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.
Where 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.
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.
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.
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.