A Perfect Day in Cape Hatteras and Hatteras Island at the NC Outer Banks

Cape Hatteras and Hatteras Island

Looking for unparalleled peace and privacy plus plenty of fun activities? Come to Hatteras Island, NC, and explore its seven seaside villages: Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Frisco, Hatteras, and Buxton.

This 50-mile legendary barrier island is located entirely within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. That means it’s protected federal land, so it can’t be further developed. You won’t find any ugly strip malls, towering high-rise hotels, or garish tourist traps. But you will find exciting things to do and welcomed amenities like grocery stores, specialty shops, art galleries, and fine restaurants.

Here’s How You Might Spend a Typical Day at Cape Hatteras / Hatteras Island

8 a.m. to 10 a.m.: Rise and shine! The salty sea breeze gives everyone a keen appetite. Time for you and your family may want to head into town for a hearty Hatteras breakfast.

Perhaps you’ll stop in at the Dancing Turtle Café at Hatteras Village for scrumptious homemade baked goods. Sample muffins, scones, bagels, and biscotti, washed down with steaming cups of gourmet tea or coffee.

Or you may choose to sample savory breakfast sandwiches or humongous “apple uglies” – delicious deep-fried fritters – at Buxton’s Orange Blossom Bakery & Café.

Prefer breakfast on the beach? Pick up some tasty takeout at Scratchmade Snackery in Hatteras and get set for an unforgettable outdoor feast.

10:00 a.m.  to Noonish

Now it’s time to explore the National Seashore – miles and miles of white-sand beach, bordering the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Pamlico Sound on the other. Here you can be as active or as relaxed as you want – it’s entirely up to you. Depending on your family’s preferences you can:

  • Wade or swim in the warm, sparkling ocean.
  • Bask on a blanket and soak up the Southern sun.
  • Stroll along seemingly endless shore, savoring the smell of salt spray, the rhythmic crash of the waves, and the haunting cries of the gulls.
  • Cast your line from the shore to reel in prized sport fish like drum and cobia… or set sail offshore to catch king mackerel and bluefin tuna. (Make sure you have an NC saltwater license, which you can easily obtain online.)
  • Surf giant waves on the ocean side, where two huge currents meet at Cape Hatteras.
  • Kayak, canoe, or SUP (stand-up-paddleboard) on the calmer, shallower sound side.
  • Take a kayak tour of Pamlico Sound’s salt-marsh canals, where you can catch thrilling glimpses of all kinds of wildlife and waterfowl.
  • Go kiteboarding, a favorite Hatteras pastime, with lessons and equipment available from Kite Club Hatteras, Kitty Hawk Kites (Hatteras branch), and Cape Hatteras Kiteboarding.
  • And much more – everything from jet skiing to parasailing – all right there at your fingertips, with equipment rentals available at several nearby outposts.

Lunchtime

Have you worked up an appetite yet? Why not picnic right on the beach? Or perhaps at a local park such as Avon’s Kinnakeet Village or the Rodanthe Community Center Playground, perfect for lunch al fresco if you have young children in tow.

If you haven’t brought any picnic goodies along, you can always stop for takeout at a local bistro like Kat’s Deli, Harbor Deli, or the Snack Shack.

Then, once you’ve refueled, you’ll be ready for your next adventure.

Afternoon

What’s your pleasure? Hiking through the unspoiled wilderness? Touring historic museums? Visiting the East Coast’s most iconic lighthouse?

Pick one or two activities from family-friendly options like these:

  • Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (14500 NC Highway 12, Rodanthe, NC, right off of Hatteras Island), covering 5,384 acres of land and 25,700 acres of water. This protected nature preserve provides a resting, nesting, and wintering habitat for thousands of migratory birds. Hike either of two scenic trails to view all kinds of coastal critters, from geese and mallards to loggerhead turtles.
  • Buxton Wood Nature Reserve, a hiker’s paradise, offering miles of beautiful, wooded trails, including a 3/4-mile nature trail – complete with interpretive signs – ideal for a short family trek.
  • Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Celebrate the tumultuous history of the outlying ocean waters, where more than 600 vessels have wrecked over the centuries. Located on the southern tip of Hatteras Island, this ship-shaped museum houses a treasure trove of authentic artifacts retrieved from historic shipwrecks.
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, America’s tallest brick lighthouse, famous for its black and white spiral stripes. From spring to fall, under normal conditions, you can climb the 200+ stairs to the very top, where you’ll take in sweeping, panoramic views of Hatteras and the Atlantic.
  • Other fascinating museums, including the Frisco Native American Museum and the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Museum.

Dinnertime

After a busy day, you’ll want to relax and freshen up a bit at your Outer Banks rental. Next, how about dinner on the sound side, where you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset along with your luscious meal? Check out favorite sound-side eateries like laid-back Quarterdeck Restaurant, glass-walled Good Winds Restaurant, Dinky’s Waterfront Restaurant, Sonny’s Waterfront Restaurant, and Hatteras Sol Waterside Grill.

So Much More to See and Do

Pack up your gear, gather your family, and head to the Outer Banks now.

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