Outer Banks, OBX, North Carolina Travel Guide



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Harbor Fest

Harbor Fest
by Anthony Vaarwerk

Things to do in Outer Banks North Carolina

Outer Banks North Carolina

The Outer Banks, OBX, is best known for its beautiful beaches, towns, and natural landscape.  The OBX is a 130-mile stretch of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. The Outer Banks area is a rich and unique collection of beaches along an island strip just east of North Carolina lining the Atlantic Coast, with an eclectic cultural heritage. Not only are the beaches a reason to visit, but exploring the history of the area is worthwhile as well.

The Outer Banks are made up of quaint towns that maintain their own identity.  These towns and fishing villages make the Outer Banks such a special place.   From Duck, all the way to Hatteras you are exposed to nothing but the most pristine beauty along the entire stretch of the OBX beaches and banks.

Sightseeing around the towns, beaches, state parks, and dunes make the outer banks a top vacation destination. There are four unique lighthouses in the area.  Many of the lighthouses are designated historical monuments. One of the oldest lighthouses is located at Hatteras Cape. This famous Lighthouse protects one of the most hazardous areas of the Atlantic Coast, a dangerous twelve-mile long sandbar named Diamond Shoals. Shipwrecks that have taken place here have given it the reputation of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Because of these treacherous sea waters, many OBX towns have constructed lighthouses, all with interesting history. Among the lighthouses are Hatteras Lighthouse, one of the most recognizable lighthouses in the world, Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse and Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Lighthouses are one of the unique themes of the OBX area.

Just visiting the lighthouses in this area would be reason enough to travel to the OBX and explore with hours of entertainment. In addition, we highly recommend visiting Jockey’s Ridge, a must see and explore destination, the east coast's large sand dune! Be sure to also visit the historical sites of the Wright Memorial and Fort Raleigh.

Finally, there is an abundance of event and outdoor activities for visitors of any age.  The outer banks has a large number of annual outer banks festivals and events. Watersports available including fishing, boating, dolphin watching, parasailing, kite surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and diving.  The shipwreck diving sites are popular for divers from around the world.  Corolla and Ocracoke are home to wild horses, a must-see.

Outer Banks has so many great events and festivals that we wrote an additional article Annual Events in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Outer Banks, OBX, is a vast array of vacation opportunities just waiting for discovery! 


Outer Banks, OBX,  Things To Do

  • Wild Horse Tours
  • H2O BX Waterpark
  • Corolla Adventure Park
  • The Lost Colony
  • First Flight Adventure Park
  • Wright Brothers Memorial
  • Jockey’s Ridge State Park
  • Jennette’s Pier
  • Nags Head Pier
  • Elizabethan Gardens
  • Pea Island National Refuge
  • Carrituck Beach Lighthouse
  • Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
  • Avalon Pier
  • Bodie Island Lighthouse
  • North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island
  • Whalehead Club
  • Duck Town Park & Boardwalk
  • Sound Beach at Jockey’s Ridge
  • Outer Banks Fishing Pier
  • Roanoke Island Festival Park & Elizabeth II
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
  • Ocracoke Lighthouse
  • Dowdy Park
  • Outer Banks Fishing Outfitters
  • Kilmarlic Golf Club
  • OBX Walking Tours
  • Fishin’ Fannatic
  • Nags Head Woods Preserve
  • Kitty Hawk Fishing Pier
  • North Duck Watersports
  • Ghost Crabbing
  • Outer Banks Kayak Adventures
  • Whalehead Club
  • Carrituck Golf Club
  • The Carolina Club
  • Wild Horse Adventure Tours
  • Sea Scape Golf Links
  • Nags Head Golf Links
  • The Pointe Golf Club
  • Corolla Bait & Tackle
  • Kitty Hawk Kites
  • Turf’s Up Outer Banks
  • OBX Bowling
  • OB-Xscape Rooms
  • North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island
  • Outer Banks Movie Theaters
  • OBX Renew IV To You
  • Local Color Painting Parties & Fine Art
  • Jumpmasters Trampoline Park

Read in more detail our list of primary Outer Banks Local Attractions

outer banks coastal north carolina sunrise on ocracoke island



Outer Banks, OBX, Towns and Beach Destinations

This long strip of barrier Island provides miles of beautiful beach, sand, and sun on The Atlantic Ocean of the east coast of the United States. This long island strip is a popular vacation destination on the east coast. With many short term beach cottages and ocean front homes, many book vacation rentals for the week for even the entire summer. Many movies are set with the Outer Banks as the backdrop, and it is fun to imagine taking your family to the coast for the summer. These beautiful beach islands are the setting of many family vacation memories.

Furthest north you have the Currituck Banks with its primary destination, Corolla of the Outer Banks. You could easily spend your entire vacation in the town of Corolla alone. Offering kayak tours, Jet Ski rentals, surfing lessons, fishing charters, wild horse-finding trips, go-carts, a links-style golf course, and tennis courts there is always something the outdoor lifestyle here offers. The attractions will keep you very busy as well. Make sure to visit the lighthouse, nature centers, and restored hunt clubs. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is here and is home to the largest sand dunes on the East Coast. The locally-owned shops and restaurants are a destination in themselves. The seafood here goes far beyond fish and chips.

However, The Northern Beaches of the Outer Banks is a great starting point within easy reach of the other islands. Included in the Outer Banks are the northern beaches of Southern Shores, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Duck, and Nags Head; Roanoke Island includes Manteo and Wanchese; Dare Mainland; and Haterras Island to the south which includes Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras. And, further north than 

The beaches in the Outer Banks area are quite diverse. With over 100 miles of shoreline connected by the two-lane highway NC 12, you will find public beach accesses with ample paved parking, modern bath houses and convenience shops. If you are a little more adventurous, you can immerse yourself in the primitive beaches of the Cape Hatteras National. This will take an off-road vehicle.

However, if you want the sun and fun of the Atlantic Ocean beaches without the big waves, you may want to visit the western side of the islands instead. The water tends to be a little calmer and in many places, a lot shallower. Before booking your vacation beach house, learn a little about the different beach areas:

  • Avon: Offers local flavor, with largest number of local residents that living Hatteras Island permanently. Buxton: The village closest to Cape Hatteras, fishing hotspot “Cape Point” and home of the tallest lighthouse in America.
  • Duck: Known as one of the most pet-friendly beaches in the United States, allowing dogs off-leash if under owner’s control.
  • Frisco: Great 4x4 beach driving and recreation, and a few campgrounds.
  • Hatteras: Great shopping and fine dining with big swaths of beach for both casual beach goers and 4x4 driving south of village limits.
  • Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills:  Known for great surfing, usually having the biggest waves on the Northern Beaches.
  • Nags Head:  Enjoy and explore the new 12-mile beach nourishment program.
  • Rodanthe: Waves and Salvo: This trio is locally known as the “Tri-Villages” because of shared borders, and also for big waves and proximity to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches.
  • Southern Shores: Great public beaches, but beach parking is limited to vacationers or residents staying in a property within town limits and having a day passes or window stickers. All beach areas offer many outer banks beach vacation homes for short term rentals. This is a great option if you are staying longer than a day or two. Kick off your shoes, put on your flip-flops and enjoy sun and sand in the comfort of a home.
  • Roanoke Island and the Dare Mainland are located between the North Carolina mainland and the barrier island beach towns. Great for a day trip from Corolla and pedestrian-friendly. You’ll want to visit the many unique shops with art, jewelry and one of a kind items you won’t find anywhere else. Definitely make sure to visit the Elizabethan Gardens in The Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Its botanical beauty will leave you breathless. The nearby Waterside Theatre is host to the oldest running symphonic drama “The Lost Colony”. It tells the story of the 117 people who sailed to Monteo from Plymouth, England 400 years ago, and disappeared completely just two years later. The only clue, the word CROATOAN carved in a post.
  • There's no better place to experience nature and serenity then Hatteras Island. Easily accessible from any of the other islands, pristine Cape Hatteras National Seashore extends for more than 70 miles and covers over 30,000 acres. The first national seashore in the country is dotted with lighthouses and lifesaving stations. Picnic areas and camping stations allow you to get away from it all while still being close to plenty of enticing local restaurants. Summer is the peak tourist season in OBX of course. Fall is a great time to go too. The crowds have thinned but all the unique businesses are still open and the weather is mild. Winter and spring are great if you are looking for an off-season solitary beach experience.

Here is our list of outer banks vacation rental management companies that will provide you with professional accommodation service and local knowledge.  More Service, Savings, and Safety when working with a Vacation Rental Manager.


Vacation Homes in the Outer Banks of Coastal North Carolina


Outer Banks (OBX) Accommodations

Vacation Rental Homes

Outer Banks Vacation Rental Homes are a popular and unique accommodation experience for your outer bank's vacation.  Look out from your vacation home and experience the shores of one of America’s top beaches. You can drive to the Outer Banks, go straight to the house and begin your vacation. It’s that simple. 

Vacation Rental Management Companies

The Outer Banks (OBX) has many of the finest Vacation Rental Management Companies in the world.  Vacation Rental Management Companies have access to many vacation properties and can assist you in finding the right rental for your vacation.  These professional companies provide local hospitality, additional services, and the very best in rates and availability with vacation properties that are safe for you and your family.  Three  professional vacation rental management companies providing Outer Banks Vacation Rental Management are Southern Shores Realty, Dolphin Hatteras, and Beach Realty & Construction - Kitty Hawk Rentals.

The services of Property Management Companies benefit not only property owners, but it allows guests to shop around and find the right accommodations in the specific area they are looking for, from someone who knows the area.  In addition, many of these property managers are licensed brokers and real estate agents and can help you MANAGE, BUY, and/or SELL vacation properties.

Map of the Outer Banks North Carolina

Addiional Outer Banks Articles

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