Best Attractions & Activities

With all of the things to do and see in a city, deciding how to spend your time can be quite an agonizing decision. 10best has narrowed all of the available attractions in Outer Banks to a list of the most appealing and reputable, to aide in your decision making. You can rest easy knowing that any choice you make from our list is sure to please.


Visitors to this federal reserve can observe a huge array of wildlife such as American alligators, black bears, white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits, quail, river otters, red-cockaded woodpeckers and, for the really lucky, red wolves. Visit the animals' natural habitat on foot or driving trails or, ideally, by canoe or kayak on a paddling trail. Nature outfitters provide guided tours through miles of creeks that wind through untouched acres of coastal forest and wetlands. Tours conclude on a scenic, waterlily-covered lake surrounded by beautiful cypress trees rising from placid waters.

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Enrich your vacation with the extraordinary, highly acclaimed theater performance, The Lost Colony. This outdoor production depicts the first attempted British settlement of the New World that occurred on Roanoke Island 20 years prior to the settlement of Jamestown in 1607. An enthralling historical epic, The Lost Colony is also a musical complemented by a live orchestra and a team of highly regarded actors. The stunning waterside amphitheater was actually built near the site of the original lost colony.

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Pristine beaches without masses of vacationers are increasingly difficult to find in an age of growing travel and tourism. Rodanthe, a wonderful day trip just south of Nags Head, is just such a place, where the wide beaches are delightfully desolate. Visitors can pull into parking lots just off Highway 12 and enjoy a day on the beach without the hubbub of the northern Outer Banks beaches. Like to surf? Rodanthe is also one of the Outer Banks' best surf spots because of its unique geographical relationship to the Atlantic Ocean.

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Ocracoke Island

Site of beaches often acclaimed as the best in the country, Ocracoke Island is home to fewer than 1,000 year-round residents. The island offers natural beauty, timeless, small-town culture, and plenty of recreation. Untouched and sprawling, the beaches are unlike any other in the Outer Banks or even the country. Stroll through the quaint downtown village with a number of delightful restaurants, shops and art galleries or climb the famous Ocracoke Island Lighthouse. Charter an off-shore fishing boat or hire a guide for sound-side and creek fishing. Whatever activity you choose on Ocracoke Island, you're sure to be rewarded with a memorable getaway weekend or vacation experience.

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The road literally ends at this Outer Banks attraction. Plan a day trip to Corolla where visitors can put their SUV's to good use by driving onto the sand and into the surf. Here, the clusters of vacation mansions finally yield to miles of serene, white beaches and grass-studded sand dunes that stretch all the way to the Virginia border. The broad beaches normally have sandbars that result in gradual, low-breaking waves, perfect for beginner surfers and body boarders. Keep your eyes peeled for herds of wild horses and don't forget to take some of the air out of your tires before driving on the sand.

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Jockey's Ridge provides the best sightseeing and some of the best off-beach recreation you'll find in the Outer Banks. Over 420 acres of constantly shifting sand dunes overlook the Roanoke Sound, providing pristine sunrise and sunset views. Most visitors will simply enjoy a shoeless stroll through the soft, white sands, but adventure-seekers won't be disappointed. Hang-gliding lessons are offered off the park's sandy peaks and sand-boarding is allowed from October until March.

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Rainy day on your vacation? Head to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. The abundance of sea-life that resides here will mesmerize both kids and adults. Live eels, sea turtles, alligators and even sharks are all on display. A number of interactive nature exhibits add to the fun and education. For those really fascinated by the Aquarium, ask a staff member about educational expeditions offered to observe area wildlife in its natural habitat.

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Accessible only by boat, this beautiful string of barrier islands provides a host of recreational activities for a single day trip or multi-night camping excursion. Site of the famous Cape Lookout Lighthouse, the miles of wide, flat beach make for some of the best surf fishing on the East Coast. Other activities like shelling, hiking or kayaking between the islands are also worthwhile. Because camping may be too rugged for some, the park also features cabins with bunk beds; some even have solar-generated electricity.

Read more about Cape Lookout National Seashore →

A gorgeous memorial to the English colonists who first settled America on Roanoke Island in 1584, the Elizabethan Gardens are a worthwhile trip for families, nature enthusiasts and history buffs. Described as "an oasis of green in a land of sea and sun," the gardens feature an outstanding collection of European statuary and garden ornaments set in a spectacularly designed garden landscape. Special programs include events for children, classes for gardeners and celebrations of music, art or dance. The adjacent Lost Colony Theater occasionally produces historical reenactments in the gardens also.

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Located at the site of Wilbur and Orville Wright's flying experiments, including their ultimate first flight, the memorial offers visitors the chance to engage in interactive exhibits and to witness the spot where the brothers first took flight. The attraction exhibits several replicas of their original flying machines. A variety of park programs is available throughout the summer.

Read more about Wright Brothers National Memorial →