We’ve been home for a few weeks now from our big annual family vacation. It’s always a little heartbreaking how it seems like you look forward to a trip for so long, and then it comes and goes so quickly.
This year’s trip was our third time going down to the Outer Banks in NC (also known as OBX). It’s truly a beautiful and wonderful place for a family vacation. There are a ton of activities, shops, attractions and of course the beach, to keep you and your family busy during your stay.
We’ve always gone with a large group in the off-season and rented a large oceanfront home in the Pine Island area of Corolla. It makes a vacation like this much more affordable. During the summer (peak season) these houses can demand rents upwards of $20k per week, and that’s just way out of our reality.
The company we’ve gone through and haven’t had any issues is Carolina Designs. Their website is easy to use and has a ton of houses up and down coast.
Just look at these gorgeous homes we’ve stayed in:
Here are some of my favorite things to do while visiting OBX.
Relax at the Beach
The whole point of going on vacation is to relax. Since we stay on the oceanfront, we’re lucky enough to come and go down to the beach as we please. Since it’s off season when we go it’s not crowded and there’s plenty of room to spread out. Get up early and go scouting for shells along the tide, just watch out for all the little crabs running around. The sunrises are gorgeous!
Wild Horse Tour
If there’s one activity I would say is an absolute must — it’s seeing the wild horses. We did this on our first trip and it was so cool. There were so many horses and they were absolutely stunning. There are several different tour companies, and all of them will bring you out to the 4×4 area — Carova Beach. You can also just go to the beach yourself if you have a capable vehicle.
We always have one morning breakfast of these donuts. They are sooo delicious and so fresh. Two different types that intrigued me this year was the maple donut with bacon sprinkled on top (bottom right) and another donut that had dirt cake on top with a gummy worm (bottom left). Just, wow. (I didn’t get up early enough this morning to get a picture of the full 3 dozen)
We love hitting up Super Wings for any and all memorabilia like tshirts, towels, sweatshirts, mugs, etc. Since we go in the off-season (late September/October) everything in the store is 50-70% off. Spend $25 and your whole family has a sweatshirt to bring home! It’s also a great place to grab any beach necessities like sand buckets, boogie boards and water shoes you may need for the week.
I tend to like the independently owned small local shops with handmade and artisan goods. On our first trip I bought some beautiful stone spoon rests and small dishes. Timbuck II in Corolla had numerous shops with unique and one of kind finds I enjoyed.
Another favorite store we hit up is a shop in Nag’s Head called The Christmas Mouse. It’s a two story store FULL of any and every Christmas ornament and decoration you could ever imagine. They also have small sections for other holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. My mom is a bit obsessed with ornaments, so this is always a must do when we go down.
There’s also several shopping centers with stores most are familiar with like Home Goods, Tuesday Morning and Life is Good. The Tanger Outlets in Nags Head has a ton of great stores with great prices too! Whatever kind of shopping you’re into, I have no doubt you’ll find a great shop.
One of the coolest attractions in OBX is all the lighthouses. There are 5 total: Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island, Currituck Beach, Ocracoke Island and Roanoke Marshes. I’ve been to all but Roanoke. The views from the top of these lighthouses are breathtaking. I enjoy visiting historical places like this and it’s a fun learning experience as well.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
And while you’re driving down to see all the lighthouses, don’t forget to make a pit stop in Rodanthe to see the house used in the movie “Nights in Rodanthe’. The house was moved down the beach some in 2010 I think, because of damage sustained during a hurricane the previous year. It’s now been renovated and is available to rent — click here to take a look!
Wright Brothers Museum
Another historical attraction — the Wrights Brothers Memorial is the sight where the Wright brothers took their first flight! There’s the First Flight Boulder and Flight Line and a model of their airplane, Currently there’s some construction going on, but it’s scheduled to be finished by summer/fall 2018 and I look forward to checking out the new interactive exhibits.
My husband LOVES to fish, as do my dad and stepmom, so their first order of business is getting their fishing licenses. They often fish right in front of the house down at the beach and we’ve gone to places like Jennette’s Pier. There’s also a number of places to rent boats, surfboards, paddle boards, jet-skiis and more. We went crabbing on our first trip and it was so fun (and a great before dinner snack)!
To be honest, I haven’t really done much dining out during our vacation to OBX. We usually have family style dinners during the week of our stay — each group makes a homemade dinner for the group. But there are a ton of places to eat out if that’s your style. We’ve had lunch and dinner at the Sunset Grille in Duck and had a quick lunch at Steamer’s in Corolla while out shopping. Next trip I really want to try a place called Cravings that was featured on Diners, Dives & Drive-ins.
So there’s my list of must do things while you vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Honestly, there’s still so much more to see and do in other little towns along the coast, but this is a great place to start and get some ideas! It’s always fun to just get in the car and drive for a few hours up and down NC-12 and see what you find.