The Outer Banks are a series of barrier islands in North Carolina that have recently risen to stardom thanks to the Netflix original series, Outer Banks. Despite what you might have heard, the Outer Banks is more than just a mysterious compass, teenage angst, and John B.
The islands are a natural wonderland that truly embodies the saying, "There's something for everyone." They're 200 miles long and are rarely more than a mile wide. Although usually low lying, there are some naturally formed sand dunes in the Outer Banks that rise to more than 100 feet.
Full of natural beauty and wild adventures, these islands are a family-friendly and budget-friendly destination.
If you are looking to make the most of a week-long trip to the Outer Banks, this Outer Banks itinerary will help you experience the best of what they have to offer!
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Using the map of North Carolina, you can explore all the days and stops.
Your perfect 7-day Outer Banks itinerary starts in the northernmost part of the islands. This is the best way to see all of the Outer Banks without having to backtrack.
The northern parts of the Outer Banks are a bit wilder than the other parts of the islands. This makes the area ideal for nature lovers.
You've probably heard about the wild Spanish mustangs that roam free in the Outer Banks. To see these beauties, you will need to head to the northernmost beaches in Currituck and Corolla.
During the Colonial era, explorers from Spain brought the mustangs with them to explore the area. Now, seeing the descendants of the horses in the wild is a must-see while in the Outer Banks.
You don't need to book a tour to see them for yourself. Typically, people drive on the beaches to get to the horses. For this, a 4-wheel drive will be necessary. If you don't have a 4-wheel drive and don't want to rent one, you can walk. You will probably have to walk about two miles to reach the horses, but the reward is worth the effort!
Before leaving the area, take a swim, hunt for sharks teeth, or go shelling at Corolla Beach.
End your first day by walking the 220 steps to the top of Currituck Beach Lighthouse for perfect views of the historic Whalehead Club and Currituck Sound.
In the late 1800s, the lighthouse's beacon began lighting the way for ships along the coast. The area off of the Outer Banks coast is called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" due to the number of boats that capsized in the area. A large number of the lost and sunken ships reported in 1872 led to the Currituck Lighthouse being built three years later.
Before leaving, take the short walk across the road to Historic Corolla Park. The park offers a view of the sound, crabbing, fishing, and a gorgeous wooden footbridge.
If you have a kayak or canoe, there is an area where you can launch it from in the park. For photographers or those looking for the perfect Instagram shot, there are a lot of pretty photo opportunities along the water and wooden boardwalks in front of the Whalehead Club.
Day two of your Outer Banks itinerary includes learning about the history of the area, getting adventurous on the sand dunes, relaxing on a beach and more while you make your way down the Outer Banks.
On your second day in the Outer Banks, head south to Kitty Hawk. You can learn more about the Wright brothers and the way they shaped aviation as we know it today at the Monument to a Century of Flight.
Next, head to Sandy Run Park. It's one of my favorite places in Kitty Hawk because it has wooden boardwalks reaching out over the marshes and you can always catch sight of turtles, fish, ducks, and other wildlife. This park is popular among locals more than tourists, making it an excellent option for getting away from the crowds.
Before heading south, stop by the Avalon Pier for a relaxing break. Grab a snack and enjoy it on the pier while you watch the surfers and kayakers in the ocean.
Next, it's time to head south to Kill Devil Hills. Yes, this town has a rather strange name that comes from a type of bird that used to inhabit the area. The Killdeer gave the area the nickname of Killdeer Hills, which over time became Kill Devil Hills.
Kill Devil Hills is famous for being the birthplace of flight, which leads us to the Wright Brothers National Monument. Diving into the history of the area is a great way to truly experience and appreciate where you are. You can learn about the Wright brothers and their iconic first flight at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Make sure you bring your walking shoes and plenty of water if you are visiting in the summer months. If you're traveling with kids, this a great stop in the Outer Banks. Children 15 and younger get in for free!
Before you leave town, head to Ocean Bay Blvd for a swim or a walk on the beach. After all, the Outer Banks is famous for their beaches.
Ahead of going to a beach though, make sure you check the wind speeds. The islands can occasionally be too windy to enjoy the beaches. A quick google search can tell you what the conditions will be like on the beach in Kill Devil Hills.
End your second day with adventure in Nags Head!
Nags Head is home to Jockey's Ridge State Park. If you were to ask me what's the #1 thing to see in the Outer Banks, Jockey's Ridge would be neck and neck with seeing the wild horses. Its beauty is unreal!
The state park has the tallest natural sand dune on the East coast and the perfect conditions for kite flying and hang gliding. You can take your own hang gliding lesson in the park.
If hang gliding isn't your thing, head to the First Flight Adventure Park. They have different aerial obstacle courses for varying levels of difficulty. They each have their own zip line, too!
The best way to end a day in Nags Head is by watching the sunset at Jennette's Pier. It's the oldest fishing pier in the Outer Banks, and without a doubt, the most beautiful.
This little barrier island is famous for its "lost colony" of settlers. It is one of the most entertaining and interesting islands in the Outer Banks.
Only 12 miles long, and 3 miles wide on average, Roanoke was the first-attempted English settlement in North America. It's also the birthplace of Virginia Dare, the first child born of English parents in the New World.
You could easily spend a whole weekend exploring Roanoke Island.
Day 3 of your Outer Banks trip itinerary will be full of history and interesting educational sites. Make sure to bring your walking shoes, and if you're visiting in the summer, lots of water!
The Fort Raleigh National Historic Site preserves the location of the Roanoke colony of 1587. The colony was promoted and financed by Sir Walter Raleigh. Unfortunately, sometime between 1587 and 1590, supply ships failed to arrive at the colony. When the colony was next visited, the settlement had been abandoned, and no survivors were ever found.
The fate of the "lost colony" has never been solved. This history and the mystery of this settlement draws hundreds of thousands of people to this historic site each year.
While you're here, you can see the "earthwork" that has been left behind. It is archaeological proof that metallurgical activity took place while people lived in Roanoke Colony. You can also walk the 1.25 mile Freedom Trail that leads you to the Croatan Sound.
Before you leave, make sure to stop at the Waterside Theatre. The Roanoke Island Historical Association puts on a drama at the Waterside Theatre about the Lost Colony. The show is a great way to educate yourself about the colony while also supporting the artists on Roanoke.
The Island Farm is a 19th-century farm that has been turned into a living museum. They have employees in period attire explaining what life was like on the farm when it was first established.
You can feed the animals and try products that were made on the farm. You can also learn how corn husk dolls were made, how to spin wool, and the process of turning corn into mill.
Island Farm is an excellent stop for family and budget travelers.
Not your typical lighthouse, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is a beautiful little lighthouse that you can reach by walking out on a wooden boardwalk over the Bay.
Under the lighthouse is a little museum that you can explore for free. The best part about this lighthouse is its location. There are restaurants, shopping opportunities, and sweet shops all within walking distance of the lighthouse.
Walk around and see what shops interest you. I recommend stopping by The Laughing Lollipop. They have typical yummy treats, but also some interesting and strange flavored candies as well.
Stop for dinner at one of the restaurants in the area that can be reached on foot. The Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe is a crowd favorite and has a great outdoor seating area.
Day 4 is all about relaxation and enjoying nature. You'll spend time relaxing on the beach, driving on thin strips of the barrier island, and exploring the Outer Banks' marshlands.
There aren't any restaurants between Bodie Island and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, so today would be a perfect day to have picnics!
Spend your morning walking along Coquina Beach. It's a white sand beach that is expansive, so you shouldn't have any issues finding personal space. If you're lucky, you may even see deer walking around in the dune grass on the beach.
If you're traveling with young kids, keep in mind that the Outer Banks' beaches can get windy and have strong surf.
The Bodie Island Lighthouse has had a rough history. Originally built in 1847, the Bodie Lighthouse sadly had to be abandoned due to a failing foundation. It was built up again in 1859 with better construction. The lighthouse once again was destroyed in 1861 by Confederate troops to keep it out of Union hands.
Today, the lighthouse is wearing the classic black and white stripes that we have grown to expect of a lighthouse. You can climb the 214 steps leading up ten stories to the top of the lighthouse for a view of Pamlico Sound, marshlands, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Watch out for rattlesnakes around the lighthouse. They are native to the area and like to hang out underneath the wooden boardwalks. If you were to see a rattlesnake, simply let it be. If you leave them alone and give them space, they will move on. Just stay on the boardwalk, and you'll be just fine.
There are no buildings along the stretch of road through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Driving through the refuge is a beautiful experience. It's a thin strip of island with a small area of sand dunes and grass on either side of the road before turning into the sound and ocean.
There are many places to pull off in the refuge and park your vehicle. You can park along the road to find a perfect beach that fits your needs.
If you visit in the spring, you'll be able to see colorful wildflowers growing along the sand dunes. If you visit in the summer, or a month before or after the summer months, you will need to make sure to bring bug spray.
Are you ready to spend another day in nature?
Day 5 of your Outer Banks vacation itinerary is all about the beach and being adventurous, so pack your sunscreen and let's get started!
Next, let's get adventurous! Head to Kitty Hawk Kites, the Rodanthe location, to rent equipment and take a kiteboarding lesson. The Outer Banks is all about adventure and natural beauty, and a kiteboarding lesson is the perfect way to dive into OBX culture.
After lunch, head south to the Salvo Day Use Area in Salvo. The day-use area is a beach that has plenty of room for sunbathing and swimming. There's a lot of driftwood on the beach, which makes a beautiful backdrop for pictures.
There's also bathrooms, picnic tables, and a fascinating historic cemetery on part of the beach. Salvo isn't as popular as Mexico or Brazil for kite surfing, but still, thousands come to Salvo to kite surf each year. Bring your own equipment and join in, or simply lay on the beach and watch the others.
They also are child friendly and have an outdoor wooden play area for kids plus loads of outdoor seating.
Hatteras Island is in the southern part of the Outer Banks.
Day 6 is all about exploration. Today, you'll find your way to the tallest lighthouse in North America, explore historical sites and museums, and have one of the biggest breakfasts you've ever seen.
This little cafe in northern Hatteras Island is too good to miss. They are famous for their Apple Uglies. An Apple Ugly is basically a LARGE twist of dough filled with apples and cinnamon. It's one of the best things I've ever tasted in my life.
While you're here, you'll see locals coming in for their regular breakfast and tourists venturing in to chow down on muffins, doughnuts, and Apple Uglies. It's such a quaint yet delicious cafe that I can't recommend enough!
Next, head to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It is decorated with the iconic black and white stripes and is the tallest lighthouse in all of North America. There are trails around the lighthouse that you can enjoy. You can also climb the 257 steps to the top for a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
If you choose to climb the lighthouse, keep in mind that it will be hot, humid, and dimly hit. Bring water and make sure you don't wear shoes with much of a heel.
The entrance to the park may seem small and unassuming, but don't let this fool you. The trails through the park lead through maritime forest and along wooden boardwalks over marshland.
Stay aware. Venomous snakes and mosquitoes call the area around the trails home. I've never seen snakes on the trails myself, but it's something to be aware of. You're in the south, and by the water, so bug spray is a must.
At this stop, you'll learn about the original inhabitants of Hatteras Island. This museum is a non-profit organization. You'll see artifacts from Native Americans that used to live on Hatteras Island, plus gain insight into how they lived and learn about their histories. Entry is only $5.
Want a unique place to take a picture? End your day by stopping by the Futuro House on Hatteras Island. It's a unique roadside attraction that the U.S. is so famous for.
In 1970, Futuro houses were all the rage. A couple bought a piece of land and put one of these novel houses on the land. The house is shaped like a flying saucer and is surrounded by interesting alien and outer space decor. It's the perfect stop for a unique Instagram photo-op.
When you think of the best beaches in the United States, you probably think of Hawaii or Florida. One of the top-rated beaches in the country, however, is located right on little Ocracoke Island. So on Day 7, you'll start your morning with a ferry ride to the Island, climb a lighthouse, see wild ponies, and visit the #2 beach in America.
You could easily spend a whole weekend exploring Ocracoke Island as it has one of the most interesting histories of any place I've been.
You will learn a lot of fascinating facts about the Island while you're here because the locals are very friendly and love to share information. For example, did you know that the famous pirate, Blackbeard, used to hang out around Ocracoke Island a lot? He actually died at the hands of the Spanish off the Island's coast.
You'll need to take a drive-on ferry to get to Ocracoke Island from Hatteras Island. The process is free, simple, and enjoyable. The ride will take 45-60 minutes.
Start your time on Ocracoke Island by spending time on the #2 ranked beach in America. White sands, expansive beach, and driftwood await you. It's also a popular place for shelling and finding sand dollars.
However, you will want to check the wind speeds before you go. Windy days are common and can make the beach unenjoyable.
Not so wild anymore, but still the descendants of the mustangs from Spain that were left on Ocracoke Island many years ago, are still here today. They now enjoy 188 acres of land all to themselves. You can see them up close and personal at the Pony Pen.
Next, stop for a bite to eat at the renowned Howard's Pub. The restaurant is decorated with old license plates and other Americana. I recommend sitting outside on their porch. It's screened in, so you don't have to worry about those pesky mosquitoes.
What should you get from here? That's easy! Definitely the fried pickles and the fried chicken sandwich.
End your day on Ocracoke by seeing the southernmost lighthouse in the Outer Banks. The Ocracoke Lighthouse stands at only 75 feet tall and isn't the typical lighthouse shape. Still, it is the oldest working lighthouse in North Carolina and the second oldest in the whole country!
The lighthouse was actually only used for less than twenty years. Over time, the channel that the lighthouse was providing light for had migrated, making it obsolete.
There are only three parking spots at the lighthouse, but don't worry! People don't stay at the lighthouse for a long time. Just do a quick lap around the block if you need to wait for a spot to open up.
I instantly fell in love with the Outer Banks' natural beauty, adventurous activities, and delicious food, and I know you will too! These beautiful barrier islands simply do not disappoint.
I hope this Outer Banks itinerary inspires you to check out the Outer Banks for yourself. Although you could easily spend more time exploring the islands, this 7-day Outer Banks travel guide will ensure you get the most out of your trip.
If you are spending more or less than 7 days, you may want to add or remove things from the itinerary by using this guide about the 150 popular things to do in the Outer Banks.
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