Explore the OBX: Top 10 Best Things to Do in Nags Head NC!

Sunrise over the pier at the Outer Banks NC.

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What to Do in Nags Head North Carolina

Planning a trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks? Need some help figuring out the best things to do in Nags Head NC?

Good news!! As NC locals, we’ve been visiting the Outer Banks for over twenty years. So, we have a pretty good idea of the best things to do during your Outer Banks vacation. Hopefully we can guide you in the right direction and provide you with some ideas and tips on what to do in Nags Head!

Bodie Island LIghthouse in Nags Head NC
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Where is Nags Head NC?

The Outer Banks are one of the best destinations in North Carolina! Over 175 miles of barrier islands attracts visitors from around the country every year. And for a good reason! The coastal towns and beaches are full of fun things to do year round.

The Outer Banks are split into three sections: the northern, middle, and southern Outer Banks. Where is Nags Head in all of that? Smack dab in the middle. Nags Head is the quintessential southern beach town. From fun in the sun to history and more, there are a ton of fun things to do in Nags Head. You certainly won’t run out of things to do in the OBX! Nags Head is the perfect weekend getaway in NC!

Our Top Recommendations for Things to Do in Nags Head

While Nags Head in the Outer Banks may be most popular to visit during summer, we think it’s a great year round North Carolina destination! The shoulder seasons are probably my personal favorite (warm enough to swim but fewer crowds) but winter at the beach is still fun too!

Did you know that the Outer Banks is also known as the “graveyard of the Atlantic” due to the huge number of ships that have wrecked there over the years? Want to know more about North Carolina? Read more cool NC facts now!

Jockey's Ridge State Park sand dunes! Image is someone flying a kite in the distance on empty sand dunes.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the most visited state park in North Carolina and in our opinion it’s an Outer Banks must do. Here are some facts and tips for your visit:

  • Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest active dune system on the east coast located in the Outer Banks of NC. 
  • It’s the perfect spot for flying a kite, hang gliding, and catching the sunset. Make sure to go online to check their hours before you go as hours do change seasonally.
  • You can also take a hang-gliding lesson on-site! 
  • It can be very windy. (Hence the kites and hang gliding.) Be prepared-bring sunglasses and maybe even a handkerchief or face covering if it’s a super windy day! 
  • It can get super busy in the summer!️
  • The sand can get very hot. Honestly the temperatures in the summer are crazy hot so it’s really not that fun to us to go during the day in the summer. It’s much more tolerable in the evenings.
  • There is a boardwalk to view some of the dunes if you’re not into getting all sandy.
  • It’s a perfect place for a picnic! (There are a handful of picnic tables and grills.)
  • There is a very nice visitors center to learn some fun facts about sand dunes! (Restrooms too.)
  • There are a couple of hiking trails within the park.
  • You can sand board during certain parts of the year but a permit is required.
  • Jockey’s Ridge has a soundside beach with shallow calm water- perfect for children who aren’t quite ready for the waves of the Atlantic.
  • It’s one of the best FREE things to do in Nags Head NC!

Jennette’s Pier

If you’re into fishing, then Jennette’s Pier is a must. Extending 1000 feet into the ocean, Jennette’s Pier is the longest pier in the Outer Banks. You can get everything you need in the pier house for a day of fishing from rod and reel rental to bait and tackle. They even cover your NC fishing license in their fee.

If you’re not into fishing, we still recommend a visit to Jennette’s Pier! A part of the NC Aquarium system, Jennette’s also has educational exhibits in the pier house, several large aquariums, camps and classes. Besides, you’ll always find some incredible views here!

Visiting Bodie Island Lighthouse is one of the best things to do in Nags Head NC featured by top US family travel blog, More than Main Street.
Bodie Island Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse

There’s just something about lighthouses. They have this mysterious yet magical appeal to them. You can visit the Bodie Island Light Station year round however they only offer tours to climb the lighthouse seasonally.

Bodie Island Light Station Location: 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Road
Nags Head, North Carolina 27959

Know Before You Go: Children must be at least 42″ tall to climb the lighthouse, at least 11 years old, able to climb the steps on their own, and be accompanied by an adult. There are a little over 200 steps to climb to the top and it is considered strenuous. There is no air conditioning inside so please consider these rules before climbing.

Beach access in Nags Head NC in the Outer Banks.
One of many public beach accesses in Nags Head NC on the Outer Banks.

The Beach

I might be a little biased but I happen to think that the Outer Banks has some of the best beaches on the east coast. If you’re looking for fun in the sun, this is it! Enjoy surfing, boogie boarding, playing in the waves, hunting for seashells, or simply taking a long walk on the beach. Beach fishing is also popular here too. In Nags Head there are plenty of public beach access points, public parking, restrooms and showers available.

Bonus! There are several beach access locations with lifeguards! But please always pay attention to the warning flags and rip current advisories. Learn about rip currents before swimming and heed all warnings!

A beach day is always a good day! But it’s even better when you are prepared! Grab our ultimate beach packing list before you go!

Dowdy park in Nags Head on the Outer Banks of NC.
Dowdy Park

Dowdy Park

If you’re visiting the Outer Banks with kids and need a little break from the beach, then be sure to check out Dowdy Park. Not only for littles, there is a huge playground, basketball goals, picnic areas, handicapped accessible features, and a seasonal farmer’s market. Hanging out at Dowdy Park is a the perfect way to let kids burn some of that endless energy!

Wright Brother’s Memorial

Ok….ok, technically the Wright Brother’s Memorial is located in Kill Devil Hills. But it’s so close to Nags Head, it had to be on the list. It’s an absolute must do in the Outer Banks whether you’re a history fan or not.

At the Wright Brother’s Memorial you will be transported back in time to the era of the nation’s first flight. A truly inspiring stop, I highly recommend trying to make one of the park ranger talks- they do such a great job of bringing history to life! Plus they have the Junior Ranger Program here too!

Insider Tip: The Wright Brother’s Memorial is pet friendly! Your fur baby can’t go inside any of the buildings but they can explore the grounds with you as long as they are on a leash.

Deep sea fishing charter boat in Nags Head NC.
Deep sea fishing is a very popular activity in the Outer Banks.

Choose an Outer Banks Adventure!

If you think the only thing to do in the Outer Banks is the beach, you’d be wrong!! There are a ton of fun things to do in the OBX beyond the beach! Here are some ideas:

  • Nags Head Woods– there are seven different hiking trails to explore!
  • Venture sound side- try kayaking, paddle boarding, or crabbing.
  • Get your adrenaline pumping! Try parasailing, jet skiing, or kite surfing. You can even rent a boat if you want.
  • Explore the area by bicycle.
  • Go on a deep sea fishing charter!
  • Tee it up on one of the local golf courses.
  • Try scuba diving.
A little girl and a little boy playing miniature golf in the Outer Banks of North Carolina..
Mini putt putt is always a family favorite!

Act like a kid!

  • Play miniature golf
  • Race go karts
  • Go fly a kite.
  • Try a ropes course like First Flight Adventure Park.
  • Escape an escape room!
  • Peruse the super stores. (I’m personally not a fan, but I haven’t met a kid who didn’t love those mega stores. Pick up a shark’s tooth necklace or hermit crab!)

Explore nearby attractions in the Outer Banks

If you’re willing to drive a little bit, there are a ton of fun nearby Outer Banks attractions worth a visit:

Where to Eat in Nags Head

There are actually some great food options here but there are a bunch of tourist traps too! Here are our favorite places to eat in Nags Head:

Your Outer Banks Vacation

There are so many fun things to do in Nags Head and the Outer Banks in general. Which OBX activity are you going to check out first? What is missing from my list? Tell me in the comments below!

Need somewhere to stay in Nags Head? Check out one of our personal favorite options: The Saturday House Airbnb!

Visiting the Outer Banks featured by top US family travel blog, More than Main Street.
PIN THIS IMAGE FOR YOUR NEXT VACATION TO THE OUTER BANKS!

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9 Comments

  1. This looks like a beautiful area to visit along the coast. I would love to take some sunset or sunrise photos at the pier and lighthouse.

  2. This guide has so much info, thank you! I actually have a girlfriend who just moved to NC from DC, and she wants to rent a house in the Outer Banks this summer. This will certainly be very helpful!

  3. I’ve been to Raleigh & Asheville, but would love to explore some coastal cities in NC one of these days! Nags Head seems like a great place to visit. I’ll be saving this post for the future! Thank you.

  4. Would you believe me if I told you I’ve lived in NC my entire life and have never been to the OBX? Ah, this list has me itching to go! I need to schedule a trip ASAP!! Thank you for the suggestions.