Looking for a family travel destination that will get your kiddos outdoors? The Outer Banks (OBX) is a 200-mile-long stretch of barrier islands that cover most of the North Carolina coastline, separating Currituck Sound, Albemarle Sound, and Pamlico Sound from the Atlantic Ocean. There are so many things to do in the Outer Banks that it’s no wonder it is one of the most popular North Carolina vacation spots.
This region is very rich in history – the rough seas off the Outer Banks and the large number of shipwrecks that have occurred there have given these seas the nickname Graveyard of the Atlantic. It is also Virginia Dare’s birthplace and the site of the Wright Brothers inaugural flight launches (aviation geeks here – this was huge for us!).
History not your thing? No problem – wild Spanish Mustangs and playful bottle-nose dolphins call this wide expanse of open beachfront their home. So while you are relaxing on the beach don’t be surprised if suddenly people start pointing at the water – pods of dolphins are spotted at all times throughout the day.
Full disclosure – we prefer the “off-season” to visit OBX (prime season is Memorial Day-Labor Day). This is only because we do not like crowds or being on the beach with little ones when it is over 90 degrees!
We have compiled a list of the three A’s: Accommodations, Adventures, and Appetite! If you have any questions about the Outer Banks or our trip please shoot us an email!
We stayed in Nags Head at Stork’s nest – a rental property one block from the beach. With the breathtaking wilderness of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park on the west and by the majestic Atlantic Ocean on the east, this home was the perfect setting for our family. Go sit on the back porch and enjoy some of the best sunsets in North Carolina. OBX has many beach cottages to choose from, or you can go the hotel route – just depends on your preference!
Wild Horse Adventure Tours – You guys, this tour is amazing! Feel the ocean breeze and taste the salty beach air as you cruise in an OPEN AIR Hummer and view the wild Spanish Mustangs in Corolla. We saw several beautiful Spanish Mustangs (one was very pregnant!). There are about 85 wild horses in the area, once estimated at 5,000. However they are on the uptick, as they were once at only 40. Ryan was our tour guide, he was so knowledgable and kept everyone entertained. This was something on our bucket list and we were so happy to go with this company – they are thrilled to have children on their tours (bring your own car seats). The tour runs for about two hours.
Wright Brothers National Memorial – Located in Kill Devil hills, this is a must see attraction for any aviation enthusiast and history lover. Walk uphill to the monument and take in the scenery, then head to the museum which features a full scale reproduction of both the 1902 glider and the 1903 flying machine. People travel across the country to pay tribute to the birthplace of aviation. We all had a great time here – and there is a replica of the flying machine for the kiddos to play on at the park here!
Bodie Island Light House – This 156′ ft. lighthouse is 214 steps to the top. We did not climb – your child must be 42″ tall and they have to make the climb by themselves (no adult assistance). We had a tired kiddo on our hands and that would not have gone well. You also cannot bring the tiny ones in a carrier so our youngest wouldn’t have been able to go up at all.
Roanoke Island Aquarium – We love an aquarium – and this one is the perfect size to spend 1-2 hours. We love their exhibits and educational experiences for our girls. The sea turtle rehabilitation and shark tooth digging pit outside is where we spend most of our time here. We came three times here in a week if that tells you anything 🙂
Pirate’s Cove Marina/Oregon Inlet Fishing Center – Looking for something a little unconventional but free and loads of fun? Head to one of there marina’s around 3:45-4:15 pm to watch the charter fishing boats come in. You will see sunburn and hear great stories while they unload their catch. It was one of our favorite ways to end the day.
The Beach – OBX has some beautiful beaches and we would be remiss to leave them off our adventure list! We love the beach and try to go out early in the morning and late afternoon. Pack your sunscreen – the sun is strong in the summer months and the sand is hot! Enjoy digging for seashells and making sand castles while listening to the waves crash in the background. Ahhh…
Jockey’s Ridge – The tallest sand dune on the Atlantic coast is a great location for kites, sightseeing sunsets, with a view arcing from the ocean to Roanoke Sound. Our little ones love to come here and climb up the dunes, and roll all the way down! It can get very hot and there is no shade so bring hats and sunscreen (try to avoid peak sun in the summer).
Ocracoke Island – We did not have a chance to visit Ocracoke Island but we have plans to go back and will update this once we do!
Fish Head’s Bar and Grill – Located under a mile from our rental cottage this was the perfect place to grab a bite and enjoy the view of the Atlantic Ocean. Very laid back and family friendly here – see if you can find out wedding koozie on the ceiling!
Island Smoothie – We stopped here for breakfast before our wild horse tour. Their smoothies are amazing – but don’t let the name fool you. They have an extensive menu from acai bowls, salad, sandwiches, and avocado toast that will have you drooling for more. I highly recommend stopping here – and tell Doug we said hello! He is the kindest person and so quick to help with any questions!
Nags Head Pizza Company – Great pizza with a lot of unique combinations.
Because we stayed in the cottage – most of our meals were cooked at home – but these are our tried and true favorite places in the area!
Until next time…