It covers less than two square miles, with a population right around 1,500. Yet Manteo, North Carolina, is one of the liveliest spots in the entire Outer Banks.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wilbur and Orville Wright, self-taught mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, came to Kitty Hawk and changed the world when they invented the first successful airplane in 1903. At the museum and memorial in Kitty Hawk, visitors can walk up the steep hill to see where the brothers made history with their first flight. In fact, the First Flight Centennial Pavilion has a fascinating review of aviation technology that you won’t want to miss.
Roanoke Island Festival Park
Roanoke Island Festival Park serves as a Wayback Machine for the Outer Banks. The first English settlers arrived on the islands as early as 1500, during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor. The park is an indoor and outdoor interactive complex of exhibits and activities that explain what life was like on the barrier islands during its days as a British colony.
Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station
Don’t overlook this museum with the funny name. Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station and Museum is one of the most popular and beloved museums in the Outer Banks. The Lifesaving Station honors the men who worked the lifesaving stations along the seashore. These men rescued hundreds of shipwrecked sailors over the years. Their journals, uniforms, gear, and primary residence are on display.
Ocracoke Preservation Society
The Ocracoke Preservation Society is housed in a historic home known as the David Williams House Museum. Built in the late 1800s, the home was restored by the Ocracoke Preservation Society so that visitors could see what life was like for Bankers in the 19th century. There’s even a documentary about the “Ocracoke Brogue,” an accent particular to those born and raised on Ocracoke.
One of the real delights of the museum is the summer Porch Talks. Wander up to the porch, take a seat on the steps, and listen to local experts recount the legends, mysteries, and exciting tales of the Outer Banks.
Outer Banks History Center
On the grounds of Roanoke Island Festival Park, you’ll find the wonderfully academic Outer Banks History Center. If you are a history buff, a science nerd, a weather bug, or if you trace your roots to the Bankers, you will enjoy getting lost in this facility. The center is home to more than 300,000 documents, photos, maps, and books about the Outer Banks, some dating back to the 1500s.
Corolla Wild Horse Museum
Enjoy a Unique Natural Environment
Natural beauty is undoubtedly one of the biggest draws of the Outer Banks. If you’re a nature lover, rent a kayak and spend the day taking in quiet water trails that wind through the islands, along the shore, through maritime forests, salt marsh canals, and estuaries. Floating in the bay for sunset is an unforgettable experience, as is paddling through a sound as birds and river otters play around you. Of course, no Outer Banks tourism guide would be complete without a mention of the area’s pristine wildlife refuges. Visit Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve,
Currituck National Wildlife Refuge
Here are some of our favorite nature spots in the Outer Banks:
Hatteras Island Ocean Center, Hatteras
Located near Hatteras Village, the Hatteras Island Ocean Center is a good starting place for your Outer Banks vacation. With a fully interactive setup, the center features exhibits, programs, and special events to help visitors of all ages learn about the unique environments of the Outer Banks. Want to develop your turtle sense? Looking to see, touch and hear some of the Outer Banks’ most popular marine wildlife? This is the place!
Duck Soundside Boardwalk, Duck
The Duck Boardwalk will take you through almost half a mile of sea breezes and scenic views of stunning Currituck Sound. There are multiple entry and exit points so you can pop in and out of the Waterfront Shops and Town Park for snacks and shopping breaks. Plan to take this walk slowly and really soak up your surroundings. This is a wide, level boardwalk, so it’s also an ideal way for those with wheelchairs or mobility challenges to enjoy an easy but majestic nature walk.
Duck Town Park, Duck
If you’re headed for the Duck Boardwalk, don’t overlook the Duck Town Park. This 11-acre green space features winding trails that lead through Maritime Forest, expansive green spaces, a swamp, and past breathtaking views of Currituck Sound. If you’ve got your own kayak, paddleboard or canoe, you’ll find an easy launch at the boat pier. This is a perfect dog- and kid-friendly place to hike — there’s a picnic shelter, playground, and even a water fountain just for your furry friend.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Nags Head
It’s hard to decide whether to join the action or just sit and watch at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. This area sports the largest natural-living sand dune in the east, and due to the steady breezes, is a haven for hang gliders. There are miles of hiking trails, picnic tables and public restrooms, so bring your lunch and spend the day flying a kite or watching the daredevils soar.
Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods Preserve, Kill Devil Hills