The Outer Banks, or OBX, is a 200-mile long string of narrow barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, beginning in the southeastern corner of Virginia Beach on the east coast of the United States. The stunning barrier islands are home to some of the largest undeveloped beaches on the East Coast, making OBX a popular beach vacation destination for families.
There are six towns and 12 coastal villages to explore in The Outer Banks. The area, with a population of about 35,000 year round, swells up to 250,000 people during the summer months.
While visiting the Outer Banks, there are a variety of things to do outdoors. Here are just some of the fun activities to do outdoors in Outer Banks.
10 Fun Activities to Do Outdoors in the Outer Banks
Wright Brothers National Memorial
In December 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright changed the world forever after they achieved the first successful airplane flights. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, and the flight museum which still has exhibits from the First Flight Centennial Celebration.
Upon entering the National Park grounds, make your way up the grassy hill to the top where the monument lies. After the climb, head over to the main visitors’ center and museum which features a full scale reproduction of both the 1902 glider and the 1903 flying machine, as well as an engine block from the original 1903 flyer, and a precise reproduction of the wind tunnel that the Wrights used to conduct their early experiments.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Standing at 208 feet tall, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America In 1999, the spiral-striped landmark was moved a half mile inland, to save it from high tides. The Lighthouse is now as far from the ocean as when originally constructed in 1870, even after the move. The lighthouse is open for climbing mid-April to Columbus Day. Walk up the 257 steps to the top of the lighthouse where you have a spectacular view of the OBX. There are night tours, full moon tours as well as guided tours.
Horseback Riding with Equine Adventrues
My favourite outdoor adventure in the Outer Banks was horseback riding on the beach. The experience with Equine Adventures takes you through a forest to the beach and back again. The ride is about 2.5 hours, so be prepared and wear proper clothing and bug spray – and make sure to bring a camera – the photo opportunities are aplenty.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
This 426-acre park has the tallest and largest natural sand dune system in the Eastern United States. There are two self-guided trails and nature programs available year-round at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Bring out your adventurous side by hang gliding or kite flying over the sand dunes – I’m definitely going to try this next time! There is visitor center, museum and picnic facilities for families to enjoy.
Kitty Hawk Kites
For all of your outdoor water adventures, Kitty Hawk Kites is your best bet. Kitty Hawk offers a ton of water adventures including hang gliding, kite boarding, parasailing, kayas, stand up paddleboarding, wakeboarding, paragliding, water-skiing, tubing and more. I tried stand up paddleboarding for the very first time – make sure to have someone take your photo as you’ll be falling into the water plenty! First-timers, make sure to pack protective swim gear and water shoes. If not, you can always buy gear at the adjacent Kitty Hawk shop.
Nor’Banks Sailing and Watersports
Nor’Banks Sailing is the only sailing in the Outer Banks. Nor’Banks offers sailing school and program for kids 7+, as well as other water sports and activities. Located in Duck, the Currituck Sound is a great place to sail with steady breezes, low boat traffic and 5-8 feet of water with a sandy bottom.
For a lovely Outer Banks town experience, you must visit Duck, NC. Take a stroll on the almost-mile long boardwalk, see what’s happening at the town park, feast on a scrumptious fresh seafood platter at the delicious Red Sky Café, and indulge in a sweet treat at Duck Donuts for dessert.
Rodanthe Pier and Rodanthe House
Relive the romance of the major motion picture, Nights in Rodanthe starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, based on the bestselling novel by author Nicholas Sparks. The film was shot on location in Rodanthe, and the house is available for rent!
Be sure to visit the Rodanthe Pier, a landmark on the Outer Banks, which has been damaged due to high seas and near hurricane force winds. Rodanthe Pier is a favourite spot for many locals and visitors.
Hatteras Village Marina
Hatteras Village is the southernmost community on Hatteras Island, and is still a large fishing community.
In 1958, Mr. and Mr. Cleveland booked Capt. Bill for a week of marlin fishing. Once catching a blue marlin, he asked Capt. Bill to let the marlin go and in doing so, he became the first captain to ever let a billfish go on purpose in North Carolina which started a trend, a trend that grew and grew an eventually became the norm.
Watch the fishermen, women and boys bring in their catch of the day. Grab a bite at the charming Dinky’s Waterfront Restaurant.
The Elizabethan Gardens
Located within Fort Raleigh National Historic Site next to The Lost Colony’s Waterside Theatre in Manteo, The Elizabethan Gardens encompasses ten acres of botanical and sculptural delights. The garden was created as a living memorial to the time when Sir Walter Raleigh’s lost colonists over 400 years ago.
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