North Carolina’s Outer Banks are truly special. Serene and expansive beaches, state parks full of natural beauty, iconic lighthouses, and even shipwreck diving sites make this marine oasis a must-visit. With no busy cities to distract you from the Outer Banks’ quaint, tranquil atmosphere, it’s easy to be immersed in the many quaint communities, each of them offering their own wonderfully unique charm. Here are 10 of the best towns and villages to look for Outer Banks vacation rentals.

1. Nags Head

Dotted with single-family cottages and plenty of access to public beaches, Nags Head offers classic Outer Banks charm. One of the area’s most popular attractions is Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the tallest natural sand dune system in the Eastern U.S. Take in some truly breathtaking views of Nags Head from the top. Wake up early in your vacation rental, and head to Nags Head Fishing Pier or the Outer Banks Fishing Pier to try your luck catching dinner — there are countless species of fish — or take the kids out for a dolphin watch, and enjoy other thrilling aquatic activities such as surfing, parasailing, hang gliding, kayaking, jet skiing, and kiteboarding.

2. Duck

Named after its large aquatic bird population, Duck is the newest addition to the Outer Banks. Although a modern resort town, Duck still has that classic Outer Banks feel. This area is known for its exquisite beaches, exceptional restaurants, unique shops, and regular outdoor festivities. Spend the day at Duck Town Park strolling the boardwalk and exploring the trails. Some of the area’s most luxurious, decadent homes are in the Duck area, and it’s the perfect place to seek a vacation rental with modern amenities and decor.

3. Kill Devil Hills

According to one popular legend, Kill Devil Hills was named by some pirates who indulged in moonshine “strong enough to kill the devil.” Today, it’s become a wonderful family-friendly vacation destination with plenty to offer besides spirits. The kids are sure to love local arcades, mini-golf, and laser tag facilities, while fans of Aeronautics will appreciate the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Take a stroll through the Run Hill State Natural Area, and be sure to stick around for a gorgeous view of the sunset before you head back to your vacation rental.

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4. Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk is a wonderful community with inviting local shops and charming residential cottages. Nature enthusiasts are sure to fall in love with Kitty Hawk Woods, a 461-acre maritime forest reserve that’s teeming with fascinating plants and wildlife. It’s a delightful place to take a hike or bring your binoculars for some spectacular bird watching. Besides the woods, Kitty Hawk’s main attraction is its beautiful beaches, so don’t forget to pack bathing suits and enough sunscreen for the whole family

5. Waves

As you might expect, Waves is the place to be if your family loves water sports such as surfing, kiteboarding, wakeboarding, and windsurfing. Wake up early to start your day with a relaxing kayaking session, then stash your kayak at your vacation rental while you enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the beach with the family. Don’t forget to visit the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge for wonderful views of a wide variety of unique local birds and other animals.

6. Rodanthe

Rodanthe is a great place to stay for history buffs, families, and anyone who appreciates natural beauty. Rodanthe Pier is a must-visit. Anglers can take advantage of daily or weekly fishing passes, and the waters are full of sea mullet, spot, bluefish, trout, mackerel and small flounder. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see sting rays, dolphins, and other aquatic life. Bring the kids to the family-friendly Pier House game room to cool off and watch some TV, play video games, and have a snack before heading back to unwind at your vacation rental.

7. Wanchese

Wanchese is a great choice for those who are looking for a slower pace than the typical flashy beach town. It’s an endearing fishing village on the southernmost end of Roanoke Island. Wanchese is a haven for anyone who loves fishing or appreciates fresh-caught local seafood. It’s a great place to stay because it’s just a quick drive from many popular attractions for the family, including the Bodie Island Lighthouse, Roanoke Island Festival Park, the North Carolina Aquarium, Elizabethan Gardens, and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

8. Avon

Avon is known for its exceptional water sports. It’s an especially popular destination for Canadians who often visit during the early spring when lakes in the North are still frozen. You can rent kayaks, surfboards, paddle boards, body boards, skim boards, wetsuits, and other aquatic accessories, or just set up your beach chair and enjoy a good book while you catch some sun. Kites are popular in the Avon area too, so you may want to look for a vacation rental with a backyard.

9. Southern Shores

Southern Shores is a very small town, but it’s perfectly nestled between Kitty Hawk and Duck, giving you access to a huge variety of attractions. The area is very vacation-oriented, with plenty of oceanfront cottages, shopping centers private beaches, and golf courses. If you want to put your family right in the heart of Outer Banks, the Southern Shores area is a fantastic choice.

10. Manteo

There’s something for everyone in beautiful Manteo. This waterfront community has a wonderful downtown area complete with a marina, waterfront gazebo, and a playground for the kids. The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse and Roanoke Island Maritime Museum are both fantastic attractions for those interested in Outer Banks history. Whether you’re enjoying the perfect weather from your beachfront vacation rental or from a chartered boat on the Atlantic, you’re sure to fall in love with this gorgeous area.

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