Taking your family on a vacation to the Outer Banks? Make sure you know all the best places to visit, things to do, and activities to enjoy in before heading out to North Carolina’s barrier islands. One of the best parts about traveling here is that everything is a convenient distance from the Outer Banks vacation rental that you choose to rent. There’s plenty of fun to be had in the Outer Banks, so check out these top 10 family activities and enjoy your trip!
1. Wright Brothers National Memorial
Head out to Kill Devil Hills and visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Built to commemorate the brothers’ accomplishment, this national memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. It features a visitor center that houses a replica of the and a replica of the 1903 Flyer, the first powered aircraft. On the memorial grounds, there is also a replica of the hangar the brothers used during their flight attempts. The Memorial Tower itself was dedicated in 1932 and sits atop Kill Devil Hills where the brothers conducted their gliding tests.
2. Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Enjoy a beautiful day outside in the Outer Banks and explore Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Visit this park and you’ll be experiencing the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic coast. This makes the park a perfect location for flying kites, catching a sunset, or sandboarding. You can also walk the one-mile nature trail that opens up into wetlands, grassy dunes, and thickets. Don’t miss a chance to experience this unique environment and take in the view from the top of the dunes.
3. Jennette’s Pier
Bring your fishing poles and bait and head out to Jennette’s Pier in Nag’s Head. The pier is known for being an excellent location to fish for grey trout, puffers, bluefish, and sea mullet. Include the whole family and take a fishing class on the pier. Family fishing classes are offered at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays in May and September and on weekdays in June, August, and October. All ages are welcome and the cost is just $15. Take a lesson and learn the basics of fishing before you head out there and catch your own.
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4. Elizabethan Gardens
Thanks to the Garden Club of North Carolina, the Elizabethan Gardens are open to the public and offer a wonderful place to spend the afternoon. Take the family here and enjoy a stroll through the beautiful grounds on Roanoke Island. There are new flowers blooming every month, including Forsythia, Azaleas, Magnolias, and Roses. Seasonal events take place throughout the year, so check the Gardens’ calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.
5. Eat Local
The Outer Banks is all about their locally-owned restaurants. In fact, there are over 100 locally-owned restaurants in the area! Check out Aqua Restaurant and Spa for fresh seafood and a gorgeous waterfront view, Café Pamlico for a fine dining experience on the water, or Angelo’s Pizzeria which features a gigantic game room for the kids. For dessert, stop in at Big Buck’s Homemade Ice Cream and Espresso Bar. Their soft serve and homemade fudge are real crowd pleasers. Get a taste of the Outer Banks from these wonderful spots, or explore the area and stumble upon some other great choices.
6. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
Featuring over 154,000 acres of wetland habitats and a huge variety of wildlife, this place is a must-visit for those heading to the Outer Banks. There are plenty of hiking and wildlife trails for those looking to explore the refuge on foot, and kayaking and canoeing routes for visitors wanting to jump right into the middle of the action. Alligator River Refuge has what it believed to be one of the largest concentrations of black bears in the southeastern U.S. so you might even catch a glimpse of one. If not, the refuge is also home to several endangered species including the American Alligator, and red wolves, which were once declared extinct.
7. Duck Town Park
Enjoy all types of entertainment in Duck Town Park in the town of Duck, as it features a soundside boardwalk, amphitheater, playground, and walking trails. Set on 11 acres of land, Duck Town Park is the perfect place to catch a concert, like the annual Jazz Concert on Columbus Day Weekend, or lay out a blanket and let the kids play on the playground. The park offers trails leading through maritime forests, which house an endangered plant community found only on the eastern North Carolina seacoast. You’ll find a little something for everyone at this family-friendly open space.
8. Coastal Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center
This free, public center on Roanoke Island provides exhibits, a short film, and plenty of information on the 11 National Wildlife Refuges (and one National Fish Hatchery) that are within driving distance of the Outer Banks area. Check out the virtual airplane ride over select refuges, learn about the logging and moonshine history of nearby Buffalo City, and understand climate change’s effect on the Outer Banks as whole.
9. Go on a Back Country Safari Tour
You may not know it, but along the northern stretches of the Outer Banks live Corolla wild horses that roam the beaches, dune fields, and maritime forests. With Back Country Safari Tours, you can catch a glimpse of these majestic animals in their natural habitat. This family-friendly excursion provides naturalists and guides who are knowledgeable about the horses and their long history of living in the area. Ride around on the protected lands and experience a unique opportunity to see these beautiful creatures roam around the Spanish Mustang Preserve.
10. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The first National Seashore in the country, Cape Hatteras stretches for some 70 miles from South Nags Head to Ocracoke Inlet. It covers 30,000 acres and features areas that allow for off road vehicles, but a permit is required. Bring a picnic and use the designated picnic areas or lay out a blanket on the sand and create your own picnic space. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see a sea turtle lay her eggs. This is a wonderful sighting for many visitors, and will certainly be a memory your kids won’t forget. Don’t forget to check out the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and climb the 257 steps to reach the top.
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