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Best Things To Do in Outer Banks

The Outer Banks have activities for relaxation and for adventure. The quiet beaches are the main draw to the area, but others visit OBX for the horseback riding, hang gliding and water sports. Touring the shipwrecks off the coast, sightseeing at Corolla's Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Kill Devil Hill's Wright Brothers National Memorial or Nag's Head's Jockey's Ridge State Park make a happy medium for recent vacationers who desire a more balanced getaway.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Outer Banks

Free
The beaches in the Outer Banks stretch for more than 100 miles along barrier islands that frame the eastern coast of North Carolina. These sands are known for their cleanliness and their family friendliness. Each beach has something different to offer travelers, but take note that lifeguards are on duty on all beaches – except Duck – between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
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Beaches Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Outer Banks Beaches
The beaches in the Outer Banks stretch for more than 100 miles along barrier islands that frame the eastern coast of North Carolina. These sands are known for their cleanliness and their family friendliness. Each beach has something different to offer travelers, but take note that lifeguards are on duty on all beaches – except Duck – between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
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#2

#2 in Outer Banks

Free
The most popular part of Nags Head (aside from the oceanfront) is Jockey's Ridge State Park, home to the tallest sand dune on the east coast. You can reach the top two ways: either a 1½-mile long sand-covered trail (do this in shoes as the sand can get unbearably hot) or use the 360-foot boardwalk to walk to the top. Once at the peak, you can tap into your adventurous side by sandboarding (which requires a free permit from the park office), take hang gliding lessons from Kitty Hawk Kites or relive your childhood and simply fly a kite. Just remember to bring your own kite or sandboard along with you. For nature enthusiasts, the park also has several other trails you can wander and spot fulgurites (glass tubes formed when lightning hits the sand) – but removal of them is not allowed. Recent visitors said it's a great experience for the whole family, and the top of the dunes provide stunning panoramic views. 
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Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Jockey's Ridge State Park
The most popular part of Nags Head (aside from the oceanfront) is Jockey's Ridge State Park, home to the tallest sand dune on the east coast. You can reach the top two ways: either a 1½-mile long sand-covered trail (do this in shoes as the sand can get unbearably hot) or use the 360-foot boardwalk to walk to the top. Once at the peak, you can tap into your adventurous side by sandboarding (which requires a free permit from the park office), take hang gliding lessons from Kitty Hawk Kites or relive your childhood and simply fly a kite. Just remember to bring your own kite or sandboard along with you. For nature enthusiasts, the park also has several other trails you can wander and spot fulgurites (glass tubes formed when lightning hits the sand) – but removal of them is not allowed. Recent visitors said it's a great experience for the whole family, and the top of the dunes provide stunning panoramic views. 
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#3

#3 in Outer Banks

Free
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches for miles and tempts visitors with its well-kept sands and rolling waves. While many visitors come to soak up the sun along the Atlantic's sands, you should devote some time to the seashore's other attractions, most notably the lighthouse.
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Beaches Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches for miles and tempts visitors with its well-kept sands and rolling waves. While many visitors come to soak up the sun along the Atlantic's sands, you should devote some time to the seashore's other attractions, most notably the lighthouse.
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#4

#4 in Outer Banks

If you flew to the Outer Banks, you have the Wright Brothers to thank. In 1900, the two moved here from Ohio for the area's steady winds to pursue their aviation dreams. After three years of experimentation, the first flight was born in Kill Devil Hills on December 17, 1903. Today, a 60-foot monument in the shape of an airplane tail marks this significant flight. To get a glimpse into the brothers' lives, visitors can visit their restored hangar and home. You should also look through the interesting exhibits set up in the visitor center.
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Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Wright Brothers National Memorial
If you flew to the Outer Banks, you have the Wright Brothers to thank. In 1900, the two moved here from Ohio for the area's steady winds to pursue their aviation dreams. After three years of experimentation, the first flight was born in Kill Devil Hills on December 17, 1903. Today, a 60-foot monument in the shape of an airplane tail marks this significant flight. To get a glimpse into the brothers' lives, visitors can visit their restored hangar and home. You should also look through the interesting exhibits set up in the visitor center.
... more

#5

#5 in Outer Banks

Free
Before 1875, ships sailing by the North Carolina coast faced an 80-mile "blind spot" between Bodie Island and Virginia's Cape Henry. Then the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla was created. To this day, the lighthouse still functions and orients incoming boats. If you have visited other lighthouses, you may notice something a bit different about this one – the exterior was never painted and still maintains its original exposed brick (approximately a million of them!). Today, you can get your heart pumping and climb the 220 steps for gorgeous views of the area from the top. Afterward, pick up nautical-themed souvenirs at the gift shop (located in a small house that was probably part of the keeper's residence).
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Before 1875, ships sailing by the North Carolina coast faced an 80-mile "blind spot" between Bodie Island and Virginia's Cape Henry. Then the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla was created. To this day, the lighthouse still functions and orients incoming boats. If you have visited other lighthouses, you may notice something a bit different about this one – the exterior was never painted and still maintains its original exposed brick (approximately a million of them!). Today, you can get your heart pumping and climb the 220 steps for gorgeous views of the area from the top. Afterward, pick up nautical-themed souvenirs at the gift shop (located in a small house that was probably part of the keeper's residence).
... more

#6

#6 in Outer Banks

This thrice-built, black-and-white lighthouse sits south of Nags Head on Bodie Island. The first incarnation fell due to poor construction, the second was destroyed during the Civil War and the latest version received a facelift that was completed in 2013. It still functions as a working lighthouse today and can be seen as far as 19 miles from shore.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Bodie Island Lighthouse
This thrice-built, black-and-white lighthouse sits south of Nags Head on Bodie Island. The first incarnation fell due to poor construction, the second was destroyed during the Civil War and the latest version received a facelift that was completed in 2013. It still functions as a working lighthouse today and can be seen as far as 19 miles from shore.
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#7

#7 in Outer Banks

Located in Manteo, the Roanoke Island Festival Park takes visitors back in time to the 1500s and the settlement of Roanoke. Inside the park, you can board the Elizabeth II ship, you can visit Indian Town and you can tour the Settlement Site – all the while interacting with re-enactors wearing period dress. The park also offers a history museum, an art gallery and a performance series.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Roanoke Island Festival Park
Located in Manteo, the Roanoke Island Festival Park takes visitors back in time to the 1500s and the settlement of Roanoke. Inside the park, you can board the Elizabeth II ship, you can visit Indian Town and you can tour the Settlement Site – all the while interacting with re-enactors wearing period dress. The park also offers a history museum, an art gallery and a performance series.
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#8

#8 in Outer Banks

If you want to see what animals you're sharing the water with when you're splashing around on the Outer Banks beaches, head to Roanoke to the North Carolina Aquarium. Its main feature is the Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit. Models of remains of the USS Monitor make up the home for giant turtles and sharks in the 285,000-gallon tank found in the Ironclad Sanctuary exhibit. Throughout the rest of the aquarium, you'll find a variety of other marine critters, including alligators, otters, frogs and plenty of fish. If the kids are itching for a hands-on experience, head to the Sea Turtle Rescue exhibit, where they can touch turtles while learning about efforts to protect these creatures.
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Zoos and Aquariums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island
If you want to see what animals you're sharing the water with when you're splashing around on the Outer Banks beaches, head to Roanoke to the North Carolina Aquarium. Its main feature is the Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit. Models of remains of the USS Monitor make up the home for giant turtles and sharks in the 285,000-gallon tank found in the Ironclad Sanctuary exhibit. Throughout the rest of the aquarium, you'll find a variety of other marine critters, including alligators, otters, frogs and plenty of fish. If the kids are itching for a hands-on experience, head to the Sea Turtle Rescue exhibit, where they can touch turtles while learning about efforts to protect these creatures.
... more
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