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23 Best & Fun Things to Do in Outer Banks (North Carolina)

With over 100 miles of beaches, Outer Banks is one of the country’s most stunning and distinctive vacation spots.

The North Carolina Outer Banks provide a pleasant respite from overpopulated tourist areas and congested cities.

Even though Outer Banks is not your typical city or spa destination, nevertheless, Outer Banks is rich in history.

The first colony in America, the Wright brothers’ maiden flight, and the country first beachfront all took place on these farthest-northern shores.

Select a vacation rental home or lodge in a hotel with an ocean view to start your vacation.

Swimming, tanning, water sports, hiking, and several outdoor adventures are some popular things you can do here.

You can visit Wright Brothers Memorial to check out some incredible artifacts.

With several options to explore the area by land, air, or sea, you should have a list of things to do here, and here are the top things you should try.

Things to do in Outer Banks

1. Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey's Ridge State Park-min

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

You will find jockey’s Ridge State Park enjoyable if you love outdoor adventure and activities.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park, located in Dare County on the Outer Banks, is great for hiking, kite flying, and more.

Because it is home to the tallest living sand dune system on the Atlantic coast, you can also have an amazing view of the sunset here.

However, the park’s signature activity is hang gliding, and a private concessionaire gives instructions.

A visitor center, a small gift shop, a museum, picnic areas, and restrooms are all also available.

Furthermore, a 360-foot boardwalk with exhibits that explain the dune’s ecosystem connects a visitor center and museum, providing a gradual entrance to the vast dune area without charging admission.

A different experience can be had at the park’s sound side entrance, which offers opportunities for swimming, wading, paddling, and a mile-long nature trail.

Finally, there is a picnic area close to the parking lot that provides relief from the sand, sun, and wind that are constantly present.

The park opens from 8 am to 6 pm from November through February, 8 am to 8 pm from March through April, 8 am to 9 pm from May through September, and 8 am to 8 pm from October.

Although there is no camping at Jockey’s Ridge, you can camp at Pettigrew State Park, which is the nearest state park with camping.

So get your shoes, bring some water, use sunscreen and come enjoy this park.

Address: 300 W Carolista Dr, Nags Head, NC 27959, United States

2. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

cape hatteras lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

How about climbing the tallest brick lighthouse in the country?

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a conical brick building with an iron and glass bulb atop an octagonal brick.

The famous black-and-white spiral landmark has warned mariners for many years.

The location is not its original location as it was moved in 1999 due to erosion. Although it was moved, however, it hasn’t lost its historical feel.

Your efforts will be rewarded after ascending 208 feet or 257 steps by the breathtaking vistas.

Take pauses as you go; the 12-story tower’s ascent might be strenuous. Every 31 stairs, the landings serve as the ideal resting spots.

You can also visit this spot to find out how the lighthouse was relocated to its present location.

Address: 46379 Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC 27920, United States

3. Wright Brothers National Memorial

wright brothers national memorial

Wright Brothers National Memorial

The Wright Brothers National Memorial is a “Must See” destination for anyone interested in aviation history.

In fact, even if you are not interested in aviation, you shouldn’t miss here.

You probably heard of Wright Brothers, but how much do you know?

Come visit the location where two young brothers from Dayton experimented with flying in the early 1900s and eventually achieved the first controllable flight.

You can travel just a short distance to Jockey’s Ridge and proceed to the Wright Brothers Memorial by ascending the substantial sand dune (paved walkway).

It is lovely, and you can see the surroundings and the water beautifully.

Furthermore, children can climb and play on a metal replica of the plane that is located on the back side of Jockey’s Ridge.

Life-size statues of the locals who helped the brothers are also there.

There is even a small museum with a detailed history of the family and lives of the Wright Brothers.

Young children can pick up a Junior Rangers booklet as they enter the museum, complete the “assignments,” and tour the area to obtain a Junior Ranger’s badge.

All ages can enjoy this highly interesting summary of a significant period in North Carolina history.

A trip to the Wright Brothers National Memorial is just the best for a crash course in everything aviation, from the first successful glide across the Kill Devil Hills sand dunes to the most current NASA discoveries.

Address: 1000 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948, United States

4. Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Currituck Beach Lighthouse, outer banks

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Outer Banks is Rich with quite a handful and lighthouses and Currituck Beach Lighthouse is one of them.

The northernmost of the seven coastal lighthouses in the area is Currituck Lighthouse.

The lighthouse is in fantastic shape. You can take the stairs all the way to the top for a wonderful view of the Atlantic.

The bright crimson façade of this lighthouse makes it stand out.

You will discover information about shipwrecks, the daily routines of lighthouse keepers, and the tower’s history and national significance.

You will also learn about the tower’s original 1st order Fresnel lens as you ascend the 220 steps to the top.

People who desire to climb to the top of the Lighthouse can do so on a seasonal basis, often from early spring through late November.

Address: 1101 Corolla Village Rd, Corolla, NC 27927, United States

5. Cape Hatteras National Seashore

cape hatteras national seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Are you a beach lover? Or do you love water activities? The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a great area for you to visit.

There is something for everyone to explore, whether you enjoy the beach, kayak the sound, or climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

No matter how active you are, spending time on Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s sandy beaches is a remarkable experience.

Additionally, the seashore offers a home and habitat for species large and small, on land and in the water

From sea turtles breeding on sandy beaches to deer seeking refuge in coastal woodlands, you are in for a treat.

Although this place serves about a million beachgoers or road-trippers each year; however, there are so many quiet areas that no matter how many people are exploring the coastline, you’ll always have some tranquility.

There are also four campgrounds spread out over the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Address: Buxton, NC 27920, United States

6. Bodie Island Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse

The Bodie Island Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse, situated at the northernmost point of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, was first illuminated in 1872.

One of the most well-liked activities in the Outer Banks is a trip to the Bodie Island Light Station.

Serving Outer Banks for more than fifteen decades, the lighthouse is not only a stunning location to visit but also a historical spot in the city.

With up to 215 steps, you have the opportunity to ascend the lighthouse on Bodie Island at your own speed.

Admire the stunning natural surroundings of the island, the Atlantic Ocean, and Pamlico Sound.

Additionally, you will also have one of the most beautiful sunset views from the boardwalk and viewing platform that are encircled by a marsh.

The third Friday in April to Columbus Day is when the Bodie Island Lighthouse is open (in early October).

Address: 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd, Nags Head, NC 27959, United States

7. Whalehead Club

Whalehead Club, outer banks

Whalehead Club

Take a journey in Outer Banks’ history and the country’s best eras of architecture with a visit to the Whalehead Club.

Whalehead welcomes you to delve into a fascinating chapter in Outer Banks history with its striking yellow paint, copper roof, and mahogany doors.

The Whalehead House might just be a lovely scale model of the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, if you have been there.

Edward Collings Knight Jr. and his wife, Marie Louise, first welcomed guests at an opulent hunting hideaway in 1925.

Whalehead Club never was actually used as a Hunt club, though it was designed to be used as such. Also, there were many other Hunt clubs in the general area.

In addition to the house, there is also a modern museum/theater on the property, as well as a historical village and a museum of many of the old boats used in the area.

Tours of Whalehead in Historic Corolla are available Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Address: 1100 Club Rd, Corolla, NC 27927, United States

8. Elizabethan Gardens

Elizabethan Gardens, outer banks

Elizabethan Gardens

Want a peaceful setting that offers a genuine connection to mother nature’s beauty? Or a place to go for a breathtaking outdoor promenade? Then Elizabeth Gardens is the place to go.

To amuse Queen Elizabeth I during her reign, the gardens were created.

One section of the garden walk offers stunning views of the water.

Some garden beds even have statutes buried within them.

You enter the garden through the gift store, where you can also buy your entry ticket.

The Children’s Discovery Cottage/Outdoor Play Area, the Italian Renaissance Statuary, and the Water View are some of the attractions here.

You will also find a Mobile Phone Audio Tour available here.

Native plants, azaleas, crape myrtles, hydrangeas, conifers, and seasonal blossoms are among the plant collections.

Address: 1411 National Park Dr, Manteo, NC 27954, United States

9. Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

Situated right across from the magnificent Atlantic Ocean, the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum tells the history of the Outer Banks region.

The museum explains the rich maritime culture, including war, piracy, ghost ships, and more in the area.

When you first walk in, the museum seems little, but as you explore further, you discover that there is a huge back chamber that you must access through two doors.

Information on shipwrecks, coastal rescue organizations, scuba diving, and early studies carried out in the region by General Billie Mitchell is interesting.

You will also learn about World War II and World War One and how the German submarines sank numerous ships in the region.

Additionally, to make historically significant materials available to the public, the Museum collaborates with local families and divers.

You will also come across the Enigma encoding and transcribing equipment from the U-85 wreck.

There’s also the breathtaking and authentic 1854 First Order Lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on display in the lobby.

There’s even something for the children, which is a sizable pirate exhibition.

The museum is free, however, you can make donations.

Address: 59200 Museum Dr, Hatteras, NC 27943, United States

10. Jennette’s Pier

Jennette's Pier

Alexis / Jennette’s Pier

Jennette’s Pier is the perfect place for fishing or a leisurely stroll with great views.

The North Carolina Aquariums own and run Jennette’s Pier, which provides ocean fishing as well as wonderful facility rentals.

This pier is built with concrete, so the planks are nice and flat without the usual distortions you get from wooden piers, making it perfect for handicapped users as well.

In addition to being a great structure, beautiful beaches surround the pier.

Anglers can catch croaker, flounder, pompano, spot, trout, and a wide variety of other fish.

Inside the pier house are clean restrooms, educational displays, and a gift shop with snacks.

Bait and tackle are available inside as well as rental gear.

Shelters provide shade and seating is plentiful along the nearly 1000′ pier. Educational signs continue along the length of the pier.

Sunrises and sunsets here are even more spectacular from the pier also and provide plenty of photographic opportunities. So, get your camera ready.

Weddings are also common at the pier, with ceremonies often held on the pier itself and the party upstairs in the event room.

Additionally, there is a coffee shop, gift store, and small aquarium accompanied by placards and posters that talk about the history of the area and the pier.

The 1,000-foot-long pier is accessible all year, but the hours change according to the weather.

Address: 7223 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959, United States

11. Ocracoke Lighthouse

Ocracoke Lighthouse

Ocracoke Lighthouse

Every lighthouse in Outer Banks has its own history and unique properties. Ocracoke Lighthouse is no different.

The Ocracoke Lighthouse is the smallest of the five lighthouses on the Outer Banks, but it has a long history and a significant historical impact.

Although the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse is the smallest; however, it is the second-oldest operating lighthouse in the United States and North Carolina.

There are 86 stairs to climb to get to the lighthouse’s peak. Sadly, it is not accessible to the public for climbing.

That doesn’t stop the whole fun anyway, as you can still take a tour of the area, take pictures and behold the magnificent brick structure.

You will, however, take a ferry to get to Ocracoke Island.

Address: 360 Lighthouse Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960, United States

Explore other cities in North Carolina like Corolla, New Bern, Winston-Salem, Cherokee, and Duck to experience more of what this region offers!

12. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is a hidden gem on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

The Wildlife Refuge was founded in 1938 to provide a habitat for migratory birds.

Additionally, it provides a safe haven for animals that are vulnerable to extinction, such as loggerhead sea turtles.

You will be able to see other birds too, such as shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, and more.

Additionally, the refuge contains a beach, dunes, brackish ponds, and marshes.

Any expedition through these areas is sure to yield some excellent bird sightings and subsequent images.

With over 370 kinds of birds that can be seen here, you can stop at many observation spots along the route, get out of the car, and either search for birds in the sizable freshwater ponds or traverse the dunes to the east to stroll along the empty beaches.

Great vistas of the island are provided by a two-story observation tower.

You’ll undoubtedly experience the Outer Banks at its wildest.

Address: 14500 North Carolina Hwy 12, Rodanthe, NC 27968, United States

13. Roanoke Island Festival Park

roanoke island festival park, outer banks

Roanoke Island Festival Park

If you are on the Outer Banks and looking for a great family CT, head to Roanoke Island Festival Park.

You will get a first-hand glimpse of what life was like for the Early English settlers in 1585 at this 25-acre historical park.

To demonstrate and describe how the early inhabitants on Roanoke Island lived, worked, and played, historical costumed interpreters are displayed throughout Indian Town, the Settlement Site, and the Elizabeth II ship.

It is astonishing that a sailing craft that has been designed to seem like it would have during colonial times is actually a working sailing craft.

Furthermore, there is a small museum inside that is well done and strikes a decent balance between educational exhibits and touchable interactive exhibits.

A great place to take family pictures is on Festival Park’s waterfront.

Similarly, the indoor theater or outdoor waterfront pavilion in the park can be used for weddings, events, and concerts.

Visit the Adventure Museum for an interactive history lesson that will interest visitors of all ages.

Address: 1 Festival Park Across from the Manteo Waterfront, Manteo, Roanoke Island, NC 27954-9396

14. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach

Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach

C. Leinbach / Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach

Home of the infamous pirate Black beard, Ocracoke has become a popular beach destination among tourists.

Welcome to the only beach with a lifeguard on the island.

It’s a beautiful stretch of beach, with thick sand and crystal-clear water.

Compared to other beaches up the coast, it may be calmer and better for swimming due to the sandbars.

Additionally, the lifeguards provide some reassurance because they are always keeping an eye on the swimming conditions.

In fact, the lifeguards are welcoming, accommodating, watchful, and proactive in informing beachgoers about the hazards and conditions at the beach.

However, smoking is not permitted on the Lifeguard Beach.

Address: Ocracoke, NC 27960, United States

15. Avon Fishing Pier

avon fishing pier

Avon Fishing Pier

The Avon Pier is a fantastic location for fishing in the Atlantic Ocean’s bounty.

The pier was constructed over the course of two years by two local brothers from Kinnakeet.

Whether it is fishing, feeding fish, observing others hunt for sharks, or just taking in the sights, Avon pier is a great place to be.

Because of its numerous records, the pier is especially well-known for the enormous Red Drum that frequently schools just off its end.

In terms of pier construction, it’s not the best, but that just gives it more character and distinction!

Although, initially a little unsettling, however, the pier walk is actually fairly stable.

A plethora of colorful personalities are perched fishing at the end of its crooked boards and winding route, bragging about their finest catches and the ones that got away.

At the main entrance, you may buy fishing licenses, poles, bait, refreshments, mementos, and suggestions for local activities.

Puppy drums, blues, spots, crackers, trout, sea bass, sheep’s head, and many more are some of the fishes you can catch here.

During the summer, the Avon Fishing Pier is open daily from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm.

So, whether you’re an experienced angler or just taking the family fishing for the day, Avon will surely make your day.

Address: 41001 North Carolina Hwy 12, Avon, NC 27915, United States

16. Duck Boardwalk

duck boardwalk outer banks

Duck Boardwalk Outer Banks

You are missing a lot if you don’t visit Duck Town to look around its shops and take a walk on its boardwalk.

The boardwalk provides guests with not just stunning seaside views, but also an uncommonly tranquil way to travel from shop to shop without having to cope with traffic and road noise.

Shops, eateries, and much more are all available for exploration.

In fact, the nearly mile-long Duck Boardwalk isn’t everything the Outer Banks has to offer.

Additionally, the 11 acres of breathtaking natural beauty known as Duck Town Park is located right adjacent to the Duck Boardwalk.

There is an adventure waiting around every bend thanks to the trails that wind through the maritime forest

If you want to eat somewhere nearby and get something to drink, there are a few options.

For fun gifts, check out the kite store, and you can even come to the boardwalk for a romantic walk.

Pets are welcome on the boardwalk, so make sure you leash them up and take them for a walk.

Address: Duck Town Park Boardwalk, Duck, NC 27949, United States

17. Pea Island Art Gallery

Pea Island Art Gallery

Pea Island Art Gallery

Look no further than this modest but intriguing collection if you want to spend some time looking for the ideal Outer Banks memento.

Everything from ceramics to paintings and prints is produced by local Outer Banks artisans.

With its distinctive structure, the gallery’s architecture pulls you in first. The inside of the gallery is just as gorgeous as the outside.

There are so many incredible options in the gallery.

The handcrafted pottery and paintings in particular are somewhat pricey, although there are also numerous products available at more affordable prices.

There are many smaller pieces that are perfect for taking home to remind you of the warm beaches during the chilly winter months.

Address: 27766 North Carolina Hwy 12, Salvo, NC 27972, United States

18. Sandy Run Park

Sandy Run Park

The Sandy Run Park

Sandy Run Park in Kitty Hawk, is the place to go if you’re searching for a spot to have a picnic.

This park is one of the best-kept secrets on the Outer Banks.

This 16-acre park is covered in lovely paths and amenities, which add more to your picnic experience.

Two gazebos with access for both people and canoes and kayaks are part of the nature path.

Covered pavilion, grills, wildlife areas, and a canoe/kayak launch are some of the facilities available here.

Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Preserve is cut through by Sandy Run Park.

You’ll almost certainly encounter some of the local plant and animal species when visiting the park.

Address: 4351 The Woods Rd, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949, United States

19. Springer’s Point Preserve

Springer's Point Preserve

Springer’s Point Preserve

Only open during the daytime all year round, Springer’s Point Preserve is the ideal place to go bird-watching or hiking and relaxing on the beach.

Open to the public, this 122-acre nature preserve features a 0.8-mile nature walk that travels through a maritime forest, salt marsh, and wet grasslands.

You will also be able to get a view of Teach’s Hole, the location where the pirate Blackbeard was slain.

The views across Teaches Hole to Portsmouth Island are beautiful today, and there are snapping turtles and crabs scuttling about.

Along the path, there are also several amazing historic places that are designated for self-guided tours.

You must either walk or ride a bike to get to this location because there is no parking.

Address: 104 Loop Rd, Ocracoke, NC 27960, United States

20. Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks

hilton garden inn outer banks, outer banks

Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks

One of the most practical hotels you can stay at while on the outer banks is the Hilton Garden Inn.

Just about 15 minutes drive from the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Hilton Garden Inn is tucked along the Atlantic Ocean’s edge.

You can order room service from the indoor restaurant Aviator Cafe, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

There includes an indoor and outdoor pool, as well as access to the pier, a tiki bar outside, and a private beach.

Additionally, it offers a gym, an arcade, a piano room, and a shop with everything from snacks and microwaveable meals to sunscreen.

In fact, you don’t have to leave for anything if you don’t want to because it is its own retreat. The hotel is as practical as it can get.

Address: 5353 N Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949, United States

21. H2OBX Waterpark

h2obx waterpark

H2obx Waterpark

Here’s something for the adrenaline junkies.

H20BX is a waterpark in Outer Banks, which offers resort-style comfort coupled with a world of family entertainment.

It also features magnificent ocean-to-sound views and traditional coastal decor.

With more than 30 water slides, rides, and attractions, you are in for a ride.

After a day of adrenaline-pumping sliding, get a quick bite or refuel at one of our numerous on-site restaurants serving all the local fare. You are, however, not allowed to bring food in.

They also have a kiddie wave pool, which is excellent for little ones.

Address: 8526 Caratoke Hwy, Powells Point, NC 27966, United States

22. The Lost Colony

the lost colony outer banks

The Lost Colony Outer Banks

The best-known and longest-running outdoor symphonic drama in the country is The Lost Colony.

Perhaps you are wondering why Little colony? Well, here you go.

A permanent English settlement was founded in the New World in 1587 when 117 English men, women, and children landed on Roanoke Island.

When English ships came back to the island to supply supplies only three years later, in 1590, they discovered it was abandoned and without any traces of the inhabitants.

The truth about what happened to the colonists is still a mystery, nearly 450 years later.

Gather information from the colonists as you take in this massive stage play that brings the country’s oldest mystery to life.

Through dramatic conflicts, haunting Native American dances, stunning clothing, and lovely music, you will learn and also be entertained.

The show is a phenomenal production which you shouldn’t miss.

23. Corolla Wild Horse Fund

corolla wild horse fund, outer banks

Corolla Wild Horse Fund, Outer Banks

The Corolla Wild Horse fund is home to displays, pictures, and data on the wild mustangs of Corolla.

Discover the background of the wild horses who have roamed the Outer Banks for almost 500 years and still reside here.

In fact, this is where you can find out information about how the horses got to the shore, how they’ve acclimated, and how they’re safeguarded.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund Museum is both a museum and a store.

Twenty or more information boards on the walls and a few educational DVDs on the history of Corolla and the horses make up the museum’s portion.

Similarly, a variety of mementos with equine themes can be found in the store section.

If you just want to contribute to the horses’ well-being, you can do so in the donation jar there.

Address: 1130 E, Corolla Village Rd, Corolla, NC 27927, United States

Final Remark

Even though Outer Banks is home to different islands, however, each island has its own personality.

You should explore each and have a great while doing so.

safe Travels!