Located in northeastern North Carolina, the Outer Banks are a series of barrier islands along the coast. Most of the Outer Banks towns have the Atlantic Ocean on one side and an inlet on the other. Swimming, hiking, relaxing with friends, visiting museums, and soaking up the sun are just a few ways to pass your days when vacationing in the Outer Banks. Book a stay at an Outer Banks vacation rental to enjoy oceanfront views and easy access to the water. With so many things to do in the area, you don’t want to miss out on any of these top 15 things to do in the Outer Banks.

1. Rent Jet Skis From Ocracoke Waverunners

Starting at the southern end of the Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island is only accessible by ferry or boat. Ocracoke Waverunners rents jet skis for a couple of hours to an afternoon, and rental includes a life vest. Zoom around the island, catching sight of the Ocracoke Light and the miles of white sand beaches.

2. Visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic

In the town of Hatteras, visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Learn more about the history of the area’s maritime history and famous shipwrecks that occurred just off the coast. As soon as you see the museum’s unique ship shape, you know you’ve arrived.

3. Visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

In Buxton, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse began warning sailors of dangerous waters in 1803. Today, take a tour of the lighthouse to learn more about its history from a park ranger. In the summer months, climb to the top of the lighthouse to see for miles in any direction.

4. Learn to Kitesurf

One of the most popular sports in the Outer Banks is kitesurfing. Kitty Hawk Kites offers lessons in several locations on Hatteras Island. This sport combines a surfboard with a kite to sail you across the water. On a windy day, you might find yourself a couple of feet above the water.

5. Learn More About the People Who Saved Lives

At the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station in Rodanthe, learn more about the men and women who risked their lives saving the lives of others before the Coast Guard took over. During the high season, enjoy a demonstration of what daily life was like at the station, and see the boats they used in rescues as you tour the buildings.

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6. Do Some Bird-watching

The Outer Banks is a popular spot for bird-watchers, so pack a picnic lunch at your vacation rental, and visit a popular birding spots at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. With more than 365 species, this refuge sees a lot of migratory and endangered birds. A park ranger can help you spot particular species and advise you the best walks to take in the refuge.

7. Go Driving on the Beach

During specific times of the year, you can purchase a permit to drive on the beach along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Watch a short video before getting your permit to ensure you know how to help protect the dunes and nests of sea turtles. Drive along the water’s edge, and stop to dip your feet in the cool water.

8. Go Fishing on Jennette’s Pier

Pack up your fishing gear, and spend a day on Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. The store on the pier lets you rent rods, reels, and other basic fishing equipment, or you can schedule a fishing lesson or purchase basic supplies there. Bring a cooler with you to keep your fish fresh for a homemade dinner back at your vacation rental that evening.

9. Visit the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Located in Roanoke at the end of the pier, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse has a unique appearance. This lighthouse helped ships navigate the waters of the Shallowbag Bay. Enjoy the view from the pier as you watch the boats sailing in and out of the bay.

10. Enjoy a Cone at Scammell’s Corner Surf Shop and Ice Cream Parlor

Stop at Scammell’s Corner Surf Shop and Ice Cream Parlor to enjoy a cone and take in the retro vibe and vintage decorations. Afterwards, check out the cool surfing items in the store and chat with the friendly owner.

11. Learn About the Lost Colony of Roanoke

One of Colonial America’s biggest mysteries began in the Outer Banks. Stop by the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site to listen to the legend of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, where several dozen colonists, including Virginia Dare, the first European child born in the colonies, disappeared without any explanation.

12. Climb on the Southeast’s Largest Sand Dune

Visit Jockey’s Ridge State Park to climb the southeast’s largest sand dune. The thrill seekers in your group can take their turn sandboarding or paragliding on the dunes. Several outfitters are ready to help you try these sports or give you a lesson. The park is also considered the best place on the Outer Banks for flying a kite.

13. Bowl a Few Games

Take the group to OBX Bowling in Kill Devil Hills for an afternoon of bowling and family fun. Ask for bumper guards if you have little ones, or come in the evening for the late night rock n’ bowl. Teens and tweens love the arcade, and an on-site restaurant is a convenient spot to grab a pizza or burger.

14. See Where Man Learned to Fly

North Carolina was home to the Wright Brothers when they took their first flight at Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial to see a replica of their plane. Walk along the flight path, and see the mileage markers of where the first flights landed, and then hike up to the memorial to take in the amazing view.

15. See a Movie

If you’re faced with a rainy afternoon, take everyone to see a movie at the R/C Kill Devil Hills Movies 10. With stadium seating and a full-service concession stand, this theater shows first-run movies and offers a cool retreat on a hot summer’s day.

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