Part 3 of our 3 Part Series.
Read parts 1 and 2 for everything you need to know about the OBX!
- Part 1: Get to know the Outer Banks — an overview of each town and what it has to offer.
- Part 2: Where to stay at the OBX — how to rent a vacation home and other lodging choices throughout the Outer Banks.
There’s so much to do at the OBX, I’m just covering the highlights — 25 things to do at the Outer Banks — with a little something for everyone. For the sake of organization and consistency with Part 1 and Part 2, the list goes from north to south.
25 things to do at the Outer Banks
Key: Free/no charge. $/under $25. $$/$25-$50. $$$/$50-$75. $$$$/over $75.
North: Duck and Corolla
1. Visit Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to a number of endangered species and has a bird rookery at Monkey Island. Take photos or just take it in — connect with nature in Corolla. Corolla’s famous wild horses call the refuge home. (free)
2. Currituck Beach Lighthouse. This lighthouse, built between 1872 and 1875, stands 162′ high. It was built to help ships navigate the sound between the Outer Banks and Virginia. Guests can climb the 220 steps to the top between Easter Weekend and the day before Thanksgiving, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Climbing can be difficult in the summer, when temperatures and humidity are high. ($)
3. Stroll and Shop the Duck Boardwalk. Duck’s boardwalk along the sound connects the Duck Town Park to local shops and restaurants. Relax on a park bench as you take in the views or go fishing or kayaking. Dogs are welcome! (free)
Central: Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head
4. The original Duck Donuts. Located at 5230 N Virginia Dare Trail,
Kitty Hawk, this is the original Duck Donuts…. Don’t worry, they have a Duck location too! Open mornings Wednesday-Sunday, these doughnuts are an OBX tradition. ($)
5. Monument to a Century of Flight. Located at the Aycock Brown Welcome Center, the Monument to a Century of Flight commemorates 100 years of flight. Beginning with the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight in 1903, the structure is made up of 14 wing-shaped pylons around a center bronze dome of the world. Visitors consistently rank it the best thing to see in Kitty Hawk. Allow 1-2 hours. (free)
6. Avalon Pier. On the Atlantic Ocean, the Avalon Pier is one of the best places to fish on the OBX. Open summertime from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., there’s plenty of time to fish. Wake up early for the best sunrise views on the OBX! ($)
7. R/C Kill Devil Hills Movies 10. Yep, I included a movie theater on this list. Rain is a part of life on the OBX, so you may as well have an indoor plan. Right? With 10 screens, you’re sure to find just the right movie for your family. ($$)
8. Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest natural sand dune system in the eastern U.S. and is recognized worldwide. A 384-foot long boardwalk provides great views of the dunes, with information panels about native plants and animals along the way. Those with handicaps can call ahead (252-441-7132) for information about transportation to the lookout area and same day transportation cannot be guaranteed. Visit the website for important safety information and for park hours. (free)
9. Kitty Hawk Kites. Kite boarding, hang gliding over the dunes, paddling the sound… Kitty Hawk Kites the best place in Nags Head to tap into your adventurous side. Equipment rental and/or lessons are available. Advance reservations are recommended during the summer season. ($$-$$$$)
10. Tanger Outlets Nags Head. Bargain hunters will love a day shopping the 39 stores of Tanger Outlets located at 7100 S Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC. Check their coupons page for special savings! ($-$$$$)
11. First Flight Adventure Park. Opened in 2014, this ropes adventure course has 42 obstacles from easy to challenging and 6 zip lines to entertain guests. Children must be a minimum of 6 years (no exceptions) and at least 45″ tall (under 5′ must climb with an adult). Advance reservations are highly recommended, especially from May-September. ($$)
12. Bodie Island Lighthouse. (Bodie is pronounced “body”) This lighthouse, at Hwy 158 and Hwy 64 in Nags Head, guides ships through the shallow sound waters. Visitors can climb the 214 stairs to the top of this 156′ lighthouse. Climbing is difficult, especially on hot, humid summer days, so consider your health before climbing. ($)
13. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Started in 1938 and named after a native wildflower, the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge exists primarily to protect native and migratory birds, sea turtles and other local wildlife. The refuge has a visitors’ center with binoculars for easy viewing of wildlife. Across the street, visitors can climb the dunes or search for shells on the beach. Try to find the smokestack of the “Oriental,” a federal transport ship sunk just off the coast in 1862. Today, the “Oriental” acts as an artificial reef for fish. Visitors should plan ahead and bring water, bug repellant, hat and sunglasses. Please do not disturb the turtle nests! (free)
14. Chicamacomoco Life Saving Station. Don’t let the unassuming structure fool you. The Chicamacomoco Life Saving Station is a preserved life-saving station, so important to North Carolina history, precursors to our modern Coast Guard. The heroes who worked here rescued boaters along the treacherous coast. Since the Outer Banks area is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” with more than 600 ships sunk through the ages, these workers put their lives on the line for others every day. The museum is open from mid-April to November. Of all the things I did at the OBX, this was the best! ($)
15. REAL Watersports. Kite boarding is all the rage at the OBX. With steady winds off the Atlantic and calm waters on the sound side, young children and grandparents alike can learn to do it. Adrenaline junkies can board the surf on the Atlantic. Other water activities include stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), surfing and skim boarding. Rental equipment is available. When you need a break, the Waterman’s Grill has great burgers, salads and wraps! ($-$$$$)
16. Pea Island Art Gallery. This gallery, at 27766 Hwy 12 in Salvo, featuring 100 artists, captures creativity inspired by the region. Paintings, sculpture, wood pieces, jewelry and cards are among the featured items. The shop owners are passionate about art and the Outer Banks. Take home a unique piece to remember your special vacation. ($-$$$$)
South: Avon, Buxton and Hatteras Village
17. Studio 12. Part art gallery, part art space, Studio 12 lets you make your own art to take home! Offering classes throughout the year, try ceramics painting (walk-ins welcome), canvas painting classes or making glass art! Take an afternoon break from the beach or enjoy a rainy afternoon creating something memorable. The instructors are fabulous — clear with instructions, patient and relaxed. You can also purchase pieces made by the owners. ($-$$$)
18. Koru Village. This shopping, dining and entertainment district, while small, offers just about everything you’d want to do at the OBX. Fish from the Avon Pier. Take a kayak or SUP tour. Enjoy the spa. Grab dinner at Pangea Tavern — start with the gravy fries! So good! ($-$$$$)
19. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The most famous lighthouse on the Outer Banks, and one of the most famous in the world, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stands 208′ tall. Its beacon can be seen 20 miles out in the Atlantic. Visitors climb the 257 steps to the top, learning OBX history and facts about the lighthouse along the way. The park ranger who took us up warns that those in poor health should not climb, especially on hot, humid summer days. The park is open May-October, but closes in bad weather. ($)
20. 4X4 Riding on the Beach. If you have a 4X4 vehicle, beaches all along the OBX allow riding on the sand. A permit is required (to ensure safety) and is widely available on the Outer Banks. ($)
21. Eat an Apple Uglie. The Orange Blossom Bakery and Café on Hwy 12 in Buxton is famous for one thing, the apple uglie. Made since 1979, the “uglie” is simply doughnut dough mixed with apples and cinnamon, then deep fried and glazed. They make hundreds daily during the summer season, and usually sell out way before closing. They also serve sandwiches, other pastries and beverages, but really… trust me on the “uglie.” ($)
22. Sunset Dinner at Café Pamlico. Wrap up your day in Buxton with a casual, upscale dinner at Café Pamlico. Located at the Inn on Pamlico Sound, wide windows and outdoor dining areas present perfect sunset views. The food’s really good too! Many of the herbs, fruits and vegetables are grown organically onsite. ($$-$$$$)
23. Deep Sea Fishing at Hatteras Harbor. The OBX is known for fresh fish. Catch your own on a deep sea fishing tour out of Hatteras Harbor. Get your fish cleaned on the dock, then head up to the Breakwater Restaurant to have it prepared to your specifications (or trust the chef’s recommendation). ($$$$)
24. Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry. The only way to visit Ocracoke is by ferry. Kids (adults, too, admit it) are mesmerized by unique modes of transportation. Ferries are not common throughout the US, so here’s a great chance to experience it. In summer months, ferry traffic is higher, so plan ahead. Ferry reservations can be made online! ($)
25. Ocracoke Village. Measuring only one square mile, Ocracoke Village is easy to explore on foot. So, once you get here, park and wander! Kayak on the Pamlico Sound, explore the shops in town, take a sightseeing boat tour of the area, try your hand at crabbing, visit the Ocracoke Lighthouse or just relax on the uncrowded beaches. Enjoy the quiet, simple pace of this peaceful little village. (free-$$$$)
There you have it. From north to south, the 25 best things to do on the Outer Banks. Which will you do first?