List of Towns on the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Since 1587, people have been drawn to the undisturbed beauty found on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
More than 400 years later, visitors still marvel at the quiet sanctuary that lies before them as the historical imprints the many visitors to these barrier islands have left behind.
The Outer Banks or OBX, mixes the past and the present into a well-kept balance of solitude and activity that is ideal for all ages and spirits.
It is not difficult to find this chain of barrier islands along the North Carolina coast.
The Outer Banks is a string of sandy barrier islands more than 130 miles long that bow out into the Atlantic Ocean and cup the shoreline. Our islands are filled with watery hideaways where wildlife takes refuge and nature lovers delight, quiet beaches for sport or peace, and history that dates back to America’s beginnings.
As you will see, the Outer Banks is a destination sure to delight you with its variety of adventure, art, dining, history, and beach fun in the towns of Duck, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Roanoke Island to the undeveloped shores of Hatteras Island.
The Outer Banks is steeped in history, dating back 420 years to our 16th-century Elizabethan roots as the site of England’s first attempt at colonizing the New World from 1585 to 1587.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is widely known as the birthplace of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World. Led by Sir Walter Raleigh, the efforts to colonize the “New World” ended with the disappearance of 116 men, women, and children, a mystery that remains unsolved.
Their legacy and our American heritage are still celebrated every summer night at The Lost Colony on Roanoke Island. A feast for the senses, filled with tribal dancing, swordplay, and romance. This year, the nation’s longest-running outdoor drama is rolling out the red carpet for its 70th anniversary!
The year 2003 marked the First Flight Celebration at Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, a tribute to Orville and Wilbur’s achievement of mankind’s first powered flight on December 17th, 1903. Retrace those 12 seconds that changed the world and get a bird’s eye view of the past.
The coastal location of the Outer Banks makes it a virtual playground for adventures. You can take part in bird watching, golf, hang gliding, hiking, windsurfing and fishing in the best angling waters in the world. And when it is time for a break, few places offer the rare kind of solitude found at our pristine beaches and wildlife areas.
There are advantages and disadvantages to staying in each of the towns on the Outer Banks which is for the most part are low, sandy, and narrow islands that are just a few feet above sea level.
Some areas offer easy access to a large number of attractions and restaurants; other parts have nothing but sand dunes and a few homes raised up on wooden stilts.
Regardless of what town you decide to spend three days to a whole week in, you’re sure to have a relaxing and memorable vacation on the coast of NC.
Divvied up into sections and listed from north to south, here are all of the towns on the Outer Banks of North Carolina!
Only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicle, Carova is the northernmost town on the Outer Banks. Here you’ll find everything from quaint cottages to massive 24-bedroom estates.
Oh, and you’re likely to spot a wild horse or two!
Landmarks in this popular town include Currituck Beach Lighthouse, The Whalehead, and Historic Corolla Village. There are thousands of well-kept rental homes to choose from in Corolla which is only accessible by traveling north on NC 12.
This town likely has the most rental homes to choose from, and is a virtual ghost town during the winter because so few people are residing in the area.
One of the more expensive towns to stay in on the Outer Banks. A few nice outdoor shopping complexes and home to The Blue Point, a truly exceptional place for dinner.
The now-famous Duck Donuts started in you guessed it, the town of Duck! If you are seeking adventure, consider parasailing or renting a jet ski from one of several different vendors.
Many historic flat top houses were built decades ago. Not a ton of vacation rental homes to choose from, but there are a few really nice ones. Many well-off locals live in Southern Shores. The town does lack public beach access so be careful when booking a rental home.
Can always travel a couple of miles south to Kitty Hawk if your rental is not within walking distance of the beach.
There is so much to love about Kitty Hawk!
Many great restaurants are located here including Rundown Cafe, Bad Bean Baja Grill, Art’s Place and, The Black Pelican. A portion of NC 12 in Kitty Hawk is frequently washed away by hurricanes and nor’easters. Hilton Garden Inn is in this town if you want a quick Outer Banks getaway, arguably the nicest chain hotel on the OBX.
Kill Devil Hills
In this OBX town, visitors can check out the Wright Brother’s National Memorial as well as Avalon Fishing Pier and Nags Head Woods.
Visitors should consider dining at the Outer Banks Brewing Station and Kill Devil Grill when they get hungry. In the town of Kill Devil Hills, there are more locals that call this coastal haven home year-round than any other area on the barrier islands. Come visit and you'll discover why!
The largest town in terms of acreage, Jennette’s Pier, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, and Bodie Island Lighthouse are located in Nags Head. Tale of the Whale, Tortugas Lie, and Sam & Omie’s are three legendary restaurants that are also situated in the coastal haven.
So much history in such a small town! Historic downtown Manteo is situated right on the Roanoke Sound and is the headquarters of many quirky shops and art galleries. Consider visiting Fort Raleigh National Park, North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, or the Elizabethan Gardens.
Primarily a fishing town, a lot of the seafood served at restaurants on the Outer Banks comes from the docks in Wanchese. If you love seafood at a reasonable price, be sure to stop in at O’Neils Seafood Harvest in Wanchese.
Ever read or seen the movie Nights In Rodanthe? Well, this is the town where the story takes place. Be sure to snag a photo of the now-famous house in the movie. You can even stay there if you are lucky enough to reserve a time. If you are an experienced kiteboarder or want to learn, both Kitty Hawk Kites and Real Watersports have kiteboarding schools in Rodanthe.
Situated between Rodanthe and Salvo, this combination of three towns is often referred to as the tri-villages. Surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding are popular things to do here. Only a few shops and restaurants and headquartered in Waves.
Similar to Rodanthe and Waves to the north, Salvo is known for being one of the best places on the East Coast to be if you’re into watersports. There aren’t very many businesses in this town, and that’s the way the locals like it.
The most notable attraction in Buxton is hands down Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest all-brick lighthouse in the United States which at one point was moved inland to preserve it from the encroaching Atlantic Ocean.
Situated at the widest part of Hatteras Island, Buxton is the largest community on Hatteras Island in terms of square footage and population.
Less traffic than on the central and northern beaches. Many great surfing spots that locals frequent. Miles of wide-open beaches in Frisco and plenty of places to surf fish. Home to Hatteras Island’s only go-kart track. Also home to the Frisco Native American Museum.
Surfing, fishing, kayaking, and more, Avon is a great spot for those who love the ocean and water sports. Accessible by NC 12 only, there aren’t a ton of rental homes and condos or restaurants and shops in Avon – which is totally okay if you ask me.
Just about all the rental homes in the town are towering in height because they’re held up by huge wooden stilts. Why do you ask? Well, Avon tends to flood whenever there is a sizable nor’easter or tropical storm that impacts the barrier islands. Plenty of unique shorebirds to observe if you’re patient enough for bird watching.
If you travel south along NC 12 for long enough, you’ll encounter
the docks at Hatteras Village which allow you to catch a ferry to Ocracoke Island. Many anglers come to this town to catch a fishing charter.
Maritime history enthusiasts will enjoy the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum which tells some of the stories of lost and sunken ships off the coast of North Carolina. There are a few restaurants and shops worth checking out while visiting Hatteras Village.
Time moves a little bit slower on Ocracoke Island. Only accessible via a 30-minute ferry that departs from Hatteras Village. Lots of small shops and restaurants to check out. A limited number of places to stay. Don’t forget to visit the small white lighthouse on the island!
To recap, listed from north to south, this is the complete list of towns considered part of North Carolina's Outer Banks.
- Southern Shores
- Kitty Hawk
- Kill Devil Hills
- Colington Island
- Nags Head
- Pea Island
- Hatteras Village
- Ocracoke Island