Dynamic Variation:

Outer Banks Northern Beaches

What’s there to do on the Outer Banks? In a word: lots. Everywhere you look there’s something to explore, experience, see or do. There are beaches – of course – and waves to surf. We’ve got piers where you can fish, a few beaches to drive on (at the right time of year), all the watersports you could ever need, a few places to hunt, and even hang gliding. Throw in some of our iconic sights – the massive sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island, Elizabethan Gardens, and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site – and it’s easy to see that a getaway to the Outer Banks can be as active or as laid back as you’d like.

 

Map OBXJump To

Recreation & Outer Banks Icons
Hiking, Biking, & More
Beach Accesses
Sound Accesses
Watersports
Hunting
Off-Road Vehicle Use
Fishing and Fishing Piers

 

 

 

Recreation & Outer Banks Icons

 

North Carolina, specifically Kill Devil Hills, was first in flight, and at the Wright Brothers National Memorial you can walk in the footsteps of that famous first flight. At the visitors center, exhibits and videos tell the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, two bicycle makers with an insatiable curiosity and an idea that powered flight might just be possible. They made their way from Ohio to the Outer Banks on a series of repeated quests from 1900-1903 to test out gliders, wing designs, and the probability of flight, eventually testing propellers and the Wright Flyer, resulting in the first powered flight right here in Kill Devil Hills. A replica of the Wright Flyer is on display, and near the visitors center you can walk the path of their first successful flights, from the shortest run to the longest, which kept Wilbur aloft for 59 seconds as he flew 852 feet. Climb the nearby hill to the monument for views of the ocean, sound, the field where the first flights took place, and to see the Outer Banks from a different point of view.

 

If flight is your thing, you can take your first flight at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. There, hundreds of visitors fly kites every day, but the more adventurous climb the dunes with the folks from Kitty Hawk Kites for a lesson in hang gliding. Under the careful gaze of the instructors, wannabe fliers will lift their hang glider, run to the edge of the dune, and leap into the air, drifting to the soft sand below. That’s not all you can do at Jockey’s Ridge – which just happens to be the largest active sand dune in the Eastern US – as marked trails will lead you through the dunes and woods to vantage points of the Roanoke Sound, along the way looking for animal tracks in the sand. At the southwestern corner of Jockeys Ridge State Park Soundside Road leads to a small parking area where a second hiking trail explores this part of the park, and where you can cross one last dune to reach a small beach on Roanoke Sound. It’s a fantastic little beach and perfect for small kids (who love the warm water and the lack of potentially startling waves—hey, waves are tough when you’ve barely mastered walking!) or to launch a kayak or standup paddleboard. Just be sure to obey the signage and be out of the parking lot at the right time because Park Rangers lock the gate tight and you’ll be car-free until the morning.

 

Hiking, Biking, and More

 

Ready for a jog or leisurely bike ride? Would a walk in the woods be more to your liking? Maybe you want to try sandboarding, or you’d rather get on a kayak and explore some wooded waterways. You’ve come to the right place because all this and more is right here on the Outer Banks.

 

A mixed-use pedestrian and bicycle path runs the length of the Outer Banks (seriously, you can ride 105 miles of bike path from Duck to Ocracoke Island). Through Duck and Southern Shores, the path is wide and tree-shaded (mostly), and separated from the road by a grass margin. You’ll see lots of folks using the path in these towns and locals and visitors take the dogs for a walk; get the kids out and moving; go for a leisurely walk, jog, or ride; or turn it up a notch and log some miles on their own fitness quest.

 

If you’re in Duck and you’d like a walk but you want to keep it much more casual, check out the Duck Boardwalk. It runs for a mile along the Sound, connecting the Town Park and municipal center with shopping centers and restaurants. There are several spots with benches, and many restaurants have patios connected to the Boardwalk, giving it a lively feel. In Kitty Hawk, through Kill Devil Hills, and in Nags Head, the bike path abuts the road. But the path is still wide, with plenty of room for groups to share the lane and pass with room to spare. If you want quiet, quaint, beachside riding, head to the far south end of Nags Head where the two-lane road serves anglers coming to the fishing pier and the handful of houses on this stretch of the beach.

 

Believe it or not, all the beach houses you see on the Outer Banks weren’t always here. If you’d like to get a taste for the wild side of things and see what OBX was like hundreds of years ago, there are two patches of woods you need to see: Nags Head Woods Preserve and the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve.

 

Nags Head Woods Preserve, just south of the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Milepost 9.5, offers up 1,111-acres of dunes, wetland, and deciduous maritime forest to explore. Five miles of hiking trails make loops in the Preserve, allowing you to put together a stroll in the woods (or a hike if you’re hitting the trail hard) as long or as short as you’d like. More than 50 species of birds nest here, so bring your binoculars and field guide. Dogs are allowed in parts of the Preserve, provided they’re on a leash, so the whole family can join. When you’re there, don’t forget to take the audio history tour along the path to the Roanoke Sound, it’ll give you a good idea of how things were here just about a century ago.

 

In Kitty Hawk, the North Carolina Coastal Reserve maintains a 1,824-acre nature preserve, the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve. This patch of woods is one of the largest remaining maritime forests on the Outer Banks and it contains several unusual ecosystems as the dunes, narrow swales between, and patches of deciduous, fir, and swampy forest for scientists to study and for us to check out. Hike or bike here, or bring your kayak and go for a paddle, there’s plenty to explore no matter how you want to do it.

 

Note: hunting is allowed in the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve and in Nags Head Woods Preserve. During hunting season – typically from mid-fall to the New Year – you’ll want to exercise a little caution in the woods and wear something bright and unmistakable. Check with the Reserve and Preserve to see if you’re all clear when you visit.

 

Beach Access

 

Beach access and public parking availability vary from town to town, but even in places where there’s no public beach access, vacation home renters and residents are free to use the access points in their neighborhoods (information should be on hand in your rental, if not, give your rental agency a call and ask about the nearest beach access).

 

In Duck, all beach accesses are private and available only to homeowners and renters in the neighborhoods where accesses exist. As a result, public parking areas are limited to the lots and spaces serving Duck businesses, shopping centers, town facilities, and the park and Town Boardwalk. Southern Shores is much the same. Parking is by town permit only and there are no public beach accesses. Parking and beach access are limited to residents and renters in Southern Shores. Other parking areas serve the handful of businesses, shopping centers, and municipal facilities in town.

 

When you get to Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head, things change and access to the beach is plentiful. All along North and South Virginia Dare Trail – the Beach Road – there is walkover access, boardwalks cresting the dunes, and ramps leading over the dunes to the beach.

 

In Kitty Hawk you’ll find beach accesses and parking at:

  • Byrd Street
  • Fonck Street
  • Maynard Street
  • Bennett Street
  • Luke Street
  • Eckner Street
  • Bleriot Street
  • Wilkins Street
  • Hawks Street
  • Balchen Street
  • Lillian Street
  • Kitty Hawk Bath House

 

Parking is available at or near each of the beach access points; there are 266 parking spaces and 8 handicapped spaces You’ll find showers at the Byrd Street and Lillian Street entrances and the Kitty Hawk Bath House.

 

Lifeguard stands at Byrd Street, Eckner Street, Lillian Street, and the Kitty Hawk Bath House give the beach good lifeguard coverage. Ocean Rescue personnel patrol the stretches of sand between lifeguard stands on ATVs, making regular rounds. Lifeguards and Ocean Rescue patrols are active daily from 10 am-6 pm Memorial Day to Labor Day, and from 10 am-5 pm from Labor Day to September 30. 

 

In Kill Devil Hills, beach access is available at:

  • Arch Street
  • Helga Street
  • Chowan Street
  • Hayman Street
  • Walker Street
  • Eden Street
  • Avalon Drive
  • Fifth Street
  • Fourth Street
  • Third Street
  • Second Street
  • First Street
  • Coral Drive
  • Asheville Drive
  • Prospect Avenue
  • Glenmere Avenue
  • Woodmere Avenue
  • Ferris Avenue
  • Raleigh Avenue
  • Carlow Avenue
  • Sutton Avenue
  • Pinehurst Avenue
  • Ocean Bay Boulevard
  • Carlton Avenue
  • Oregon Avenue
  • Baum Street
  • Clark Street
  • Calvin Street
  • Martin Street
  • Atlantic Street
  • Ocean Acres Beach Access (Neptune Drive)
  • Lake Drive
  • Eighth Street

 

There are lifeguard stands available at:

  • Helga Street
  • Hayman Street
  • Eden Street
  • Avalon Drive
  • Fifth Street
  • Third Street
  • Second Street
  • First Street
  • Coral Drive
  • Asheville Drive
  • Woodmere Avenue
  • Carlow Avenue
  • Ocean Bay Boulevard
  • Oregon Avenue
  • Baum Street
  • Clark Street
  • Martin Street
  • Atlantic Street
  • Ocean Acres Beach Access (Neptune Drive)
  • Lake Drive
  • Eighth Street

Lifeguards are stationed on stands from 10 am-5:30 pm, Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a roving (ATV) patrol continuing until October 15.

 

Paved parking is available at all access listed above except:

  • Helga Street
  • Eden Street
  • Avalon Drive
  • Third Street
  • Coral Drive
  • Baum Street
  • Ocean Acres Beach Access (Neptune Drive)
  • Lake Drive

Nags Head provides public beach access at:

  • Eighth Street
  • Albatross Street
  • Gallery Row
  • Abalone Street
  • Admiral Street
  • Baltic Street
  • Barnes Street
  • Blackman Street
  • Bonnett Street
  • Bittern Street
  • Bladen Street
  • Bainbridge Street
  • Curlew Street
  • Hollowell Street
  • Conch Street
  • Small Street
  • Enterprise Street
  • Loggerhead Street
  • Nags Head Town Hall
  • Epstein Street
  • Forrest Street
  • Grouse Street
  • Glidden Street
  • Gull Street
  • Gray Eagle Street
  • Jennette’s Pier
  • Gulfstream Street
  • Governor Public Beach Access
  • Huron Street
  • Holden Street
  • Hargrove Street
  • Ida Street
  • Isabella Street
  • Islington Street
  • Indigo Street
  • Jay Street
  • June Street
  • James Street
  • Jacob Street
  • Juncos Street
  • Oregon Drive
  • Limulus Drive
  • Ehmann Public Beach Access

 

Lifeguards are available on Nags Head Beaches from 10 am-6 pm Memorial Day-Labor Day, with ATV patrols from 9 am-7 pm throughout September, and 9 am-6 pm in October. You’ll find Lifeguard Stands at the following beach access points:

  • Albatross Street
  • Abalone Street
  • Bonnett Street
  • Hollowell Street
  • Enterprise Street
  • Epstein Beach Access
  • Forrest Street
  • Gray Eagle Street
  • Jennette’s Pier
  • Gulfstream Street
  • Hargrove Street
  • Ida Street
  • Indigo Street
  • Juncos Street
  • Lumulus Drive

Public parking is available at all beach accesses except:

  • Gallery Row
  • Islington Street

 

There are other beach accesses in each of these towns, but they’re often private and reserved for the use of hotel, condo, or vacation home guests and to visitors to the fishing piers (parking at the piers carries a fee separate from the fishing or sightseeing fee you’ll pay to access the pier itself).

 

Sound Access

 

On the Outer Banks you’ll hear a lot of folks talking about heading out to “the Sound.” We tend to use the Sound as a catchall referring to the shallow body of water that stretches between our little chain of islands and the mainland. In reality, there’s not one Sound, but five. From north to south, they are: Currituck Sound, Albemarle Sound, Croatan Sound, Roanoke Sound, and the Pamlico Sound. The borders of each are a little fuzzy, but they do have boundaries. From the Wright Memorial Bridge north to the Virginia Border, that’s the Currituck Sound. The Albemarle Sound stretches along the western edge of most of the Northern Outer Banks towns from the Wright Memorial Bridge south to Roanoke Island. The Croatan Sound lies to the west of Roanoke Island, between the island and mainland Dare County. On the east side of Roanoke Island between the island and Nags Head, stretching south to Oregon Inlet and the Pamlico Sound, is Roanoke Sound. Comprising the entire western flank of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Pamlico Sound runs from Oregon Inlet south to Ocracoke Island.

 

Each of the five Sounds are distinct in their makeup and recreational opportunities. Waterfowl hunting abounds in the Currituck Sound and the Pamlico Sound (for more information on hunting in the Pamlico Sound and the marshes of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, take a look at this page, though you’ll find islands and marshes in each of the sounds where you can hunt for duck, geese, and other waterfowl.

 

The fishing is different in each Sound as well, thanks in part to currents, channels, the depth and temperature of the water, and the salinity. Currituck Sound is considered a freshwater sound, and the strong currents in the Albemarle and the long, narrow makeup of Currituck Sound keep most of the saltwater out, and this means a different fishing experience whether you’re out there on a boat or fishing from a dock. Albemarle Sound stretches far inland, and the rivers that feed it bring different species into its western end than what you’ll catch closer to the Outer Banks. In the Croatan and Roanoke Sounds surrounding Roanoke Island, the water’s deeper and navigable to bigger boats; the current is also stronger, and this all conspires to create subtle differences in what’s swimming just out of sight. And the Pamlico Sound runs for more than 100 miles, varying in width and depth; in places dotted with islands and at other points riddled with shoals and sandbars (a very good reason to hire a fishing guide when you’re heading inshore). In addition to the variety of fish you can catch in the Sounds, you’ll also find oysters, clams, shrimp, and other delicacies if you know where to look.

 

Common sights in each of the Sounds include jet skis, sailboats large and small, fishing boats and skiffs, kayakers, standup paddleboarders, windsurfers and kite surfers. A number of outfitters along the Outer Banks’ Northern Beaches (and along Hatteras Island; give our Hatteras Guide a read if you’re headed to the villages and beaches there) rent paddle-powered, wind-driven, and motor-equipped watercraft, making it easy to explore whichever part of the particular Sound that strikes your fancy. But the most common sight in the Sounds of the Outer Banks is the sunset. With all the Sounds to our west, sunset is especially beautiful, especially when the water is calm and the sunset sits reflected there.

 

Soundside access is limited in some towns and villages, but more open in others. Many Soundside rental homes have docks or decks (or even kayak or boat launches) providing access to the water; in some cases, rental or private homes provide the only access to the water. If you’re interested in going into the Sound, you’ll find access points in:

 

Duck

  • Duck Town Park
  • Duck Boardwalk

Southern Shores

  • No public soundside access

Kitty Hawk

  • Windgrass Circle Park
  • Bob Perry Road/Kitty Hawk Bay

Kill Devil Hills

  • West Hayman Street Estuarine
  • West Third Street
  • West Arch Street
  • Dock Street
  •  Collington Island (at the second bridge)

Nags Head

  • Jockeys Ridge State Park
  • Soundside Road (access to a small parking area in the State Park)
  • West Danube Street
  • Harvey Estuarine/US 158 Bypass
  • Nags Head Easuarine/Nags Head Causeway
  • Melvin R. Daniles Bridge (the Little Bridge) on the Nags Head Causeway

 

 

Watersports

 

Ready to surf, sail, SUP, or splash the day away? On the outer Banks it’s easy to get your thrills on the water. We’ve got some of the best surfing on the East Coast, and with breaks from Duck to Whalebone Junction, you’ll find one (or two or three) where you can hang 10 whether you’re an experienced wave rider or a true grommet. (What’s a grommet? That’s a young or inexperienced surfer, and if you’re asking, a surf lesson might be just what you need.)

 

Surfing’s not the only thing we’ve got going on. Standup paddleboarding – or SUP – is big on the calm waters of the Sounds, though some daredevils will take them oceanside to try their hand at SUP Surfing. On the Sounds you can also kayak, take a sightseeing cruise to spot dolphins or a stunning sunset, hop aboard a sailboat, or grab the throttle of a jet ski and go.

 

All along the Outer Banks you’ll find surf shops stocked with boards, wax, and the gear you need to get out and ride; some even sell used boards, rent boards for surfing or a SUP session, or provide lessons for everyone from beginners to those looking to turn pro. Nearly every surf shop will carry board shorts, swimsuits, hoodies, and logo-laden t-shirts, and while you’re there picking out a memento of your time surfing the Outer Banks, go ahead and ask the folks for a little insider insight and find out where the surf’s up.

 

Kitty Hawk Kites, one of our most recognizable outfitters, has locations in just about every town on the Outer Banks, and they keep rental equipment on hand, including kayaks (single and tandem), SUP equipment, and surfboards; they also offer surfing and SUP lessons as well as guided trips for kayakers and paddleboarders. They’re not the only ones helping folks learn to love surfing. Cavalier Surf Shop, Farmdog Surf School, Kitty Hawk Surf Company, and Kitty Hawk Kayak and Surf School are just a few of the places offering lessons, rentals, or both. Check out our listing of surf schools and surf shops for more.

 

If you’ve got the need for speed, look to the Sounds and you’ll see plenty of jet skis skimming around. These things are fast, so take it easy and pilot these things responsibly, but they’re a fun way to spend an afternoon. Several outfitters offer instruction and rentals (and a few offer orientation tours), including Kitty Hawk Kites, Nor’Banks Sailing & Watersports, North Duck Watersports, Nags Head Watersports, and Causeway Watersports. Nags Head Dolphin Watch, Kitty Hawk Kites, and Nor’Banks Sailing & Watersports are a few of the outfitters that’ll get you on the water from Duck to the Causeway.

 

You’re always free to bring your own boards, kayaks, jet skis, and boats. Between the many marinas and the handful of public boat launches, there are a lot of places where you can get your boat in the water (and some marinas may even let you store your trailer there; check with them first). Public beach accesses – and private accesses in towns like Duck and Southern Shores – make it easy to haul your surfboard to the beach and get to it, and many Soundside rental homes have docks or small beaches where you can get in your kayak or step onto your paddleboard and have an adventure.

 

 

Hunting

 

It’s a surprise to many, but you can hunt on the Outer Banks and mainland Dare County. Waterfowl hunting – a century-long draw for visitors – remains popular, but you can also hunt small game, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and more here.

 

To hunt in North Carolina you’ll need a valid license from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Licenses are available online at www.ncwildlife.org, and prices vary based on your residency status, age, and the type of license or stamp you’re getting. Full details on license requirements, including costs, hunters safety certification, reciprocal agreements with neighboring states, and the like are available online.

 

On the Outer Banks proper, there are several places to hunt. Nags Head Woods Preserve and Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve are two notable locations; the other is Roanoke Island. There are also waterfowl hunting opportunities in the Sounds, along the marshes, and adjacent to pocosins. Nags Head Woods Preserve, a spot usually known for hiking, is open to bow hunters (no crossbows) as a way to manage their deer herd. To hunt, you’ll need a valid North Carolina hunting license, complete a registration form and pay a $50 fee, and attend one of four orientation sessions. They keep information posted on their Facebook Page and their staff is happy to answer any questions.

 

Off-road Vehicle Use on the Outer Banks

 

On the Outer Banks, seeing a Jeep, truck or SUV on the beach is a common sight. Anglers, surfers, the adventurous and the curious lower their tire pressure and head out onto the sand, making good use of the ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) access we have here. So, how can you explore our beaches on four wheels?

 

Glad you asked because on the northern Outer Banks – from Nags Head to Duck – you’re limited to when and where ORVs are allowed. Currently only two towns – Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills – allow ORVs; the other towns – Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Duck – do not. Serious ORV enthusiasts and summer visitors who want to put a little sand in their tire treads head south to Cape Hatteras National Seashore where 75 miles of beaches are accessible via dozens of ORV ramps. If that sounds like heaven to you, we’ve written a guide to ORV use on Hatteras Island that you should check out.

 

In Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills, the rules are simple:

  • ORVs are allowed from October 1 to April 30
  • You need a valid driver’s license and an ORV permit to drive on the beach
  • You can only access the beach from designated entrances

 

Permits are $25 and are available online or at the Nags Head Town Hall (5401 S. Croatan Highway, Milepost 15), Kill Devil Hills Town Hall (102 Town Hall Drive, Milepost 8.5), and at most tackle shops in Nags Head. You’ll need to show your license and current registration to get a permit, so save yourself a trip back to the car and bring it in with you. Maps of ORV areas in Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills are available online and where you pick up your permit

 

Vehicular Beach Accesses in Nags Head can be found at:

  • Eighth Street
  • Bladen Street
  • Conch Street
  • Enterprise Street
  • Forrest Street
  • Gulfstream Street
  • Juncos Street

In Kill Devil Hills, Vehicular Beach Accesses are located at:

  • Arch Street
  • Helga Street
  • Chowan Street
  • Walker Street
  • Fifth Street
  • Third Street
  • Second Street
  • Asheville Drive
  • Pinehurst Avenue
  • Carlton Avenue
  • Oregon Avenue
  • Clark Street
  • Martin Street
  • Atlantic Street
  • Lake Drive
  • Eighth Street

 

Before you head off to get your ORV permit for these northern towns or for Cape Hatteras National Seashore, there are a few things you should know about driving in deep, soft sand (and hopefully keep you from calling a tow truck)

  • Lower tire pressure to around 20 psi. This helps your tires grip the sand more easily, giving you better traction in the deep, loose sand.
  • A 4x4 is better than AWD (all-wheel drive) or two-wheel drive.
  • Stay in the established tire tracks whenever possible.
  • Pedestrians always have the right of way.
  • Follow the same rules as the paved road: stay to the right, pass only when necessary, don’t veer “off road.”
  • Stay off the dunes and out of marked areas.
  • Stay out of the water. Saltwater is quite corrosive and bad for your vehicle.
  • Reinflate your tires as soon as possible – this means in the parking area (if you have a compressor) or at the first gas station you see.
  • Wash your vehicle, especially the underside, as soon as you can, again, saltwater is quite corrosive

 

 

Fishing and Fishing Piers

If you find yourself in a fishing mood, the Outer Banks is the place to be. With surfcasting, pier fishing, deep-sea charters, inshore fishing, crabbing, and even a charter shrimp boat where you can play Forrest Gump for a day, we’ve got you covered no matter how you like to wet a line. Throughout the year there’s something to catch, captains and guides to put you on the fish, and plenty of keepers to reel in. And if all you’re interested in is eating some fresh catch, well we’ve got seafood markets galore, no rod required.

 

To go fishing anywhere on the Outer Banks you’ll need a Coastal Recreational Fishing License, available online or at most sporting goods stores and tackle shops. Licenses are good for 10 days, 1 year, or a lifetime, and costs vary for North Carolina residents and visitors. For residents, licenses are $6 and $11 for 10-day and annual licenses; lifetime license fees vary from $16 for seniors to anywhere from $106-265 depending on the age of the license holder. Non-residents expect to pay $11 for a 10-day license, $32 for an annual license, and $530 for a lifetime license. Fishing from the Kitty Hawk, Avalon, or OBX Fishing Piers, from Jennette’s Pier, or from a charter fishing boat doesn’t require an individual license.

 

Most folks who come to the Outer Banks are content to visit the piers and cast a line from there, or to stand with their toes in the sand while they toss a rig out past the breakers, but if you want the chance to reel in the fish of a lifetime, then you’re gonna want to go offshore, and that means chartering a boat. Fortunately, the Outer Banks is loaded with captains and boats ready to take you out to the Gulf Stream for an unforgettable day. While it’s true that the largest fishing fleet on the East Coast sails out of the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center (10 miles south of Whalebone Junction), there are captains sailing out of the harbors in Manteo, Wanchese, and Pirate’s Cove (don’t worry, no actual pirates here). Start your search with our index of Charter Boats and Captains and find one that suits you.

 

Of course, you can bring your own boat and use one of the many wildlife boat ramps found soundside along the Outer Banks or you can launch (for a fee) at one of the many marinas around. Unless you’re an experienced captain and have the big boat built for offshore excursions, we don’t recommend this approach if you’ve been dreaming of fishing the Gulf Stream—leave all that work to a charter captain and crew. If you’re thinking of fishing inshore and exploring the marshes, creeks, Sounds, and rivers with a rod in hand, your own boat will do nicely, but for a really successful day on the water, we think it’s best to leave the boating to the pros. Families have been fishing the waters of the Outer Banks for generations, so lean on that local knowledge and rely on their insiders’ insight and look for a local guide to take you to where the fishing’s fine. Charters are fun and the thrill to surfcasting while sitting on your tailgate is ideal for some, you can still catch plenty of fish from the piers and the shore. In fact, that’s where most of our visiting anglers catch their first fish on the Outer Banks, where they reel in records, and where they catch the fishing bug themselves.

 

There are five piers on the Outer Banks’ Northern Beaches: Kitty Hawk Pier (at MP 1.5), Avalon Pier (at MP 6), Nags Head Fishing Pier (at MP 11.5), Jennette’s Pier (at MP 16.5), and the OBX Fishing Pier (at MP 18.5). Up until a few years ago, Kitty Hawk Pier was public, but the Hilton Garden Inn next door now owns it and they have made it accessible to guests of the hotel and season pass-holders. The others – Avalon, Nags Head, Jennette’s, and the Outer Banks Fishing Pier – are open to everyone and as long as you pay the fee, you can fish all day. Each of our public fishing piers carry a blanket fishing license, so if you’re fishing from the pier itself, you’re covered, no license is required. Anglers and sightseers are welcome year-round at our piers, and since cooler weather and cooler water bring different species of fish to our waters, there’s something to catch in every season.

 

Of the five piers, four are wooden and the fifth – Jennette’s Pier – is a modern marvel of concrete construction, but more on that in a minute. Avalon Pier (in Kill Devil Hills), Nags Head Fishing Pier (in, you guessed it, Nags Head) and the Outer Banks Fishing Pier (at the extreme south end of Nags Head) call back to the Outer Banks of yesteryear with their weathered wooden construction. These three piers are full of character. They’re all wood – from pilings to deck to handrails – and they show a bit of wear as the seasons roll on. The railings are a little crooked, the deck pitches to one side or up a little or down a little, and the whole things rocks a bit with each wave. That doesn’t deter anglers who line the sides of the pier to catch flounder, trout, sharks, skates, and more; and it doesn’t stop anglers headed to the far end where they hope to hook cobia, red drum and other big catches.

 

Jennette’s Pier stretches 1,000 feet out over the Atlantic Ocean, and the sturdy concrete construction prevents any sways and keeps the deck level from one end to the other. Overhead, turbines capture wind and convert it to energy, which is used to light the pier and pierhouse. It might look different than the others, quite a bit different in fact, but the fishing’s just as fine. Jennette’s the longest of our piers – Outer Banks Fishing Pier is our shortest at 600’, Avalon’s next at 696’, followed by Nags Head Fishing Pier at 750’ long – and that means anglers will have access to deeper waters when they cast their line from the end.

 

Fishing from any of our piers requires an entrance fee. At Jennette’s Pier, day passes are available for $14/adults and $7/kids; 3- and 7-day passes are available for $36 and $80 respectively (kids under 12 are half-price on multi-day passes). Avalon Pier asks $14/adults and $6/kids, or you can do a 3-day pass for $44 or a 7-day pass for $69; they also have a season pass for $300. Nags Head Fishing Pier stays in this same price range, with day passes for $14/adults and $7.50/kids, 3-day passes for $39, 7-day passes for $84, and season passes for $350. Outer Banks Fishing Pier asks $10/adults and $5/kids, and has 3-day passes for $25, 7-day passes for $50, and season passes for $175. At each pier, sightseers are asked to put up a couple of dollars to hang out on the pier. Each pier has a tackle shop, a few souvenirs and snacks for sale, a wall of fame featuring notable catches and pier records, three (Avalon, Nags Head and Outer Banks Fishing Piers) have restaurants or walkup windows and rent gear if you made it all this way and forgot your rod at home.

 

A frequent question at the piers and tackle shops is, “What’s biting?” Well, that depends on when you’re here and where you’re fishing, but the answer is always “a lot.” Take a look at our list of what’s biting when.

  • January: Trout, sea bass, grouper, snapper, bluefish, bluefin and yellowfin tuna, striped bass
  • February: Trout, sea bass, grouper, snapper, bluefish, bluefin and yellowfin tuna, striped bass
  • March: Grouper, sea trout, sea bass, bluefish, croaker, bluefin and yellowfin tuna, snapper, striped bass
  • April: Bluefish, red drum (also called channel bass), grouper, snapper, croaker, sea trout, sea mullet, king mackerel, wahoo
  • May: King mackerel, bluefish, grouper, cobia, tuna, dolphin, wahoo, crab (hard and soft-shelled), sea mullet, blue marlin
  • June: Blue marlin, white marlin, dolphin, wahoo, cobia, king mackerel, blueish, tuna, flounder, snapper, grouper, Spanish mackerel, crabs (hard and soft-shelled), shrimp
  • July: Dolphin, wahoo, blue marlin, sailfish, white marlin, snapper, grouper, sea mullet, flounder, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, shrimp, crabs (hard and soft-shelled), tuna
  • August: blue marlin, white marlin, dolphin, wahoo, tuna, grouper, snapper, bluefish, flounder, Spanish mackerel, croaker, speckled trout, spot, shrimp, crabs
  • September: White marlin, blue marlin, tuna, grouper, snapper, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, spot, bluefish, speckled trout, sea mullet, red drum (or channel bass), shrimp, striped bass, dolphin
  • October King mackerel, tuna, bluefish, snapper, grouper, red drum (or channel bass), spot, speckled trout, flounder, shrimp, striped bass
  • November: King mackerel, tuna, bluefish, speckled trout, flounder, sea mullet, snapper, grouper, striped bass
  • December: Tuna, bluefish, flounder sea bass, speckled trout, sea trout, snapper, grouper, striped bass

 

Some days the fish aren’t biting. Other days you’re in the mood for seafood without the work. There are fishmongers all over the Outer Banks, so you’re never far from some fresh seafood. Take a look at these listings to find the fishmonger closest to your home away from home.