With social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you’re looking for a place for some awesome Insta-worthy photos, you won’t be disappointed with what the Outer Banks has to offer! Even if you never post them, it’s nice to have an album chock full of beautiful sights and memories to cherish in years to come. If you’re looking for tips on how to take your vacation photos like a pro, just keep on reading!
The most iconic sunset images of the Outer Banks are typically captured at the Whalehead Club in Corolla or from the top of Jockey’s Ridge in Nags Head…and those are amazing places to view the setting sun. Well worth a visit, especially with a camera.
But, here at Outer Banks Blue, we like to take our visitors a little bit off the beaten path from time to time, so we’ve put together our own list of best places to photograph the setting sun. One or two of them might take a little extra effort, but we think it will be worth it.
We’ve arranged the list from south to north.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Not the lighthouse itself—climbing closes at 5 :00 p.m. However, there is a very nice nature trail on the south end of the parking lot. That’s the tip of the loop in the road.
There’s what looks like a service road that leads to a small bridge. Cross the bridge and go to the end of the trail. The trail is about a quarter mile in length and very easily walked—no elevation gain and it’s packed earth. The trail ends look due west over a low island, marsh and open water.
Bodie Island Lighthouse also offers a marvelous chance for a sunrise shot. At the base of the lighthouse, there is a pond with a boardwalk that faces east. There is some scrub pine and low vegetation along the eastern bank of the pond, but it does give an opportunity to get a wonderful early morning shot.
End of Roanoke Island
As Outer Banks locations go, this one entails a bit of a drive, but well worth the effort.
Before the 4-lane Virginian Dare Bridge was built bypassing Manteo, all traffic took what is now business US 64 through the town to the William Umstead Bridge. That is the route to take.
Just before the bridge there will be a turnoff to the right leading to a small parking lot. The view at the tip of the parking area is due west, across Croatan Sound. The trees that mark Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge mark the western banks of the sound.
It’s a wonderful little spot. Take a moment to check out the historic marker telling the story of the Civil War naval battle that took place just off the point in 1862.
Pay close attention to what’s happening at the bridge. Every day at dusk, more than 100,000 purple martins return to the bridge to roost for the night.
Bob Perry Road Boat Ramp
This one is away from the typical sunset spot, but we think it’s worth a visit. Managed by the town of Kitty Hawk, it’s also the town’s recycling center. Bob Perry Road intersects W. Kitty Hawk Road a little to the west after intersecting the Woods Road—which is not as confusing as it may sound.
Easiest way to find it is look for the recycling center signs on Kitty Hawk Road.
What makes this site so nice is there are a number of docks that allow access over the water. Any sunset shot will include the trees of the maritime forest to the west, but the interplay of the colors of the still waters of the creek, the marsh and the hues of sunset can create a remarkable image.
There is also an early morning possibility here, with an open marsh leading to a maritime forest to the east.
The Town of Duck boardwalk is about a mile long, paralleling the town’s shoreline the entire way. There is nothing between the boardwalk and the open waters of the Currituck Sound so there are limitless opportunities for some fantastic sunset shots.
A particularly nice feature of the boardwalk is that there are three or four places to stop and get a bite to eat or enjoy a beverage, giving the photographer a chance to sit back, relax and still capture an image for the ages.
Pine Island Sanctuary Center
This suggestion will take a bit more effort than the others, but for the adventurous Pine Island offers a great possibility for a different view of a sunset.
Once upon a time the Pine Island Hunt Club was a huge tract of land that extended from the Dare/Currituck County line from sound to sea. It won’t show up on any map now, but before there was a NC 12 connecting Corolla with the rest of the world, the only road was a packed dirt track through the heart of the hunt club property.
That dirt road still exists and is now a 2.5 mile nature trail with two observation towers along the way. Those observation towers make for a fantastic viewing spot to capture a sunset.
Getting to an observation tower a little early may give a photographer a few shots of the remarkable birds and waterfowl of the sanctuary.
There are parking lots on either end of the trail. On the south end across from the Sanderling Resort and on the north end behind Pine Island Racquet Club.
Things to remember:
Keep the Camera at the Ready
The beautiful beaches and sea breeze that are so wonderful on the Outer Banks are why so many people visit and come back year after year. And there is a lot to be said for that; we would never disagree that perfect sand and refreshing ocean air makes for a great place to vacation.
At some point though, other interests may crop up. We thought we could help that process along by making some suggestions for other things to do—this time for photographers.
These are just some general ideas about places where good Outer Banks photos may be waiting. They are by no means the only places.
Any BeachThis seems almost too obvious, but it has to be listed.
Depending one how good the camera is, there can be some great action shots on a busy day in the summer; kids body surfing, a mom or dad taking a baby into the water for the first time, skim boarders…the list is pretty much endless.
Most of this type of photography can be done very well with a phone camera. Some of these shots, though, may take some form of telephoto or zoom lens, and that will require a little better camera than typically comes with a cellphone.
However, don’t overlook an early morning visit to the beach to catch a sunrise. There are so many colors and they are so subtly arranged that no painting could ever do it justice.
Or—a full moon over a calm sea is spectacular.
Looking for an iconic Outer Banks sunset picture? Go to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.
The top of Jockey’s Ridge provides a 360 degree view of the Outer Banks. To the west, the dune slopes gradually to Roanoke Sound, and the sunsets from the top of the hill are the stuff of legend.
During the day there is plenty to see as well. Jockey’s Ridge is where Kitty Hawk Kites has their hang gliding school and, especially late spring through early fall there is almost always a class on the dune.
Jockey’s Ridge is also one of the finest places in the world to fly a kite. Some great shots are just waiting to be recorded.
Looking for an iconic Outer Banks sunset picture? Go to the Whalehed Club in Corolla.
Wait a minute…didn’t we just say that about Jockey’s Ridge? Yes we did, but that’s not the only place to get a great sunset shot.
Nestled along the banks of Currituck Sound, the Whalehead Club is an iconic and beautiful example of art nouveau architecture. The grounds are meticulously maintained and there are a number of places at the site where beautiful shots of the main building, boathouse or footbridge are calling out to be taken.
The Whalehead Club is immediately adjacent to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. A suggestion for a memorable Outer Banks image is to take a picture across the boat basin toward the lighthouse.
The Not So Obvious
Recognizing that not everyone has a 4WD vehicle or wishes to pay the National Park Service beach driving fee, we’re going to recommend the south side of Oregon Inlet. The north side with its dynamic tidal flow, salt flats and hundreds of fishermen is great as well, but the south side is free and not as well known.
The parking lot is just past the south end of the Bonner Bridge on the east side of the road. There is a path at the north end of the parking lot that parallels the waters of the inlet.
The somewhat dilapidated building at the site was at one time the Oregon Inlet Lifesaving Station until the Coast Guard was created and then became part of the USCG. It was in active use until 1988 when the new Oregon Inlet was competed on the north side of Oregon Inlet.
There are some plans to restore the building, built in 1898, but funding is not currently available.
However, the possibilities for photography are endless.
Continue walking east and the beach comes to a clear point where the ocean and inlet meet. There is always a lot of boat traffic through the inlet and some great shots are waiting to be taken.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
What I have put together is a list of what I believe to be the 5 most important tips you’ll ever need. With all the other tips out there, which can still be useful, I believe these are the core of a great vacation; the best vacation tips ever!
1. Turn Off The Devices!
Vacation is a great time for families to bond, but you can’t if everyone is glued to their smart phone, TV, tablets, and video games. Everyone is looking to escape on their vacation and sometimes these devices help, but make sure you set aside time every day to unplug.
Vacations are not made wonderful just by places you went. They’re made wonderful by the time spent with others. The laughs that were shared, the sand castles that were built together, the experiences that were shared (like someone catching their first fish), and the conversations that shared life.
One night you could have a board game night and pull out the old favorites. If your group is large have multiple games going at the same time. You could go to the beach, leaving your devices at the vacation rental. Try to spend at least 2 hours spending time together without the interruption of devices and you may walk away with a vacation with a family that feels more connected to each other.
2. Take Lots Of Photos.
While it may be fun to take photos to show off to your Facebook friend and Instagram followers don’t forget the take photos just for you. Vacations are an incredible time for making memories and one day you’ll enjoy looking back over these photos. They are the ultimate souvenir.
I’m not saying always have camera or phone out, ready to grab a shot. You want to create memories, but you don’t want to be a constant observer of your family’s memories without ever being a participant. Know when to be behind the camera and to put the camera down. While photos may be the ultimate souvenir, time spend together is more important.
- Take photos when you know you won’t be involved in what is happening, such as when the children are playing without the adults,
- Don’t pose too many of your pictures (although there’s nothing wrong with recreating a moment you barely missed).
- We you do pose be sure to get everyone tightly together. It looks more loving and it can be fun getting everyone to get closer to “look like you love each other.”
- Avoid using a flash. Just because it is dark doesn’t mean you can’t get great pictures that capture the moment. In low light situations a flash often breaks the mood and ends a moment.
Hire a pro for your family photos. While the cost may be $300-$700 it is well worth it to have professional photos of the family.
Don’t forget to share your vacation photos with us.
3. Compare Pricing.