Corolla’s Wildlife Education Center

If you’ve been to Corolla before, you’ve undoubtedly visited the historic triangle made up of the Currituck Lighthouse, the Whalehead Club and its historic grounds and the Corolla Historic Shopping Village.  But did you notice the large gray building to the right overlooking the water?  Itâ??s non-descript architecture hides the gem of a museum inside. 

Most people don’t even stop to look at it because it’s so official looking. However, inside is the Corolla Wildlife Education Center.  A fun place for adults and kids alike, this museum offers a great overview of the wildlife in the area.

The History

The history lesson starts with a movie about the Sound,  it’s resources, and duck hunting. There are many exhibits that focus on the areaâ??s rich history in hunting, trapping, fishing, and living life along the Outer Banks coast.  Taxidermied animals throughout the exhibit help bring the region to life. One of the most popular exhibits for adults is the display of homemade duck hunting decoys. You’ll see everything from the basic canvas back to the elaborate carved.  And, don’t forget to take your picture with the life sized stuffed bear.

The Wildlife

Most wildlife education centers do not feature live animal indoor exhibits. However, this one is the exception to the rule. They have an exhibit depicting both the life above and below water in the Sound.  While the exhibits above the water (including a fisherman in a boat)  are stuffed in classic museum style, the bottom part is made up of live fish.  Small children love looking at the fish as they are right at their eye level.  Outside, there is a nature trail where you can see all sort of wild animals, like birds, nutria, and more in their natural habitat.

The Programs

The Wildlife Education Center offers a variety of programs for kids and adults of all ages. They have kayak tours, fishing and crabbing classes, plein air painting, archery and much more. These programs range from low cost to free. However, they do fill up early so it’s best to make a reservation in advance.


So, the next time you visit Corolla, you’ll want to check out the Wildlife Education Center. It’s a great activity for a rainy day or when it’s too hot to go to the beach. There are plenty of photo ops, clean bathrooms, and even a smashed penny machine so you can take home a small souvenir of your Corolla wildlife adventure. 

Activities Beyond the Beach — Part 3

As we conclude the final part of our Activities Beyond the Beach Series, we touch on more of the indoor activities — perfect for the occasional rainy day!  Explore all the Outer Banks has to offer “Beyond the Beach”!


NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island

Recently renovated, the Roanoke Island aquarium was rated one of Trip Advisor’s top ten small aquariums. It features a shipwreck exhibit, a huge shark tank and touch tank with all kind of fun animals. Dive shows, feed that animal shows, and fun activities are offered daily. There’s also the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue (STAR) exhibit where you get to see real turtles get rehabilitated. Did I mention, you get a free ticket to the aquarium with every stay through our Fun N Sun Pass Program? 

Outer Banks Beachcomber Museum

This little known museum is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Its home to the Nellie Myrtle Collection, which is a collection of items found on the beach over a lifetime of beachcombing. If you’ve ever wondered what you can find on the beach, wonder no more. You’ll be amazed at what washes up. 

Children’s Museum

There are many museums on the Outer Banks, but only one interactive museum that caters to children under five.  The Children at Play museum features exhibits such as a dress up corner, grocery store, toy doctor, lighthouse keeper and more. There is even a busy wall for the youngest members. Video games are upstairs so the older siblings can have fun while the younger ones play downstairs. 

Wildlife Education Center

There are two wildlife education centers, both run by the National Park Service. The first is in Manteo. It features a simulated flight over the barrier islands and ‘scavenger hunt’ inside the forest exhibit. The second is in Corolla. Adults love looking at the antique Duck decoys while kids are entranced by the large aquarium filled with sound fish. Both centers offer activities and their own nature walks.

Maritime Museum

This museum is easily overlooked in Downtown Manteo, but it’s worth seeing. The Maritime Museum shows you life on the island as told through the stories of the boat that came from here. The Museum also offers classes, such knot tying and their ever popular build a boat in a day workshop.

Frisco Native American Museum

If you’re up for a day trip, then check out the Frisco Native American Museum. This private museum features Native American artifacts from all over the country, not just the Outer Banks. Though the museum is tiny, the collection is expansive. Related items are even for sale in the gift shop.


Lost Colony   Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre

America’s longest running outdoor drama, this play retells the story of the doomed first settlement of England. Each year, they feature a different director, so if you’ve seen the show last year, you might not have seen the same show as this year. It’s worth going back again and again. Especially when we give you one free ticket.

Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre

Sometimes vacation can be murder. If you go to the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, that is. This entertainment venue is a lighthearted romp through a mock murder and some truly unforgettable characters. The audience even gets to play. Dinner is provided and photo ops are available.


Every place has a movie theater and the Outer Banks is no exception. In the main part of the Outer Banks, we have RC Theaters, showing the latest movies, including 3d movies. In Corolla they have a ‘dinner and a movie’ theatre where you can watch the movie and eat dinner at the same time. Manteo is home to the Pioneer Theater, the oldest family run theater in the country. It shows one movie a week and the popcorn is always fresh.

The Comedy Club Of The Outer Banks

The Comedy Club is the country’s oldest seasonal comedy club. It’s featured comics such as Ray Romano, Sinbad, and Drew Carey back before they became famous. This is your chance to see the next great “up and comer”. Dinner, appetizers and drinks are available. They have one location in Kill Devil Hills and one in Corolla.

Ghost Tours

Do you believe in ghosts? Well, you donâ??t need to with these ghost tours. There are several too choose from; both are in Manteo. The first kind is a more traditional ghost tour with legends of the Outer Banks and pirate lore. The second is a more playful ghost tour where they bring out ghost detectors and really ham it up. Donâ??t worry, the legends are in that one too, somewhere. The Whalehead Club in Corolla also has a ghost tour featuring just legends about the club and surrounding areas. 

Art Related


It’s been said that the Outer Banks has more artists per capita then anywhere else in North Carolina. If that’s true, it makes sense that we have so many galleries. Most of the galleries are in a place knowns as ‘Gallery Row’ between the roads around milepost 10.5 in Nags Head. Seaside Gallery has been here so long, it’s PO Box number is 1. And, Manteo is home to dozens of galleries all in walking distance to each other.

Arts Council

The Arts Council is a gallery so special it needs its own section. This is where individual artists without their own galleries display their work. It has everything from handcrafts to fine art to fabric arts. It’s a great way to see a lot of local Outer Banks art without going all over the Outer Banks to find it.

Make Your Ownâ?¦

There is a wide variety of things you can make your own at the Outer Banks. We offer classes from everything from ‘distressed’ furniture, to jewelry to stepping stones and paint your own pottery. It’s perfect for a rainy day or a day when it’s too hot to go to the beach. Whichever you choose you’ll be making crafts and memories.


There are plenty of places to shop on the Outer Banks. So many in fact, that it would do them a disservice to try to mention them all here. Mostly, the Outer Banks has boutique type shops. We still have a good number of independent bookstores and coffee shops. Belk’s and TJ Maxx are the more well-known department stores. Outlet shopping can be found in Nags Head.   All kinds of kinds of things can be purchased through local shops from clothing to trinkets. Strip malls are the dominant form of shopping down here. Manteo provides dozens of stores located in historic buildings in easy walking distance to each other. Corolla also boasts a Historic Shopping Village near the lighthouse. Scarborough Faire is an open air mall incorporating the surrounding trees.


We hope you explore the activities and sites “Beyond the Beach” during your next Outer Banks visit.  As always, if you need help planning your trip, our Vacation Planners are available 7 days a week to assist you. 

Activities Beyond the Beach — Part 2

This article is a continuation of our “Beyond the Beach” series where we explore all the Outer Banks has to offer that is not necessarily ocean related.  Whether you have visited here numerous times or this is your first trip, there is always something for everyone to discover!



Nags Head Skate Park

Surfing is a big part of the Outer Banks culture and with surfing comes skating. After all, surfers need something to do to keep in practice in-between waves.  The Nags Head Skate Park is recently renovated and taken over from the YMCA. Best of all, it’s a free park for anyone who loves to skateboard.


Many communities such as Duck, Southern Shores and Kill Devil Hills have playgrounds built into their communities. The new Dowdy’s Park is also coming soon, which will provide fun for families of all ages.

Kitty Hawk Dog Park

Kitty Hawk is home to the area’s only official dog park. Though dogs are pretty much welcome in any national and town run park, this is the only park where they are allowed to be off leash. Dogs of all sizes are welcome here.  And, with 2 separate fenced areas to roam, there is plenty of room for everyone.  The Kitty Hawk park also features a playground and skate park for public use.  

Nature Walks

Pea Island

This famed bird and wildlife preserve is home to all kinds of birds. You can walk on the trails any time the park is open. Or you can sign up for a nature walk with a ranger. These scheduled walks take you through all the best places where you can see all the best birds. And, they’re free.


Duck’s nature trail consists of a wooden boardwalk connecting all the sound front shops and restaurants. On the landside you have a verity of choices of places to shop and things to eat. On the water side, you can see herons, Ducks, birds, snow geese, otters, nutria, crabs fish and even an occasional turtle.


Corolla’s nature walk is right by the lighthouse and takes you along the outbacks of Corolla. This wooden walkway is a must for all nature lovers. Some visitors even report seeing wild horses while walking this trail.


Festival Park is home to Manteo’s nature walk. This wooden walkway runs along the sound with the water on one side and a small maritime forest on the on the other. The main wildlife here are birds and aquatic mammals, though occasionally a stray dolphin does show up.

Nags Head Woods

The Nags Head Woods is home to some great running paths and nature trails. The woods is older than the town itself and has all kinds of legends surrounding it. There’s even supposedly a ruined town in there, but that’s not something you see on the path. The woods are so deep and so beautiful; you’ll feel like you’re in a fairy tale. Just remember to stay on the path.

Elizabethan Gardens

Being a monument to Tudor gardens of the 15th century, it’s not terribly ‘natural’ but it is worth seeing. A formal English garden is recreated with plants native to the Outer Banks. Statues, of the kind popular in during the Elizabethan times but with a distinctively Outer Banks feel, dot the gardens. If you love flowers, it’s one the best places to go. You can even stop in and buy a native plant to take home with you.


Golf Courses

Award winning golf courses with breathtaking greens and views line the Outer Banks. There are actually three golf courses in our Fun N Sun program, so you can play golf for free. The Nags Head Golf Links, which overlooks the sound and Carolina Club and The Pointe for those who love a challenge and don’t mind going a little inland.

Mini Golf

If you’re looking for mini golf, you’ve come to the right place. The Outer Banks features a plethora of mini golf courses; from prate themed, to one where you ride a train to the first hole, to one that’s a shrunken Outer Banks to one that’s a replica real golf course in miniature. (That last one is perfect for putting or someone who wants to teach their kids the fine art of golf.)

3D Indoor Mini Golf

Though technically a miniature golf course, this place is so unique, it deserves its own section. It’s entirely indoors, making it the perfect activity for rainy days. Special paint enhanced by black lights brings the sci-fi world to life making the course both challenging and unique. 


Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station

If you’re up for a day trip, then head on down to Rodanthe to check out the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, one of our partners.  Lifesavers patrolled the beaches, rescuing ships in trouble. They were forerunner to today’s modern coast guard. Today, The Lifesaving station has been turned into a museum. In season, volunteers reenact a rescue using 19th century equipment. It’s a great way to learn more about this little piece of forgotten history.

Lighthouses   Currituck Lighthouse

The Outer Banks is home to the most famous lighthouse in the world, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. However, that’s not the only lighthouse there is to see. There’s also Bodie Island in South Nags Head and the Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla. Manteo has Marshes’ Light, the last surviving soundside lighthouses on the Outer Banks. And if you’re up for a day trip with the ferry, you could go see Ocracoke, the smallest ocean side lighthouse in the country. (Unfortunately, you can’t climb that one though.)

Visible Shipwrecks

Ok, so this one’s cheating a little because technically, a visible shipwreck is ON the beach. (Unless of course, you’re looking at the wreck in front of the Nags Head Town Hall) With our shifting sands, the beach sometimes reveals shipwrecks. After all, we’re not known as the Graveyard Of The Atlantic for nothing. The Laura A. Barnes in South Nags Head and the Metropolis in Corolla are two such wrecks. They are easily visible and sit right on the beach. If you dive, there are many more to explore right under the surface.

Wright Memorial

In 1903, two brothers forever changed the world and gave us flight. Today, we honor them with the Wright Memorial. One part museum, one part monument, this national park takes you through he history of flight from 1903, to the space shuttle and beyond. The climb to the top is a favorite of kids, but the museum is mostly geared towards adults and older children. (Though they will be renovating it soon.) Everyone agrees that the ranger talk is a highlight, so don’t miss it.

Living History

Festival Park

Home to the Elizabeth II, Festival Park brings England’s first colony to life. It hosts a life sized composite ship of the one that brought the settlers over, a military settlement and a Native American village. Visitors can interact with historic interpreters and get a feel for life back then. There are also a variety of activities to do. Inside, there’s a small museum that takes you through the rest of Outer Banks History, including its pirate days, its civil war days and it’s duck hunting days. (Kids love ‘shooting’ the fake ducks with lasers form the duck blind.)

Island Farm

One of the newest attractions to our historical Outer Banks, the Island Farm is like Colonial Williamsburg in miniature, if Williamsburg was set in the 19th century. The Island Farm recreates a typical 19th century farm, with details such as a windmill and the last yoke trained ox in the country. Horses, sheep and free roaming chickens are just a few of the animals you’ll encounter. Demonstrations of daily life are performed and kids can be drafted’ into doing ‘farm chores.’ And, one of the best things about Island Farm is that it is truly a “hands on” experience. 

Whalehead Club

Love art nouveau and historic architecture? Then you’ll love the Whalehead Club. A restored 1920’s hunt club, this building is a testament to one mans’ love for his wife. It’s filled with historical artifacts of the period, and while the docents aren’t in costumes, there are many tours that take you ‘inside’ the world of Mr. & Mrs. Knight, the original owners.  

Pirate Adventures

Ok, there’s nothing very ‘historic’ about this one, but it is a lot of fun for kids. It’s more like the pirate life they seen in movies. Kids climb aboard a real boat, go into the sound and search for the sunken treasure (already placed there) Then they get to ‘shoot’ a bad pirate with water cannons and bring home some ‘loot’ (fake coins and costume jewelry.) A good time is had by all.


Come back next week as we conclude the “Beyond the Beach” activities series.  We’ll explore 2 of my favorite subjects . . . . .Entertainment and Shopping and places you can enjoy both on the Outer Banks. 

Activities Beyond the Beach — Part 1

The Outer Banks is known for its miles of free, unspoiled beaches. But, there is more to the Outer Banks than just the beach and the oceanâ??there are plenty of things to do and sites to see â??Beyond the Beach!â??


Harnessed Adventure Park

The newest addition to the Outer Banks, the ropes amusement park will keep you suspended and happy for hours. Plus, you canâ??t beat the view from this unique perspective!

Laser Tag

The Outer Banks is home to not one, but two laser tag locations. Each one has their own theme and even feature bounce houses for the youngest members. Destination Fun even has an arcade where you can win prizes and play 3D mini-golf.

Jockey’s Ridge

Do your kids want to climb the dunes? Most do, but the beach dunes usually have a ‘please keep off the dunes sign. Well, don’t worry, Jockey’s Ridge is one dune you CAN climb. It’s the largest all natural sand dune not located in a desert. Kids and adults love climbing up it then coming back down. Kids often have their own ways of getting down, like ‘sledding’ on a boogie board or just rolling down the hill. On the other side of the ridge is a sound side beach, just perfect for the youngest family members and pets. Plus, the hidden castle makes a great photo op. 

Go Carts|Bumper Boats

Go carts and bumper boats have been part of the Outer Banks experience forever. Now, you can introduce your kids to the more modern version you enjoyed as a child. After all, bumper boats and go carts are the next best thing to driving to a young child.

Horseback Riding on the Beach

If you’re willing to take a day trip, you can ride horses on the Hatteras Beaches. This is for experienced riders only, but riding on the beach is an experience not to be missed. Plus, they’re one of our Explore the Shore partners.


Airboat Tours

They were a long time coming, but the Outer Banks now has airboat tours. Airboats can get into places normal boats can’t for a truly unique experience. You can take a scheduled tour or rent it out for a few hours. No need to know how to drive one, it comes with a captain.

Charter Fishing

If you love to fish, then a charter is great way to do it. Most boats offer full or half day charters. There are also inshore charters that take place in the calm and shallow waters of the Sound.   Not sure if your group would like a private charter? Then a head boat, a large boat with other families, might be the way to go. This way, if you don’t catch anything, there will be other people to talk to. 

Kayak Tours

If you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll want to take advantage of the kayak eco tours. These follow-the-leader type tours take you through the serene canals of the Outer Banks wetlands where you can see a wide variety of birds, dolphins, foxes, otters and maybe even a wild pig. If you take your kayak tour in Corolla, horse sightings are very common. 

Dolphin Tours

Everyone loves dolphins and one of the best way to see them is with a Dolphin Tour (like Captain Johnny, one of our Fun N Sun Partners) Dolphin tours take you out into the Sound so you can see wild dolphins playing in their natural habitat. It’s a great way to make a memory that will last a lifetime.

Private Boats

Have you ever been to Manteo and seen those big fancy boats lining the docks? Did you know some of them are available to rent? Those boats are the perfect place to have a special party, (like an engagement or anniversary) or you can rent one just for the heck of it.

Eco Tours

Red Wolf Howlings

Ready to get wild?  North Carolina is home to the endangered Red Wolves. The Alligator River refuge hosts ‘howlings’ where you can hear and possibly even see a red wolf. Who knows, it might be your only chance to ever see one.

Alligator River

The Alligator River Refuge is home to more than just red wolves. Bears, dear, wild pigs, bobcats, coyotes, and yes, even alligators have been spotted out that way. The park offers a tram tour to see all the animals in their natural state. It’s important to note that these are wild animals, not captives, so what you’ll see varies from day to day or even hour to hour.

Horse Tours

Corolla is one of the few places on the East Coast that is still home to a herd of wild horses. Descended from the Spanish Mustangs shipwrecked off our coast in the 1500’s, the wild horses roam the beaches and backwoods loving life and looking beautiful for tourists. They are a must see for any horse loving child or adult. The best way to see them is with a horse tour, like the one from our Fun N Sun partner; Back Country Safari Tours

Segway Tours

Here’s a tour you don’t see every day. Ride Big wheeled Segways through either the historic shopping village of Corolla or into the outback where the wild horses live. At certain times of year, they even hold a haunted a Segway tour, showing you sites like the old graveyards, and missing town of Seagull.

Corolla; A whole new world

Have you been to Corolla? If you’re new to the Outer Banks, you may not have even considered this northern town. After all, Nags Head, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are the most popular places to be. These towns are brimming with excitement, activities and history. And, if you’re never been to the Outer Banks before or you’ve never been to Corolla, you might be worried there’s not enough to do.

However, Corolla has its own kind of charm, only on a smaller scale. Letâ??s take a look at everything there is to do, sites to see, and places to eat in Corolla.


We’ll start by talking about where to buy food. Corolla has two major grocery stores, Food Lion and Harris Teeter, so there is no need to travel out of the area to buy your groceries.

The farmer’s market features locally grown fruits & veggies, along with homemade pies, cobblers, preserves, marinades and even unusual wines. It also has the Outer Banks only â??open airâ?? fish market.


Corolla has all the regular places to grab a quick bite or coffee; Duck Donuts, Dunkin’ Donuts, even a Starbucks. Of course, they also have some things that are truly unique to Corolla as well.

The Oceanfront Grille is the only oceanfront restaurant on the entire Outer Banks not attached to a hotel or pier. The food is exquisite, and you’ll have a fine time with fine dining. But it doesn’t end there.

Mike and Diana’s Grill Room is one of the best steak houses on the Outer Banks. In the mood for lighter fare?  Metropolis is a tapas bar. Lighthouse Bagels offers so much more than just bagels, like freshly made to order breakfast sandwiches.   Pizza, take-out steamer pots, and much more is all here and ready for you to enjoy. There are even a couple of sports bars so fans wonâ??t miss a single game.

Water Sports

Water sports in Corolla feature parasailing, paddle boats, kayaking, SUPs, and jet skis.

 On the beach side, there’s surfing. Corolla is rated one of the best places to learn to surf. The local surf shops can provide everything you need from boards, wetsuits, and personal lessons. Best of all, you can rent the gear instead of buying it. It’s a great way to get your feet wet and decide if you like the sport. 

Charter boats for inshore fishing or fun can be rented with and without captains. There’s even a public boat dock and ramp for your use, if you bring your own boat or jet skis.

Other Activities

Corolla has a lot more to do than watersports.

Who doesnâ??t love mini golf?  Corolla features both a traditional mini golf experiences and one of the few grass miniature golf courses left in the country.

The outdoor movie is unique on the Outer Banks; and dinner is served during the movie so they’ll be no debate if you should eat before or after.

The Ropes Adventure Course, similar to the one in Nags Head is coming soon. It might even be open as early as 2016 . If your kids are into cars but aren’t old enough to drive, Corolla offers both go karts and bumper cars.  There’s also the skate park for all your skateboarding family and friends.  There’s even a rock climbing wall for all ages and abilities. The wild horse museum is geared towards children and visitors even get to paint their own ‘horse’.  On certain days, a mustang makes an appearance for petting.


Did someone say shopping? Corolla has a wide variety of boutique stores, from clothing and jewelry to art to items that are just downright eclectic. They also have a surprising number of spas, craft shops, beach buggy rentals, an old time picture place, and even a Kitty Hawk Kites.


The entire Outer Banks is rich in history and Corolla is no exception. Starting with â??Whalehead in Historic Corollaâ??, (formerly known as The Whalehead Club)  a restored 1920’s hunt club which was originally built as one man’s loving testament to his wife.  The spacious grounds and self-guided tours are delightful and informative. Festivals, plays, art shows and wine tasting events are scheduled on regularly.  Fireworks on July 4th and Tree Lightings at Christmas are annual events that you wonâ??t want to miss.

The Currituck Lighthouse is another big historical draw. This lighthouse is the only unpainted brick lighthouse in the country and the last one built prior to the modern age. Though not as tall or as famous as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the view from the top is spectacular and really worth the climb. Upon your descent, you’ll be greeted by an ice cream cart providing a refreshing treat, if youâ??re so inclined. 


The Outer Banks has no shortage of wildlife. While it’s true the southern beaches have the dolphin tours, the northern beaches have the wild horses.

Wild horse tours take you into the ‘untamed’ part of the Outer Banks, the part where the road ends and the adventure begins. The Outer Banks Wild Horses are descendants of shipwrecked Spanish War Horses from over 500 years ago. They roam free beyond the road, and are often spotted in people’s yards eating their sweet cultivated grass.  You might even get to see a foal or a pair of males fighting over a female during mating season. Horses aren’t the only animals you can see; foxes, an assortment of birds and even wild pigs have been spotted in this area. 

Also be sure to check out the Wildlife Education Center. This government run center is free and also the perfect thing to do on rainy day. Kids will enjoy looking at the stuffed animals and the aquarium is liberally stocked with local sound fish. Adults will appreciate the antique duck decoy exhibits and learning about the history of the area. Classes are held throughout the year and include everything from journaling to â??plein airâ?? painting, to adventures on a boat. These classes fill up fast, so it’s best to get there early.

The Beach

I’ve saved the best for last; the beach. Corolla has miles of pristine beaches stretching out as far as the eye can see. The waves are a little gentler in Corolla, and on most fair weather days, the beach is a little wider. Shipwrecks, like the one of the Metropolis, lay right out in the open, ready to have its picture snapped. Leashed dogs are also welcome here. And if you’re staying close to the 4 wheel drive area, you might even see a stray horse or pod of dolphins. 

Corolla is a world unto itself. Whiles it’s true this world is smaller than the world of the towns to the south, it’s reminiscent of the Outer Banks twenty years ago. Once you reach the world of Corolla, you’ll never want to leave.

And you don’t have toâ?¦

Duck’s Hidden Gem

Do you know the town of Duck? It’s so small it’s easy to overlook when you’re on the way to something else. It’s a cute quaint little town with boutique shops, mom and pop restaurants a bike path and beautiful unspoiled beaches. 

But there’s more to Duck than meets the eye, it’s also home to a hidden gem, the Duck Boardwalk.

Now, this is not the type of boardwalk you see other places. There are no amusement parks or anything like that on it. This raised wooden boardwalk stretches for about a mile on the sound side connecting all the sound front stores, restaurants and attractions.

The boardwalk starts by the Aqua Spa and Restaurant, where you can grab a light lunch, get a manicure and be pampermed like you wouldn’t believe.  On the other end of the boardwalk is an independent bookstore where you can stop in, get a book to read at the beach, have coffee and maybe even a pastry.

Art galleries, clothing stores, and many boutique shops and eateries line the boardwalk. Some of the establishments are pet friendly, providing bowls of fresh water for your pooch and a few stores will even let them come inside. Some of the restaurants have outdoor seating areas for those wishing to dine with their dogs. As for the others, well, you could always do take out and lunch at the picnic area or on one of the many benches.

And if you like nature, or are a budding photographer, the boardwalk is the place to be. Otters, nutria, deer, raccoons, turtles, butterflies, egrets and more are easily spotted when you’re ambling down the wooden walkway. There are also plenty of places to stop, rest, collect your thoughts and just appreciate the beauty of nature and the sound.

Fishing, crabbing and swimming are popular pastimes here and the boardwalk provides places for each. You can even launch a kayak or an inflatable raft as long as you don’t mind carrying it the equivalent of a city block.

A great playground waits for your kids in the middle of the park, with slides, monkey bars and everything a fun playground should have. A green grassy area is a great place for yoga, relaxing or playing catch with your dog.

The Amphitheater has performances throughout the year, many of which are low cost or free. They offer everything from wildlife shows to live plays, bands, and concerts.

So the next time you’re rushing by, be sure to check out the Duck boardwalk. Or better yet, consider staying in Duck. This hidden gem might just be the place to relax, unwind and have the peaceful vacation youâ??re looking for.

Where to Stay in Outer Banks

When it comes to where to stay on the Outer Banks, everyone has an opinion as to the ‘best’ town. Of course, ‘best town’ is subjective. Every town is best for someone, but all towns are best for everyone. This article will give you an overview of the towns so you can figure out where you want to stay on your next OBX vacation.   

Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head

Though these are three separate towns, they are so similar, they have been listed together. They are centralized, filled with both chain stores as well as mom and pop places. They are also filled with activities such as golf, laser tag, mini-golf, airboats, skateboard parks, and more. They have tons of restaurants and are only minutes away from the town of the Manteo.

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.  The main difference between these towns is the treatment of dogs on the beach in season. Nags Head welcomes leashed dogs year round while the other two towns have certain times when pets are allowed.  Please visit our Traveling with Pets page for details.   These towns are 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

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

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 


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:

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 â??Downtown Duckâ?? 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


Corolla is a world unto itself with its own chain grocery stores, famers 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, racecars 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

No matter what you’re looking for on an Outer Banks vacation, one of these towns will be ‘best’ for you. Now that you know a little about them, you can figure out which one.

Bringing Pets on Your Outer Banks Vacation

To many people, their dog is more than just â??a dogâ??, itâ??s part of the family. So when going on vacation, itâ??s natural to want to bring your dog along as well. So here are some tips so both you and your dog can have a great time.

Know the Pet Policy

Of course it is understood that if youâ??re bringing your dog, you need to rent a house that accepts pets. Most rental homes charge a pet fee for each dog. (2 dogs = 2 pet fees). Although most pet homes only accept a maximum of two dogs, exceptions can be made in certain circumstances.

Now that you have found the ideal pet home, there are some other considerations.   Depending on the time of year, your dog may or may or not be welcome on the beach.  For example, dogs are always welcome on the beach in Duck, Corolla, and Nags Head. However, in season, some towns such as Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Southern Shores only permits dogs on the beach at certain times of the day.

It goes without saying that picking up after you dog is required wherever you go. Leash laws vary from town to town, so be sure you know what the leash law in the town where you are staying. 

Dining Out With Your Dog

Would it surprise you to know that a number of Outer Banks restaurants welcome dogs?  Itâ??s true. Though North Carolina prohibits dogs from dining inside, you can still dine with them outside. Thatâ??s why many restaurants with outdoor seating will let you dine with your dog. Some will even have special dog friendly offerings.   

Here are some pet friendly eateries on the Outer Banks (with outdoor seating) and there are probably more, but these are some of the local favorites.


Duckâ??s Cottage â??this coffee shop has great coffee, tea, hot chocolate and a few pastries. It also has a great porch and an ever filled bowl of water for your furbabies.

John’s Drive InOne of the oldest eateries on the Outer banks, they know how to keep customers happy with their casual, yet delicious fair and unbelievable milkshakes. They even offer â??puppy cupsâ??.

Mulligan’s Raw Bar & Grille -The upper outside seating area is where you and dog can enjoy a traditional dining experience, and great ocean views. Plus, the burgers there are fantastic.

Full Moon Café-This wonderful eatery in Downtown Manteo features outdoor, dog friendly seating in a bistro atmosphere.

Surfinâ?? Spoon-this great froyo shop not only great yogurt and toppings, but they even offer â??pup cupsâ?? for your dog.

Lighthouse Bagels-this bagel place offers all outdoor seating. They also serve sandwiches and smoothies. (Want a treat? Try the French toast bagel.)

Fun Places for Dogs 

Outer Barks-features all kinds of treats and accessories and a yappy hour.

Salty Paws Biscuits -gourmet treats for you dog.

Oh Yappy Dayz-treats, accessories, and so much more. They even have doggie rain coats.

The Kitty Hawk Dog Park– A fenced in area that welcomes unleashed dogs and their grown owners. It’s free but an application must be filled out and delivered in person.



Paws N’ Go Mobile Dog Grooming-theyâ??ll come to you!


Boarding includes both weekly boarding and â??Doggy Daycareâ??. Be sure to check the sites to see what they offer. These places also offer grooming.

Ocean Sands K-9 Resort-they offer a full service dog salon and boarding experience. And as one of our Explore the Shore partners, Atlantic Realty guests get 10% off.

Cyber Dog USA-not only do they offer doggy daycare, they’re also an organic pet shop. It’s a great place to buy specialty foods for your furbaby.


Letâ??s hope you donâ??t need one, but if you do, here are some great ones.

Martins Point Vet

Coastal Animal Hospital

Outer Banks Veterinary Hospital


See you and your dog real soon. For a full list of vacation homes that accept pets, go here.

Finding Sea Glass

Have you ever walked on the beach and found some kind of frosted colored ‘stone’. Once you examined the stone, you realize it’s not a stone at all, but some kind of glass. It’s sea glass, the prize find of all beachcombers.  But what is sea glass, how did it get here and is some sea glass better than others? Today, letâ??s examine all things sea glass.

What Is It?

Sea glass is shards of broken glass that are tumbled smooth by the waves and the sand. In essence, the ocean acts like the world’s biggest rock tumbler, turning the glass from a sharp and dangerous to a thing of beauty.

Where Do You Find It?

Sea glass is found on the beach hiding among the pebbly parts of the beach along with the broken shells and the flotsam that sometimes comes ashore. Bodie Island, Pea Island, and Ocracoke are some of the best places in this area to find sea glass. However, it can be found along any strip of beach, from Corolla to South Nags Head.

Early morning is the best time to go sea glass hunting.  Later in the day you will find what has been left from the earlier beachcombers.  Another ideal time to look for sea glass is after a storm. The churning waters brings hidden sea glass to the surface after being buried for decades.  You are more likely to find sea glass in the fall or winter because of the number of storms.

Is Some Better Than Others?

Not all sea glass is created equal, some colors are more prized by beachcombers than others.  Here is an overview of sea glass types. They are listed from the most common to the rarest.

The majority of modern sea glass is thin, and comes in colors like green, white, clear, and brown. These are from bottles, glassware, widows, and windshields. Though I’m sure each piece could tell a story, they are very modern.  Chances of finding it: 1/25

Shades of amber and green are from mostly liquor bottles and glass dinnerware from the 1960’s and beyond.  Chances of finding it: 1/100

Shades of blues, purples, turquoise and blacks are from much earlier in this century. It has always been sort of rare, but with every passing year, it becomes even more so. These types of glass come from medicine, liquor, and cosmetic bottles from the 1900-1930’s. Some of the colors even come from depression era glassware.  Chances of finding it: 1/1,000

The warm colors, red, orange, and yellow are among the most expensive colors of glass in the world and remains so to this day. Because of this, there was never a time in history where it was common or mass produced in the United States. Common sources for include poison bottles, navigational equipment and car taillights. Chances of finding it: 1/10,000

Occasionally, you’ll find a thick piece of sea glass, about an inch thick or more. This type of seas glass is usually white, clear, or green. This is a very rare find, as it is usually part of a shipwreck from long ago. Clear or white is most often from windows, while green is most likely from a ship’s prism.  Chances of finding it: unknown

What Can You Do With It?

Now that you’ve found some sea glass, the question is what do you do with it? There are many ways to use it home or personal décor.

One of the most popular things to with it is to have it wrapped and turned into a necklace or bracelet. There are jewelers on the Outer Banks that will do this for you. However, there are also classes you can take and unique Outer Banks Jewelry kits you can buy that will accomplish this same task.

In home décor, it’s best displayed attached to frame back and hung on a wall. It’s also works great as Christmas ornaments, wrapped in a similar way to the jewelry.  If you have enough, you can even insert into a clear glass lamp base along with some shells and sand.

Commercial Sea Glass

Often, you’ll see bags of sea glass in the retail stores. However, though it looks like real sea glass, the process was completed in commercial rock tumbler.  It’s still a beautiful accent to an aquarium, a lamp or a mosaic. There are great home décor items you can do with commercial sea glass. However, if memories are what you’re after, somehow ‘sea glass’ purchased from a store and made in a factory isn’t the same as sea glass that the â??seaâ?? tumbled and you found yourself.

Sea glass is one of the best souvenirs you can bring home form the beach. It’s a lot of fun to look for and can keep memories alive for years to come. Since fall and winter are the best times to find it, consider renting a home in the off season to fulfill your love of sea glass hunting. After all, that’s when the ‘real’ beachcombers are here.  


Old Christmas Celebrated on Hatteras Island

January is here, and with it, it’s Christmas again. But this is not the Christmas you’re accustomed to. This is â??Old Christmasâ??, and Rodanthe is one of few places in the world that still celebrates it. So if you’re in town, here’s what you need to know about Old Christmas.

What Is It?

Old Christmas is the community celebration of a uniquely Outer Banks Christmas. It’s celebrated the Saturday closest to the 6th. While traditional Christmas is a time for family, Old Christmas is a time for community. People from the tri villages, (Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo) gather together to share stories, drinks, oysters, and wait for the appearance of ‘Old Buck’ Also known as the ‘Beast of Trent’.  Visitors are welcome, and it’s truly a sight to see.

The Origins

Old Christmas is officially on January 6th also known as Twelfth Night or the Epiphany. Of course, the reason Rodanthe celebrates it has nothing to do with the Epiphany.

It has to do with the calendar.

In the 1700’s the Georgian calendar replaced the Roman calendar, shortening the year by 11 days. Since the Outer Banks was so isolated, it didn’t get this news until almost 100 years later. By then, the locals were pretty much set in their ways and didn’t want to change. But they did love a good party. They comprised, celebrating traditional (family) Christmas on December 25th by the new calendar and Old Christmas, (community Christmas) in January.

Old Buck

The legend of Old Buck started well over 100 years ago, when a wild bull inhabited Frisco Woods (known then as Trent.) Old Buck went around scaring villagers and livestock with his mighty horns.   Eventually, a hunter ended Old Buck and took his horns and hide as a trophy.

Today, Old Buck is the symbol of Old Christmas in Rodanthe. He is often played by one or two men hiding under a blanket adorned with Old Bucks real horns, (they say.) He’s led in by the masked keeper, whose identity is kept secret.

Old Buck gallivants throughout the revelers, mock goring people in a playful manner. Everyone agrees that Old Buck is the highlight of the evening and the symbol of Old Christmas on the Outer Banks.

Old Christmas of Yesteryear

Old Christmas traditions are as unique and varied as the islanders themselves. Old Buck is one of the few traditions still used in Modern Old Christmas, but there were some others lost to timeâ?¦

One of these was the ‘dumb table’. On Old Christmas eve, unmarried women made food offerings for the spirits. They set the offerings on the table and hid to wait for them to appear. If the spirits were pleased with the offerings, they thanked the girls by telling them the name of the man they’d marry. Since no one else spoke during this time, it was called the ‘dumb table.’ 

Adults and children alike would wear colorful homemade masks, sing carols and make candy while waiting for Old Buck to appear.

Old Christmas also hosted an ‘Oyster Shoot’, a shooting contest where oysters were given as prizes.

The traditional foods of Old Christmas, include oysters, chicken stew topped with pie bread, white turkey, (swans) duck, molasses candy and strong drink.

Drums and fifes are the traditional instruments of Old Christmas. Though drums are still used, it’s more in a ceremonial manner than for the music. Modern Old Christmas drums mark the arrival of Old Buck.

Old Christmas Today

Today’s Old Christmas is a little bit different. Old Buck and his keeper are still an integral part of the celebration and everyone looks forward to seeing him. Oysters and sweets are the favorite foods, though there are often other things to eat as well, such as chicken. They also still have the traditional Oyster Shoot. Today, a band has replaced the drums and fifes. There is dancing, merriment and good time is had by all. So if you’re on the Outer Banks in January, stop by the Rodanthe Community Center for a great time and a great memory.