Collectively, the islands making up the Outer Banks stretch for some 200 miles off the North Carolina shores. They are a natural warm-weather vacation spot for visitors from all over the country, as the islands separate the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland, drawing in hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. From state parks to pristine beaches, this place has everything you’re looking for in a trip to the coast. The islands offer plenty of surfing, dining, shopping, and lounging options for vacationers of all ages.
As their license plates suggest, North Carolina is the birthplace of aviation. So while you’re in the Outer Banks, head over to the Wrist Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks and explore the life and accomplishments of the Wright Brothers. The visitor center has a museum with models of planes and actual tools and machines used by the brothers when constructing their flight experiments.
There’s no shortage of water activities in the Outer Banks. In fact, it offers some of the best surfing on the entire East Coast. If you’re a beginner, head to one of the local surf shops, like Hatteras Island Surf Shop, where you and a few friends can rent boards and get a 2-hour surf lesson all for under $100/person. Hatteras, along with many other local shops, also offers paddleboard, kayak, canoe, and skimboard rentals. Don’t forget to try out windsurfing and kitesurfing while you’re in the Outer Banks, you won’t regret it.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the country’s first national seashore, is home to perhaps the most iconic lighthouse in the Outer Banks. Aside from spanning some 30,000 acres, the seashore houses plants and wildlife that are constantly adapting to the ever-changing surroundings in the area. Visitors can pick a spot on the beach to spend the day, kayak in the sound, or climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Climb the lighthouse (for a small entrance fee) and enjoy the view from atop the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area on a select few days in the summer, you can even buy a ticket to take a full moon climb. Imagine the view of the moon from up high in the lighthouse!
Located just west of the Outer Banks, on the mainland of North Carolina, is Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Take the 1 hour and 15-minute drive and explore the animals and plants in this preserved wetland habitat. Visitors come from all across the globe to catch a glimpse of the red wolf, one of the rarest Endangered Species in the world. It’s also home to black bears, American Alligators, and extensive bird population. On your way out of the refuge be sure to stop by the park’s visitor center located on Roanoke Island, where the Roanoke Colony was established in 1585 and is now one of the three oldest surviving English place-names in the U.S.
Getting into the Outer Banks from out of the area, you have a few different options. You can fly into Pitt-Greenville Airport. Although it’s small, it’ll be one of the closest locations to the heart of the Outer Banks at just 2 hours and 30 minutes away. You can also fly into Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. This is just a little over 2 hours and 30-minute drive to the heart of the Outer Banks.
Transportation choices to get around the Outer Banks depends on where you want to go and what you’ll be doing. If you are staying in a beach town, like Emerald Isle, you’ll be able to walk and bike most places. If you’re interested in traveling outside of the Outer Banks or visiting many places along the 200-mile barrier island, a car might be your best bet.
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