Where Should I Spend My Outer Banks Beach Vacation?

What is it that you want to do on your beach vacation? That is usually my answer when asked the question above. (I know, bad form.) You see, Outer Banks vacations have something for everyone.

Maybe you like off-roading. No problem, the Carova area would be perfect for you. You basically drive on the beach the entire time. No roads to be bothered with. Maybe you like the idea of having an actual road that your Outer Banks rental sits on, but you would like to drive on the beach. The beach vacation area around Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo (where one of our Outer Banks rentals is located) would be perfect for you. This area is also great for the water sports enthusiast; you know, the surfers, wind-surfers and kite-surfers.

So, let me start from the top and give you an overview of the Outer Banks. Refer to the map to get your bearings. The Outer Banks stretch across the North Carolina counties of Currituck, Dare, and Hyde.

I’ve already mentioned Carova, which is north of Corolla. The next group of towns to consider is Corolla, Duck and Southern Shores. Duck is where our original beach vacation property is located and the town where we most often vacation. If you are arriving by Route 158, you will need to go north on Route 12. All three are generally thought of as “upscale”. The three beach vacation towns are primarily comprised of Outer Banks house rentals. In addition, there are stores and shopping of every kind, from clothing to fishing equipment to water sports, like wave runner rental locations, all here to maximize your beach vacation. Route 12 cuts this part of the island in half, with one side referred to as “sound side” and the other referred to as “ocean side”. Generally speaking, except for some developments in Corolla, if you are on “ocean side” you are basically on the beach block with private access to the beach.

The next set of towns, which are south of the Route 158 entry bridge, but north of Roanoke Island or Oregon’s Inlet (depending on which direction you go at the Route 158/Route 64 split in Nags Head) are some of the original towns when people thought of Outer Banks beach vacations. The three towns in this area are Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head. These towns are generally split into three areas going from east to west due to Route 12 (or the Beach Road) and Route 158 running north and south. Ocean side would be east of Route 12 and the beach; “between the roads” would be the Outer Banks' rentals between Route 12 to the east and Route 158 to the west, and finally, sound side would be the rental properties west of Route 158. In addition to rentals, you will also find year round residents living here. Such historic sites as the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Jockey Ridge, the world’s largest sand dune, can be found here. In addition, restaurants, miniature golf, shopping and all other vacation necessities are plentiful in this area.

At the Route 158/Route 64 junction in southern Nags Head, you have a choice to make as to which direction you want to go. Continuing on Route 158 towards Route 64 will lead you to Roanoke Island and the town of Manteo. For those of you familiar with the New Jersey shore, Manteo is like the Cape May of the Outer Banks. A quaint little town with many historic and entertainment sites, like the Elizabethan Gardens and the Lost Colony.

If you were to take Route 12 at the Nags Head split, this will take you to the southern Outer Banks. You are now in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which was the first national seashore established in the United States and encompasses 24,470 acres, including the Pea Island National Wildlife Reserve, Bodie Lighthouse, and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, to name a few sites. It extends from the Route 12/Route 64 junction in Nags Head all the way to just north of Ocracoke. It includes the towns of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo, sometime referred to as the tri-cities, although city is stretching it, as well as Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras. If you are looking for solitude, peace and quiet, this is the place for you. It is also home to some of the best surfing to be found anywhere. The banner head on my site shows the “traffic” on the Salvo beach by our beach vacation home in July at noon … think you can find a spot on the beach? Similar to the Corolla/Duck/Southern Shores area, you are basically either ocean side, meaning on the beach block, or sound side in these areas. If you prefer camping to staying in a house, there are several camping and RV locations in this area.

Finally, rounding out the towns of the Outer Banks is Ocracoke, which requires a ferry ride to get there. Believe me, it is worth the ride as the Ocracoke beaches have been recognized as one of the top beaches in the country by several travel guides.

Average Air and Water Temperature
Air Water
January 54 39 49
February 55 39 46
March 60 45 52
April 68 52 58-60
May 75 60 68
June 82 68 72-75
July 85 73 76-79
August 85 72 80
September 81 69 75-78
October 73 59 68-72
November 65 50 58
December 57 43 55

So that’s the “where” the beach vacations are to be found. Refer to the above chart to get an idea what you should expect as far as air and water temperature during your stay. Here’s a link to various videos of the Outer Banks. Still pictures tell a story, but these videos will help you experience OBX.

Want to start looking for a place to stay? Here is some help with rental houses or hotel accomodations. Here is information on camp sites if that is where you would rather stay. If you've already selected where you are staying, here's some help on what to pack.

If you are looking for more great things to do in North Carolina, check out the North Carolina Travel Guide. It is your all in one guide to beautiful, friendly North Carolina.

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