Outer Banks, North Carolina

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What are the Outer Banks, NC?

Forged by Mother Nature, molded by a rich history, and refined by the locals who know how to live “the good life,” the Outer Banks is a coastal destination unlike any other.

The Outer Banks, also referred to as the OBX for short, comprises several unique towns and communities, each with their own distinctive coastal charm and exclusive things to offer. Discover the 4x4 beaches of the northern Outer Banks, for example, to find wild Spanish Mustangs roaming freely along the shore, or visit Kill Devil Hills in the heart of the Outer Banks, for an abundance of local shops, restaurants and access to both the sound and the ocean. Dotted by numerous lighthouses, molded by a rich natural history, forged by Mother Nature, and refined by a colorful group of people who call them home, the towns of the Outer Banks have become a collection of coastal destinations unlike any other.

"A blend of beautiful places and exciting things to do and try, the Outer Banks offers a little something for everyone."

Today, the Outer Banks are among the most sought-after beach vacation spots in the United States. A blend of beautiful places and exciting things to do and try, the Outer Banks offers a little something for everyone. Whether its surfing and kiteboarding the unique wind patterns of the area; taking advantage of the juxtaposition of colliding currents just off the coast, which provide world-class fishing opportunities; learning about important historical milestones; enjoying delicious local fare at unique restaurants; meeting welcoming locals; or delighting in a subtropical climate that provides mild winters, hot summers, and comfortable shoulder seasons - the Outer Banks has you covered.

A place where you can set your worries aside and adopt a slower pace of life for a bit, walking sandy beaches, watching dolphin and pelicans play, and enjoying some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the water that you will ever see. All of these things and more are possible as the opportunities are endless on the Outer Banks, and that is one of the many things that keeps people coming back year after year.

Where are the Outer Banks?

Map showing the location of the Outer Banks in relation to North Carolina

The Outer Banks refers to a strip of barrier islands and peninsulas that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland of North Carolina, stretching nearly 200 miles from the southeastern tip of Virginia down most of the NC coastline. A popular tourist destination, the Outer Banks are best known for their wide-open beaches, unique landscape, plentiful fishing, abundance of watersports, exciting wildlife and preserved natural habitats. Also well known for its treacherous waters off the coast, the Outer Banks are home to the notorious Graveyard of the Atlantic; the original spot of the Lost Colony, America’s greatest unsolved mystery; and also the birthplace of flight, as the Wright Brothers flew the world’s first successful airplane right in the heart of the Outer Banks.

Separating the Currituck, Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds from the Atlantic Ocean, it is plain to see why this thin strip of land is often referred to as the barrier islands. This unique geography of the Outer Banks creates diverse and wonderful ecosystems that are home to hundreds of species of birds, as well as other wildlife. Because of this, many wildlife sanctuaries and nature preserves have been set up to protect the habitats and animals that make their homes within them, creating a wild and spectacular landscape to explore and a desired destination for many outdoor and hunting enthusiasts.


"This unique geography of the Outer Banks creates diverse and wonderful ecosystems that are home to hundreds of species of birds..."
Learn more about birds of the Outer Banks

What are the Towns of the OBX?

The Outer Banks is unlike any other beach destination because of the unique, individual towns that string together to provide visitors with a dynamic opportunity to experience a full range of scenery, history, activities and culture. Decide which town best suits your needs for a vacation, and be sure to visit the others during your stay for the complete Outer Banks experience.

Corolla

Corolla

The ease and splendor of the uncomplicated yet vibrant way of life in Corolla saturates the entire area from the ocean to the sound. A Corolla vacation will transport you to a place that celebrates the unique history, stunning landscape, extraordinary wildlife, and the easy-going joyful lifestyle of the people who live there.

Corolla Rentals

Duck NC

Duck

The Town of Duck, NC is a modern-day coastal village, delicately situated between the sound and the sea.The atmosphere and attitude in Duck can’t help but slow your pace and encourage you to take in the peaceful attributes of this intriguing Outer Banks vacation town, a place that has worked deliberately to maintain its small, natural character.

Duck Rentals

4x4 Beaches

At the northern end of Highway 12, where the pavement ends and the sand begins, Outer Banks vacationers can enjoy an exclusively rare perspective. A place where you can drive on the beach between the sand dunes and the shoreline and view wild horses playing in the surf, the 4x4 Beaches offer an unforgettable experience you won’t find anywhere else.

4x4 Beach Rentals

Southern Shores

Southern Shores

Sea spray mingles with maritime forest shade in this distinguishable Outer Banks town. Situated between Duck and Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores boasts the private seclusion that Outer Banks vacationers love about the northern beaches, but from a central location, providing a tailor-made Outer Banks experience.

Southern Shores Rentals

Kill Devil Hills

Kill Devil Hills

Anchored in the heart of the Outer Banks, Kill Devil Hills yields five miles of pristine beaches, fringed by some of the best shopping, dining and attractions on the beach! A Twiddy vacation rental in Kill Devil Hills promises you will always be close to the fun, both on AND off the sand!

Kill Devil Hills rentals

Nags Head

Nags Head

Often revered as the "first Outer Banks vacation destination," Nags Head is characterized by its big open spaces and small town charm, offering a slow, relaxed pace to visitors looking for a laid back beach vacation drenched in rich history and natural beauty.

Nags Head rentals

Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk

A unique beach town made up of sprawling sandy beaches, soundfront properties and 461 acres of an enchanting maritime forest, Kitty Hawk offers Outer Banks visitors a dynamic vacation opportunity. A lively locale that also maintains a sense of sleepy solitude, Kitty Hawk delivers to vacationers the best of many worlds.

Kitty Hawk Rentals

What can you do in the Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks is teeming with exciting things to do, see and experience, with adventures on land, sea and even in the air. Discover winding waterways on a paddleboard or kayak, parasail high above the barrier islands for a bird's eye view of the Outer Banks, or take a guided tour to see the wild horses of the northern beaches. With so many different things to do and see on the Outer Banks, the possibilities are virtually endless!

Outer Banks kayaking

Kayaking

There are multiple kayaking adventure tours on the Outer Banks, all of which are led by some of the most professional and knowledgeable guides around. Explore the area’s many meandering waterways or paddle out in the sound or the ocean for a truly exhilarating open-water kayaking experience.

Outer Banks horse tours

Horse Tours

As the Wild Spanish Mustangs of the 4x4 Beaches are among some of the most spectacular and unique attractions on all of the Outer Banks, there are numerous horse tours available for you to choose from to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures. Open-air safari vehicles and other off-road 4-wheel-drive vehicles take visitors on a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to find and enjoy the wild horses on the 4x4 Beaches of the Outer Banks.

Outer Banks golfing

Golfing

The Outer Banks features a great selection of notable year-round golf courses for the golf enthusiast in your group! Enjoy eight different courses to choose from, stretching from Corolla to Nags Head and onto Mainland Currituck, each boasting its own unique character, challenges and beauty.

Outer Banks yoga

Yoga

Take your relaxation and mindfulness to a whole other level on your next Outer Banks vacation by visiting one of the many locally-owned yoga studios. Whether you want to continue your daily routine, try a class out for the first time while on vacation, or have one of the many talented Outer Banks yoga instructors come right to your Twiddy and Company vacation rental for a private lesson with you and your family, the Outer Banks has an abundance of yoga options for you to choose from.

Outer Banks boat tours

Boat Tours

If you’re looking for a unique way to experience the beauty of the Outer Banks, a boat tour is an amazing way to gain another perspective of the barrier islands and their unexampled characteristics. The Outer Banks offers visitors numerous opportunities to embark on an aquatic adventure including calm, relaxing sunset tours, exciting open water boat tours and charters, and educational tours led by knowledgeable experts to provide you with a new perspective and appreciation of the ecology and landscape of the Outer Banks during your next vacation.

Outer Banks fishing

Fishing

Well known for its fishing opportunities, the Outer Banks offers visitors innumerable ways to enjoy a fishing experience during your next vacation. Whether you’re looking to take a charter boat out into the open seas, fish one of the area’s many sounds, cast a line from your kayak along a meandering waterway, or head to one of the famous fishing piers along the coastline, one thing is for certain - you are never too far from an exciting fishing experience just waiting to happen when you are just about anywhere on the Outer Banks.

Outer Banks lighthouses

Lighthouses

As light keepers once kept watch over the notorious Graveyard of the Atlantic from the lighthouses of the Outer Banks, five beautiful beacons of light still line the coastline today, providing visitors the opportunity to delight in their beauty and even the chance to climb one or two. And because of their proximity to one another, all five can be visited within the same day for those up for the challenge!

Outer Banks museums

Museums

As an area drenched in rich history, there’s undoubtedly an array of museums to share some of the most interesting artifacts and stories of some of the Outer Banks most memorable historical events. From the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum to the Wild Horse Museum and many in between, the Outer Banks is proud of its rich history and invites you to explore it for yourself.

Outer Banks attractions

Attractions

The Outer Banks is chocked full of attractions and fun things to do during your beach vacation. Adventure parks, wildlife preserves, a boardwalk, outdoor plays, aquariums and more are ready and waiting to entertain you with that unique combination of excitement and warm hospitality that can only be found during an Outer Banks vacation.

Outer Banks spas

Spas

If the sound of crashing waves isn’t enough to relax and pamper you, the Outer Banks is happy to take your much-deserved R&R to the next level at one of the area’s many highly-acclaimed spas that are dedicated to providing Outer Banks guests the best treatment around to nourish your mind, body and soul.

See our Travel Guide for more activities and Twiddy's recommendations for our favorite vendors and local partners.

What is the Origin of the Acronym "OBX"?

It has become a part of our everyday language. Interchangeable for the words Outer Banks and representative of our area, as seen on locals’ license plates, tourist’s t-shirts, and of course the flagship bumper sticker...but when was the acronym OBX actually born and how did it get to be the widely recognized label that it is today?

The Birth of a Brand

According to the International Trademark Association, the term OBX was first coined by James Douglas in 1994. Douglas, a local Outer Banks restauranteaur, began to take notice of the white oval stickers stamped with black letters that could be found on European automobiles to denote their countries of origin. That gave him the idea to create one for the Outer Banks using three letters to represent the name, and voila, in 1994 the OBX sticker was born. According to Coastal Virginia Magazine, Douglas then printed 2,500 of the first OBX stickers and began selling them at Chili Peppers, his restaurant in Kill Devil Hills, and they soon took off like wildfire.

The stickers started popping up on cars all over the east coast and even across the country. They became so popular, especially with tourists, that Douglas realized he was onto something big and partnered up with a few other Outer Banks business owners to create OBX-Stock, Inc. The corporation then began marketing the OBX acronym on several types of products, including t-shirts, beach towels, coffee mugs, shot glasses, you name it.


The Legal Battle

In 1998 OBX-Stock, Inc. filed to register OBX as a trademark, but the trouble was, the public had already begun using the acronym widely as shorthand for the geographical region itself, instead of associating it specifically with a product, thus the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected OBX-Stock, Inc.’s application five times stating that the mark was geographically descriptive. “At one time OBX may have been an obscure reference to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, however, those days are no more,” stated the Trademark Examiner. Despite this ruling, the USPTO did in fact end up granting the company seven separate registrations for the mark, four based on acquired distinctiveness and three which allow descriptive marks to be registered without secondary meaning.

As Outer Banks businesses and residents alike began using the increasingly-popular OBX acronym, OBX-stock, Inc. sent out cease and desist letters in hopes to secure its mark, but as one company in particular refused to comply, a lawsuit ensued.

As a result, in 2009, the U.S. District Court ended up granting in favor of the other company, stating that OBX was generic and geographically descriptive for the Outer Banks and therefore can not be infringed upon. According to the court, “The letters OBX were adopted, promoted and received by the public as an abbreviation for ‘Outer Banks’ and that therefore it can, at best, be only a geographical descriptive mark.”

The catch was, for OBX to be deemed an official trademark, it must have a secondary meaning in the eye of the public that stands apart from the Outer Banks as a location and refer back to a product of OBX-stock, Inc. But that was found in court to not be the case.


What it Means Today

Although it began as an idea for a bumper sticker a little more than 20 years ago, the acronym OBX quickly and continuously developed into much more than simply a souvenir emblem. It became a part of the everyday lingo of millions of people, excited tourists planning their next Outer Banks vacation and natives alike.

It now makes up the root of many business names on the Outer Banks and is the basis of a play on words for organizations and companies around the area to tie their events into a centralized community-oriented theme, for example, OBXmas. It also makes up website addresses, business descriptions, and even phone numbers of Outer Banks companies.

In 1999, the acronym also went beyond the sticker when OBX license plates were issued for Dare County residents only, and continue to be issued today.

As visitors to the Outer Banks have adopted it as an interchangeable word for the area, it’s also become a sought-after keyword for marketers all over the Outer Banks trying to rank high in Google searches for their company and in advertising, it’s shortened form of the phrase sometimes makes promotions easier, too.

The OBX mark has even since been reproduced by hundreds of other organizations, companies, and locales, promoting everything from music stores to tourism departments all over the country.

As the acronym OBX was originally created to suggest the Outer Banks to customers, it ended up changing the way the area would be referred to from that point forward, and today, OBX is easily considered a household name, representing the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina.

How do you get to the OBX?

There are several ways to get to the Outer Banks, it all just depends on where you're coming from. For driving directions, air travel, and other ground transportation information, check out our Travel Information page here.

Which OBX Beach is Best?

One of the beautiful things about the Outer Banks is the diversity of its beaches. Although the string of barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks is interconnected, and traveling from one town and beach to another is easy to do in a short period of time, vacationing on different beaches brings with it an individual sense of appeal. Here is a quick rundown of what OBX beach is going to be best for you!

Northern outer banks beaches

Northern Beaches (Corolla & 4x4)

If you’re looking to get away from it all, then the northern beaches of the Outer Banks are the way to go! The tucked-away town of Corolla offers vacationers a first-hand peek at what it’s like to live among the wide-open spaces of the Outer Banks while enjoying the luxuries and comforts of beautiful vacation homes and a proximity to exciting restaurants, shops and attractions. The 4x4 beaches offer vacationers a once in a lifetime opportunity to drive along the beach and witness wild Spanish Mustangs that roam freely along the shoreline. Wild and free is the way to describe the northern beaches of the Outer Banks, and if you’re looking to reconnect with friends and family in an unforgettable, serene beach environment, the 4x4 beaches and Corolla are just what you’re looking for!

Duck beaches

Duck Beaches

The quaint village of Duck offers a unique beach vacation, in that it celebrates and maintains its quiet sense of appeal and family-oriented nature. Enjoy the numerous walking paths, private beach accesses, and Town Park amenities that accommodate families and their guests by providing easy access to all that the town has to offer while keeping up with the quaint coastal lifestyle Duck locals have come to know, love, and want to share with others.

Kitty Hawk beaches

Kitty Hawk Beaches

Centrally located, the town of Kitty Hawk puts you front and center to the bustling beaches and exciting businesses that make up the heart of the Outer Banks. Enjoy a proximity to local restaurants, unique shops, and access to both the ocean and the soundside beaches for ultimate fun in the sun and watersports opportunities.

Kill Devil Hills beaches

Kill Devil Hills Beaches

Located just south of Kitty Hawk, the beaches of Kill Devil Hills are similar in accessibility and size, with a matched proximity to local attractions, restaurants and shops. Ideal for big families who want the best of all worlds while vacationing on the beach, beaches in Kill Devil Hills provide the perfect combination of convenience and comfort for maximum excitement and fun.

Nags Head beaches

Nags Head Beaches

Positioned south of Kill Devil Hills, at the junction of Roanoke Island and Hatteras Island, you will find Nags Head, where the beaches are more wide open and sparsely inhabited than those of its northern counterparts. Enjoy one-on-one time with nature and all of its splendid beauty along the vast, unconfined beaches of Nags Head.

No matter which beach you choose, the Outer Banks has something for everyone, and the next exciting stretch of sand is just minutes down the road, so come and enjoy one or all of the unique towns and beaches that make up the beautiful Outer Banks.

What is the History of the Outer Banks?

Unsolved mysteries, pirates, and setting world records are among the many notations in the history books of the Outer Banks. One thing that sets the Outer Banks apart is the incredible level of history that is interwoven into almost everything you experience in the present-day OBX.

Not everyone realizes, but years before the first successful permanent English settlement was established in Jamestown, Va., a colony of 117 English men, women and children came ashore Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks, and in just 3 years would disappear without a trace, creating the nation’s longest-running unsolved mystery known as the Lost Colony. One hundred years later, when pirates raged the waters off of the coast of the Outer Banks, one of the most notorious of them all, Blackbeard, made his home along the very shores of the OBX, and his legend and legacy still prevail today.

Not all historical events on the Outer Banks were mysterious and flagrant, as the Wright Brothers brought to the shores the distinction of the birthplace of flight, when in 1903 they succeeded in the world’s first successful airplane flight known to man. With a rich history such as this, there is no doubt that stories, legends, and tales have passed down from generation to generation, and at Twiddy & Co. we aim to preserve and honor the traditions that have shaped the Outer Banks as we know it through restoration of numerous historical structures, such as the Kill Devil Hills Lifesaving Station, the Wash Woods US Coast Guard Station, and numerous structures in historic Corolla Village.

"...at Twiddy & Co. we aim to preserve and honor the traditions that have shaped the Outer Banks as we know it through restoration of numerous historical structures..."

Learn more about the history of the Outer Banks and how Twiddy has been involved in our Outer Banks history page.

What is the Weather Like in the Outer Banks?

Although favored during the warm summer season, the temperate climate of the Outer Banks makes it an enjoyable place for a beach vacation just about any time of year. With long summer seasons, brief winter seasons, and mild shoulder seasons in between, it’s easy to plan your Outer Banks stay around what it is that you want to do the most while you’re here. If you’re looking to vacation on the Outer Banks, here is a little overview of what kind of weather you can expect during your stay.

Spring in the Outer Banks

Spring

Typically a mild season, but sometimes appearing as a wild card, spring weather on the Outer Banks can be enjoyable yet unpredictable. While the days are already starting to warm up, but the nights remain nice and cool, springtime on the Outer Banks means a lovely fluctuation of climate. Average daily temperatures are usually in the mid 60’s to lower 70’s and can be subject to the ever-present Outer Banks winds, which can show up any time unannounced and add either a slight breeze or a full-forced ocean wind to any given day.

Summer in the Outer Banks

Summer

Seemingly the longest of the seasons on the Outer Banks, summertime usually boasts sunny skies and warm temperatures. Averaging lows from the mid 70’s to highs near 90, summertime temperatures provide perfect beach days and warm ocean waters. The trademark Outer Banks winds tend to blow out of the southwest during the summer, causing enjoyable ocean breezes throughout the day and picking up intensity into the afternoon and evening.

Fall in the Outer Banks

Fall

An impeccably ideal time to visit the Outer Banks, the weather during the fall is pristine. Expect temperatures in the lower 80’s moving to the mid 70’s through the season, with ocean temperatures remaining in the 70’s, 60’s and 50’s. Many locals will boast that this is the best time of year to visit the Outer Banks, as water temps are still high, restaurants and shops are still open, crowds have died down, and watersports and fishing are booming. There is one catch, however. The Atlantic hurricane season tends to run from the beginning of July until the end of December, but for these unique barrier islands of ours, the Outer Banks are historically subject to storms in the beginning of fall, occurring in late August and early September.

Winter in the Outer Banks

Winter

If you’re visiting the Outer Banks during the winter, of course you can expect lower temperatures than during the peak season, but depending on which region of the country you are hailing from, you might be pleasantly surprised at what we here on the OBX consider “freezing.” Daytime winter temperatures usually average in the mid to upper 50’s, with nighttime temperatures dipping into the mid 30’s. Winters tend to be shorter on the Outer Banks, with multiple years sometimes passing between snowfalls.

No matter what time of year you visit the Outer Banks, prepare for light variable winds and a fluctuation of temperatures as a result. A moderate feel can be found on the Outer Banks year-round with temperate conditions and a mild climate found throughout most of the year as well.