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12 Apr 2023
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Travel Tips

Sometimes, it's nice to get away to the Outer Banks for a short, weekend stay exploring some of the best that the beach has to offer. Check out this 3-Day Short Stay Itinerary with all sorts of activities that will give you the chance to see some of the unique and beautiful wildlife and essential attractions on the Outer Banks. Explore wildlife refuges, sand dunes, and bird sanctuaries for three days or simply pick your favorite for a fun and easy Outer Banks day trip! Come into town Thursday evening for a peaceful, restful night and let the fun begin on Friday!

3-Day Outer Banks Itinerary

Day 1: Hatteras Island & Manteo

  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  • NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island
  • Lunch in Downtown Manteo
  • Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Day 2: Kill Devil Hills & Nags Head

  • Wright Brothers National Memorial
  • Jockey's Ridge State Park 
  • Outer Banks Fishing Pier
  • Dinner at Fishheads

Day 3: Corolla & Duck

  • Historic Corolla & Currituck Beach Lighthouse
  • Corolla Wild Horse Tour
  • Explore Duck

Day 1: Hatteras Island & Manteo

Breakfast - Wake up early and enjoy coffee and breakfast from your Outer Banks vacation rental! Watch the sunrise over the ocean or listen to the sound of the waves as you greet the day.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore - If you're looking for a more remote, untouched beach experience, you will love starting your day at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This section of the coastline is America's first nationally designated shoreline and is the perfect place to splash in the early morning waves, go beachcombing after a storm, or simply enjoy the relaxing sights and sounds of the ocean. No trip to the Outer Banks is complete with a stop by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Take a look at the Bodie Island Lighthouse or the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse while you're down here!

NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island - And when you're done with the beach, why not drive on over to the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island for an exciting morning of wildlife exploration? Spend some time outside looking at the sound or embracing your inner child in the Fossil Pit. Head inside when you’re ready and read about the cultural history of the Outer Banks as connected to wildlife and the wetlands before visiting the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center and watch a video about the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Have some fun at the Touch Tank and explore the unbelievable history of the U.S.S. Monitor before taking a breather and relaxing in front of the massive tank with sharks and other fish.

Downtown Manteo - Enjoy a quiet lunch in downtown Manteo at one of the wonderful restaurants. Stop by Poor Richard’s Sandwich Shop or the Lost Colony Tavern for a delicious taste of fresh, local seafood and some wonderful Outer Banks favorites like The Virginia Dare Burger or the English Breakfast Burger! 

Shopping - Spend the afternoon exploring the Manteo Waterfront! Stop by one of the shops or make your way over to the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse where you can explore the beautiful wetlands and marshes. Enjoy the fresh air on the waterfront and enjoy a relaxing stroll while you take in the bustling downtown!

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site - Add some mystery to your short-stay vacation with a trip to Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Come walk in the footsteps of the Indgenous Americans who lived here before and the English settlers who attempted (several times) to colonize the area. Enjoy multiple walking trails through historic locations with placards full of information to bring what you're seeing into context. Be sure to find the monument dedicated to the Freedman's Colony that was located here, as well, and commemorate this relatively unknown stop on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom! Check out the Visitor's Center for fun educational activities and lots of games and exhibits that the kids will love. Take a picture of the historic Waterside Theatre and if you're here during the summer, stay for a showing of The Lost Colony!

Dinner of Choice - Enjoy dinner at one of the great local restaurants in Manteo or Nags Head on the way back to your vacation rental! There are plenty of amazing seafood options to choose from. Then get rested up for another day of adventures tomorrow!

Day 2: Kill Devil Hills & Nags Head

Breakfast - Let yourself sleep in a little bit this morning or head out to one of our local restaurants and enjoy a delicious breakfast at an OBX local favorite like Lighthouse Bagels or Sam & Omie's.

Wright Brothers National Memorial - Whether this is your first time to the Outer Banks or your 50th, you've got to make sure you get to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Come celebrate more than a century of flight with several miles of walking trails and brilliant views of the surrounding area. Take a tour of several carefully curated exhibits and experience first-hand the winds that helped propel the Wright Brothers into history!

Hang Gliding at Jockey's Ridge State Park - When you're ready for an adventure, make your way down to Jockey's Ridge State Park! Explore the hiking trails in the dunes and near the soundside where you'll be able to see many different types of birds, reptiles, and amphibians and if you're lucky, maybe even a deer or a fox. Book a hang gliding lesson with Kitty Hawk Kites for the experience of a lifetime soaring over the dunes. Bring a picnic lunch with you to the park and enjoy a relaxing mid-day meal of sunshine and the sounds of wildlife around you!

Let's Go Fishing - Spend the afternoon at the Outer Banks Fishing Pier where you can enjoy some license-free fishing from the pier as well as a fully-stocked tackle shop for all your fishing needs! Experience the thrill of being an Outer Banker and see what you can catch. This historic pier has been an important part of fishing on the Outer Banks for over 50 years!

Dinner at the Pier - And when you're ready for dinner, you don't even have to leave the pier! Head on over to Fishheads Bar & Grill! Enjoy locally-sourced seafood and a wide selection of craft beers while you enjoy a delicious dinner and fun afternoon of music with a view of the water.

Day 3: Corolla & Duck

Breakfast - Time to enjoy the last morning of oceanside sunrises and coffee with a side of ocean breezes! Check-out time is 9:00 AM (unless you purchased late check-out), so be sure to look around and make sure you aren’t forgetting anything. Finish up the pre-departure checklist and get ready to head out. But don’t fret! There’s still plenty of time in the day to enjoy a few last-minute animal adventures before heading back home!

Historic Corolla & Currituck Lighthouse - Enjoy an early morning excursion in Corolla in Historic Corolla Park! Visit the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, a gorgeous brick structure unlike anything else you've seen before. Walk around the Whalehead Club for a bit and take in the beauty of the sound while enjoying the exquisite architecture of the Whalehead Club itself. If you've got time, take a tour and immerse yourself in what life would have been like in the 1920s!

Corolla Wild Horse Tour - While you’re here, head a few miles north and be sure to get a glimpse of the famous Corolla Wild Horses by taking a Corolla Wild Horse Tour! These tours run about 2 hours and give you the opportunity to explore the 4x4 in an open-air jeep. Listen to the sound of the ocean waves and search for the descendants of the Spanish Mustangs that call these wild beaches home!

Explore Duck - Grab some lunch at one of the fantastic restaurants in Corolla or Duck before heading home. Enjoy that last little bit of fresh, local seafood at Uncle Ike’s Sandbar & Grill in Corolla or the Red Sky Cafe in Duck! Enjoy a fun-filled afternoon strolling the Duck Town Park & Boardwalk where you'll find plenty of things to do to keep everyone in the family entertained. Stay through the evening for an amazing sunset on the sound and relish in the beauty of the Outer Banks before heading back home!

Book your next stay now!

But remember, it’s never too early to start thinking about your next trip! So be sure to look at our available rentals and book your next weekend retreat or weeklong stay. Why spend time wishing you were at the beach when you can go ahead and start planning your next Outer Banks vacation? Book your next hassle-free Outer Banks vacation today and we’ll see you at the beach!

About the Author: Lauren is a mom, author, and travel enthusiast. She grew up on the Outer Banks and only left for a few years to get her degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and complete a tour in the Coast Guard before making her way back to the beach in 2017. When she isn’t writing for the Seaside Vacations Travel Blog, Lauren can usually be found with a book and cup of tea in hand, planning her next travel adventure.