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Outer Banks Travel Tips

Outer Banks Photo info
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Keep in Mind...

  • There's a dress code OBX is a pretty casual destination but you still want to throw something on when you leave the beach. 
  • There's a fish code Jellyfish are common off the coast of OBX so carry some vinegar and let the lifeguard know if you've been stung.
  • There's a swim code If the red flag is flying, the tides are too strong for swimming. Also stroke clear of the surfing areas; otherwise, you'll be a danger to the surfers and yourself.

History drips from the Outer Banks: Here, aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright took their famous first flight (at Kitty Hawk), the pirate Blackbeard fought his last battle (at Ocracoke), and the mysterious Lost Colony disappeared (where is anyone's guess). But this chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina -- OBX for those in the know -- isn't just for history buffs. Fishing, windsurfing, nature watching and ATV driving attracts the adventurous types while the beach, mini-golf and the aquarium entertains families and young couples. And each island has its own charm: The old lighthouses, rugged dunes and secluded beaches in the south couple with vacation rentals, water sports and kitschy beach shops in the north, all to form a unique seaside destination.

How To Save Money in Outer Banks

  • Skip the summer Prices jump sky high to take advantage of the summer crowds, so plan an off-season visit instead. Most attractions will be still be open -- even the outdoor spots. 
  • Skip the hotel Staying at a beach cottage on Nags Head is a more authentic way to experience OBX, and cheaper too. The National Park Service also reserves camping spots for around $20 a day if you feel like roughing it.
  • Skim the site The OBX's Visitors Bureau offers a special discount card online and also posts local deals on lodging, travel packages and business specials, so be sure to check out the website as you plan. 

Outer Banks Culture & Customs

The Outer Banks have a long history, as home to everyone from Native American tribes to the Wright brothers. And because of all the ships that have sunk here, it's also known as the "graveyard of the Atlantic." According to local lore, one such ship crashed off the Outer Banks coast in the 1600s, spilling its cargo of Banker horses into the water. The horses made their way onto shore and have stayed ever since, mostly in Ocracoke. Although they are not native to the islands, they remain an important and visible vestige of the region's storied past.

Today, the OBX has become a huge tourist destination, which still offers a bit of a rustic feel for those who want both a relaxing and an active getaway. There are miles of coastline here, where swimsuits are acceptable. But be sure to throw something else on when you go into town.

Outer Banks Dining

Fresh seafood with a southern twist is an Outer Banks specialty. The bigger and more tourist-oriented communities of Nags Head and Kitty Hawk generally have more options than other spots in the OBX. In Nags Head, many recommend Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant, which is attached to a seafood market. If you're traveling in the off-season, we suggest calling ahead to check that the establishment is still open, as many close for the winter season.

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