Outer Banks Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Family Beach Vacations in the U.S.
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Courtesy of VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm/Getty Images

Getting Around Outer Banks

The best way to get around the Outer Banks is by car. The North Carolina Department of Transportation runs a ferry service, but we strongly recommend renting a car or driving your own vehicle. Most attractions are spread out and the ferries can get crowded, especially during the peak season. The closest major airports are Norfolk International Airport (ORF) about 120 miles north and Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) about 230 miles west. Both airports offer car rental agencies on-site. 

Car You'll find that a car is necessary in OBX, and as such, the traffic can be brutal, especially during peak season. Rental agencies are at the Norfolk International Airport as well as in downtown Kill Devil Hills. Still, it's relatively easy to find your way thanks to two main roads, N.C. 12 and U.S. 158, which both run north to south in the area. Within the Northern Beaches, many establishments will give you their locations in reference to their milepost address. Similar to what you find on interstates, these mileposts start at 0 on the northern end of Kitty Hawk and increase as you head south. The mileposts end at the southern end of Nags Head at the Oregon Inlet.
Ferry

A handful of ferries service the OBX area and they are a great way to hop around the islands, but they can get crowded during the summer, so it's best to make reservations online at least a day in advance if not sooner. The Hatteras-to-Ocracoke car ferry is a free 60-minute ride, while the Ocracoke to Cedar Island route costs between $1 (for a pedestrian) to $15 (for a vehicle less than 20 feet long) and takes about two-and-a-half hours. The region is also introducing an express, passenger-only route from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island's Silver Lake Harbor. The ride takes about 70 minutes and is offered several times a day between May and September.

Bike

If you're looking for a leisurely and scenic way to explore the area, consider a bike. Not only is the Outer Banks home to a variety of bike paths, it's also relatively flat. You'll find bike maps on the tourism board's website. If you don't have access to your own set of wheels, there are several bike rental shops in the area, including Kitty Hawk Kites and Ocean Atlantic Rentals.

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