Best Places to Stay in the Outer Banks

So where do you want to vacation on the Outer Banks? Each and every town has it's own style and charm. Here's a brief overview of the best features each and every Outer Banks town has to offer!! Visit the Town Ordinances Page for rules and regulations including pet policies.


COROLLA

Located in Currituck County, this area is the northernmost section of the Outer Banks. With wide, beautiful beaches and large, newer vacation rental homes,  this area is the latest to be developed -- but not all of it is developed. Venture to the 4x4 areas of Carova and explore the sand dunes and beaches with no roads!! See wild horses in their natural habitat and enjoy the secluded atmosphere. Park on the beach and swim and fish to your heart's content.

 
 

Attractions in the area include the Village of Corolla, (Pronounced KA-RAH-LA) with shopping and restaurants as well as the Currituck Beach Light. Climb up the 162' structure and take in the fantastic panoramic views. Take part in the many outdoor activities featured in this area including kayaking, biking, golf, fishing, surfing and more!

Corolla is a world unto itself with its own chain grocery stores, farmers markets, shops and restaurants. It also has one of the only true oceanfront restaurants on the Outer Banks.  Its home to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the Wildlife Education Center, and the Whalehead Club, (a restored 1920’s hunt club.) You can even visit the visible shipwreck the Metropolis. Further up, you’ll reach the four wheel drive area, where the wild horses live. You can even take a tour with your Fun N Sun pass.

The waves of Corolla are smaller; it’s been called a great place to learn n to surf. Leashed dogs are welcome on the beach year round. Public accesses are available, but not as common they are in the Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, or Kill Devil Hills area. Because of this, the beaches are far less crowded year round. There is also a public boat ramp. It has some activities too, such as mini golf, bumper cars, peddle boats, race cars and one of the last grass miniature golf courses left in the world. Once you get to Corolla you’ll never want to leave. Corolla is great for:

  • History/nature lovers
  • Those wanting a more laid back vacation
  • Anyone planning to spend a lot of time on the beach
  • Families who loved the Outer Banks 20/30 years ago
  • Boat owners



DUCK

The quaint Village of Duck is a vacation in itself. With small boutique shops and restaurants, everything you need is right there. Uncrowded beaches are an easy stroll from all locations and the bike and jogging path allows you to visit the entire town without ever having to get in your car. The new Duck park spans most of the town on the Sound side with a wooden boardwalk that offers spectacular sunset views. The park also features a children's playground and amphitheater and offers concerts and programs throughout the summer season.

 
 

Duck was voted one of the top 10 dog friendliest beaches by US Today, since they are allowed to be off leash on the beach. Duck’s best feature is its quaintness. There are no chains in Duck, only small boutique steps stores and family run restaurants. There’s even an independent bookstore. The mile and half of Downtown Duck is connected by bike paths, and a wooden sound front walkway connecting all the sound front shops and restaurants.

Their park is one of the best on the Outer Banks, featuring a playground, a picnic area, and public sound access and parking. In season, they have shows in the park’s amphitheater, or on the green. Many of these shows are low cost or even free. The beach access in Duck is all private, but comes with your house. Since you can’t get to the beach unless you’re staying in Duck, the beach is much less crowded. Duck is a great town for:

  • Families who want to get away from it all
  • People who love playing in the sound (kayaking, swimming, etc.)
  • Pet owners 
  • Anyone who wants an authentic small town experience
  • Anyone who wants the ability or walk or bike places
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Southern SHores

 Largely a residential neighborhood, this town sits right between Kitty Hawk and Duck, providing easy access to both. There are no stores or restaurants in this part of the Outer Banks, but you are less than a five minute drive in either direction to both. Most of the homes are nestled among trees providing a homier feel.


The beaches of Southern Shores are all private access to residents and guests only. They are the least crowded beaches on the Outer Banks. They also have the strictest rules about dogs on the beach in season. Southern Shores is great for:

  • Families who love quiet
  • Those who want a real ‘residential’ feel to their home
  • Anyone looking to be centrally located to the activities without vacationing in the thick of them
  • Families looking to relax and decompress

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Nags Head

For many years the entire Outer Banks was referred to as "Nags Head" by visitors. The first early beach cottages were built in Nags Head. Back then, the beach was wide and flat and there were no tall sand dunes protecting the land from the ocean as there is today. The houses were all built on stilts and the ocean over wash would just run underneath in the event of a storm. Some of those historic homes are still standing today.

 This most famous section of the Outer Banks is home to many attractions and activities with Jockey's Ridge being the biggest. The largest natural sand dune on the East Coast is a great place to fly kites, hang glide, sand board, or just climb to the top for one of the best views around.

Nags Head welcomes leashed dogs year round while the other towns have certain times when pets are allowed.  Please visit our Traveling with Pets page for details.   

Nags Head Is Great For:

  • First timers
  • Young families
  • On the go families that love activities
  • Anyone who wants to be close to everything and have a wide array of choices
  • Pet owners
 
 
 

South Nags Head

Just to the south of the most famous town on the Outer Banks lies the quieter, more serene neighborhood of South Nags Head. Butting up to the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, South Nags Head is secluded and removed from the busier areas of the Outer Banks without being too far away. South Nags Head is one of the best fishing spots in the area and surf fishing can be done year round. 



 

Oregon Inlet is nearby where the majority of the area charter boats are docked. Stop by late in the afternoon to watch the boats off load their daily catch.

Though many consider this area a part of ‘regular’ Nags Head, it’s different enough to need its own section. South Nags Head is filled with classic updated Outer Banks homes. The beach is wider (usually) and is great for fishing. There are far fewer lifeguards and public accesses in South Nags Head.  Shops and restaurants are absent except for the Fishheads at the Outer Banks Fishing Pier (one of our Fun N Sun partners).  Fortunately, it’s only about a 10 minute drive to shops and restaurants.

You are close to the Bodie Island Lighthouse, the visible Shipwreck of the Laura A Barnes and Oregon Inlet in case you want to go charter fishing. The Pea Island Wildlife Refuge is nearby and often give ranger led birding tours. Manteo is also fairly close, and it’s easy to take a day trip to Hatteras to visit the Chicamacomico Lifesavers or ride horses on the beach in Frisco. Leashed dogs are welcome year round. South Nags Head is great for:

  • Nature/history  lovers
  • Anyone looking for a relaxing vacation to decompress
  • Fishermen
  • Pet owners
  • Families looking to get away from it all

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KITTY HAWK

The first town most people see as they enter the Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk has a lot to offer! Most homes in the area are located within easy walking distance to the beach and the Beach Road runs along the oceanfront throughout the town. There are lots of things to do in Kitty Hawk including kayaking along the sound, surfing, looking for shells along the beach, boating, biking, jogging and just relaxing. It's a great beach experience!

The beaches are public and provide public accesses, parking lots, and in some cases, even bath houses. They also have the highest percentage of lifeguards on the Outer Banks.


KILL DEVIL HILLS

Land where Flight Began. Although Kitty Hawk is credited with the Wright Brother's First Flight, this historic event actually took place in the town known today as Kill Devil Hills. The Wright Brothers Memorial is a great place to visit to learn about the first successful flight. This town is the center of the Outer Banks and the hub of the majority of restaurants, shops and activities.

MANTEO AND ROANOKE ISLAND

Home to the Elizabethan Gardens and Lost Colony, Roanoke Island and Manteo (MAN-TEE-O) are worth a day trip during your stay on the Outer Banks. The Town of Manteo has a fantastic Waterfront with restaurants, shops and even a children's playground. The NC Aquarium is located on the north end of the Island near the Elizabethan Gardens and Historic Lost Colony Production. Venture to the South end of Roanoke Island to Wanchese (WAN-CHEESE) to visit the Seafood Industrial park where most of the local seafood served on the Outer Banks is brought in and packaged for delivery.

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HATTERAS AND OCRACOKE ISLAND

Hatteras and Ocracoke Island are great places to visit during your stay. Only about an hour away from the northern beaches, Hatteras feels like a complete world  away. Deemed a small fishing village, much of Hatteras still operates on that slower way of life. 

On the soundside, windsurfing, kiteboarding, and sailing are prominent, especially in the section known as Canadian Hole. The persistant wind in that area and the natural cove created by the land make the conditions perfect year round. The beaches are very natural and quite often you can see surfers, body boarders and paddle boarders playing in the surf. 

Visit the most famous landmark on the Carolina Coast, Hatteras Light, and climb all 268 steps to the top. Learn how this lighthouse was moved to save it from the eroding shoreline and how it has been warning sailors of the shallow shoals just off the coast for more than 100 years. Ride the ferry over to Ocracoke Island and discover a place literally stopped in time. The small village sports a few shops and restaurants but the quaint atmosphere and natural beauty is what keeps people coming back.

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