On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … a vacation in the beautiful islands of the Outer Banks of North Carolina! Many people think of beach vacations as a summer adventure, but the Outer Banks offer breathtaking beauty and a wide variety of attractions during the winter months as well. This Christmas, plan an island getaway complete with gorgeous ocean vistas, twinkling holiday lights, and plenty of memory making.
What does the Outer Banks offer during the holiday season? Plan an unforgettable Twelve Days of Christmas vacation with these festive ideas.
Day 1: December 14
Welcome to the Outer Banks! Settle into your rental house in the afternoon, where you will find all of the comforts of home and much more. Treat yourself to a mouthwatering dinner at one of the many local seafood establishments, such as The Dunes Restaurant in Nags Head or The Blue Point Bar and Grill in Duck. From shellfish bars to traditional North Carolina barbecue, the Outer Banks offer dining experiences to satisfy every taste.
Day 2: December 15
See the wild horses of Corolla. The island of Corolla is home to one of the few remaining herds of wild horses on the East Coast. Seeing the beautiful Spanish mustangs in the wild is an experience you will not want to miss. Book a tour through one of several local companies and enjoy a ride across the beaches, sand dunes and forested areas in search of these majestic Outer Banks residents. Most companies guarantee a sighting, and you will learn about the history of the horses as well as current efforts to protect them.
Day 3: December 16
Take a boat tour. Explore the waterways of the Outer Banks with one of the many first-class boat rental experiences. Choose from a variety of options, including private cruises, boat tours, and even a Pirate Adventure. If you prefer a more individualized experience, consider renting a kayak or sailboat for your day on the water. You can also rent a skiff or charter boat to explore the coastal waters on your own. The Outer Banks offer excellent fishing for those with a fishing license, so be sure to bring your rods and reels if you enjoy catching your own seafood.
Day 4: December 17
Attend the annual First Flight Celebration. Celebrate the Wright Brothers’ first flight in Kill Devil Hills on the exact site where modern aviation originated. Reflect and remember with other aviation aficionados in this annual celebration, where you will hear an engaging account of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s historic accomplishment. Stick around until dusk to enjoy the First in Flight Holiday Lights featuring a 20-foot Christmas tree in Aviation Park.
Day 5: December 18
Visit the North Carolina Aquarium. The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is home to many of the species native to this area as well as the largest shark collection you will find in North Carolina. Learn about sea turtle rescues, wetlands conservation and coastal freshwater animals as you observe the living treasures of the Outer Banks. Enjoy watching animal feedings and live dives as well as taking part in animal encounters and aquatic-themed games. The aquarium supports conservation efforts for native animals and also actively participates in research devoted to supporting biodiversity in the coastal waterways.
Day 6: December 19
Visit the five lighthouses of the Outer Banks. Lighthouse lovers will enjoy visiting each of the five lighthouses scattered throughout the Outer Banks: Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla, Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Manteo, Bodie Island Lighthouse just south of Nags Head, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on Hatteras Island, and the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse on Ocracoke Island. Enjoy Christmas lights at the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Christmas ambience of Hatteras village as you take in the sight of these well-known coastal landmarks.
Day 7: December 20
Compete in the Festivus Road Race and Jingle Jog. Engage in some friendly competition and fun for the whole family with the annual Festivus Road Race. Serious runners will enjoy participating in the 10K or 5K through the town of Southern Shores, while young runners can join in the Little Elf ¼-mile race or the 1-mile Jingle Jog. Santa will make an appearance on race day as well, so be sure to bring your camera for some special photos.
Day 8: December 21
Visit the Island Gallery and Christmas Shop. Celebrate the first day of winter with a visit to the Island Gallery and Christmas Shop in Manteo. Browse through 12,000 square feet of Christmas wonder and fine art in five connected buildings. Pick out some last-minute gifts from the toy or jewelry sections or purchase some special decorations and ornaments to make your vacation home feel more festive. The Christmas Shop has been a winter wonderland destination since 1967, and it offers a fabulous Christmas shopping experience for all ages.
Day 9: December 22
Finish your Christmas shopping. Plan a shopping day to fill those Christmas stockings and discover some must-have treasures for yourself. Visit Hatteras Island’s fabulous local shops where you will find everything from souvenirs and T-shirts to jewelry, clothing and artwork. If you are looking for more traditional shopping, the Tanger Outlets in Nags Head offer more than 30 stores where you will find something for everyone on your Christmas list.
Day 10: December 23
Visit the Winter Lights display. Indulge your holiday spirit with a visit to Winter Lights at The Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo. Stroll through an enchanted winter wonderland featuring breathtaking holiday decorations and lights, festive trees, visits with Santa, and a bonfire on the Great Lawn. The twinkling lights and displays of Winter Lights are sure to inspire the magic of Christmas for children and adults alike.
Day 11: December 24
Enjoy the nostalgia of the Outer Banks. Spend some quality family time with a morning walk on the beach, lunch at one of the many local seafood restaurants, and an afternoon tour of Nags Head’s beautiful historic district. If shopping is more your style, visit the town of Duck for a stroll along the boardwalk, where you will find lots of wonderful local shops and restaurants. Be sure to stay long enough to watch the waterfront sunset.
Day 12: December 25
Christmas morning! Wake up to a fabulous Christmas morning in your beautiful Outer Banks rental home! Whip up your family’s traditional Christmas breakfast in the cozy kitchen and enjoy the moment as you create memories you will cherish for a lifetime. After the gifts have been opened, take a stroll along the beach to look for signs of Santa and his reindeer before snuggling in for some hot cocoa, a Christmas movie, and plenty of Christmas cheer.
If you are looking for an unforgettable family Christmas, the Outer Banks of North Carolina offer a wide variety of attractions and activities in addition to all the traditional sights and sounds of the season. Whether you enjoy taking in the beauty of nature, visiting historic sites, learning about native wildlife, or enjoying local shops and dining experiences, the Outer Banks will exceed your expectations. This Christmas, enjoy the relaxing prospect of a beach vacation that offers truly unique experiences for everyone in the family.