Outer Banks Attractions
The Outer Banks biggest attraction is the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. With nine hundred square miles of water surrounding the Outer Banks, it provides a huge liquid playground for swimmers, boaters, sailors, surfers, anglers, waders, and divers. For land lovers, just being on the Outer Banks is enough.
Some of the Outer Banks attractions were created by men and women out of pride for the significant historic events that took place here, such as the Wright brothers’ first flight and the first attempted English settlement in the New World. Others, like The Lost Colony outdoor drama, are themselves as much a part of history as the events they portray.
If you’re used to high city prices to get into attractions, you’re in for a real surprise. Outer Banks attractions are affordable, and most cost less than $10 and many have no entry fee at all. The priciest attractions are worth every penny and still affordable compared with city prices. Most places offer special family, child, or senior discounts. While some of the attractions stay open year-round, many close in the winter months or strictly curtail their hours. Be sure to call before you venture out.
Wide-open wildlife refuges spread across the Outer Banks, and fish tanks glow at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. You can get into history by stepping on a reproduction of a 16th-century sailing ship or dive into the Atlantic to explore a Civil War shipwreck. There’s never enough time to see everything the Outer Banks has to offer.
Here you will see a list of some Outer Banks attractions and what they have to offer. The Outer Banks has many attractions that are just there to be discovered by you.
Wright Brothers National Memorial - 0.1m/0.2km N
US 158, MP 8, Kill Devil Hills
Set atop a steep, grassy sand hill in the center of Kill Devil Hills, the trapezoidal granite monument to Orville and Wilbur Wright is within easy walking distance of the site of the world's first powered airplane flight. Below where this lighthouse- style tower now stands, on the blustery afternoon of December 17, 1903, the two bicycle-building brothers from Dayton, Ohio, soared over a distance of more than 852 feet, staying airborne for an unheard- of 59 seconds in their homemade flying machine.
Jockeyâ€™s Ridge State Park - 4.0m/6.4km S
US 158, MP 12, Nags Head
The East Coast's tallest sand dune and one of the Outer Banks's most phenomenal natural attractions, Jockey's Ridge has long been a favorite stop for tourists. In the early 1970s, bulldozers began flattening the surrounding dunes to make way for a housing subdivision. A Nags Head woman, Carolista Baum, single-handedly stopped the destruction and formed a committee that saved Jockey's Ridge.
Jennetteâ€™s Pier -
7229 S.Virginia Dare Trail, Beach Road, MP 16.5, Nags Head
Jennetteâ€™s Pier is a state-of-the-art concrete pier, pier house and bath house. Originally built in 1939, Jennetteâ€™s is the oldest fishing pier on the Outer Banks. Battered by storms and rebuilt many times throughout its 70-year life, Jennetteâ€™s was knocked down by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, just after the pier and its five-acre tract were purchased by the NC Aquarium Society. After years of planning and 24 months of construction, Jennetteâ€™s re-emerged in 2011 as a one-of-a-kind educational ocean pier. The Aquarium-operated complex features educational classrooms and programs, alternative energy demonstrations, live animal exhibits, meeting facilities, a snack bar and tackle shop and a host of other displays and features for good family funâ€¦.with great fishing too!
Cape Hatteras National Seashore - 14.0m/22.5km S
Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke Islands
Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a tremendous treasure for the residents and visitors of the Outer Banks. Here you will find the Outer Banks's most captivating open spaces, where long reaches of rugged dunes, windblown brush, wide beaches, and soundside wetlands are protected from development. Established in 1953 by the National Park Service and dedicated in 1958, the National Seashore includes part of Bodie Island and most of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, except for the village centers and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The northern boundary begins south of Whalebone Junction in Nags Head, and the southern boundary is on Ocracoke Island. This was the very first National Seashore in the nation. It consists of some of the narrowest land inhabitable by humans-skinny stretches of sand often less than a half-mile wide. The National Seashore provides miles-long stretches where there is not one simple structure obscuring the view. Wildlife, waterfowl, and seabirds are abundant in the National Seashore, including the American oystercatcher and the threatened piping plover. Sea turtles survive here, too, as they often come ashore to lay eggs on the beaches in summer. Designated shorebird and sea turtle sanctuaries are well marked for protection on the beaches.
North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island - 14.0m/22.5km SW
374 Airport Road, Roanoke Island
The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is an outstanding facility. Its 68,000 square feet of space includes a $16 million expansion that was completed in May 2000. The theme of the aquarium is Waters of the Outer Banks, and visitors get to see a variety of marine communities: coastal freshwaters, wetlands, estuaries, roadside ditches, the Gulf Stream, and the Graveyard of the Atlantic on the ocean floor. A major attraction is the Graveyard of the Atlantic tank, holding 285,000 gallons of salt water, or about 2.35 million pounds. The tank's highlight is a 53-foot-long replica of a Civil War ironclad, the USS Monitor. Scuba divers give educational presentations from the tank and answer spectators' questions while inside. Also in the tank are sea turtles and nearly 1,000 other sea creatures, including sharks, cobia, tarpon, jack crevalle, bluefish, and black and red drum. Wetlands on the Edge is another favorite exhibit. In this tree-filled atrium, river otters swim and play in a clear pool of river water, while visitors watch through a glass screen. Also here are several American alligators, who bask in the sunlight near their pond. You'll also see turtles. The Coastal Freshwaters exhibit explores freshwater marine animals and habitats. From ponds and lakes to the Albemarle Sound, this exhibit displays turtles, sunfish, gars, and bowfins. The Croatan Sound tank showcases the fish that local anglers catch. Marine Communities features nine tanks representing environments from grass flats to the Gulf Stream, displaying blue crabs, summer flounder, puppy drum, lobster, a porcupine puffer, and much more. Close Encounters is the touch tank area, where kids can touch horseshoe crabs and other creatures. Staff members are on hand to answer questions.
Roanoke Island Festival Park - 15.0m/24.1km SW
1 Festival Park, Manteo
24-hour events line
An expansion of the Elizabeth II Historic Site, Roanoke Island Festival Park is one of the largest attractions on the Outer Banks. This vibrant history, educational, and cultural arts complex opened in 1998, with top-quality facilities that add a tremendous variety to the year-round interests on Roanoke Island. Visitors explore the evolution of Roanoke Island and the Outer Banks from the late 16th century to the early 1900s through living-history interpretation, exhibits, film, and visual and performing arts programs. The site includes the 8,500-square-foot Roanoke Adventure Museum, where interactive displays allow you to touch, see, and hear the history of the Outer Banks. In the Film Theater, The Legend of Two Path, a 45-minute film developed especially for the site by the North Carolina School of the Arts, tells the story of the first English landing on Roanoke Island from the Native American point of view. There's an outdoor performance pavilion that offers classical and popular concerts on lush pastoral lawns; a gallery, with art shows that change monthly; a small theater where special films and plays are held in an intimate setting; and a museum store bursting with treasures. Porches, lawns, and boardwalks add charm, and you're just as likely to encounter an Elizabethan settler there as you are inside. The Children's Performances, held daily in the summer months in the Film Theater, are excellent. Many special events are held at Festival Park year-round, such as a fishing rodeo, beach music festivals, and a Civil War encampment. See the Web site or call for details. The Elizabeth II, designed as the centerpiece for the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement in America, is a representative sailing ship similar to the one that carried Sir Walter Raleigh's colonists across the Atlantic in 1585. Interpreters clad in Elizabethan costumes conduct tours of the colorful 69-foot ship.
Elizabethan Gardens - 17.0m/27.4km SW
Off US 64, Roanoke Island
Created by the Garden Club of North Carolina Inc. in 1960 to commemorate the efforts of Sir Walter Raleigh's colonists at establishing an English settlement, these magnificent botanical gardens offer an exquisite, aromatic environment year- round. They include 10.5 acres of the state's most colorful, dazzling flora. The flower-filled walkways contrast the windblown, barren Outer Banks beaches. Visitors enter at the Gate House into formal gardens along curving walkways carefully crafted from brick and sand. The bricks were handmade at the Silas Lucas Kiln, in operation during the late 1800s in Wilson, North Carolina. Although this botanical refuge is breathtakingly beautiful all year, vibrant with seasonal colors and fragrances, it is perhaps the most striking in spring. Azaleas, dogwood, pansies, wisteria, and tulips bloom around every bend. Rhododendron, roses, lacecap, and other hydrangea appear in May. Summer brings fragrant gardenias, colorful annuals and perennials, magnolia, crape myrtle, Oriental lilies, and herbs. Chrysanthemums and the changing colors of leaves signal the beginning of fall, and camellias bloom from fall all the way through the winter.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site - 17m/27.4km SW
Off US 64, Roanoke Island
When you visit Fort Raleigh, don't expect to see a fort. What exists on the site is a small earthworks fortification. It is not a daunting barricade, but a lovely spot drenched in American history. On the north end of Roanoke Island, near the Roanoke Sound's shores, Fort Raleigh marks the beginning of English settlement in North America. Since this attraction is next to the Elizabethan Gardens and The Lost Colony's Waterside Theatre, many people combine a trip to all three.
The Lost Colony - 17m/27.4km SW
Off US 64, Waterside Theatre
The nation's longest-running outdoor drama, this historical account of the first English settlement in North America is a must-see for Outer Banks visitors. It's almost as legendary as the story it depicts. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Green brought the history of English colonization to life through an impressive combination of Elizabethan music, Native American dances, colorful costumes, and vivid drama on a soundside stage in 1937. His play continues to enchant audiences today at Waterside Theatre, near Fort Raleigh, on Roanoke Island.
Bodie Island Lighthouse - 15.0m/24.1km S
West of NC 12, Bodie Island
This black-and-white beacon with horizontal bands is one of four lighthouses standing along the Outer Banks. It sits more than a half-mile from the sea, in a field of green grass, closer to the sound than the ocean. This site, 6 miles south of Whalebone Junction, is one of the most picturesque on the Outer Banks. Photographers are drawn to the immaculately kept, spacious lawns, the charming double keepers' quarters and oil house, and the proud tower. The lighthouse itself is not open for climbing, but the setting is worth the trip. The keepers' quarters has exhibits about the lighthouse and a small bookshop. The grounds are perfect for a picnic, and nature trails lead into the wide expanses of marshland behind the tower, through cattails, yaupon, and wax myrtle. The trails end up at Roanoke Sound, offering a view of the private camp on Off Island.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - 61.0m/98.1km S
Off NC 12, Buxton
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is one of the most beloved and famous lighthouses in the nation, especially after it survived a move of more than 1,600 feet in 1999. The nation's tallest brick lighthouse at 208 feet, this black-and-white striped beacon was shown the world over as it was precariously jacked up and moved along roll beams to its new location, away from the encroaching sea. The monumental relocation project was named the 2000 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The lighthouse now stands the same distance from the Atlantic Ocean as it did when it was first built in 1870. The view from the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is surreal and unforgettable. Try to make the climb while visiting the historical site. The visitor center, called the Museum of the Sea, and the bookstore, both housed in the historic former keepers' quarters, were moved to this location before the lighthouse was moved.
Pea Island Wildlife Refuge - 25.0m/40.2km S
NC 12, Pea Island
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge begins at the southern base of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge and is the first place you come to entering Hatteras Island from the north. The beach along this undeveloped stretch of sand is popular with anglers, surfers, sunbathers, and shell seekers. On the right side of the road, heading south, salt marshes surround Pamlico Sound, and birds seem to flutter from every grove of cattails. With 5,915 acres that attract nearly 400 observed species of birds, Pea Island is an outdoor aviary. Few tourists visited this refuge when Hatteras Island was accessible only by ferry. After the Bonner Bridge opened in 1964, motorists began driving through this once isolated outpost. Today, Pea Island is one of the barrier islands' most popular havens for birdwatchers, naturalists, and sea-turtle savers. Endangered species, from the loggerhead sea turtle to the tiny piping plover shorebirds, inhabit this area. Pea Island's name comes from the "dune peas" that grow all along the now grassy sand dunes. The tiny plant with pink and lavender flowers is a favorite food of migrating geese.
Outer Banks Restaurants
The Outer Banks of North Carolina is full of culinary delights in unique settings, with menus created by the most passionate chefs along the Atlantic Coast. With over 170 independent locally owned restaurants, memorable moments will take place while sharing food and drink with friends and family.
Fresh seafood is a staple along the Outer Banks. Because it is home to one of the largest estuaries in the world, the fish are as diverse as they are numerous.
Outer Banks restaurants serve a variety of fare; Seafood houses, Buffets, Grills & Pubs, Cross-Cultural cuisine, Southwestern, Italian and of course North Carolina Southern style barbecue. Dining on the Outer Banks can be as casual or as chic as you want it to be.
In March you can enjoy the Outer Banks Taste of The Beach. A variety of Outer Banks restaurants will host exclusive dinners, brewery tours, cooking classes and more. Itâ€™s a full weekend of tasty food and fun just waiting for you. To find out more about the Annual Outer Banks Taste of The Beach, visit www.ObxTasteofTheBeach.com
For a complete list of Nags Head restaurants click here http://www.nagsheadguide.com/restaurants/