The Outer Banks are barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, and about a 4-hour drive from DC/MD/VA. The beaches are beautiful and are rarely crowed. The towns are quaint and you won’t find too many big chain restaurants or stores (or hotels even). And besides long beach days and fresh seafood, the Outer Banks also has special sense of history, nature, and wildlife to it to explore.
Besides the fact that I think the Outerbanks is the best place in the entire world, the Outerbanks is the best place in the entire world. I might be bias, and I totally am, but it’s my favorite place to be! For so many reasons it feels like a second home to me. It’s where my family would drive every year for our family vacation. We would sometimes meet family there and make it a huge family trip. I have so many memories here with my cousins growing up.
Then when I met Wes (in college), he told me he was about to move to the Outerbanks with his friends for the summer. He moved to the Outerbanks, just like he said he would, and a month later my family took our yearly summer vacation. I dragged my sister to go hang out with this “new guy I met.” By the end of that summer I had made two more trips down and the rest is history, as they say… Fast forward three years, Wes and I are living in our first apartment together, about to graduate college, and we decide to repeat his summer in OBX, this time together (Even Flower was there!). What was supposed to be “just a summer” turned into six months on the beach before we moved home to get “real” jobs. Today, we consider ourselves lucky to have a house down there to visit whenever we can (Thanks to Wes’s parents who recently bought a house of their own!).
Now, the fun part – I get to help you plan your next trip! I’ve received so many requests for my Outer Banks guide and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. To be honest it’s felt like a daunting task because there’s so much to the Outer Banks that I love. Also, I need to take more pictures. But, for now, I’ll do my best to try and narrow it down to some of my go-to’s when it comes to where to eat and drink and what to do while you’re there. I’ll also add any frequently asked questions to this post, so feel free to send me any! Also, there are so many restaurants in the Outer Banks and most of them are good, so don’t be afraid to venture beyond my list!
WHERE TO STAY
There are five “main” towns that I would recommend staying in if you want to be close to the “action”: Nagshead, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Duck, and Corolla. You can use local reality sites to book houses in these towns (which I would recommend doing). Growing up we would stay in Nagshead, Wes & I lived in Kitty Hawk, and when my parents visit they like Duck and Southern Shores. They’re all great, it just depends on personal preference! Duck is more of a quaint town, where Nagshead and Kitty Hawk are on the main drag. Corolla is further out and a quieter part on the beach.
Also! The Outer Banks is super dog-friendly but different beaches have different rules and “hours” where dogs are allowed, so this might influence where you decide to stay as well.
EAT & DRINK
Treehouse Coffee – Coffee and breakfast, make sure to get a biscuit!
Duck Donuts – A Duck staple! Try the Maple Bacon doughnut.
Coastal Cantina – Fish tacos and queso, or acai bowls in the mornings, ‘al fresco’ by the bay.
The Blue Point – The perfect place for a cocktail and watching the sunset over the bay.
Rhodeside Bar & Grill – The backyard bar has the best “beach bar” vibes, but make sure to go in and eat here too because the food is five-star!
Red Sky Cafe – A more “formal” dining experience and the food is amazing.
Duck Deli – Wes’s favorite casual lunch spot.
In Kitty Hawk and NagsHead:
Tortugas Lie – Delicious food and an OBX classic (As seen on DDD).
Pigman’s BBQ – The best North Carolina BBQ on the beach (And where we used to work)!
John’s – Amazing milkshakes on beach road, but show up on a Wednesday when they’re closed.
Goombay’s – A childhood favorite! Seafood and a beachy ambiance for dinner, super kid-friendly.
Mama Kwan’s – Fish tacos and fun drinks.
Blue Water Grill and Blue Moon – Sister restaurants, both have amazing food for dinner.
Front Porch Cafe – All the coffee!
Stack ’em High – My mom’s favorite, for a “down home” breakfast.
Art’s Place – Burgers & fries and they just opened up a new patio.
Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar – Raw bar.
Ocean Boulevard – Martini Bar with a patio facing beach road.
Sam & Omie’s – “Known as a local fishermen’s early morning breakfast stop,” we often go for a yummy down-to-earth lunch.
THINGS TO DO
Ocracoke Island – Take a ferry to explore the vast beaches on this beautiful island off the coast of the Outer Banks. We also love to camp here!
Jockey’s Ridge – I always love climbing the dunes at sunset.
Carova Beach – Drive your car on the sand and keep an eye out for wild horses.
Lighthouses – Beautuiful lighthouses are scattered throughout the Outer Banks, be sure to enjoy the views from the top!
Avalon Pier – Great spot for fishing.
Something Old, Something New – Sift through one of the most amazing selections of vintage clothing and accessories.
Islands by Amity – Spot some familiar favorites like Free People at my favorite boutique on the bay.
Waterfront Shops – Beach boutiques and shopping with a view.
Many of these have live music on some nights, so call in advance to check!
Bonzer Shack – Bar on beach road with outdoor games with (sometimes) a younger crowd.
Brewing Station – Craft beers and late night DJ’s on the weekends.
Jolly Roger – Grungy beach bar if you’re in the mood for that, and some karaoke!
Backside Bar at Rhodeside – A lively yet relaxed outdoor bar. Our favorite (In Duck).
Tap Shack – Ride your bike right up to this backyard bar, live music and games (In Duck).
While these are all of my favorites if you’re going to leave the house, I also recommend relaxing as much as you can and even cooking in some meals. Just enjoying your house in the OBX with friends and family or whoever you might be traveling with! I love the evenings spent sitting on the balcony deck, with piña colada’s mixing in the blender, just talking and laughing until the sky is lit up with stars.