Outer Banks vacation rentals

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Popular amenities for Outer Banks vacation rentals

Your guide to Outer Banks

All About Outer Banks

The Outer Banks, a popular vacation spot off of the coast of North Carolina, isn’t just made up of many barrier islands but many charming towns, each with a distinctive personality. Hatteras, for example, traces its seafaring heritage in the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Nearby Buxton is known for great surfing and windsurfing, as well as America's tallest brick lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Nags Head, founded in the 19th century, boasts galleries as well as great fishing spots from its wooden piers. The Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk preserves the spot where Orville and Wilbur Wright succeeded at sending up the first powered flight in 1903.

Many people come to the Outer Banks simply to lounge on the beach, but there are plenty of opportunities for exploring the wilderness in a more active way. As part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Outer Banks offers 75 miles of protected Atlantic coastline, with plenty of trails for hikers and bikers. Climb up the East Coast’s highest sand dune in Jockey’s Ridge State Park to watch the sunset from its apex.

The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Outer Banks

There’s something to see and do in the Outer Banks all year long, aided by the weather, which remains consistent due to the Gulf Stream flowing offshore. Peak time for beachgoers is summer, of course, when the weather is hot and humid. Although the air cools in the fall, the water remains warm, making it a great season for fishing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding. The autumn schedule is also packed with events like Hatteras Island’s Day at the Docks a seafood-themed weekend in September that includes a marathon and al fresco dinners. The winter weather here can get chilly, but it rarely snows, so search out a less-crowded beach and build a bonfire. (Get a permit first.)

Top things to do in Outer Banks

The Elizabethan Gardens

Located within the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island, the Elizabethan Gardens inspires delight in every season, whether you’re basking in the aroma of winter jasmine in January or admiring the profusion of hydrangeas in June. You can spend several hours strolling along the paths that traverse this 10-acre sculpture garden. Before visiting, you may want to check its website to see if the John White Butterfly Center is hosting workshops (seed saving, floral arrangement) that day.

Hatteras Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

There are well over 2,000 shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina, and the Hatteras Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum honors their memory. This small, free museum features exhibits on the maritime history of the Outer Banks, displaying artifacts rescued from pirate ships as well as World War II-era German submarines. A fun way to explore the collections is through the museum’s scavenger hunt.

Driving the Beach

The Outer Banks are one of the few spots on the East Coast that allow driving on the beach. You can bring your own four-wheel-drive vehicle or rent one from a local business that outfits cars specifically for beach driving. Before you head onto the sands, though, you’ll need to obtain a beach-driving permit online. While you’re at it, add on a free beach fire permit so you can toast marshmallows by the water. Rules around access differ between beaches and can change over the course of the year, so plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is the weather in Outer Banks?

    The weather in Outer Banks is quite mild. Summer temperatures average around 85°F (29°C) while winter temperatures hover around 50°F (10°C). The area is also known for its breeze, making it a popular destination for wind and water sports.

  • What are some of the best things to do in Outer Banks?

    Outer Banks has a rich variety of activities. You can explore the Wright Brothers National Memorial, learn about the local marine life at the North Carolina Aquarium, or wander the vast sandy stretches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. History buffs may appreciate a visit to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

  • What is the best time of year to visit Outer Banks?

    The most popular time to visit Outer Banks is during the summer months from June to August, when the weather is warmest. Visitors can enjoy local events like the Outer Banks Seafood Festival in October and the Duck Jazz Festival in the fall.

  • What are the best places to stay in Outer Banks?

    Popular areas to stay in Outer Banks include Kitty Hawk, known for its beachfront properties, and Duck, reputed for its upscale resorts and shopping. Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills are also frequently suggested for their proximity to major attractions and variety of accommodations.

  • What are the best places to visit in Outer Banks?

    In Outer Banks, you can visit popular landmarks like the historic Bodie Island Lighthouse, the Jockey's Ridge State Park with its large sand dunes, and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, home to various bird species. The town of Manteo, with its charming waterfront, is also a frequently suggested place to visit.

  • What are some hiking trails in Outer Banks?

    For hiking enthusiasts, Outer Banks has several trails to explore. Nags Head Woods Preserve features diverse trails weaving through maritime forests, while the Cape Hatteras National Seashore allows for beachside hikes. For a more relaxed stroll, the Duck Boardwalk offers well-maintained paths along the water.

  • What are some family activities to do in Outer Banks?

    Families visiting Outer Banks can explore the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, have some fun at the Dowdy's Amusement Park, or take a Pirate Adventure cruise. They can also visit the Kitty Hawk Kites Adventure Tower or engage in watersports at the H2OBX Waterpark.

  • What are some of the best day trip ideas in Outer Banks?

    Consider a day trip to Roanoke Island, home to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and the Elizabethan Gardens. The town of Corolla is another great day trip option with its wild horse tours and the historic Corolla Lighthouse. You can also take a ferry to Ocracoke Island and explore its quaint village and lighthouse.

Destinations to explore