Soak up the laid-back beach vibe of Nags Head, an oceanfront town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Stunning Nags Head vacation rentals line white-sand shores, which invite brilliant sunrises that attract photographers and early-morning walkers. Whether you’re in the mood for an adventurous family trip or easygoing weekend, this pleasant community has a variety of attractions to make your vacation unforgettable.

1. Relax on the Beach

The beach at Nags Head is one of the most beautiful local attractions. Set up a true waterfront paradise with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and snack tables from Ocean Atlantic Rentals, or pack your own gear. For privacy, walk away from the fishing pier. The beach is particularly beautiful in the off season, when the cooler temperatures keep away the crowds, and locals often walk the sand.

2. Learn to Surf

Take advantage of the perfect Nags Head waves on a surfboard. The Farmdog Surf School offers both group and private lessons, so you can learn to surf safely. If you’re a confident surfer, simply rent a board and hit the water for an adrenaline-filled afternoon.

3. Kayak the Roanoke Sound

Paddle the waters of the Roanoke Sound with a kayak rental from local outfitters such as Outer Banks Adventures, Kitty Hawk Watersports, or Kitty Hawk Kites. Stick close to shore for an easy trip, or venture south to explore the tiny islands off the top of Roanoke Island.

4. Hang Glide off of Sand Dunes

Feel the ground drop away as you sail off of a sand dune during a beginner hang-gliding lesson with Kitty Hawk Kites. The basic lessons, which take place on the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, include three solo flights with soft sand landings. For a small price increase, you can fly five times. When you’re ready to go higher, book a tandem flight with an instructor at 1,000 feet or 1 mile above the ground.

5. Bike Down the Beach

Explore the coastline and get a workout with fat tire beach cruisers. These fun bikes, which are available from Ocean Atlantic Rentals and Manteo Cyclery, have wide tires for extra traction on the sand. Use them for intense exercise sessions or leisurely rides with the kids.

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6. Explore in a Golf Cart

Park your car at your vacation rental and get around town in an LSV, an eco-friendly, street-legal version of a golf cart. Ocean Atlantic Rentals offers four-person and six-person models, so you can load up the whole group for trips to the beach. Ride the carts on any road marked 35 miles per hour or less, and turn on the lights for after-dark riding.

7. Fish From the Pier

Fish for flounder, mackerel, and cobia from the Nags Head fishing pier, a huge wooden structure that extends far out over the ocean. Don’t worry if you didn’t pack fishing gear; the tackle shop on the pier sells bait and rents equipment. Bring your catch to the restaurant on the pier, where the chefs are happy to cook it for you.

8. Visit the North Carolina Aquarium

Just across the sound from Nags Head, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is a feast for the senses. Feel your stress melt away as you watch sharks swim by in the 285,000-gallon Graveyard of the Atlantic tank. If you’re ready to get close to the sea life, book a shark dive or an Aquarist for a Day experience.

9. Go Horseback Riding on the Beach

Gallop next to the waves with a Equine Adventures beach ride. Before the trip, the staff selects a horse based on your experience level; beginners are welcome. As you ride down the sand, the experienced all-female guide team provides tips and assistance.

10. Hike the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Get off the beaten path at the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve, a favorite among local runners and hikers. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike the Sweetgum Swamp Trail, which features several dune climbs. For families, the beautiful and easy Discovery Trail offers views of dune ridges, ponds, and forests.

11. Fly Above the Waves

Float gracefully over the ocean on a parasailing flight. In Nags Head, Kitty Hawk Watersports and Causway Watersports both offer daily tours. If your vacation rental is north of town, Duck Parasailing is a convenient location. All three companies offer flights for one to three people, and Kitty Hawk enables you to select from three different heights.

12. Spot Dolphins

Ride a Waverunner alongside a pod of dolphins with Causeway Watersports. Rent a machine for a self-guided trip, or increase your chances of spotting the friendly mammals with a guided tour. If you prefer a more relaxed trip, Kitty Hawk Watersports offers a dolphin-watching tour aboard a large boat with ample shade.

13. Race Go-Karts

Challenge your family to a race at the Full Throttle Speedway. Hop in an Indy-style go-kart and speed around the slick oval track, or prove your skills on the figure eight track. The speedway offers single and double cars, so it’s a great option for families with little ones.

14. Hit the Links

Work on your drive at Nags Head Golf Links, a Scottish-style course with wide ocean vistas. Prepare for a challenge; sand dunes and sea grass sit between each green, and the wild sea breezes can change conditions in a second. If you’re looking for a family-friendly golf outing, opt for the more relaxed Jurassic Putt, a dinosaur-themed mini golf park.

15. Search for Ghost Crabs

Head down to the beach after dark to try ghost crabbing, a favorite Outer Banks activity. Bring a flashlight, and shine it on the sand near the water to spot the pale creatures. You’re likely to see locals and tourists chasing crabs; just be sure not to touch them, as the sharp claws can leave painful marks.

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