The Outer Banks are no longer out of mind. The chain of barrier islands off North Carolina ‘s Atlantic coast is definitely on the greater travel radar as an awesome destination for surfers, paddlers, fishermen, and beach bums just wanting to soak up some sun. The reason being? The vast 200-mile chain is all within reasonable driving reach with a distinctly laid-back vibe. If you know where to go, you can get away from the crowds.
Accessing the Outer Banks, or OBX for short, is fairly simple. The Norfolk International Airport is just 82 miles to the north and the Raleigh-Durham International Airport is about 190 miles west. If you’re regionally located, we recommend an old fashioned road trip.
Where to Stay
Dust off the trusty camp stove and throw your tent in the back of your truck. There are four different campgrounds on Cape Hatteras National Seashore and each of them provides the unique opportunity to leave your creature comforts at home and live outside for a few days. If you skip camping, you’ve got everything from budget motels with a vintage vibe to more modern luxury homes, some of which are big enough to house a couple of families.
Where to Eat
You’re on the coast so steer yourself in the direction of fresh seafood. You can’t go wrong with Owens Restaurant, which has been serving up delicious crabcakes for over 70 years. If you’re visiting during the summer and want to avoid lines, pick up some to-go food from Steamers.
Where to Drink
Drink a beer at the first wind-powered brewery in the United States by paying a visit to the Outer Banks Brewing Station which is located in Kill Devil Hills. Also worth checking out is the Northern Outer Banks Brewing Company. It’s got a lineup of locally named, delicious beers such as the Corolla Hop and Swan Beach Honey Pale Ale.
What to Do
The list of outdoor activities is almost endless. If you want to go surfing but didn’t bring your own board, head on down to the Rodanthe Surf Shop. You can rent a board for just the day or keep it for the week. Like a lot of coastal areas, you can also go standup paddling, explore on a beach cruiser (there are a handful of lighthouses on the OBX), float around on a kayak, poke around town for a few hours, or just sit by the beach. If you want to do something unique to the OBX, though, head on over to Jockey’s Ridge State Park and sign up for a hang-gliding lesson in the dunes with Kitty Hawk Kites.
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are based in Asheville, North Carolina, but are currently traveling the country in their van. You can follow along with their adventures at Authentic Asheville.