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8 Best Beaches in the NC Outer Banks

8 Best Beaches in the NC Outer Banks

Did you know that the Outer Banks has over 100 miles of pristine 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 of our favorite picks:

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 of the Outer Banks beaches are especially well 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 Outer Banks. And both offer miles of beautiful beachfront, with a number of public access points and convenient parking areas.

Ready for adventure? Contact Kitty Hawk Kayak & Surf School at 6150 North Croatan Highway to rent everything from skim boards, surfboards, and boogie boards to kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Plus, check out these thrilling experiences with Kitty Hawk Kites:

  • 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, the Outer Banks beaches are far less crowded than more commercial coastal resort areas. 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 Cape Hatteras Seashore beaches is easy. Simply pull off 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), the concrete-reinforced Nags Head 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 choosing from our expansive collection of Outer Banks vacation rentals, consider choosing a Corolla vacation rental 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! Be sure to browse our OBX Vacation Rentals for the perfect beach house getaway.

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