11 Reasons Why You Should Consider North Carolina’s Outer Banks for Your Next Vacation!

NC's Outer Banks

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North Carolina’s Outer Banks for Families

There are so many things to do in North Carolina’s Outer Banks!

We’ve been going for years and we never get bored. But, there are a few things you should know before going. The Outer Banks are about 100 miles of beach towns from Cape Hatteras to Corolla, NC. It will take you over two hours to drive from end to end, so you may not be able to do everything all in one trip. In addition, there’s a ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island that is another experience all by itself (but well worth it)!

The Outer Banks of North Carolina, in my opinion, is one of the best places to travel in the USA!

11 Things to do in the Outer Banks with Kids:

  1. Go see the wild horses. If you drive past Corolla, NC to Carova, NC you will immediately see the Wild Spanish Mustangs hanging out on the beach. There is just something absolutely magical about wild horses. It is illegal to go within fifty feet of them…but they seem to be pretty used to the people, so you can easily get great pics! You can choose to do a tour (typically in an open air jeep) or you can drive onto the beach on your own if you have four-wheel drive. Do not drive in your car…you will get stuck…and then you’ll be super embarrassed that you have to be towed out. Sigh…there’s always someone who thinks they can do it. 
    NC's Outer Banks- Wild Spanish Mustangs in Carova
  2. Outdoor Water Sports. This might seem like, Duh…but there are so  many awesome water sports to take advantage of in the Outer Banks. From kayaking, to stand-up paddle boarding, to surfing…the options seem endless. You can choose to rent the equipment on your own, give it a go with a guide, or of course bring your own.
    NC's outer banks- surf lessons
  3. Explore from Above. You can register for classes with the hang gliding school or go tandem with a guide. Literally anyone can go! My five year old (at the time) to my 7o year old mother-in-law all tried it and loved it! There’s also airplane tours for those who like a little less adrenaline.
    Explore NC's outer banks from the air- try hang gliding!
  4. Get your history lesson on! Visit the Wright Brothers Memorial or the Lost Colony, two of NC’s top historical landmarks. The Wright Brother’s Memorial is fascinating…if you can catch one of the “ranger talks,” you’ll get even more out of it! It’s been awhile since I visited the Lost Colony, but I remember two things: I enjoyed it and the mosquitoes were awful. Take bug spray!
    NCs Outer Banks
  5. Take your kids to the Pirate Adventure in Manteo. Although my kids have aged out now…we can’t recommend this excursion enough! We did it two years in a row…it was that good! They let your kids dress up like a pirate, entertain, and engage them the entire time. Great for girls or boys!
    Manteo's Pirate Adventure is the best!
  6. Visit the NC Aquarium or explore downtown Manteo. Depending on where you are staying in the Outer Banks, this can be a bit of a drive. But no doubt, NC weather will gladly provide you at least one rain day so a visit to the aquarium is the perfect indoor activity! And when you’re done…grab a bite to eat in the cutest little waterfront area in the town of Manteo.
  7. Visit a lighthouse. You can go north to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse or south to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, but they’re always a fun adventure!
    NC's Outer Banks
  8. Embrace your inner child and go fly a kite! There is no better area to buy and fly a kite than the Outer Banks! In fact, you can enjoy one of North Carolina’s most significant landmarks, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, by flying a kite or just exploring the infamous sand dunes. Be careful…the sand is HOT!
    NC's Outer Banks
  9. Go fishing! From fishing or crabbing in the sound, to driving onto the beach in Carova and surf fishing, to a deep sea fishing day trip, there is something for everyone. First timers like us can fish or crab with ease or the savviest of fisherman will be pleased with their options. Not into fishing?? Go on a dolphin watching cruise although you will have many chances to see dolphins right from the shore. We’ve literally seen them all times throughout the day while sitting on the beach.
  10. Soak up some Vitamin D. This is one of our family favorites for sure! Spending the day building sand castles, boogie boarding at the beach, or reading a book by the pool…relaxation is aplenty!
    NC's Outer Banks
  11. Catch the sunrise or the sunset. We’re not exactly morning people…so we catch way more sunsets than sunrises. But they are always different and yet always amazing. I could take a million pictures and I’ll always take one more.
    NC's Outer Banks

We also like to check out the surf shops, boutiques, and of course look for the best local good eats. An absolute MUST is visit to Duck Donuts- they are the bomb.com!

But, there are a few downsides to OBX. I like to know all the pros and cons before I visit a destination, so let’s be real.

The Downsides:

  • The traffic here can be AWFUL. I’m talking an hour to drive six miles on a Saturday or Sunday in the summer when everyone is trying to check in and out for their weekly rental.
  • The ocean temperatures can be freezing cold. This all depends on what town you are staying in, the direction the wind is blowing, and the day of the week…but when it’s 100 degrees outside and 50 water degree temps…not exactly ideal.
  • The weather can be pretty unpredictable. And when it rains, everyone flocks to the restaurants and stores. Be prepared for a wait. Just sayin.
  • A lot of the Outer Banks shuts down in the winter. Many of the restaurants and stores completely close…it’s eerie but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

The Outer Banks has hosted our family every summer for years and is near and dear to our hearts. We’d recommend it to anyone and everyone! Oh and don’t forget a game of mini putt-putt…a beach vacay is just not complete without a round of mini putt-putt!

Have you had a chance to visit North Carolina’s Outer Banks?

Heading specifically to Corolla? Here are nine things to do in Corolla NC. Let me know what y’all think!

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11 awesome things to do in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Perfect for a beach vacation with kids! One of our family favorite destinations for years! #nc #northcarolina #usatravel #familytravel #outerbanks #obx

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  1. Great area to select for vacation and blog-topic. I discovered the Outer Banks back in the Eighties, before it was very developed, and love its natural beauty.

  2. What a fantastic overview of our beautiful outer banks. I love that you started with the stunning wild horses there’s something mesmerizing about them. And, so many terrific places to enjoy fine dining, too. Nice!

    1. It is really well done…I was skeptical but they keep the kids engaged the whole time! I have such fond memories of it!

  3. Wow, I can see why you love it so much! Wild horses?! As a Torontonian this is such a foreign concept to me, haha, but so cool!

    1. It’s very cool to see them roaming freely on the beach. And I thought it would be hard to find them, but they were right there within a few minutes drive!!!

    1. It’s very warm in the summer!! The water can be cold at times but tolerable most days!

  4. Any place with 100s of miles of beaches is someplace I need to visit. Thanks for the heads of about the traffic congestion, we would definitely travel early in the day and beat the rush!

    1. There’s so much to explore here…after years of coming we’re still finding new things to do!

  5. These photos bring back memories! We stayed at Carova a few years ago and it was a blast. The wild horses are so pretty. 🙂 This is a wonderful guide!

    1. Thank you so much!! Did you stay in one of the houses on the beach itself??? So cool!

  6. Hi Julie, this looks beautiful! Wish I could pack up and go, but I’m on the other side of the continent, and very far North…sigh. I have been to Georgia. We wanted to trek up to South Carolina but ran out of time. Hopefully, we will get a chance to tour South and North Carolina next year. Nice post. very nice that you added the downside of peak season.

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you get a chance to visit – the Carolinas have a lot of wonderful things to see and do! (But I guess I am partial:)

  7. We went to Outer Banks for the first time last year and we want to go back again! We did the sand dunes and a lighthouse. Thanks for some other ideas!!

  8. I have never been to the Outer Banks but I’ve heard so many good things! Your pictures are so pretty and makes me want to visit! I want to see those horses!

  9. I love the Outter Banks. My friend moved out there and I used to visit her in Kill Devil Hills allthe time. Great to visit in off season.

  10. We love OBX! This is our third year going down – we stay in the Pine Island section of Corolla and it’s absolutely amazing. We tend to go late in the season or October and it’s still perfect weather and plenty to do.

    1. Awesome!! I know exactly where you’re talking about…We stay in Duck! We love shoulder season too!