The Outer Banks of North Carolina offers up a welcome relief from crowded vacation spots. In fact, there aren't any cities on the Outer Banks, only over 100 miles of wide-open shoreline, seaside villages, and a mix of towns filled with personality and fascinating history. And there is plenty of history. Aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright took their famous first flight at Kill Devil Hills, the pirate Blackbeard fought his last battle at Ocracoke and the mysterious Lost Colony disappeared (exactly where is anyone's guess, but last seen on Roanoke Island near Manteo). Continue reading our Outer Banks Travel Guide to learn more.
But this chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina isn't just for history buffs. Fishing, windsurfing and wildlife watching attract visitors, and there are roughly 3,000 shipwrecks you can explore by snorkel and scuba diving.
The Outer Banks is great for those looking to skip overly developed touristy towns and head straight for the unspoiled beaches. You won't find big nightlife, but you will find an abundance of natural beauty. Beaches are more populated during the summer months, but with so many destinations spread out along the barrier islands, you likely won't experience big crowds. Our Outer Banks Travel Guide provides you with everything to start planning your vacation!
Outer Banks Weather – When to Visit
The best time to visit the Outer Banks (or OBX) is from March to May or from September to November, when rates are lower with less crowds. Most visitors arrive during the summer months when the temperatures are the warmest. The temperatures stay relatively warm and humid, with average highs in the upper 80s in the summer, and dipping into the 40s and 50s during the winter months. During the off season some attractions, as well as restaurants and shops, may close or operate under more limited hours.
Beaches of the Outer Banks
The Southern Shores OBX Beaches
The town of Southern Shores has all the secluded charm of the neighboring Northern Outer Banks villages of Duck and Corolla, but with easy access to the busy central Outer Banks' treasure trove of restaurants, shops and attractions. A combination of rich maritime forests, quiet residential beaches, and a handful of restaurants and shops, Southern Shores is an ideal vacation locale for families who want to be away from it all, but still remain close to the big Outer Banks attractions.
The Northern OBX Beaches
The area that’s just north of US Highway 158, which is only accessible by the two-lane NC Highway 12, is known as the “Northern Beaches.” Consisting of the towns of Corolla, Duck, the 4WD area of the Currituck Banks, and generally Southern Shores, this area is known for its isolation and upscale accommodations with a host of shops, restaurants, and other amenities.
The Central OBX Beaches
The central OBX beach towns of Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, and Nags Head are the most popular areas of the Outer Banks, and are also the easiest to reach. Found in the heart of the Outer Banks, you will find plenty of public beach accesses in this area, as well as plenty of public parking areas, which are all situated along the “Beach Road” that hugs the ocean shoreline.
Hatteras Island has of the most pristine shorelines along the North Carolina coastline – the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The National Seashore extends from the edge of Bodie Island all the way to the tip of Ocracoke Island, and encompasses every stretch of beach along the skinny barrier islands. Measuring roughly 50 miles from Bodie Island to Hatteras Inlet, you will find plenty of beaches to go around thru the communities and along the side of NC Highway 12 – the only road that extends through the island.
If you crave remote beaches, then you will love Ocracoke Island – the southernmost portion of the Outer Banks. It is hard to reach, but has 15 miles of isolated shoreline. It's only accessible by a public ferry, and is home to a small 4-square mile community – Ocracoke Village. You'll find miles of beaches, and refreshingly, not much else.
Best Outer Banks Tours & Activities by Viator
Kitty Hawk Maritime Forest Kayak Tour
The Kitty Hawk Woods Maritime Forest Kayak Tour is hands down one of the best family ecotours experiences to be had on the islands of the OBX. A beginner friendly environment explores a calm, glassy creek that meanders through the natural glory of one of North Carolina’s largest track of deciduous maritime forest habitat. Learn more about the Kitty Hawk Maritime Forest Kayak Tour.
Stand Up Paddleboard Adventure on the Outer Banks
The Kitty Hawk Stand Up Paddle Tour explores the calm bays and sheltered waters of Kitty Hawk, an ideal place to learn how to stand up paddleboard for the first time. This tour leaves standup paddleboarding from our shop in Kitty Hawk and explores the North Carolina Coastal Reserve, one of the few intact maritime forest environments on the Outer Banks. We will also paddle the salt marsh waterways between Martin’s Point and Southern Shores. The Kitty Hawk Stand Up Paddle Tour is just for you. Learn more about the Stand Up Paddleboard Adventure.
Beginner Hang Gliding Lesson
This is one of the closest ways to experience what the Wright Brother's experienced over 100 years ago as they trying to conquer the mystery of flight … and only a few miles away from where they actually took their first flights! Learn more about the Beginner Hang Gliding Lesson.
Nags Head Kayak Tour
The Stoke Dispensary is a full service water sports operator on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. From Corolla to Cape Hatteras, we have you covered for kayak tours, jets ski rentals, surf lessons, 5 Day Shredutopia Camps, kayak rentals, stand up paddleboard rentals, pontoon boat rentals, beach chairs and umbrellas, skim boards boogie boards, corn hole boards and SO MUCH MORE. Learn more about the Nags Head Kayak Tour.
Cape Hatteras Kayak Adventure in Rodanthe
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a must see on Hatteras Island. On this kayak tour, we frequently spot ospreys, pelicans, herons, egrets, ibis, terns, rails, skimmers, wrens, and warbles just to name a few. We will tour the salt marsh canals and flat waters of the Pamlico Sound. This tour location also packs a punch with its unreal sunsets!!!! Learn more about the Cape Hatteras Kayak Adventure.
Best Outer Banks Restaurants
Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar $11 – 30
Delight in watching hot oysters come hissing right out of the steamers. Order them steamed, fried, or slurp them down raw…no matter how you like your oysters, Awful Arthur’s has it covered. Telephone: 252-441-5955 Web: Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar
Jolly Roger $11 – 30
The Jolly Roger is open year-round for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they offer something for everyone. Breakfast favorites include the Eggs Benedict, pancakes and home fries, all made in-house from fresh ingredients. Great lunch selections include burgers, NY diner sandwiches and even meatloaf. For dinner the restaurant offers a wide variety, from Italian, fresh seafood, steaks & prime rib. Telephone: 252-441-6530 Web: Jolly Roger
CookShak Fried Chicken $11 – 30
There’s an art to doing a home-style chicken dinner right in the South. You need a chicken fried to golden, crispy perfection obviously. Then you need the appropriate fixings, like mac and cheese and coleslaw. Finally, you need that familial setting of passing the plates, helping yourself and fighting for the very last piece. And they have this art down at The Cookshak Fried Chicken – in fact, it’s their specialty. Telephone: 252-261-1156 Web: Cookshak Fried Chicken
Max's Italian Restaurant $11 – 30
Most of the menu items are crafted right in the restaurant, including mouth-watering meatballs, lasagna, manicotti and house-roasted Italian sausage, homemade mozzarella sticks. fresh-pressed paninis and a variety of oven-baked subs. as well as homemade soup, fresh salads and scrumptious desserts. Telephone: 252-261-3113 Web: Max's Italian Restaurant
Black Pelican $11 – 30
They serve delicious lunch and dinner specials. Fresh seafood, steaks, vegetarian dishes, sandwiches and wood oven pizzas are some of the items offered on our menu. The Black Pelican also has a menu designed just for kids. Telephone: 252-261-3171 Web: Black Pelican
Best Outer Banks Nightlife
The Brewing Station
This Kill Devil Hills brewery relies on wind power to fuel the craft beer operation. Featuring a great selection of unique brews that will appeal to every kind of beer drinker, the Brewing Station in OBX is a favorite of locals and visitors alike! Telephone: 252-449-2739 Web: The Brewing Station
Turner's High Moon Bar
They are a Live Music Centered Bar & Restaurant with The Largest Tap Beer & Fine Spirits Selection on Hatteras Island. Offering yummy food, snacks, cocktails and locally brewed beer for Dine in or Take out. Telephone: 252-995-6666 Web: Turner's High Moon Bar
The bright and welcoming family environment is filled with vintage travel posters and tropical decorations, giving diners the sensation of being on a tropical island. Colorful walls and unique light fixtures create the perfect ambience for a tasty meal and a tropical cocktail. Telephone: 252-261-1008 Web: Barefoot Bernie's
Mike Dianna's Grill Room
Welcome to Mike Dianna's Grill Room, home to the finest seafood, USDA prime beef, amazing live entertainment and more! Head over for brunch or dinner with them in Corolla on the beautiful Outer Banks. Telephone: 252-453-4336 Web: Mike Dianna's Grill Room