Visiting The Outer Banks is one of the best things to do in North Carolina, and if you’ve never explored this wonderful part of the US, now is the time to go. An interesting history, fun things to do, tons of places to explore, and beautiful scenery all around are just a part of the fun here. And before we get you too carried away, there are more than 20 weekend things to do in The Outer Banks that we’ll share with you here. If you’re like everyone else and there for a week, you can knock these out during less-busy times.
This post is a part of our series on The Outer Banks and more spots in the USA. We originally created it on NC Tripping on March 20, 2018, and have kept the post maintained and updated, as of August 2, 2019.
Weekend Things to Do in The Outer Banks
People will tell you to visit during the spring, summer, or fall when the weather is warm. We agree and love traveling through this part of North Carolina during these times of the year, but what about during the offseason in the winter? Some places may not be open and temperatures may be cooler than during the rest of the year, but the scenery won’t change and there are fewer people vying for those awesome views. Give it a thought and if you’ve ever visited The Outer Banks during the winter, we’d love to know what you think.
We created an offseason guide to The Outer Banks at NC Tripping to convince you even further that any time of year is great for a trip there. Also, we included a couple of spots in the Outer Banks in our guide to winter things to do in North Carolina!
Stay Close to the Water
There are tons of Outer Banks vacation rentals to choose from, but I think your weekend (and even week) there would be best enjoyed while staying somewhere like Wright Cottage Court in Kill Devil Hills. Their oceanfront cottages are cozy and full of everything you need, in case you want to spend your entire time there. That’s why we included this as one of our favorite hotels in North Carolina.
Hang Out at the Beach
There are so many Outer Banks beaches to explore. One thing to remember is that public parking can be limited in some places. That’s because many spots are dedicated to residents or those who are staying nearby. Nags Head is one of the busiest beaches, and you’ll see why. Its gorgeous wide spaces are the first indicator. The ever-photogenic Jennette’s Pier is also there and is one of our favorite spots to walk on at any time of year. Personal favorites also include the beaches in Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, and Duck.
Bonus Beach Tip: If you’re up for some adventure, hop up to Corolla and scope out the wild horses that have been hanging out there for hundreds of years.
People come from all over to go surfing in the Outer Banks. That’s largely thanks to some of the best waves you’ll find on the East Coast. The Eastern Surfing Association likes the waves here, too, and hosts its Mid-Atlantic Regionals each year in Nags Head.
Got a not-too-secret spot to share for surfing in the Outer Banks? Let us know about it!
Find All the Lighthouses
There are five lighthouses in the Outer Banks, and each is unique. Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are the two you might recognize from travel guides and postcards, but we think you should also check out the ones at Currituck Beach, Roanoke Marshes, and Ocracoke Island. These lighthouses form an important part of the maritime history The Outer Banks, North Carolina, and the United States.
Not only can you stare at the water and enjoy the beaches here, but the Outer Banks is also a great spot for fishermen and -women. You can fish from piers, go fly fishing, charter a boat, and enjoy many more angling opportunities.
The ever-photogenic Jennette’s Pier is a popular spot for fishing, but also one of our favorite spots to take a stroll. There’s a small aquarium (affiliated with NC Aquariums) inside, along with shops for gear and souvenirs. You can hang out here for hours staring out at the water or along the beach. Just make sure you get down to the beach and grab some photos of it, too.
Search for Wild Horses
If you’re up for some Outer Banks weekend adventures, hop up to Corolla and scope out the wild horses that have been hanging out there for hundreds of years. If you do get to see them, please don’t approach the horses and try to touch them.
Eat at Fun Outer Banks Restaurants
Some pretty awesome places to eat in The Outer Banks remain open throughout the year, no matter when you’re visiting. Grab a pencil and mark up your order at Duck Donuts. Oh, and be sure to pick a colorful variety for the photos you’ll take before eating. Barrier Island Bagels is another awesome place to grab breakfast in The Outer Banks. Healthy options include some amazing açaí bowls. But even if you’re trying to eat light, split one of their freshly made bagels with someone you love.
OBX Trio in Kitty Hawk serves up really delicious food to go along with an almost countless variety of beer, wine, and cheese. Waveriders Coffee, Deli, & Pub in Nags Head mixes amazing food, drinks, and fun in a community-building and welcoming space.
You can enjoy a wide variety of Outer Banks Restaurants during Taste the Beach in March. We included it in our Spring Things to Do in North Carolina! If you’re looking for eats in a specific area, check out this guide to can’t-miss Outer Banks restaurants we’ve created.
Don’t Forget the Breweries
The Outer Banks also has a few breweries worth any day of your week or weekend. Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe in Manteo has awesome food to go along with a nice selection of British and Irish-style beers. Weeping Radish is North Carolina’s oldest microbrewery, and its current location in Grandy offers a pub, butchery, and brewery that’s open to tours. And then there’s Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills. This is the first wind-powered brewery in the US and home to a huge tap list, food throughout the day and evening, and a jam-packed events calendar.
We included Lost Colony among our favorite breweries in North Carolina. What’s yours in The Outer Banks?
Tour and Taste at Outer Banks Distilling
Learn about the rum’s history in the area at Outer Banks Distilling in Manteo during any weekend in the Outer Banks. The owners are truly great guys, too. And hopefully, you’ll come away inspired to the tune of looking into following your own passions as they did. Pick up a bottle of rum (aka Kill Devil. Hence the name “Kill Devil Hills”) and some candied pecans.
Spend More Time in Manteo
And speaking of Manteo, this town is a nice change of pace from the rest of The Outer Banks, even though things aren’t too chaotic elsewhere. We like coming here for the Waterfront, but the Roanoke Island Museum and the other places we’ve already mentioned make this a must-visit when staying in The Outer Banks.
NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island
Occasionally, you might run into bad weather during your visit, but don’t worry! There are some great indoor places to go and things to do. The NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island is where you should start, full of fun for families and anyone interested in learning about North Carolina’s aquatic wildlife and habitats.
Not only is NC Aquarium on RI one of the awesome weekend things to do in The Outer Banks, but it’s also one of our favorite North Carolina museums. It’s also up there on our list of favorite winter things to do in North Carolina!
The Lost Colony of Roanoke
And one thing you really must do when in Manteo is visit the Lost Colony of Roanoke at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. A well-known play commemorates the events of our first colonists and this book about the Lost Colony of Roanoke is a great resource for those interested.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Many people come here to be near the water but there are tons of Outer Banks attractions beyond the beach. I’d start with a visit to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The dunes and wind will take you away to another planet. However, seeing a beautiful sunset there will remind you that it’s still earth. You can also fly kites or go hang gliding here and more info about those two activities is available here.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial
If you ever wondered why North Carolina license plates read “First in Flight,” the Wright Brothers National Memorial will show you why. You can walk around outside and see the spot where the “first flight” occurred. There’s a reconstructed camp to show where and how the Wright Brothers lived, and a monument to commemorate this historic site. The visitors center is pretty nice, too, with tributes to the Wright Brothers, their creations, and many other pioneers and trailblazers in the sky.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park and the Wright Brothers National Memorial are not only a couple of fun weekend things to do in The Outer Banks, but they both featured in our roundup of Unique Things to Do in North Carolina on NC Tripping.
Fly an Airplane!
After the Wright Brothers National Memorial inspires you, why not take it a step further and book and fly high with OBX Airplanes? They offer $15 rides all day long and you can find more info about them on their website.
Nags Head Woods
Nags Head Woods is one of our favorite weekend things to do in The Outer Banks and also one of our favorite hiking trails in North Carolina. It sits between Jockeys Ridge and the Wright Brothers Memorial with more than five miles of trails. The most popular one is Sweetgum Swamp Tail (3.4 miles round trip) but the Discovery Trail to Roanoke Trail Loop are also fun. The’s preserve’s ADA Trail (.5 miles round trip) is completely accessible, too!
Explore Cape Hatteras National Seashore
If you want to feel like you’re really on the edge of the United States, take a drive down NC Highway 12 through Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Seeing the water on both sides of the road is a really cool thing. There are some fun places to stop along the way, too.
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
After Bodie, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the first things you’ll see and it’s worth exploring, with tons of bird-viewing opportunities. Other awesome spots you can reach include Rodanthe, Buxton, and Ocracoke.
Ferry to Ocracoke
You should definitely ferry to Ocracoke Island from Hatteras. It’s free and takes about an hour. On the island, you should check out the beach and Ocracoke Lighthouse that we already mentioned. There are also fun places to eat, including Ocracoke Bar and Grille. By the way, it was mentioned in our guide to Outer Banks restaurants. And if you’re around in October, definitely check out Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree!
Check here for ferry schedules to and from Ocracoke.
Learn at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
Before hopping on the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry, spend some time at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Exhibits inside honor the area’s maritime history and culture. Wars, piracy, and ghost ships are just a few of the topics covered at one of our favorite museums in North Carolina.
Keep Coming Back!
So we’re pretty hooked on this part of our state and can’t wait to get back there. Among these fun weekend things to do in The Outer Banks, which ones are your favorites? Is it the beach, the fun things to do beyond the water, or something else? We’d love to know what you think of this special place. Also, we look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section!
Special thanks to The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau for setting us up for an awesome weekend. All opinions within this article are our own.