Exploring the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Exploring the Outer Banks of North CarolinaNAGS HEAD, NC  - The Outer Banks of North Carolina offer endless miles of beaches, charming seaside villages, and walkable waterfront vacation rentals that make for an idyllic close-to-home retreat. No matter the reason for visiting North Carolina, this region provides something for everyone - reliving the "lift scene" from Dirty Dancing or learning more about Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Exploring the Outer Banks of North Carolina

What to See in The Outer Banks of North Carolina

1. Visit Jockey’s Ridge

Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head is truly breathtaking, boasting some of the tallest living dunes on the East Coast and providing spectacular views of Roanoke Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Dunes on the Outer Banks are constantly shifting and changing as maritime winds do their work, making this destination one that attracts generations of vacationers every year.

2. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Unlock centuries of history that lie beyond the Outer Banks' stunning beaches. From outdoor adventure to arts and culture, there's something here for everyone. Retrace the steps of the Wright Brothers by visiting their historic monument. This 60-foot granite structure stands atop Big Kill Devil Hill, where these self-taught aviation engineers conducted their experiments between 1903 and 1906. Reconstructed 1903 camp buildings and a visitors center enhance your educational experience at this famous Outer Banks attraction.

3. Take a Tour of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station is an important historic site on Rodanthe on Hatteras Island. Once known as part of the National Life Saving Service - later becoming part of the Coast Guard - this complex of buildings became its flagship facility. This nonprofit site has been renovated and is open for self-guided tours at an admission cost of $8; re-admission can be availed one week after the initial purchase. Open mid-April to November.

4. Visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The Southeast's premier museum for paleontology features ancient fossils, changing climates, North Carolina seascapes, butterfly exhibits, and research labs where visitors can watch scientists at work. There's even a Dueling Dinosaurs exhibit and WRAL 3-D Theater! Nature's Explorers showcases how naturalists collected and preserved specimens; Underground North Carolina features gems and minerals, while Prehistoric North Carolina showcases an Acrocanthosaurus skeleton from the museum collection.

5. Take a Drive on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway

Outer Banks visitors are drawn by its coastal villages, wild horses, scenic lighthouses, and windswept beaches, which create lasting memories for families visiting. The Outer Banks are a string of barrier islands off North Carolina's coast in Currituck, Dare, Hyde, and Carteret counties. Spring and fall are prime times to visit as many shops and restaurants are open while crowds tend to be minimal.

6. Visit Roanoke Island

Roanoke Island stands out as an island destination in North Carolina by not offering traditional beach towns such as Wilmington. Instead, this unique destination features rustic sound beaches backed by densely wooded terrain resembling a forest environment more than ever. A day spent here could prove rewarding! Watch as the town's classic island homes come to life and explore a mixed-use path through downtown Manteo on foot, before enjoying one of America's longest-running outdoor dramas: The Lost Colony.

7. Take a Kayak or Paddleboard Tour

Discover a different side to North Carolina's barrier islands on the water by kayak or paddleboard tour. Navigating through hidden creeks and rivers reveals all the natural splendor of our state's ecosystems. Paddleboards are ideal for shorter explorations that don't involve long-distance paddling. Not only can they provide sunbathing opportunities and jumping off, but they can also transport friends/children/floaties/floaties as needed and even serve as sunbathes!

8. Take a Tour of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

At 198 feet tall, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stands as America's tallest lighthouse. Distinguished by its spiral of white and black stripes, its purpose is to help sailors avoid dangerous shoals that make this part of the Atlantic known as The Graveyard of the Atlantic. Heart or respiratory conditions must use caution when climbing the 257 steps up to the top. Tickets are required to climb.

9. Take a Boat Tour

Discover Bogue Sound and its islands through a private charter, full or half-day fishing trip, eco-tour, or eco-tour. Meet Captain Kidd and all the other pirates who roamed these waters as you amble alongside your guide along its coastline. Are You A History Enthusiast Or Dirty Dancing Fan? A Lake Lure tour offers an unforgettable experience for history enthusiasts and Dirty Dancing fans alike. Enjoy a narrated cruise around Lake Lure to view local attractions featured in the film and Hickory Nut Gorge.

10. Visit the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is renowned as a birder's haven. Here you can experience its seasonal plant life and wildlife, from ocean beaches and dunes to freshwater ponds and salt marshes. Hiking trails such as North Pond Walking Trail and Salt Flats Wildlife Trail offer breathtaking views of this expansive sanctuary, drawing hikers in. Birdwatchers throng to these areas during winter to catch sight of tundra swans, snow geese, and other forms of waterfowl.