This month, the boys and I were fortunate enough to get the chance to visit the Outer Banks area of North Carolina, and experience a lot of the outdoor fun and adventure that it has to offer. While our week-long stay did occur during a particularly chilly cold spell, we were still able to make the most of our time in the incredible OBX area, and take advantage of many of their thrilling attractions. To say that the Outer Banks is an outdoor adventure lover’s dream is an understatement. With so much to do and see it is the perfect destination any time of year, and you’ll have a hard time fitting it all into a week’s stay.
Where To Stay
When visiting the Outer Banks, there are many different accommodation options from campsites to cabin rentals and hotel rooms, but the option I would suggest above all others is to rent a vacation home. There are a ton available all along the OBX region, they are affordable, and having all of that extra space to really spread out and relax is perfect for families or large groups.
Our vacation home rental was through Village Realty. We rented a wonderful three bedroom vacation home in Nags Head, which is a location I would highly recommend for anyone visiting the area. We were within a quick drive of the different attractions in surrounding areas like Manteo, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Duck and Rodanthe.
The pricing through Village Realty is extremely competitive, and their website makes it incredibly easy to book an available home. There are no strange hidden fees, linens and towels are included with the home rentals and their convenient online system and app make check in and check out a breeze with keyless entry!
The home we rented was just about a mile from the beach and even less from the Sound. It backed right up to a beautiful lake which provided ideal views and a quiet place to relax during our stay.
Where To Eat
There are no shortage of restaurants in the Outer Banks, and we knew that we had to try a few of the ones that we had heard great things about. Of course, no stop to the OBX area is complete without trying some fresh coastal seafood, but we also enjoyed stopping into some local eateries that featured more humble fare as well.
Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe
If you are looking for a nicer dinner out, then you can’t go wrong with Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags Head. This beautiful location is right on the water with a gorgeous view and a fantastic array of seafood on the menu. The boys and I stopped by to enjoy a meal here on our very first night in town to start the trip off with a bang.
While the boys went with options like broiled shrimp and pasta, I opted for one of the nightly dinner specials, a whole boneless flounder with crabmeat and cornbread stuffing which was served with a grit cake and seasonal vegetables. It was mouth watering, fresh and oh so good, but the real winners at Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe are the homemade desserts that are created daily and can’t be beat. We sampled the Peanut Butter Pie and the Hershey Bar Cake, and both were rich, creamy and absolutely to die for.
On the second day of our trip, we headed to the 28th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Nags Head, and afterwards, found ourselves searching for a good place for lunch. We came across Tortugas Lie which had been recommended to us by many, and stopped in for a bite to eat.
The conch fritters here are not to be missed, and the 1/2 pound of crab claws is a steal at just $10.99. You also can’t go wrong with their burgers. My oldest would not stop raving about the Bajan Burger with its honey habanero BBQ sauce.
John’s Drive In
Started in 1977, John’s Drive In has been a staple in Kitty Hawk for quite a while now. It is not hard to see why people flock to this local favorite, with its menu of fresh burgers, fries and shakes. It is just what the boys and I were looking for after a busy morning of kite flying, sand dune sledding and visiting the Wright Brothers National Monument.
If you are looking for an affordable and delicious lunch option, this is the place you want to go in Kitty Hawk. Pull up, order and eat right in your car, or enjoy one of the picnic tables if the weather is nice.
You absolutely cannot leave the OBX area without experiencing Duck Donuts at least once. I promise you, if you miss out on these absolutely delectable treats, you will never forgive yourself. Before we left, I asked my friends for any recommendations and received no less than five telling me to visit Duck Donuts while in the Outer Banks.
This donut shop allows you to choose from your choice of frosting, toppings and drizzles with a million different possible flavor combinations. The donuts themselves are honestly the best I have ever had, and they are made to order and given to you piping hot! Trust me when I tell you that you will want to opt for the dozen donut box!
What To Do
If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you will know that the boys and I love outdoor and adventure activities. One glance at the Outer Banks 2017 Travel Guide, and it is clear that the OBX area has plenty of both to offer. While we did visit out of season and during an unexpected cold spell, we were still able to find plenty of attractions open and activities available to us.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Home to the tallest natural sand dunes on the East Coast, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the perfect stop for a day out in the Outer Banks no matter what time of year it is. Don’t forget to stop by the visitor’s center for park information and some hands-on learning. Head on over to the Kitty Hawk Kite’s office on property to book a hang gliding lesson or rent sand sleds. We picked up a sand sled for $20 for four hours, and headed out to the dunes.
There is boardwalk access out to the dunes, so even if climbing the sand is not on your list of things to do, you can still take in the beauty of the park. Once off the boardwalk, you are free to climb and explore over the dunes as much as you like. We took the opportunity to try some incredible kite flying while on the dunes due to the great wind action. Looking out over the Sound side of the island is a great way to relax in between sand sled rides too!
Wright Brothers National Monument
If you are traveling with kids, a plane enthusiast or just want to take in a bit of history, there is no better place to do it than at the Wright Borthers National Memorial.
This mostly outdoor memorial takes you through the journey of Orville and Wilbur Wright in Kitty Hawk, NC. as they attempted to perfect the first flight. Hike up the hill to the memorial, see the reconstructed 1903 camp buildings and walk the flight line that follows the steps of the Wright brothers’ first four flight attempts. The Memorial grounds are open daily from 9am-5pm and entry is $7 for adults, free for children.
Take a Cesna Flight
One of the attractions high on my oldest son’s to do list in the OBX area was to take a flight over the island in a Cesna plane. Even though the weather made it tricky for much of our trip, his wish eventually came true on the last day of our trip!
OBX Airplanes is located in Manteo, just a short ride from Nags Head, and offers Cesna plane tours of the area. You can opt for the shorter 15 minute Discovery Flight ($69 for up to 3 passengers) like we did, or go all out for a 50 minute Sunset Tour ($299). No matter which option you choose, scheduling is easy online, and there is no better way to get a bird’s eye view of the Outer Banks beauty.
North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island
Let’s face it, there are always those rainy days that pop up in our vacations. Although the Outer Banks are gorgeous, they are not immune to rain. On our rainy day, we headed to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island for some fun underwater exploring.
Although not the largest aquarium, this attraction had some incredible features we had not found in any others. For example, there is a fully functional Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center inside the aquarium that you can visit to see how the sick sea turtles are being treated before being released back into the water. There is also a Sea Turtle Rescue exhibit for children, which allows them to choose a turtle to treat at three different stations before releasing them back into the wild as well.
Other high tech and interactive exhibits including the awesome Graveyard of the Atlantic Shark Aquarium to round out your visit here, and if visiting during nice weather, there is even a Nature Play Area outside where kids can burn off some energy. The aquarium is open daily from 9am-5pm. Tickets are $10.95 for ages 13+ and $8.95 for children.
No other place brings out the natural beauty of the Outer Banks, than the Elizabethan Gardens. It is an ideal place to relax with an afternoon picnic lunch after a busy day of kayaking or other thrilling area activities. Open daily year-round, you can explore the nooks and crannies of the ever changing Victorian garden and even enjoy site of the Sound-side waves lapping at its shores. Admission is $9 for ages 18+, $6 for ages 6-17 and $2 for ages 5 and under.
Alligator River Wildlife Refuge
Also in Manteo, the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge can round out a day of fun visiting the Aquarium and Gardens. This massive refuge is home to a variety of wildlife including alligators, various species of birds, bears and red wolves. Be sure to stop by the visitor’s center for maps, information and hands-on exhibits before driving across the bridge to the refuge itself.
There are several ways to explore the refuge. You can take the wildlife drive like we did, where you are free to drive and explore the roads of the refuge looking for wildlife. There are wildlife trails located throughout the park, as well as kayaking trails. Many companies run kayaking and even jeep tours through the refuge for a greater chance of seeing wildlife. The refuge is open daily and is free to enter.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Want to enjoy a day at the beach? The Cape Hatteras National Seashore gives you access to miles and miles of pristine coastline with plenty of room to explore. Camping sites are available, as well as bathroom and shower facilities at set points along the seashore. In the off season when we visited, there is still plenty of beachcombing and kite flying fun to be had.
The Bodie Island Light Station is a fun stop within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore as well. The current lighthouse has been standing since 1872, and is a great taste of history on the North Carolina coast.
Kitty Hawk Kites Adventure Tower
Need a little outdoor adventure? Stop by Kitty Hawk Kites in Rodanthe, NC. for some high climbing fun at the Adventure Tower. Kitty Hawk Kites has several locations in the Outer Banks area and they offer a wide range of outdoor adventure activities including parasailing, kite boarding, kayak and SUP rentals, and so much more. The Adventure Tower is great fun for all ages and open year round, so no matter what the weather is like, there is always adventure to be had. Climbing is $25 for an hour and a half, and it’s just a short drive from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to the Rodanthe location.
Fishing at Jeannette’s Pier
Located in Nags Head, Jeannette’s Pier is a fisherman’s paradise. If you are looking to enjoy a full day of fishing, then heading here should be high on your list of things to do in the OBX area. For $12 a day, you can bring your own equipment and gain full use of the pier for fishing. Need to rent a rod? They are available for an additional $10 a day. If you don’t plan to fish, but just want to enjoy the pier, you can do so for just $2.
The boys and I spent our last glorious sunny day on the pier trying our hand at fishing. Although we didn’t have much luck, we did see others catching a lot of skates. Keep your eyes open on the pier as well, as dolphins and even whales can often be spotted!
It seems there is always something going on in the Outer Banks. With a wide array of annual events going on, it is a good idea to check the community calendar of events before your visit. While we were in town, the 28th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade was taking place. The boys and I headed out to enjoy it, and it definitely added an extra dose of fun to our trip.
Other Outdoor Adventures
If you are visiting during the warmer weather months, your outdoor adventure options in the OBX are endless. From kayaking tours, to parasailing, kite boarding, SUP rentals, hang gliding, jet packing and so much more, there are so many activities that can be booked. Check out the Outer Banks 2017 Travel Guide as well as the Outerbanks.org website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram pages for more vacation ideas!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Visit NC. The opinions and text are all mine.