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6 Sep 2023
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Community Benefits

The Outer Banks is truly an amazing place with wide stretches of beach, multiple environmental preserves, and hundreds of years of history brought to life every day by the locals and visitors who call this unique strip of land home. It's important to protect the beaches and wildlife during your vacation by vacationing sustainably and cleaning up the beach. But do you ever find yourself wanting a little bit more? Are you looking for ways to give back to the Outer Banks community during your stay? Enter "voluntourism." This unique addition to your next Outer Banks vacation will give you the chance to get involved with one of our 100+ local non-profits while also learning more about the history and culture of this beautiful place that many people call home. Keep reading for more information about "voluntourism" and how you can get involved with local charities and non-profits during your next Outer Banks vacation.

What is Voluntourism?

As you've probably already guessed, the word itself "voluntourism" is the combination of the words "volunteer" and "tourism." This travel trend emerged from the ecotourism movements in the 1990s and gives vacationers the chance to combine altruism with relaxation. What this means is that vacationers focus part or all of their travel on participating in voluntary work, usually as part of a charity or non-profit organization. In coastal areas like this Outer Banks, this often looks like helping with beach cleanups, volunteering after storms or hurricanes, helping out at local events, or attending community events that double as fundraisers for local causes. 

Why Should I Consider Volunteering During My OBX Vacation?

While many people come to the Outer Banks to relax and get away from the weariness of the outside world, spending at least part of your next Outer Banks vacation volunteering locally can be a very positive experience that helps your family make even more memories while also making a difference in the community.

Learn About the Local Culture

There is something spectacular about all the local history that you'll find here on the Outer Banks. From pirates to first in flight to the first English child born on American soil, you'll never run out of things to learn about during your stay. An even better way to learn is to actually be a part of the action and you can do that through volunteer efforts and spending time in the places where these things actually happened. Look for ways that you can help preserve the many lighthouses or volunteer at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island or the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. This way, you'll be able to give back to the efforts of historical preservation while also learning a little bit more about the place where you're spending your vacation!

Support the Local Community

Even though the Outer Banks is one of the country's premiere tourist destinations, there are approximately 35,000 people living here year-round. These are the folks serving you food, working in the urgent care, checking you at the grocery store, and protecting you while you swim in the ocean. This welcoming, tight-knit community is made up of people who love the Outer Banks as much as you do. Connect with locals who always love to share a good story while making an impact on the needs in the Outer Banks community. From food banks to veterans organizations, there are lots of ways to engage with the community in an meaningful way during your stay.

Contribute to Environmental Preservation

Chances are, if you're coming to the Outer Banks, you're going to want to spend some time at the beach. Adding a couple of hours of volunteering to your vacation not only gives you the chance to help preserve the unique, natural beauty of the Outer Banks landscape, but you'll also have the opportunity to engage with these breathtaking areas on a deeper level. Experience a different side of the beach or wildlife preserve while you help keep the area clean and welcoming for local wildlife.

How Can I Volunteer on the Outer Banks?

There are lots of great ways to volunteer during your next vacation and give back to the community while still enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of the beach! And don't forget, just by staying with us you're making a difference! Through our Seaside Cares program and partnering with the Outer Banks Beach Food Pantry, we are working to reduce hunger in our community. We include donation bags with each welcome bag we give to our guests, all year long. These bags are labeled to encourage guests to donate leftover unopened, non-perishable food to our local food bank. In 2021 we donated over 1,300 lbs of food from this initiative alone - and we are not slowing down!

Chicamacomico Historic Site

From cutting grass to glass glazing, house cleaning to hospitality, and historical interpretation to preservation, the Chicamacomico Historic Site thrives on volunteer support. Call (252) 987-1552 to discuss availability. 

The Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society

Love birds? Simply want to enjoy the brilliant spectacle of the Purple Martins flaying around the Old Manns Harbor Bridge? Attend one of their evening "Roost Talks" and find out how you can make a difference in the preservation of these unique birds.

Dare Arts on the Outer Banks

Dare Arts is a volunteer-driven organization. Through the efforts of residents and visitors alike, they are able to offer arts programming and exhibits. Whether you're looking to give an hour or a few hours during your stay, there are lots of opportunities to help!

Dare County Parks & Recreation

Looking to give back to the youth on the Outer Banks? Check out Dare County Parks & Recreation and see what sorts of volunteer opportunities may be available during your stay.

Elizabethan Gardens

Maybe you want to expand your gardening skills while you're here or help keep an Outer Banks icon looking beautiful. Either way, The Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo always welcomes volunteers of all skill levels to help keep this beautiful outdoor attraction thriving. This one makes an amazing family activity that gets you outside and having fun!

Friends of Jockey's Ridge

Volunteer with Friends of Jockey's Ridge at an upcoming event during your stay! Events include beach clean-ups, Earth Day celebrations, Dune Day, and more! This is a great way to get outside and support a great cause.

Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation

Have you thought about getting more involved with a non-profit? The Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation is always looking for volunteers to help out during our various fundraising events. Whether its collecting tickets at the door for our Spring Dance, making a dessert for our BBQ Benefit, cheering on runners during our 5K, setting up or breaking down an event, they would greatly appreciate your assistance.

Hatteras Island Meals

Hatteras Island Meals provides nutritious meals for elderly and homebound clients on Hatteras Island. They are an all-volunteer organization always looking for folks to help with a variety of different things!

NC Aquarium on Ronaoke Island

Share your knowledge of marine life by volunteering at the Aquarium, while learning from education and husbandry professionals. Whether you would like to learn about local wildlife, improve your diving skills, or simply contribute to your community, our volunteer program has something for you! Before completing the Volunteer Application, please review the available volunteer positions.

OBX Room in the Inn

Visiting during the winter months? Consider volunteering with OBX Room in the Inn, a local non-profit whose goal is to provide hospitality, food, and shelter to homeless adults in the Outer Banks during the winter months.


Are animals more your thing? Consider volunteering at the SPCA where you can come and play with our animals, take them on a walk, give them a bath or read at our reading corner. Want to discover Outer Banks too? Ask about our special Foster for a Day (Voluntourism edition) where you take a dog for a day ride and visit all the dog friendly places using our Treasure Map, which includes parks, beaches, secret paths, friendly restaurants and many more. Our pups will love it! To volunteer visit us between 9-5pm, Monday-Friday (1-2pm closed). Ask about Saturday/Sunday appointments availability. Call for more details (252) 475-5620.

Outer Banks Sporting Events

Enjoy fitness? Outer Banks Sporting Events hosts many different athletic events throughout the year, all of which rely on volunteers! Check our their website to find out more about ways that you can help.

Tips for Planning Your Voluntourism Vacation

Research Organizations

Get an idea of what sort of non-profit organization you would like to work with during your stay. Depending on which causes are near to your heart, there are lots of options to choose from. Be sure to look at volunteer requirements including age and length of service to determine which organizations are the best fit for your volunteer vacation.

Plan Head

Many organizations require applications before participating, so once you've decided when you'll be visiting and what organization you want to work with, reach out as soon as possible. Plan to solidify your visit well in advance so that the organization has enough time to process your application and arrange for your addition to the team.

Combine Volunteering and Relaxation

Make the most out of your trip to the Outer Banks by creating a balance itinerary that includes both volunteering and relaxation here on the Outer Banks. Factor in time to play at the beach, go out to eat, and explore all the beautiful scenery and history that makes this area so unique. This way you can make a difference while also enjoying a vacation getaway.

Book Your Next Volunteer Vacation Today!

Voluntourism is a wonderful way to combine your love of the Outer Banks with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. By giving back to the community and the environment, you'll feel like a part of the OBX. Take back memories that your whole family will treasure for years and celebrate everything that makes the Outer Banks special through a volunteer vacation.

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! Be sure to provide accurate information and make any necessary payments. 

Explore our website and give us a call to help kick-start your unforgettable Outer Banks vacation today.  Be sure to follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTubePinterest, and TikTok to stay up to date on all of our specials, new & featured homes, and tips & tricks for making the most of your next Outer Banks vacation.

We’ll see you at the beach.

About the Author: Lauren is an Outer Banks local, mom, trained historian, and travel enthusiast. When she isn’t writing for the Seaside Vacations Travel Blog, Lauren can usually be found with her nose in a book or cuddling with her cats.