There are two types of people who live in the South and the Atlanta area in general: Those who plan an annual vacation to the Outer Banks, and those who have never been. Because once you visit, it’s difficult to enjoy a beach trip anywhere else in the country.
If you’ve not yet basked on the beaches of the Outer Banks you might wonder if it’s worth the trip. It is about an 8-hour drive from Atlanta, and if we’re honest, there are decent beaches a little closer. However, once you experience all that OBX offers, you’ll understand why those extra two hours deliver a world of difference.
A True Ocean Experience
You may have dipped your toes into the Gulf of Mexico or lounged on the sands of coastal Georgia, but the Outer Banks offers a completely different type of ocean experience.
OBX has the largest waves on the East Coast, with a reputation known well by surfers from all over the world. The coastline at Cape Hatteras
is uniquely situated on the edge of the continental shelf so that it receives swells from both cold and warm ocean currents. The result is truly spectacular.
Younger kids will enjoy being tossed about by the crashing waves along the shoreline, and teens and adults can take part in surf schools
, which teach how to leverage the currents and ride the waves. Worried about toddlers, or need a break from the white caps? Don’t worry. The shores of the Pamlico Sound are gentle and serene – and only 150 yards across the island.
Did you know the first English settlers landed in Outer Banks in 1585 – well before Jamestown?
That is just one story of dozens and dozens you will find here, but that is not all. The opportunity to drink in the historical narratives with all five senses is myriad. You, your family, and your kids will return home with these historical encounters
, remembering them for a lifetime because
of that interactive component.
Visit the Wright Brother’s National Memorial
to see where they began assembling their first experimental glider in 1900, then walk to the very location where their plane took off and landed in 1903. They first began experiments in 1900 with kites, then gliders in successive years before building the plane that made history with the first flight in 1903 on this very site.
Every visitor must follow up the Memorial visit with a trip to Jockey’s Ridge State Park
, the coast’s largest living sand dune, to experience a hang-gliding flight
with Kitty Hawk Kites. Feel the breeze in your face and the sand on your feet just the way Wilbur and Orville did.
If you want to step further back in time, catch The Lost Colony
- the first and longest-running symphonic outdoor drama in the US – as it depicts the fate of that first English colony. With younger kids, treat them with a visit to Roanoke Island Festival Park
where they can board a ship, swab the deck, and catch a glimpse of life in the 1500s.
Multiple communities in one destination
Outer Banks includes a strip of land about 100 miles long, and roughly 150 yards wide, but it’s made of 14 towns and villages
, each with their own personality, which means that a visit here affords you the option of changing your “vibe” from one day to the next. There are several islands off the North Carolina coast, but the Outer Banks are generally considered to be the top half of the state coastline, and the area we visited includes a chain of three islands that runs for many miles and includes six towns and eight island villages. If we’re being geographically correct and inclusive, you have towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head and Manteo. The villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras Village.
is a charming waterfront town, with multiple bed-and-breakfast options. You’ll find the downtown area lined with unique shops, bike riders and stroller-walkers, and gorgeous views of the Roanoke Sound with towering yachts making their way toward the ocean. Contrast this with Kill Devil Hills
, smack in the middle of the Northern NC beaches. Here you’ll find hotels and rentals, dozens of restaurants at every price point, public beaches with lifeguards, and off-beach activities the kids will adore.
Yet another divergence includes Hatteras Village
, on the southern-most tip of Hatteras Island, where grand and elegant beach homes dot the shoreline, white-table restaurants serve fresh fine seafood, and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
reminds visitors of the ocean’s power.
From Duck to Nags Head to Avon…every town brings a unique temperament and opportunity for exploring.
Unexpected beach play
In addition to surfing the waves in the Outer Banks, this region also presents a few fun and unique ways to enjoy the beach. Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Nags Head allow beach-goers to build and enjoy a beach bonfire
. Be sure to find the bonfire rules for the beach you are visiting. For example, in Nags Head you must contact the fire department before building one, to ensure the winds are not too strong. And by all means, do not forget to pack the s’mores!
In Frisco, you can explore the Maritime Forest and the wide-open beach by horseback
. Guided tours with Equine Adventures allow you to trot or run the horses on the sand, and they help you get the perfect photo on your horse with the Atlantic in the background. If you have an off-road vehicle, you can drive on beaches
of the ocean or sound in three OBX towns during certain times of the year. Back your SUV or Jeep to the ocean for the perfect picnic spot.
Finally, while technically above
the beach, visiting one of the gorgeous Outer Banks’ piers
is another impressive way to see the ocean. Take photos, people-watch, or try your hand at making a catch! During the summer months, bring your fishing pole to Nags Head Pier; the Nags Head Pier Restaurant will clean the fish you catch, and cook them.
One size fits all
Outer Banks is the ideal location for any family vacation, but it works especially well for large, multi-generational trips. From active adventures like kiteboarding, hang-gliding or horseback riding…to peaceful and relaxing affairs like beachcombing, lighthouse viewing or birdwatching…there truly is something for every preference and every age.
Additionally, accommodations are easy for large groups; there are thousands of rental options
here. Many vacation home rentals include multiple master bedrooms, easy beach access, options to bring Fido
, and special amenities like bikes, kayaks, beach chairs, washer and dryer, a pool, or hot tub. Start planning your first or next trip.