Which Outer Banks Town is Best?
If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting North Carolina’s Outer Banks, choosing from one of the many coastal towns can be a daunting task!
With names like Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Nags Head, and of course, Rodanthe, it’s impossible to know which is right for you… at least impossible without doing a little research! Continue reading traveler, scroll down my friend.
Choosing the town that’s right for you will depend much on what you’d like to accomplish (or not accomplish) doing your coastal getaway.
Let’s get a lay of the land.
Where to Stay?
There is no wrong answer to this question. In my humble opinion, every area of the Outer Banks is awesome. You really can’t go wrong with any location; they are all beautiful and have their own charm.
With that said, it really depends on what you’re looking for. Take a peek at this quick description of each area and see if anything tickles your fancy.
- The northernmost beach, Corolla, is pretty secluded with great local shops and restaurants, and some fun sightseeing…wild horses, lighthouses, etc. The beaches can be slightly less crowded here.
- Duck is a quaint little village with a great town-center with fun local shops and restaurants.
- Southern Shores is a quick stretch between Duck and Kitty Hawk and offers some relatively empty beaches because there are few public access/parking areas, and it’s a quick ride to activities north or south.
- Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head are the “center” of the Outer Banks, and as such, they tend to be the busiest areas…but still, plenty of room to move around and find a quiet space. This area has the most options for restaurants, bars, shopping, and activities on the OBX.
- The southern beaches (Rodanthe, Salvo, Frisco, Waves, Hatteras, Ocracoke) are the more secluded beaches. There are fewer shops and restaurants here, but peace and quiet is amazing.
Corolla is home to generous unspoiled beaches and historic landmarks. Take a day to visit the Whalehead Club, the Currituck Lighthouse and Historic Corolla Village. Corolla, an unincorporated community located along the northern Outer Banks in Poplar Branch Township, is home to more than 100 wild Spanish Mustang horses.
Horses can be found on 12,000 acres in Corolla, north of populated areas. Approximately 500 permanent residents call the community home.
Moving south from Crolla, we reach Duck. Duck is an ocean to sound community with miles of beaches and spectacular sunsets over the Currituck Sound. Duck Village is easily navigated and pedestrian-friendly.
The town was once home to a thriving commercial fowl industry. Today’s residents still serve as game or fish guides to visitors.
Just south of Duck is Southern Shores. Southern Shores is a beautiful town, with much of the natural vegetation left intact, and has a marvelous stretch of beach with low-density oceanfront development.
Southern Shoers beach accesses are not public; only residents and vacationers staying in the area are allowed to use them. The sound side of the town offers dense maritime forest vegetation and canals leading to the sound.
Continuing on our southbound OBX journey, we hit Kitty Hawk next. Kitty Hawk is located in the geographic center of the Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk offers access to golf, fishing, mini-golf, restaurants, nightlife, fine dining, shopping, and movies.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the East and the Albemarle Sound to the West, Kitty Hawk is a water enthusiast’s paradise.
Kill Devil Hills
Next stop, KDH. Kill Devil Hills, home of the Wright Brothers Memorial, has easily-accessed beaches with parking, fishing, crabbing, mini-golf, restaurants, nightlife, fine dining, shopping, and movies.
To wrap up our OBX tour, we’ll hit Nags Head.
Home of the east coast’s largest sand dune, the area features attractions, shops, restaurants, nightlife, water sports, and more. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the perfect spot to fly kites, hang glide, or sand surf. Close to Roanoke Island, historic Manteo, and Oregon Inlet.
Local Tip: From a local’s perspective, South Nags Head is the bee's knees – really just Nags Head, but it’s the southern end that’s special. This area is worth the hype because it is close to all of the great activities: restaurants, shops, art galleries, etc., but it also backs up to the beginning of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which offers a few benefits…
- First, great views of sunsets over the sound because there are no houses impeding the view.
- Without multiple rows of houses flooding to the closest beach, the beach tends to be a bit less crowded.
- One of my favorite local tips…you will have easy access to Pea Island. Possibly the best beach on the Outer Banks. Head south over the Bonner Bridge and pull over on the side of the road. Then, you’ll have to hoof it over the dunes (it’s worth the effort) and enjoy the amazing Pea Island beach all to yourself. Oregon Inlet isn’t too shabby either, you can drive your four-wheel drive vehicle right out on the beach and enjoy an awesome day in the sand.
That wraps up this post!
Do you know where you want to stay on the Outer Banks now?
Did we help you decide or just make things more confusing?
It's difficult to choose when all of the options are great! An excellent problem to have in my opinion.