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The Best Things to do in Outer Banks

Are you headed to North Carolina Beaches this year? There’s a lot to do besides sitting on the beach. Here are the 10 best things to do in the Outer Banks.

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Who’s planning their Outer Banks vacation?  Do you like to try out different places or go back to the same place year after year?  My family has been to the Outer Banks twice and it’s such a wonderful place to visit.  Check out my 10 Things you must see in the Outer Banks.  It’s perfect for those you like the beach, but there’s also a lot of places to see and explore.

10 Things You Must see in the Outer Banks

Where is the Outer Banks?

More and more people are wanting to visit the Outer Banks because of the show on Netflix, but I’ve realized so many people don’t even know it’s located in North Carolina. It’s a fantastic place to get away from life and relax. You won’t find high rise hotels or mini-golf places on every corner.

The Outer Banks isn’t just one place, but 130 miles of islands, towns and beaches that have a wide range of activities and history.

10 Things to do in the Outer Banks, North Carolina

This list will definitely keep you occupied for a week and I bet you won’t have time to get to some of these awesome places and activities. Make sure you pin or save this so you can come back and read about it closer to your trip.

Fort Macon State Park (located in Atlantic Beach)

I grew up in Tennessee and there are a lot of Civil War sites to visit.  This was a really unique place and I had never seen anything like it.  The fort looks over the Atlantic Ocean and there is a ton of history here.  

We walked around looking at cannons and seeing the living conditions of the soldiers that quartered there.  We even watched a demonstration of a musket being shot.  There’s also a beach if you want to swim and play for the day.

For macon- walls with steps with cannon

Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores (located in Atlantic Beach)  

This is a great aquarium, but it’s on the small side and the price is very reasonable ($10.95 for adults and $8.95 for kids).  It’s perfect for a rainy day or if you just need some time away from the water.  They have otters and sharks; all the things kids love.

Shackelford Banks

This is an absolutely stunning place.  You can take a ferry to the island and search for the wild horses where you can camp, go shelling, and hike.  We saw 3 wild horses in just the 2 hours we were there and were able to get very close.

Wild horses in grass

Ocacoke Light House and British Cemetery

Ocracoke is a cute little beach town.  They have a few souvenir shops, places to eat, and a coffee shop.  You can rent a golf cart and head to the light house if you aren’t in the mood to walk.   The British Cemetery is right in the middle of town.

Are you thinking about heading to the Outer Banks for vacation this year? It's a great place to visit and here are the 10 Things you MUST see in the Outer Banks.

Bodie Light House

If you are driving around the Outer Banks, then you will probably come across Bodie Light House.  We stopped here for a few minutes to take in the sites (and use the bathroom). 🙂

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

This light house was moved down the beach because it was in danger of being washed away.  They have a museum and gift shop here, as well.  There is beach here so you can make a day of it.

 This is probably the most recognized light house with its black and white diagonal paint.  The day we were there it was closed so we weren’t able to go to the top.  Here’s a good book to learn more about it.

You can also spend the day at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore while you’re in the area.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park (located in Nags Head)

These are the tallest sand dunes I’ve ever seen and the brochure says they are the biggest in the Eastern United States.  There is a boardwalk, walking trails and it’s very windy.  There is even a place to take hang gliding lessons, but I’m not sure if I’ll be doing that anytime soon.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse (located in Corolla)

This is one of my favorite places.  We were able to climb to the top of this light house and wasn’t that bad, only 220 steps!  The view is gorgeous and surrounding area is picturesque.  We enjoyed walking around and going out on the boardwalk and visiting the small gift shop here too.

There is also Corolla wild horse tours if you can’t make it to Shackelford Banks.

View look out from the top of Currituck Lighthouse- Houses and ocean
View while climbing up the inside of Currituck Lighthouse.  Looking down the spiral staircase.

Wright Brothers National Memorial (located in Kill Devil Hills)

You can’t go to the Outer Banks and miss the Wright Brothers Memorial.  It’s easily one of the most famous places in North Carolina and you get a lot of history in the museum.  They have an area to walk around and learn more about their first flights.  

There are tons of books you can get for your kids to learn about the Wright Brothers flight in Kitty Hawk before you leave for your trip. It’s $10 for each adult to get in.

Monument at the Wright Brothers Memorial.  Tall and White whith blue sky
10 Things you MUST see in the Outer Banks

The Island Farm (located in Manteo)

This is a living history farm where you can experience life before the Civil War.  The people that were dressed up in pre- civil war attire showed us what it would have been like to live there at that time.

 We learned about the games we would have played, what we would have eaten, and how we would care for our animals and tend our gardens.

Lady wearing 1800's dress in doorway of wood house

What are some of your favorite things to do in the Outer Banks?  If you haven’t been, I hope you can plan a trip to some of my favorite places there.  Here’s a book, just on the Outer Banks that you can read up about the entire area!

You can buy this cute OBX tee by clicking on the image!

Have fun on your vacation! Let me know if I left anything off this list!  Should I add anything?

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Alyssa Czysz

Monday 25th of March 2019

Quick Question: When looking at the website, it looks like the park service charges a fee to get into the Wright Brother's Memorial. I'm not sure if this is newly implemented, but it appears to be $10 per adult. Did you have to pay to enter the grounds? Thanks!


Friday 5th of July 2019

Yes, there is a fee, but it is worth every dime! Not only the monument to see, but there’s also a flight museum included that is right there. The few times I have been, when I first got there, I have looked for the schedule of any speakers. That way I could plan my time around the monument, etc accordingly. Every speaker I have heard has been great. So informative and made the first flight come alive in my mind.


Monday 25th of March 2019

Yikes! I think you're right! It does say $10 per adult, but still worth it! I'll go up and make the change now.

Kathy Weaver

Saturday 4th of February 2017

When you said the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has black and white diagonal paint, don't you mean black and white spiral paint? The Diamond Shoals Lighthouse is the one that has black and white diagonal markings.


Thursday 28th of January 2016

Don't foget to grab a couple of donuts from DUCK donuts, arguably the best donuts in the entire east coast?


Saturday 9th of January 2016

This was very helpful! We are planning a family trip for this coming June and I wanted to research some top attractions. I've been to the OBX years ago and really enjoyed visiting Ocracoke Island. This time I will be going with two toddlers :) should be different than last time!


Saturday 9th of January 2016

You should rent a golf cart! They will love it.


Friday 5th of June 2015

I grew up going to the Outer Banks twice a year with my family. It truly is peaceful getaway and unlike any other vacation spot. I love the Christmas Shop in Manteo and the "Lost Colony" live theater play that is put on every summer in Manteo. Definitely go back to climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse as well. And if anyone loves to fish, head to the Point on Hatteras Island where the north and south currents of the ocean meet. Lots of great fishing there but you need a 4 wheel drive to get out on the beach. Beautiful place and I can't wait to go back!!