Top 10 Things to Do in the Outer Banks Now

The Outer Banks is a 130-mile stretch of barrier islands just off the coast of North Carolina. Commonly referred to as the OBX, this National Seashore is one of the most ideal places in America for a safe, socially distanced family vacation. With miles of pristine beaches and endless possibilities for adventure, I am confident after just one visit it will entice you to make an Outer Banks Vacation an annual thing.

Rent a House in the OBX

Outer Banks Vacation Rental

Outer Banks Vacation homes are not your usual rental properties. In fact, they are quite unusual. In all of my travels, I have yet to come across a place anywhere else that has vacation homes of this size. I have even stayed in a sixteen-bedroom oceanfront home that had 11,000 square feet of living space, a pool table, a media room, an elevator, and two gourmet kitchens.

OBX beach rentals are built to accommodate large groups of families and friends. Moreover, when a house comes with nine master bedrooms no one has to fight over who gets the king-sized bed.

Note: If you are looking to save money on your rental book before Memorial Day or after Labor Day to enjoy offseason rates.

Climb Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Outer Banks

You will need to climb a total of 257 steps to get to the top of the Cape Hatters Lighthouse. Also known as America’s lighthouse, it is the tallest brick beacon in the world. The narrow spiral staircase has a landing every 31 steps so you can catch your breath. Not that it is a race, you should go up at your own pace. You are able to bring water in a non-glass, sealable container and I recommend wearing a comfortable pair of shoes. You will be rewarded with magnificent views of the coast when you reach the top.

Fun Fact: Unbelievably this lighthouse was moved a half-mile inland in 1999. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is now as far from the ocean as when originally constructed in 1870 and should be safe for at least another one hundred years.

Visit the Wright Brothers Memorial

Outer Banks Vacation

You cannot travel to the Outer Banks and not visit the birthplace of flight! Our world was changed forever in 1903 when Wilbur and Orville Wright flew their powered Wright Flyer over the sands of the Outer Banks for a whole 12 seconds! The grounds of the Wright Brothers National Memorial are large and encompass several locations. Stand on the actual spot where the Wright Brothers first took flight or check out the reconstructed camp buildings that depict the way the men lived while they were in Kitty Hawk. You can climb Kill Devil Hill to the base of the Wright Monument. The ocean views are pretty spectacular from there.

Eat Local Seafood in the OBX

Fresh Seafood Outer Banks Vacation

There are so many outstanding places to eat in the Outer Banks it is hard to recommend just one. The OBX is truly a seafood lover’s paradise. Among my favorites is Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar & Wine Cafe. Conveniently located in Southern Shores, they bring the freshest seafood straight from the ocean directly onto your plate. With at least ten different oysters to choose from daily and their award-winning crab cake sandwich, this is a place you must add to your list for a great meal.

Watch a Lost Colony Performance

The Lost Colony is America’s longest-running outdoor play. Every summer for the last eighty years, performers have gathered here to tell the epic story of the Lost Colony. History tells us that in 1587 over one hundred English men, women, and children landed on Roanoke Island with the intention of building a new country. When English supply ships returned just three years later, the island was completely deserted. To this day the mystery of what happened to the colonists is still in question. The performance educates theatergoers and preserves the historical significance of The Lost Colony.

Fun Fact: The theater is located on the same site as where the actual events occurred.

Hike a Massive Sand Dune

Jockey Ridge State ParkYou don’t have to go hang gliding to enjoy a visit to Jockey Ridge State Park, although it is one of the many reasons visitors come here. Kitty Hawks Kites gives lesson gives lessons throughout the season. Jockey Ridge is the tallest natural sand dune system on the East Coast and is a significant landmark on the Outer Banks. There are self-guided hiking trails as well as a boardwalk if you want to take the shortest route. The views from the top of the dune are gorgeous and it is a great place to fly a kite.

Note: During the summer months, the sand dunes can be very hot. Bring lots of water and don’t go barefoot.

Order Custom Made Donuts

Duck Donuts Outer Banks Vacation

Who can turn down a warm, delicious, made-to-order donut? Not this girl. At Duck Donuts there are endless combinations of donuts, coatings, toppings, and drizzles. Make your own or choose from their featured flavors like the maple iced with chopped bacon, s’mores, or blueberry with lemon drizzle. Pair one of these or your favorite creation with a hot cup of coffee to start your day. They are simply delicious.

Dine at Kimball’s Kitchen

Kimball's Kitchen at Sanderling ResortIf an evening of gourmet dining is in your vacation plans, look no further than Kimball’s Kitchen at the Sanderling Resort. Located on the Soundside of the Outer Banks, Kimball’s offers spectacular views of the Currituck Sound. It is best to make a reservation for slightly before sundown to enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine or a handcrafted cocktail. Their menu features an extensive selection of local oysters. sustainable seafood and Certified Angus Beef.

Sip Kill Devil Rum

Outer Banks Distilling Kill Devil Hills RumOuter Banks Distilling is North Carolina’s largest craft rum producer. It was started by four friends who share a love for good beer and great rum. Housed in a historic building in Manteo you can stop by the distillery for a tour and to taste their Kill Devil Rum. While the tasting room has air-conditioning, the distilling room does not. It can be warm during the summer months, therefore you will want to dress accordingly. My personal favorite flavor is Pecan & Honey. It is smooth and creamy and makes great cocktails.

Note: Luckily it can be ordered online so you don’t have to carry it home in your suitcase.

Pull Up a Crab Pot

Crabbing on an Outer Banks VacationIt doesn’t get much fresher than yanking up your dinner straight from the sea. You can do just that with Captain Marc Mitchum, a full-time commercial fisherman, who provides one of the most authentic Outer Banks Vacation experiences. He’ll take you out on a two or four-hour crabbing and shrimping charter and give you a chance to reel in the pots. You get to keep what you catch.

Why Vacation in the OBX

The Outer Banks is hands down the best place in America to travel with large groups and for family reunions. What are you waiting for? Book a house today and plan your next Outer Banks Vacation.

Disclosure: Complimentary accommodations, meals, and activities were provided by The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. No other compensation was received for this review. This post reflects the honest opinion of my experience without outside influence.

Commenting area

  1. Oyster and wine bar, those views and doughnuts… Outerbanks has me written all over it.

    • Dana Freeman August 19, 2018 at 10:43 am · · Reply

      The oysters are so unbelievable. We also had the opportunity to go out to an oyster farm and taste them fresh out of the water. Incredible.

  2. So many great things to do… can’t go wrong with this list… I can’t wait to go back and have more of that amazing seafood!

  3. Great story. You really encapsulated the amazing experience.

  4. Sounds like a paradiese for food lovers – sweets, seafood – high class restaurants! Definately have to visit this place one day.

  5. This looks like such a fun place to visit, I love how many different things there are to see and do. I would love to explore the sand dunes and also see the wright brothers plane.

    • Dana Freeman August 22, 2018 at 3:52 pm · · Reply

      The Wright Brothers Memorial is really a special place. To think where we would be today without what happened there!

  6. The highlight for me in this post was that holiday home. Such a wonderful place to stay on a vacation. All your pics are wonderful. thanks for sharing.

  7. What a beautiful place for a relaxing vacation! Cape Hatters Lighthouse, I have never heard of it but I’m happy to learn it’s the tallest brick beacon in the world. Great tips for things to do and see!

  8. I LOVE the OBX! My family used to go every year for Thanksgiving because the vacation homes are cheaper and it’s less touristy. And, amazingly, I’ve actually done everything on your list! If people have the time, they should definitely make the drive/ferry ride down to Ocracoke; it’s such a neat place to visit!

    • Dana Freeman August 22, 2018 at 3:52 pm · · Reply

      I think the OBX is the kind of place you return to with family year after year. I started going with my husband’s family 25 years ago and then we went with our friends and then returned when we had our own children. I need to do the ferry ride though – thanks for the tip!

  9. Interesting array of activities in the Outer Banks. The burger is massive, how does one eat it? 🙂 Love the sandy beach in the beginning of the post.

  10. A vacation at Outer Banks indeed sounds like an ultimate family getaway. Firstly I am astounded by the massive Outer Banks Vacation homes, really 9 master bedrooms! It would be such a great time to stay in the same place with family and friends. There is a lot in terms of food options and other activities to make it a really nice family holiday. But of course, for us, the best thing would be visiting the Wright Brothers Memorial and the Lighthouse.

    • Dana Freeman August 23, 2018 at 9:43 am · · Reply

      Most of the homes you can rent in the OBX are of that size making it perfect for a group with lots of friends and family. I have been going there for over 20 years just for that reason!

  11. What a relaxed vacation at Outer Banks. The stay is very spacious and a perfect for family get-togethers. I would love to visit Wright Brothers Memorial.

  12. I never knew this existed! I am going to Charleston in 3 weeks & I would of love to know about this to spend some time here tooo! Just another excuse to get back there! Love the donuts, would definitely get!

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