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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. 

 

 

 

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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. 

 

 

snow crab BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE OUTERBANKS WITH KIDS AND TEENS

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. 

 

 

 

KDH Co-Op

 

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.