The Outer Banks, the beautiful barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, are famous for their miles of unspoiled beaches. But many vacationers may not realize just how many unique activities are waiting to be explored off the beaten path. If you’re looking for a little adventure to make your vacation unforgettable, check out this list of uncommon sights and unusual things to do on the The Outer Banks – from hunting for shipwrecks to hang gliding off 100-foot sand dunes:
1. Take the Hatteras Ferry to Ocracoke Island
Looking for a day trip that the whole family will enjoy? Take a scenic ferry ride to beautiful Ocracoke Island. The ride takes about 40-45 minutes, and passengers have the option to board on foot or with their vehicles. Once you’re in Ocracoke, enjoy the beach, nature trails, a fishing excursion, shopping, live music, a wide assortment of restaurants and much more!
2. Hunt for Shipwrecks
Known as the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” the Outer Banks is home to hundreds of shipwrecks due to the dangerous mix of storms, shoals, and strong currents in the surrounding waters. The sights hidden below the ocean’s surface, including multiple German U-boats that sank during World Wars I and II, attract history buffs and divers looking for a bit of adventure. You can also visit several shipwrecks that are often visible above ground like the Metropolis in Corolla and the Laura A. Barnes on Coquina Beach.
3. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial
A trip to the Outer Banks wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Wright Brothers Memorial. Located in Kill Devil Hills, the memorial commemorates the first flight of Wilbur and Orville Wright, two young brothers who spent years experimenting with flight in the area and finally succeeded in 1903. Here, you can stand exactly where the first flight took place, see a life-sized model of the 1903 Wright Flyer, and more.
4. Ride Horses in Hatteras
You and your family can take in the beautiful beach scenery in a truly unique way with a horseback ride on the beach. Rides are offered by several companies in the Hatteras area and typically range from 30 minutes to an hour long. With the well-behaved horses described as calm and gentle, the ride is a relaxing and fun-filled experience for everyone in your group.
5. See the Lost Colony Play
Don’t miss the exclusive Lost Colony play, which is the second-longest running historical outdoor drama. The play depicts the unsolved mystery of 117 English settlers who disappeared shortly after coming to Roanoke Island in 1587. The play is performed each summer on the same site where these actual events occurred at Waterside Theater in Manteo.
6. Visit the Elizabethan Gardens
While you’re on Roanoke Island, head to the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens to see more than 10 acres of grounds and 500 unique species of colorful flora. The tranquil gardens honor those settlers who first came to America 400 years ago and are based off the same gardens that were made for Queen Elizabeth I during her reign.
7. Stop by Duck Boardwalk and Duck Town Park
Make sure you visit Duck Boardwalk and experience all it has to offer. This mile-long boardwalk features waterfront shops, including 18 boutiques, great restaurants, eateries and live music. Right next to the boardwalk, you will find the beautiful 11-acre Duck Town Park with trails, an amphitheater, kayak and canoe launches, a picnic area, playgrounds, and more.
8. Explore Jockey's Ridge State Park
If you’re going to be near Nags Head, take a hike through Jockey's Ridge State Park, a landmark for vacationers that offers gorgeous island-spanning views. You’ll also see the park’s famous, towering sand dunes, which reach up to 100 feet tall and attract dozens of hang gliders and sand boarders. Stop by later in the day to enjoy the incredible sunsets.
9. Tour Whalehead in Historic Corolla
Once home to the wealthy Knight family who came to the area to hunt, relax and entertain, this expansive estate with a restored 1920s-era mansion has become a popular attraction in northern Corolla. With a setting along the Currituck Sound in Historic Corolla, you can spend time wandering Whalehead’s 39 pristine acres and taking a tour of the beautiful historic home.
10. Fish off Jennette's Pier
Love to fish? Then make sure that Jennette’s Pier, one of the most popular fishing piers on the Outer Banks, is on your list of places to visit. Attracting thousands of anglers from all around the country, the Pier has a long history as a well-loved Outer Banks fishing spot, dating back to the late 1930s. While you’re there, enjoy the surrounding beaches and an educational center, which features a “Giants of the Sea” exhibit.
Ready to explore the most unique areas of the Outer Banks? Book your vacation rental now.