX (it makes for a lovely beach/lighthouse/dock wedding!) and have gone on some trips with my own family as well. It’s a great beach destination on the east coast of the US.
PSA: For all the Netflix lovers who have watched Outer Banks on Netflix – don’t be fooled – they filmed in South Carolina!
About the destination
The best thing about the Outer Banks, besides the beaches, is that people live there year round, so you’re not going to find a Jersey Shore, Atlantic City, Myrtle Beach like atmosphere. You’re going to find family friendly beaches, nice restaurants, plenty of supermarkets and grocery chains, and a really relaxed atmosphere. You’ll find tourist shops mixed in, but it’s not like going to Cape Cod and finding only expensive boutiques and tourist shops occupying entire streets. I think the OBX has found a really wonderful balance of function and vacation.
You will need a car to get around. The two closest airports to the Outer Banks are Norfolk International Airport (82 miles north) or Raleigh Durham International Airport (192 miles west), with the drive in being quite scenic, though usually full of traffic! Be patient, it’s worth it.
I’d highly recommend checking out AirBnB (use my link for $35 off your first AirBnB stay), VRBO or HomeAway for a rental. It’s so nice to leave the beach and go back to your “own” place, rather than a hotel room. It’ll also be great to have a kitchen so you don’t have to pay for three meals out a day! Most rentals will be walking distance from a beach which is a huge bonus too.
My favorite towns to stay in the OBX (listed from northern most to southern most) are:
Kill Devil Hills
Other popular destinations include:
Try This There
- Go to the beach! Kitty Hawk and Rodanthe are known for their beautiful beaches; Kill Devil Hills has large waves and great water sports options; Nags Head, Duck and Corolla also have attractive beaches. Duck is our favorite and it’s pet friendly – dogs can be off leash here! Some beaches even allow cars on them, so you can drive up with everything you need and spend the day.
- Duck Town Park Boardwalk – in Duck: a mile long boardwalk on the banks of the sound
- Jockey’s Ridge State Park – in Nags Head: the east coast’s largest sand dunes, perfect for sunset watching, hiking, picnics and relaxing.
- Bodie Island Lighthouse – in Nags Head
- Wright Brothers National Memorial – in Manteo: They took their first flight in Kitty Hawk!
- Learn about the Lost Colony of Roanoke by watching a play – in Manteo
- Visit the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens – in Manteo
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – in Buxton: Visit and even climb up the tallest brick lighthouse in America
- Water sports: go deep sea or off shore fishing, kayak, canoe, surf, skimboard, boogie board, kite surf, go tubing or jet skiing – any water sport you can dream up will have a rental, lesson or shop in the OBX!
- Golfing: there are some beautiful courses, including Currituck Club Golf Course in Corolla, Seascape Golf Links in Kitty Hawk, and Kilmarlic Golf Club in Powell’s Point. You’ll find family friendly mini-golf as well, including beloved favorite Mutiny Bay Adventure Golf in Nags Head.
- Visit the wild horses in Corolla! You can do this on your own or with a tour.
FOOD: Our favorite places in Duck include The Blue Point for a fancier meal out with great cocktails and Duck Deli for delicious BBQ and sandwiches.
The OBX has hundreds of locally owned restaurants! You’ll definitely find something to satisfy any craving.