If you're planning on making a trip to the Outer Banks this summer and are looking for things to add to your itinerary then you've come to the right place.
The Outer Banks, also known as OBX, is a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina known for their beautiful beaches, quaint towns, sunken shipwrecks, and their majestic wild horses. It's a great place for families to sit back, unwind, eat some incredible seafood, and really soak up some sunshine beachside.
Fun fact— did you know there are over 4,000 sunken ships estimated to be within the ocean waters around OBX dating back to the early English settlements... hence the nickname Graveyard of the Atlantic.
But let's get into the fun stuff.
Here's a summary of what you will find in this Outer Banks Travel Guide in case you want to jump ahead!
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1. BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO VISIT
The summer time (June-August) is the most obvious choice in planning a trip to the Outer Banks because everything is in full swing and it's the peak season to visit. We went in July and the temperatures were definitely very toasty. Let's just say walking around outside wasn't exactly sweat proof, but the heat makes for perfect beach days and dips in the cold Atlantic Ocean that much more enjoyable.
The peak season does bring in a ton of crowds so making reservations in advance for dining is a must and expect some wait times anywhere reservations aren't taken.
Next time I plan a trip I'd probably go in the fall time because the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the beach, but you won't have to worry as much about the summer crowds and reservations.
But truly no matter what time of the year you go you're bound to have an amazing vacation because it's just about one of the most tranquil places you can visit.
2. WHERE TO STAY
OBX is filled with quaint towns that each has its own charm and attractions, but some of the most popular ones are Kitty Hawk, Duck, Nags Head, Corolla, and Hatteras Island. We travelled with a bunch of our family and stayed in Corolla, which is the northernmost part of the Outer Banks. We rented this 6 bedroom, 6 bath house (linked here) which was the absolute PERFECT home base. It was spacious, only a 2 minute walk to the beach, had unobstructed views of the ocean from the balcony, and was close to all the local attractions. If it's available and you have enough family/friends to fill it I definitely recommend it!
If you're going to OBX with your family or a group of friends your best bet is definitely going to be a vacation rental because you will get the most amount of space for your money and if you're lucky find a spot right near the beach. If you're going with just your significant other then a hotel might be a better option and they have tons of good options along the coast!
If you love good fried seafood then Mama Easley's is an absolute must in Corolla. It's a casual low key spot where you order at the counter and it has both indoor and outdoor seating. We got the famous Po'Boy and hush puppies and they were SOOOO good.
We actually stumbled upon this place after we were out exploring and to our surprise there wasn't a wait to be seated. It was a neat little spot with dollar bills from the customers hanging on the ceiling and made for a perfect casual lunch spot. They're known for their famous fish tacos and of course I ordered them… they were delicious.
These bagels were a 20/10— perfectly chewy and delicious. You can call and order ahead which is definitely suggested considering there will be a long wait in the summer mornings.
If you're a donut lover then this spot is a MUST. Duck Donuts has locations all over OBX so you're likely only a short drive from one no matter where you're staying. The donuts are made to order so they quite literally can't get any fresher. Their combination options for toppings are endless, so my best suggestion is ordering at least a dozen to try some different flavors out! Expect a wait in the summer time, but it will be well worth it.
A must ice cream shop after a long hot day at the beach!
Cafe Pamlico, Tale of the Whale, AQUA, Miller's Waterfront Restaurant, The Colington Cafe, and The Blue Point
If romantic fine dining is what you seek these are some of the top recommended restaurants in the area for just that. Don't be like me and forget to make a reservation because you will likely not get in for the duration of your trip!
4. THINGS TO DO
The Beer Garden
Tucked away right next to the Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla village this hidden gem is such a fun spot to grab a drink and listen to live music. They have 17 rotating beers on tap and a good wine selection if that's more your speed. We had so much fun sitting out on their patio that's surrounded by beautiful old trees and chairs made from driftwood.
See the Wild Horses
Corolla is where you will find the famous Wild Horses and it's something you can't pass up doing on your trip to OBX. These horses roam the beaches and backwoods freely and are protected by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. These majestic horses, known as Spanish Mustangs, are as the name suggests of Spanish origin and are actually one of the oldest and rarest types in the world. There are wild horse tours available, but honestly you can hop in the car and go find them yourself— at least that's what we did. Just make sure your car is 4x4 because you can't get on the beach otherwise!
Have a Beach Day or Several
An obvious suggestion because I mean really what's better than beach days in OBX? Some of the best beaches here are located in Corolla, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Ocracoke Island, and the Southern Shores.
Explore the Lighthouses
The Outer Banks is home to quite a few historic lighthouses, five to be exact— Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse, Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, and Currituck Lighthouse. They're all open year round and you can actually climb to the top of a few of them.
Currituck Lighthouse is the third tallest lighthouse in OBX and is located right in Historic Corolla Park. This is one of the ones you can climb, but it was a bit to hot outside for that, so I just admired from below.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the United States, so if you can squeeze it in I would defintely say this is a must for your itineraries. It's on my list for next time!
If you are in the mood to search for lost treasure amongst all the ship wreckage I mentioned above then you're in the right place. There are several OBX Dive Centers that will get you equipped and in the water for your diving adventure— Roanoke Island Outfitters and Dive Charters and Dive Hatteras on Hatteras Island are just two of them!
The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center in Hatteras Village or Jennette's Pier in Nag's Head both offer fishing rods and supplies to rent!
Wright Brothers Memorial
A 60ft tall monument on Kill Devil Hills dedicated to Orville and Wilbur Wright. It's located at the exact spot the Wright Brothers first flights took place and you can see how far each test flight went because they're actually marked with granite stones.
And that's a wrap!
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Tags: Outer Banks Travel Guide, Things To Do in Outer Banks, Outer Banks vacation, OBX Itinerary