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Outer Banks Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in Outer BanksWhere to Stay
Although small inns and B&B's can be found throughout the Outer Banks, the majority of the top hotels are located in the Nags Head area, centrally located for maximum convenience to the far ends of the islands. Devoid of major hotel chains, most options are family-owned and may be on the quaint side for visitors from major cities.
Hot Tips: The vast majority of lodging options are beach-house rentals, not traditional hotels.
What to Eat
As one might expect, many of the Outer Banks' best restaurants are known for fresh seafood thanks to its aquatic surroundings. But the area also offers an abundance of regional favorites, including NC's world-famous barbecue and Southern cuisine. Ocracoke Island and Nags Heads are popular centers for dining, but you can discover some great hole-in-the-wall restaurants scattered along the island chain.
Caution: A trip to and from Ocracoke Island requires a short ferry ride that can have long lines at dinner time. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to make your reservation without missing the boat that carries you home.
Things to See
The best attractions the Outer Banks have to offer are nature-related, or at least man-made attractions in a natural setting. A tour of the many lighthouses that line the coast is a great way to experience the area's rich history while also getting a panoramic view of the barrier islands' scenic beauty.
Caution: If you decide to cruise down Corrolla Beach, make sure your vehicle has four-wheel drive. The beach is littered with tourists whose station wagons get stuck in the deep sand.
Places to Party
Visitors from larger cities may not be able to find the trendy, upscale dance clubs and wine bars they are accustomed to here, because the best nightlife options in the Outer Banks are of the beer and bar stool variety. But, when in the OBX, do as the locals do. It's good friendly fun without any pretense.
Hot Tips: Many of the OBX's best bars are open-air and the weather can be cool and windy even on summer nights. Be sure to grab a jacket or a sweater.
Where to Shop
Forget the national chains and name-brand stores. The Outer Banks' shopping scene is as off the beaten path as the island chain itself. Yes, there are some recognizable stores, especially at the Tanger Outlets, but most of the shopping hot spots are small, independent stores or strips, such as the Duck Waterfront Shops and Scarborough Faire.
Best Local Souvenir: The popular "OBX" sticker, once used as a ferry pass for locals, can be found on cars all over the United States.
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About Outer Banks
Centuries before the area became a vacation hot spot, the Outer Banks, a long string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, was the setting for a prolific history. In 1585, more than twenty years before the 1607 settlement of Jamestown, a group of English settlers forged a colony in the Outer Banks. By 1587, however, the settlers had inexplicably vanished. The area was not re-settled for another century. In the ensuing years the region witnessed similarly mysterious shipwrecks and sporadic pirate encounters along its extensive coastline. Despite these extraordinary occurrences, the Outer Banks' most famous historical event is the one that gives North Carolina its epithet, "First in Flight." In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright successfully piloted the world's first airplane on the windy Kill Devil Hill, laying the groundwork for modern aviation. An inspiring monument marks the site of their flight.
More recently, the Outer Banks (OBX) has become one of America's favorite summer getaways. The less touristy atmosphere, array of diverse beaches and picturesque setting are all reasons travelers up and down the East Coast make the Outer Banks their repeat vacation destination. Perhaps more important, the Outer... Read more »