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22 Mar 2023
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The Outer Banks is a great destination because there are so many different things to do. Whether you’re heading to the outer banks for the tourist attractions, traveling with your family, or spending your holiday on the OBX, there's something for everyone! But with so many options, you definitely don't want to miss out on the "greatest hits" of the Outer Banks. Keep reading below for the ultimate Outer Banks bucket list guide with everyone in one place where you'll find all the important things that we think you should add to your next Outer Banks vacation itinerary. 

OBX Bucket List Must-Dos

We've got to start off our list with some of the most importabt bucket list items for any trip to the Outer Banks. These are things that you have to do during your trip to the OBX, whether you're staying for a week, a month, or a couple of days. These are the essential stops for your vacation exploration that promise an unforgettable experience that has you and your family back coming back every year for more. And that's the beauty of this list! If you're not able to get everything done during your stay, you can always come back and visit us again for the chance to complete the rest of your bucket list.

Take the Ferry to Ocracoke Island 

When you come to the Outer Banks, many of our cities and beaches can be easily reached via car on the main island, from Corolla to Hatteras. But when you're looking for a little extra adventure, you definitely have to take the ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke! Simply drive your vehicle onto the ferry at the Hatteras terminal, take the 45-minute ride across the sound, and explore the beauty of this island. There's so much to do on Ocracoke, from visiting the lighthouse near Ocracoke Inlet to exploring the history of Blackbeard, the British Cemetery, and the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum. If you'd rather explore Ocracoke by foot, the Ocracoke Passenger Ferry is another great option for an unforgettable Outer Banks experience.

Climb Jockey's Ridge 

No trip to the Outer Banks is complete with a trip to Jockey's Ridge State Park. This amazing, unmistakable living sand dune sits 100 feet tall and extends more than 420 acres. It offers a vast array of wildlife, hiking trails, and opportunities of a lifetime such as the chance to take a hang gliding lesson with Kitty Hawk kites! Come enjoy a wide range of fun activities while enjoying one of the most recognizable features of the Outer Banks.

Take a Wild Horse Tour 

Another unique feature of the Outer Banks is the presence of the Corolla wild horses that you'll find wandering freely around the undeveloped area of Corova beach. These horses, often referred to as "Banker" mustangs, are believed to have made their way to the Outer Banks in the 15th and 16th century, tossed overboard from trading ships during a storm. While it is illegal to interact directly with or come within 50 feet of the horses, one of the best ways to experience these beautiful creatures is to take a Corolla Wild Horse Tour! Travel through the 4x4 area on an open-air safari truck where you'll be able to get a glimpe of these amazing creatures while enjoying the fresh ocean air and a fun exciting ride that ensures memories to last a lifetime.

Visit Cape Point 

If you look at a map of the Outer Banks, it's hard to miss that little bit of sand sticking out into the ocean, marking the point furthest east that you can reach on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This area is called Cape Point and is not only a beautiful beach, undeveloped and open like the rest of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but the mixing of currents off the shore makes this one of the best places for offshore fishing. A visit to this unique spot also offers beachcombing and spectacular views from a protected and untoched area of the world.

Check out a 4x4 Beach

One of the best things about visiting the Outer Banks is the ability to drive your Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) directly on the beach in many places. However, it’s important to keep in mind that driving on the sand is very different from driving on payment. There are many important things to know and prepare for before you decide to take your 4-Wheel Drive (4WD) vehicle off the road and onto the beach. We want your vacation experience to be the very best and so we at Seaside Vacations are here to help. Check out our Guide to Outer Banks Beach Driving for information about when and where you can take your 4WD vehicle off-road on the Outer Banks. This includes what kind of permits you need and where to find them as well as the rules, regulations, and additional tips for ensuring that your 4WD experience on the Outer Banks is fun and safe.

OBX Bucket List For the Kids

The Outer Banks is a great place for families! With plenty of kid-focused activities and educational opportunites for kids of all ages, this is the perfect place to come make transformative memories for everyone in your family. So this part of the bucket list is focused on the kids! Here are some of the essential things that you've got to do with the kids during your stay in the Outer Banks.

Roanoke Island Aquarium

Few educational places out there excite both kids and adults the way that aquariums do. The concept and design of aquariums has come a long way in the era of environmental preservation and for those that exist for the purpose of research, education and conservation, they can be a great resource to the local ecology. The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island celebrates the unique geography and diverse ecosystem of the Outer Banks and is a great place to spend the afternoon! There are so many wonderful exhibits and activities that guarantee a wonderful time for kids of all ages. In fact, USA Today recently named the aquarium #7 in the Top 10 Best Aquariums in North America! If you love the Outer Banks and learning about marine life, take a short drive to Manteo and experience this aquarium in Outer Banks, NC. Your kids will have memories that last for a lifetime.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

When you're looking for a fun way to get the kids outside while exploring the Outer Banks environment, the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge is a small but beautiful spot in Rodanthe that's great for hiking, fishing, and relaxing at the beach. The North Pond Wildlife Trail is less than a mile long and lets the kids burn off some steam while enjoying the chance to see waterfowl and other birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife native to the area. And if your kids do better with a little more structure, stop by the Visitor Center on Highway 12 for an updated schedule of weekly bird walks, sea turtle eductional activities, and more! And if you live within driving distance of the Outer Banks, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge also offers plenty of opportunities for volunteering and additional educational opportunities throughout the summer.

Jennette’s Pier 

Jennette's Pier is a 1000' concrete pier that was rebuilt in 2011 after being destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The NC Aquarium Society renovated the pier, turning it into a fun, family space with indoor aquarium displays and a blanket fishing license that offers everyone in your family the chance to fish directly from the pier! Bring your camera and get some amazing pictures of your kiddo's first catch. The pier has a beach shop that sells t-shirts, flip-flops, sunglasses, beach toys along with fishing gear, bait, ice and tackle. They also have fishing instruction, so if you've never fished before, this is a great chance for the whole family to learn a new hobby together!

OBX Bucket List For the Holidays

Visiting the Outer Banks is great any time of the year, but sometimes coming down for the holidays can be the best experience of all! With so many different things to do, it’s hard to keep it all in one place. But here’s our convenient Outer Banks Holiday Bucket List for you to take with you as you enjoy your Outer Banks holiday vacation! Whether you’re looking for an unforgettable Thanksgiving on the Outer Banks, the perfect Christmas present or those last-minute New Year’s Eve celebrations, you’ll find what you’re looking for on the Outer Banks! Be sure to stay up to date on holiday events taking place from November to January on the Outer Banks.

Tipsy Turkey Beer Mile

Head to the Outer Banks Brewing Station to celebrate the holiday and participate in their annual Tipsy Turkey Beer Mile! This 21+ event hosted by the OBX Running Company is all about fun. Runners compete in a run-drink-run-drink-run-drink style race in quarter mile intervals. At the conclusion of the race, there will be a backyard party at the Brewing Station. Walk-up registration is available up to 15 minutes before the race begins, but there are only 100 spots open so register early online to guarantee your participation!

Visit the Elizabethan Lights

Taking place the last weekend of November and all of December, the Annual Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens is the biggest light display on the Outer Banks! Kids and adults of all ages will love wandering through this enchanted winter wonderland of dazzling lights and holiday decorations. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for ages 6-17, and $8 for children 2 to 5. Infants under 2 get in free!  Dogs can come, too, for $5. Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the door. The final tickets of the night are sold at 8:15 PM and since this display is outside, it is subject to weather cancellations. Even if you’ve been in the past, this is a display that you should see year after year! Click here for more information.

Go Shopping at the Dowdy Park Holiday Farmer's Market

Locals rave about the incredible homemade goods and fresh produce from Dowdy Park's usual farmer's markets. The holiday markets held throughout November and December are an exceptional treat that will offer similar goods but with a wonderful holiday spin -- making them that much more special. These are some daily outings you don't want to miss! Click here for more information. 

Attend the Manteo Christmas Tree Lighting

Visit Manteo Waterfront for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting that takes place on the 1st Friday in December! This event is free and fun for the whole family. Enjoy beautiful lights, hot cocoa by the fire pit, and holiday music! You might even spot Santa! Click here for more information.

See the Manteo Christmas Parade

Join the Town of Manteo, North Carolina for the annual Christmas parade the 1st Saturday in December! Beginning at Manteo High School, the parade winds through the streets and ends at the old College of Albemarle site. Click here for more information.

Tour the Whalehead Club by Candlelight

The Historic Whalehead Mansion hosts a candlelight Christmas tour throughout the month of December, with the embodiment of Corolla style and entertainment, circa 1920. The mansion will be decorated similar to what one would have experienced had they celebrated Christmas with Mr. and Mrs. Collings Knight, when they built and occupied Whalehead. The tour will feature a new room exhibit and will include a live performance on the original Steinway piano in the home -- custom-designed for Mrs. Knight! Click here for more information. Admission is $20.00 per person and reservations are required.

Run the Outer Banks Jingle Jog

The OBX Running Company hosts an oceanside run through the town of Southern Shores in the month of December. There’s nothing like being out in the elements beside a beautiful winter beach to get you in the Outer Banks holiday spirit. You can choose to participate in the 10k Loop or Out & Back 5k. Your kids may even want to join in on the shivering strides through the Little Elf ¼ Mile or Jingle Jog 1 Mile. Pre-registration is required. There will be trophies for winning participants, event t-shirts and medals for all participants, photo opportunities with Santa, and refreshments. For pricing and registration, see the OBX Running Company's website.

Have Breakfast with Santa @ The Lifesaving Station

On Christmas Eve, head up to The Lifesaving Station in the Sanderling Resort for breakfast and photos with Santa! Enjoy a delicious breakfast, warm up with some hot chocolate, and enjoy an easy, breezy morning with St. Nick himself. Reservations are suggested, so be sure to book your table for memories your kiddos won't soon forget!

See the Colington Harbour Holiday Boat Parade

For a fun Christmas tradition, come out to Colington Harbour for the Holiday Boat Parade! The Colington Yacht Club hosts this annual parade of brightly decorated and festive boats as they circle the harbor for your viewing pleasure! At the dock, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies and a unique Christmas show on the water! Your applause will help pick the winner of the best-decorated boat! This date is tentative. Please check here for updates.

Celebrate the New Year at the Manteo New Year in the New World Celebration

Manteo is the best place for a brilliant fireworks display on New Year's Eve! The celebration begins at 6 PM with tons of fun activities and Iive music for the entire family. If you don't want to keep the kids out late, you won't have to -- they have a kid's countdown at 8 PM! In addition to fireworks and music, there will also be plenty of kids' games, activities, and vendors to keep you in the best spirits going into the New Year. Click here for more information. 

What to Know Before Traveling to the Outer Banks

Beautiful sunrises, warm sand, and exciting adventures await you once you arrive at your vacation rental on the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks is a unique place, home to many different types of people, wildlife, and weather. A trip to the Outer Banks comes with its own fun quirks and idiosyncrasies that make the Outer Banks a special place like no other. Check out our Guide to the Outer Banks for First Time Visitors and keep these things in mind before your trip. 

Not All Beaches Are the Same

Whether you're staying in Corolla or looking for an out-of-the-way beach on Hatteras Island, each beach on the Outer Banks is unique in its own way. The local towns on the Outer Banks strive to make beach accesses convenient and available to its residents and visitors. It isn’t uncommon to see a community path or walkway to the ocean that is available for public use and these are typically located in convenient places for foot access by semi-oceanfront and oceanside rentals. Check out our condensed list of beach accesses here.

Be Mindful of the Weather

Although known as a "summer " destination, the temperate Outer Banks weather makes it an enjoyable destination year-round. A combination of bright sunny days tempered by gentle ocean breezes, weather in the Outer Banks can’t be beat! Outer Banks, NC enjoys around 200 sunny days each year, with a year-round average hovering around 70°. Wind is an everyday occurrence on the Outer Banks and can range from gentle southwest breezes to strong northeast storm winds.

And don't forget about hurricane season. Hurricane season lasts from June 1st until November 30th each year. However, it’s important to be aware of storms that can also form before or after this traditional season. In the event of a voluntary or mandatory evacuation, there are two routes off the island: Hwy 148 and Hwy 64 West. Each of these routes is marked with blue hurricane signs. For more tips and information on hurricane preparedness and evacuation, please see our Outer Banks Hurricane Preparedness Guide. Under NC law, Seaside Vacations will not issue refunds in the event there is an evacuation due to a tropical system/hurricane. Please consider purchasing Travel Insurance.

Plan For Traffic

If this is your first time visiting the Outer Banks, it’s important to keep in mind that for a relatively small and rural area, the Outer Banks has a large amount of traffic, especially during Saturday and Sunday check-in days during the summer months and holidays. To ensure that your vacation travel remains a positive experience, it helps to have some tips and tricks to help you prepare for your trip onto the island. Check out our Outer Banks Traffic Guide.


So whether you're hoping to come for a short stay getaway or you're excited to introduce the kiddos to some important North Carolina history while recreating memories of your childhood beach vacation, we've got the perfect place for you to stay while you're in town. There really is no bad place to stay on the Outer Banks, so why not plan a yearly trip and maybe stay in a different town each time? You're sure to find your perfect spot.

Keep an eye on our specials and deals and book now before your dream Outer Banks beach house fills up for the summer. Give our wonderful Guest Services Team a call today at (866) 884-0267 or take a look at our available rentals to get started planning your next historic adventure to the Outer Banks. And don't forget about our layaway plan, which makes booking your dream vacation easier than ever. So don't wait. We're booking Outer Banks vacation rentals year round and we're excited to help you create memories to last a lifetime. We're here to help make your OBX vacation fun, exciting, and hassle-free. Give us a call today!

We'll see you at the beach.