The Outer Banks is a 200-mile-long (320 km) string of barrier islands and spits off the coast of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, on the east coast of the United States.
They cover most of the North Carolina coastline, separating Currituck Sound, Albemarle Sound, and Pamlico Sound from the Atlantic Ocean. The Outer Banks are a major tourist destination and are known around the world for their wide expanse of open beachfront. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore has four campgrounds open to visitors. The treacherous 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. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is located in Hatteras Village near a United States Coast Guard facility and the Hatteras ferry.
The English Roanoke Colony—where Virginia Dare was born—vanished from Roanoke Island in 1587. The Lost Colony, written and performed to commemorate the original colonists, is the second longest running outdoor drama in the United States and its theater acts as a cultural focal point for much of the Outer Banks.
The Wright brothers’ first flight in a controlled, powered, heavier-than-air vehicle took place on the Outer Banks on December 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hills near the seafront town of Kitty Hawk. The Wright Brothers National Monument commemorates the historic flights, and First Flight Airport is a small, general-aviation airfield located there.
Currituck County : Beaches : 1 Carova , 2 Corolla, pronounced to rhyme with “holla”. It does not sound like the name of the Toyota automobile.
Dare County : Beaches : Duck
4 Southern Shores
5 Kitty Hawk
6 Kill Devil Hills
8 Nags Head
15 Hatteras Village
Access : Coordinates: 35.37365, -75.4953 / By plane : Norfolk International Airport (ORF IATA)is the closest airport to the Outer Banks, approximately an hour and a half’s drive to Kitty Hawk, NC. Coastal Carolina Regional Airport (EWN IATA) is another close commercial airport to the Outer Banks with nonstop regional service to Atlanta, Charlotte and Philadelphia. It will be around a 3 hour drive from the airport to the Outer Banks.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU IATA) is a 4 hour drive from the Outer Banks. It is the closest major airport with service to most major airline hubs such as Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles. Pilots of private planes can land directly in the Outer Banks at Dare County Airport (MEO IATA) in Manteo, and First Flight Airport (FFA IATA) in Kill Devil Hills.
By road : From the North, take I-64 in Virginia to exit 291B (SR 168-Battlefield Blvd). Merge left onto SR 168 and continue until road becomes US 158 (beyond the NC border). US 158 will take you all the way to the beaches, and is the main highway up and down the Outer Banks. Driving from the West use US 64 and US 264 through Columbia and Manteo, NC. US 264 becomes US 158 once you’ve reached the Outer Banks beaches. Ferries connect Ocracoke to Cedar Island and Swan Quarter there is free ferry access across Hatteras Inlet from Ocracoke Island.
Get around : The best tip for navigating the Outer Banks is to learn their main roads and milepost system. There are two main drags on the beaches. State Highway 12 is known as Virginia Dare Trail, or more commonly “the Beach Road”. US 158 is known as Croatan Highway, but the locals refer to it as “the Bypass” or “the Big Road”. Most advertisements you find will refer to them that way.
The Mileposts are similar to what you find on the interstates. Green signs on the right hand side of the road, marked every half mile. Milepost “0” is at the Wright Memorial Bridge on the north end in Kitty Hawk. Head south on the Bypass or Beach Road and the Mileposts get higher with Milepost (MP) 16 at Whalebone Junction being the end of the ‘main drag’. Ferries from the North Carolina Department of Transportation are available to some Outer Banks destinations.
- Lighthouses : There are 5 lighthouses in the Outer Banks : Currituck Beach Lighthouse, located in Corolla, North Carolina / Roanoake Marshes Lighthouse, located in Manteo, North Carolina / Bodie Island Lighthouse, located south of Nags Head, North Carolina,Cape Hatteras Lighthouse / located in Buxton, North Carolina / cracoke Island Lighthouse, located in Ocracoke, North Carolina
- Parks : Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge /Cape Hatteras National Seashore / Cape Lookout National Seashore / Currituck Heritage Park / Currituck National Wildlife Refuge
/ False Cape State Park / Fort Macon State Park / Fort Raleigh National Historic Site / Jockey’s Ridge State Park / Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge / Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge / Wright Brothers National Memorial
Activities : Surfing – The Outer Banks offers some of the best surfing on the East Coast. Plenty of surf shops rent equipment and/or offer lessons.
Most other watersports – Kayaking, Windsurfing, Kiteboarding, Parasailing, Jet Skiing, you name it.
Hang gliding in Nags Head, just south of where the Wright Brothers first managed to fly.
Climb up and run down the big dune at Jockey’s Ridge State Park at milepost 12 in Nags Head. They also have hang gliding classes at the park during the day.
Shopping, shopping and more shopping! Tons of great places to find unique items. Many Art Galleries are located up and down the beaches.
Historical tours-the Outer Banks is rich with history and you’ll find many different areas to explore the unique background. One must-see is The Lost Colony and Roanoke Island Festival Park, both located on Roanoake Island. The very beginnings of the country and its people can be seen and explored there.
4 wheel drive beaches where you can drive on the beach and look for wild horses
For kids there are many miniature golf courses and go cart racing tracks that are also near shops and places to eat or get ice cream
While the big waves make the beaches a fun place to hang out all day, there are very few lifeguards, and none in the off season.
Go next : Crystal Coast (Southern Outer Banks) / Inner Banks