The Outer Banks of North Carolina Frequently Asked Questions

Beautiful Beaches and Southern Charm

The Outer Banks, or OBX for short, is a strand of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina that features miles of wide open beaches. The pristine beaches have made the OBX a premier vacation destination. In addition to the beaches, the Outer Banks is rich with American history. In 1587, the OBX was the site of the first British settlement in the new world, otherwise known as The Lost Colony. The Outer Banks is also known as the birthplace of aviation, as the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight occurred in 1903.

Where are the Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks is located on the coast of North Carolina, on the east coast of the United States of America. The Outer Banks is accessed from the north via Chesapeake, Virginia, or from the west or south via the North Carolina mainland. The Outer Banks consists of the northeastern North Carolina coastline, providing a natural barrier for the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean.

What are the Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks is a strand of barrier islands, stretching from the North Carolina/Virginia border down the coast to Ocracoke Island. The OBX is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the sound to the west. Several beach towns can be found along the Outer Banks, each with a unique charm. There are also wildlife sanctuaries featuring miles of undeveloped beaches.

How do you get to the Outer Banks?

The most frequent way people get to the Outer Banks is by driving. Due to its location near the middle of the east coast, the OBX is a popular drive-to vacation destination. From the north, the Outer Banks is accessed through southeastern Virginia and Currituck County, North Carolina. From the west or south, the OBX is accessed through mainland North Carolina.

What is the closest airport to the Outer Banks?

The closest airport to the Outer Banks is located in Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk International Airport is approximately a 1.5 hour drive from the Outer Banks. Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport is the next closest airport, at approximately a 2 hour drive from the OBX. Raleigh-Durham International airport is approximately a 4 hour drive from the Outer Banks. Small, charter flights may be available to fly directly into the Outer Banks at Dare County Regional Airport, Pine Island Airstrip, or Currituck Regional Airport.

How long is the Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks is about 136 miles long from the Virginia/North Carolina border on the 4x4 beaches to the southern tip of Ocracoke Island.

OBX Map
Outer Banks Map

Towns of the Outer Banks

There are more things to do in the summer on the Outer Banks than in any other season. Local OBX restaurants and stores are wide open, local fishermen are hauling in fresh seafood daily, events and festivals are in full swing, and it’s prime time for watersports.

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 history, stunning landscape, extraordinary wildlife, and the easy-going joyful lifestyle of the people who live there.

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Duck

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 charm.

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OBX 4x4

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 watch wild horses playing in the surf, the 4x4 Beaches offer an unforgettable experience you won’t find anywhere else.

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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.

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Kill Devil Hills

Kill Devil Hills

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

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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.

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Questions about OBX Towns

Which town in Outer Banks is best?

Each of the towns on the OBX is different, but all towns have access to pristine beaches. Whether you prefer to spend your time in a remote area closer to nature, or you like to be close to things to do, there’s an Outer Banks town for you.

Which Outer Banks beach is best?

The best Outer Banks beach is subjective, as all of the beaches offer miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline. The beach is slightly different in each town, however, all Outer Banks beaches are family-friendly. Dolphins can be seen swimming off of the shore during certain times of year from all OBX beaches.

Where are the wild horses in the Outer Banks?

The Corolla Wild Horses roam the northernmost beaches of the Outer Banks, the 4x4 beaches north of Corolla. The beaches where the Corolla Wild Horses live are accessible by 4-wheel-drive vehicle only, as there are no paved roads.

Can you swim in the sound at Outer Banks?

The sound is the body of water to the west of the Outer Banks. The sound is more shallow and calm than the ocean, making it perfect for watersports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. There are small, sandy beaches along the soundside coastline that are great for swimming, however, there are also areas of the soundside that are more marsh-like and are not ideal for swimming.

Are dogs allowed on OBX beaches?

Dogs are allowed on all Outer Banks beaches. However, some towns have restrictions on the timeframe dogs are permitted on the beach during the summer months.

Outer Banks Piers

To truly experience the Outer Banks, the local piers here are a must see! These piers hold historic significance and fun spots for locals and visitors to hangout.

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Outer Banks Weather

The weather on the Outer Banks is generally mild, with hot and humid weather during the summer months and windy, cold weather during the winter months. The ocean temperature is cold in the winter months, chilly in the spring and early summer, and warm in the summer and fall.

Summer

June, July, August

OBX summer weather is generally very warm, with average high temperatures in the mid-80’s in June, July and August. It’s not unheard of for the heat index to reach or exceed 100 degrees on the Outer Banks in the summer. Definitely pack your flip flops or another type of sandal for walking on and off of the beach. The sand on the beach can get very hot in the midday sun. Thunderstorms are common in the summer months, particularly in the afternoons and evenings. Learn More

Daytime
Sun 85°

Hot and humid

Evenings
Moon 75°

Warm and humid

Ocean
Ocean 75°

Pleasantly warm water

Fall

September, October, November

Fall on the Outer Banks is lovely, with warm weather during the days and cool, but still mild, weather in the evenings. The ocean water stays warm well into the fall, averaging around 70 degrees. Many beach days during the fall can look and feel just as they do in the summer, with less humidity and plenty of sunshine. Fall is the most active time frame for hurricanes to impact the Outer Banks, although hurricane season officially runs from June 1st through November 1st.

Daytime
Sun 73°

Mild and comfortable

Evenings
Moon 59°

Cool

Ocean
Ocean 70°

Warm water

Winter

December, January, February

Winter weather on the OBX is generally cold, however, it is not uncommon for the Outer Banks to have 60-degree days full of sunshine in the middle of the winter. Nor’easters are also common during the winter months on the Outer Banks. These coastal storms that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days are known for their high winds, cloudy skies, and precipitation, most commonly rain. After the ocean is churned up by a winter nor’easter, shell seekers will be delighted to walk along the empty beaches to see what treasures washed up.

Daytime
Sun 57°

Cool

Evenings
Moon 40°

Cold

Ocean
Ocean 55°

Cold water

Spring

March, April, May

After a cold winter, spring is a much welcomed time on the Outer Banks. The days get longer and the sun has everyone eager for warm beach days ahead. Though the high temperatures in the spring are in the 60’s, the OBX still experiences unseasonably chilly days and nor’easters from time to time during the spring. Relaxing on the beach is definitely on the agenda during the spring, however, the ocean water is normally still cold, lingering in the low 60’s.

Daytime
Sun 68°

Mild and comfortable

Evenings
Moon 53°

Cool

Ocean
Ocean 62°

Cool water

Questions about Weather

What is the ocean temperature in the Outer Banks?

The ocean temperature varies throughout the year, with the warmest temperatures in mid-summer and early fall, and the coolest temperatures in the winter and spring.

What is there to do in the Outer Banks in winter?

While winter is not peak season on the Outer Banks, it’s a great time of year to explore each of the unique OBX towns. Traffic and crowds are minimal, making it a great time of year to visit your favorite gift shop or restaurant.

When is high tide in the Outer Banks?

Checking the tide is an important step in planning your day on the OBX. Whether you’re planning to surf, go fishing, set up your beach gear for the day, look for shells on the beach, or drive on the 4x4 beaches, you’ll want to check the tide to determine the best time of day for your activity.

What is there to do in the Outer Banks when it rains?

There is plenty to do on the OBX when it’s raining. We recommend visiting the aquarium, shopping at any of the unique Outer Banks shops, or simply staying at your vacation home and having a family game day or a movie marathon.

Things to do in the Outer Banks

Whether you’re dreaming of a trip to relax, adventure or a mixture of both, click on a category to get started and find a handful of memorable things to do in the Outer Banks.

OBX Food

Restaurants

The Outer Banks has an eclectic selection of restaurants, ranging from upscale coastal cuisine to neighborhood pizza joints. The majority of OBX restaurants are locally owned and operated, with just one location. Whether you’re craving a crabcake sandwich, or you’d rather have fried chicken, there’s an OBX restaurant to suit your taste.

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Shopping

Shopping

Get that special souvenir for your dog sitter or find a special keepsake for yourself at one of the many shops on the Outer Banks. From coastal decor to unique artwork, jewelry, t-shirts, and trinkets, shopping at the OBX’s locally owned shops is a must-do during your stay.

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Activities

Activities

Whether you’re a watersports enthusiast or a landlubber, there’s an OBX activity to fit your needs. Spend your afternoon browsing local art galleries. Hang glide on Jockey’s Ridge. Learn to surf. Book an unforgettable offshore fishing trip. Treat yourself to a massage at a local spa.

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Nightlife

Nightlife

There are nightlife options for all ages on the Outer Banks. Take the family out to a local ice cream shop for dessert. Play a round of miniature golf or race around a go-kart track. Grab a local brew and groove to live music. Head down to the beach to watch ghost crabs scurry along the shoreline.

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Rent the home, own the memory.

Experience the magic of the Outer Banks and take home the vacation memories of a lifetime. The beach is calling you.

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