Jockey's Ridge State Park#2 in Best Things To Do in Outer Banks
The most popular attraction on Nags Head (aside from the oceanfront) is Jockey's Ridge State Park, home to the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic coast. You can reach the top two ways: either a mile-long sand-covered trail (do this in shoes as the sand can be as much as 30 degrees hotter than the air temperature) 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 or pilot a Wright Brothers 1902 glider replica with 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 travelers said a visit to the park is a great experience for the whole family, and report that the top of the dunes provide stunning panoramic views of the coast. To avoid brunt of the midday heat, reviewers recommend visiting in the morning or just before the park closes.
The easiest way to reach Jockey's Ridge State Park, which sits less than 5 miles south of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, is via car. Park hours vary depending on the month but range from 8 a.m. to 6 to 9 p.m. Entrance to the park is free. Those who have mobility issues can call the park 24 hours in advance to arrange transport to the top of the dunes. In addition to a museum, there is also a visitor center and picnic facilities on-site. For more information, check out the park's website.
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#1 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 between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The shores at Hatteras Island are known for their fishing and sailing (the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras is the tallest in the United States) as well as their campgrounds and 4x4 beach driving. The northern shores (specifically Kitty Hawk and Kill Devils Hills) are ideal for water sports like surfing and skimboarding, as they see more waves than the southern beaches. Nags Head also completed a 12-mile beach nourishment program that widened the sands so visitors have more room to spread out. Travelers should be mindful that the public parking is limited in Southern Shores. Those bringing their four-legged friend can head to Duck where dogs are allowed to be off their leash as long as they're under control.
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