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“There’s a lot of pirates in that area like his­tor­i­cal­ly” was my hus­band’s reac­tion to my announce­ment that we were tak­ing a trip to the Out­er Banks. “We should vis­it a pirate ship while we are there.” 


While we did­n’t find any pirates in North Car­oli­na’s Out­er Banks area, we did find beau­ti­ful beach­es, deli­cious food, the Wright broth­ers memo­r­i­al and so much more. I real­ly liked that the Out­er Banks are qui­eter than oth­er beach areas I’ve vis­it­ed, but there was still enough to do to fill our evenings with non-sand and water-relat­ed activ­i­ties. We spent our days loung­ing on the beach and our evenings explor­ing the area, which is my idea of a per­fect beach vaca­tion. My hus­band spent a few nights hunt­ing for ghosts, both ghosts of pirates and ghost crabs


First a lit­tle lin­go les­son: The Out­er Banks refers to the islands off the coast of North Car­oli­na. There are sev­er­al towns locat­ed on those islands, includ­ing Kit­ty Hawk, Kill Dev­il Hills, Corol­la, and Duck, just to name a few. 






The Outer Banks is home to a lot of great family activities, from pirates, to beaches, to hunting for crabs!



The Beach


The Out­er Banks boasts a nice, sandy beach along the entire coast­line. There are large dunes on the edges of the beach, and they take pro­tect­ing those dunes very seri­ous­ly. There are pub­lic walk­ways along the beach that you can use to go over the dunes. We always try to pack light for Out­er Banks beach days, haul­ing a bunch of beach gear up the steps of the walk­ways is a real workout! 


At night the beach has ghost crabs. If you are quick, you can catch one with a buck­et, a shov­el, and a flash­light. Don’t be afraid to take a night walk, the crabs aren’t big enough to hurt you and they just want to be left alone anyway. 




My cousins caught this ghost crab, he’s larg­er than aver­age, most of them are not this big! Pho­to Cour­tesy of Sarah Householder



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The Wright Brothers Memorial


wright plane

This is a life-sized mod­el of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first air­craft. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the first flight did not offer any snack or bev­er­age service.



The Wright Broth­ers trav­eled from my home state Ohio to Kit­ty Hawk, North Car­oli­na to test out their air­planes because Kit­ty Hawk was windy and had sand dunes they could use to test the glid­er. Now there is a beau­ti­ful memo­r­i­al to the first flight in Kit­ty Hawk, includ­ing mark­ers to demon­strate where they took off and land­ed, a vis­i­tors cen­ter, repli­cas of their camp, the plane, and more. 


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Corolla’s Wild Horses


You can ful­fill every 12-year-old girl’s dream and see wild hors­es in Corol­la. File Cour­tesy of Kevin Collins via Wikimedia



Corol­la is home to wild mus­tangs! They roam the beach­es. You can actu­al­ly dri­ve on the beach, but don’t try to dri­ve your mini­van on the beach, you will cer­tain­ly get stuck. There are numer­ous jeep tours you can take, or you can rent your own jeep and go solo. 


Note: Do not feed or get close to a wild horse, it is illegal! 



Kitty Hawk Kites


Kit­ty Hawk Kites is one of our fam­i­ly’s favorite places to vis­it in all of the Out­er Banks. It’s a huge store that car­ries every­thing from kites (duh) to clothes to toys to shoes. They also offer adven­tures like para­sail­ing and surf­ing lessons. There isn’t much you can’t do or buy through them. We usu­al­ly vis­it the loca­tion in Nags Head because it’s big­ger than the oth­er ones. 






The KDH Co-Op is an artist’s space and gallery. They offer art class­es for kids and adults in every­thing from jew­el­ry mak­ing to paint­ing to black­smithing. They also sell art pieces by the mem­bers of the co-op on site. If you want a nice sou­venir from your trip this is a great place to visit!



My sis­ter’s dog Scout loves that the beach­es in Corol­la, Duck and Nags Head are dog-friend­ly year round! Pho­to Cour­tesy of Sarah House­hold­er. You can check out Sarah and Scout’s adven­tures at Sarah Jean Strong.



Where to Eat


Duck Donuts


If you only leave your beach house once, it should be for a duck donut. I’m obsessed. It’s like chipo­tle for donuts. You can pick any­thing you want on your donuts. Make sure you eat at least one warm. My favorite is called the Beach donut, it’s vanil­la icing with cin­na­mon sug­ar on top. 




The Outer Banks Brewing Station


pirate set play equipement

The Pirate Ship play equip­ment in the back of the Brew­ing Sta­tion is a per­fect place to wait for your table! Pho­to Cour­tesy of Out­er Banks Brew­ing Station



Don’t hear the word “brew­ing” and wor­ry about tak­ing kids here, our fam­i­ly has been tak­ing kids to the Out­er Banks Brew­ing Com­pa­ny for years and it’s def­i­nite­ly fam­i­ly-friend­ly, there’s even a giant pirate ship play­set in the back. They brew their own beer on-site, I’m not a beer drinker but my cousins like the Lemon­grass Wheat Ale. 


When You Go


Where to Stay


The Out­er Banks have a lot of rental homes, at most price points and with a vari­ety of ameni­ties to choose from. Most of the homes are only avail­able for a full week dur­ing the sum­mer.  Our fam­i­ly has rent­ed from Sun Real­ty before and we had a good expe­ri­ence. Rent­ing a house with a pool is the per­fect mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional vaca­tion, and that’s what my fam­i­ly usu­al­ly does when we go.  If rent­ing a house is not in your bud­get, or if you don’t have a full week, there are some hotels in Kit­ty Hawk


There are sev­er­al towns you can choose from. If you’re look­ing for a qui­eter vaca­tion, with­out as many “touristy” spots, then I sug­gest Duck and Corol­la. If you want to be clos­er to all the activ­i­ties and restau­rants, then Kit­ty Hawk, Kill Dev­il Hills or Nags Head are the place for you! 

You can use this spiffy inter­ac­tive map to find both AirBnBs and hotels close to the area in which you want to stay.






Getting There




The Out­er Banks can be a bit chal­leng­ing to access. The fact that the area where air­planes were invent­ed does­n’t have easy access to an air­port is crazy! You can fly into Nor­folk Inter­na­tion­al Air­port and rent a car. From there, the north­ern parts of the Out­er Banks are about an hour and half dri­ve. Traf­fic on the bridge to the Out­er Banks can be a real chal­lenge, espe­cial­ly on Sat­ur­days dur­ing the sum­mer, so you should be pre­pared for it to take a bit to get on and off the island if you are trav­el­ing on week­ends dur­ing the summer. 



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The Outer Banks is home to a lot of great family activities, from pirates, to beaches, to hunting for crabs!


Emi­ly House­hold­er Stacey is a wan­na be beach bum based out of Sun­ny Cleve­land Ohio. She’s a trav­el agent, writer and mom, and she edit­ed this sto­ry while eat­ing a whole sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies.