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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.