Packed with seemingly endless beaches, friendly towns, and lively annual festivals, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are a fun-filled choice for a family vacation. Whether you’re in the mood to try new water sports, spot exotic wildlife, or simply spend lazy days on the shore, this beautiful area offers something for everyone. Keep your children busy with these kid-friendly attractions, all located within reach of many Outer Banks vacation rentals. Book your stay today, and check out the most exciting things to do at the Outer Banks.

1. Try Crabbing

Crabbing is a time-honored tradition in the Outer Banks, and it’s an easy activity for kids of all ages. Simply place raw chicken in a bucket, tie a string to the handle, and drop it in the water off of a dock. When you feel a crab climbing into the bucket to get the meat, scoop it up with a fishing net. For an exciting night activity, head out onto the beach with a flashlight to spot iridescent ghost crabs running across the sand. Be careful not to touch the crabs, as their pinch can be painful.

2. See Wild Horses

The Outer Banks is famous for the wild horses that make their home along the shore. For the best chance of spotting these elusive animals, book a tour with a local outfitter such as Wild Horse Adventure Tours or Corolla Wild Horse Fund. The most popular tourist locations are around Corolla, where wild mustangs roam free. If you’re staying closer to Shackleford Banks or Ocracoke Island, you can spot wild ponies without a tour.

3. Practice Casting

Try your luck with ocean fishing on one of the Outer Banks’ many piers. Jennette’s Pier is the perfect place to start; the onsite bait shop carries everything you need, including rod and reel rentals. Snacks are available for sale, and an educational center entertains kids who aren’t interested in fishing. Another fun option is surf fishing, which requires a surf rod. If your little ones are serious anglers, book a fishing charter boat for an open-water adventure.

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4. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Bring life to your kids’ history lessons with a trip to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. There, you can explore the flight line where the brothers’ historic airplane rides first took place and see replicas of their camp. A sculpture of the first aircraft makes it easy for little ones to visualize the flight, and the educational exhibits in the visitors center give in-depth information.

5. Spot Dolphins

If you’re visiting the Outer Banks between June and October, a dolphin-spotting tour is an entertaining option for the whole family. From the boat, you can watch dolphins as they play in the water, swim next to the hull, and jump high above the surface. A variety of companies, including Captain Johnny’s, Kittyhawk Watersports, and OBX Custom Cruises, offer guided boat rides. Opt for a casual afternoon cruise, or end the day with a spectacular sunset cruise.

6. Climb Tall Sand Dunes

Climb some of the tallest sand dunes in the Outer Banks at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Load a backpack with water for the climb, and enjoy stunning views from the top. If your kids are older, rent sandboarding equipment for a high-speed ride back down. The dunes are also a popular spot for hang gliding. If you dare, book a lesson or a tandem flight at a local outfitter. Some companies, including Kitty Hawk Kites, also offer kids’ lessons.

7. Visit the Aquarium

When the weather turns, or when you need a break from the heat, visit the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. Watch jellyfish drift by the glass, spot tropical fish, and learn about local sea life. Little ones love getting up close and personal with stingrays at the Sea Senses Exhibit, and kids 15 and up can dive with sharks in the aquarium’s massive Graveyard of the Atlantic tank. For a behind-the-scenes glance, come for an Animal Feeding session to watch as staff members deliver food.

8. Watch Kiteboarders

Pack your beach supplies and head to Canadian Hole to watch kiteboarders in action. After you set up camp on the beach, your kids can splash in the calm water as daredevils flip and jump high above the water just offshore. Don’t leave before sunset, when the kiteboarders become mere silhouettes against a fiery sky. If you’re inspired to get active, the sound is a great spot to try kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or kite surfing.

9. Roanoke Island Festival Park

Step back in time at Roanoke Island Festival Park. Learn what life was like for 1500s-era settlers in a working English settlement, learn how to weave a basket at the American Indian Town, and dress in historic costumes at the Roanoke Adventure Museum. For a one-of-a-kind experience head down to the water and explore the Elizabeth II, a perfect replica of a 16th-century sailing vessel. Kids can swab the decks, wander through the cabin, and help the crew set the sails.

10. Spend a Day at the Waterpark

There’s a ride for everyone in the family at the H2OBX Waterpark. With 30 rides and water slides, the park can keep you busy for a whole day. Adults and teenagers can learn to surf on a continuous wave or drop seven stories in the dark on the Midnight Marauder. Pack multiple people into a tube on the family rides, or head to the kids’ area for child-safe slides and splash zones.

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