Did you know that the NC Outer Banks have over 100 miles of shoreline? These beautiful barrier islands stretch more than 175 miles, from Corolla in the north to Cape Lookout in the south. And almost 60 percent of that area consists of a public beach.
With all that shorefront to choose from, how do you know which Outer Banks beaches are best for you and your family? That depends on what you're looking for. You'll find breathtaking OBX beaches to suit every taste and fancy. Here are just a few.
Best Beaches for Wind, Waves, and Watersports
Needless to say, all Outer Banks beaches provide plenty of opportunities for swimming, surfing, and similar activities. But several are especially known for their big waves and high winds - ideal conditions for windsurfing, skimboarding, hang gliding, kiteboarding, parasailing, and more.
Check out the beaches at Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk, for example. Both beaches boast some of the best winds and waves in the NC Outer Banks. And both offer miles of beautiful beachfront, with a number of public access points and convenient parking areas.
- Hang-gliding over the dunes in an exact reproduction of the Wright Brothers' 1902 glider
- Surfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding, with expert instruction provided by the surf school's seasoned staff
- Scenic sailing tours, biplane flights, inshore and offshore fishing charters, and more
Best Beaches for Peace and Privacy
Even at the height of summer, NC Outer Banks beaches are far less crowded than more commercial coastal resorts. Still, visitors do flock to popular sites like Nags Head and Kitty Hawk. So, if you're seeking ultimate serenity and seclusion, you may want to check out the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Stretching southward 70 miles from Bodie Island to Ocracoke Island, this pristine sandy shoreline borders seven villages. But, because it's federally protected, it's unspoiled, undeveloped, and usually quite uncrowded.
In all, the National Seashore includes more than 10 beaches and beach-access points, ranging from peaceful Coquina Beach at the northern tip to secluded Ocracoke Beach at the southernmost point. Several beaches are lifeguarded. And one - Old Lighthouse Beach in Buxton - provides easy access to the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Getting to the beaches is easy. Simply pull off of Highway 12 at any scenic point and climb over the dunes to reach the beachfront. Or, better yet, stop at one of the many public parking areas located along Highway 12, all of which offer beach access via boardwalks and/or sandy paths.
Own a 4-wheel-drive vehicle that can handle off-road driving in thick Carolina sand? You're free to drive it anytime on any Cape Hatteras beach, either oceanside or sound-side. Just be sure to obtain an Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) permit online from the National Park Service.
Best Beach for Pier Fishing
Eager to cast your line for prize sport fish like striped bass, red drum, trout, flounder, perch, spot, crappie, bluefish, croaker, mackerel, and sea mullet? Come to Jennette's Pier at picturesque Nags Head Beach. At 1,000 feet, it's the longest pier in the entire Outer Banks.
Reconstructed after Hurricane Isabel (September 2003), this concrete-reinforced pier provides special indoor amenities like a kid-pleasing mini-aquarium, a 3,500-square-foot event space, and a full-service catering kitchen.
But the real action happens outdoors, where anglers of all ability levels stake their spots along the pier to try reeling in "the big one."
No license is required to fish at Jennette's Pier. Instead, you'll pay a modest fishing fee to cover the pier's upkeep:
- $14 per day for adults
- $7 per day for children
- $2 for adults and $1 for kids for sightseeing without fishing
- $12 for rod rentals
- $8 for a Cobia and King pass
- $36 for an unlimited 3-day fishing pass
- $80 for a 7-day pass
And, of course, pier fishing is just the beginning. You can also surf-fish right from the scenic shore of Nags Head Beach and other OBX beaches. (Just be sure to obtain a North Carolina Saltwater License, online or at any tackle shop.) Plus, you can charter a head boat or deep-sea offshore expedition.
Best Beach for Seeing the Wild Horses of the Outer Banks
Have you heard of the Banker Ponies - feral horses descended from Spanish mustangs shipwrecked in the Outer Banks sometime in the 16th century? These beautiful beasts are carefully managed in several OBX preserves, including one on Ocracoke and another on Shackleford Island.
But if you want to watch them roaming freely along the ocean shore, come to Corolla Beach in the northern Outer Banks. Here you can book a guided tour aboard a 4x4 off-road vehicle, which will take you to unspoiled stretches where the ponies romp and play. It's an unforgettable experience, so be sure to bring your camera! When planning your Outer Banks vacation rental, consider visiting Corolla Beach for a chance to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
Plus So Many Other Beautiful Beaches
You're sure to find your own magical beach in the NC Outer Banks. Bring the family and start exploring!