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20 Jul 2023
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Environment & Nature

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and idyllic coastal landscapes. From pristine beaches to historic lighthouses, the Outer Banks offers an abundance of stunning sights and experience that will leave you breathless. Among the many wonders this coastal paradise has to offer, the experiences that stand out are those when you watch the brilliant sunrise over the ocean and the glistening sunset on the sound. With each new dawn, the sun gently kisses the sand with its rays, starting your day off with a peaceful welcome. And as the sun dips below the horizon, casting vibrant hues across the sky, the Outer Banks becomes a haven for those seeking a moment of tranquility and natural splendor. Come with us as we guide you through some of the best spots to watch both the sunrise and the sunset on the Outer Banks, ensuring an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of nature's majesty.

Sunrise & Sunset: Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Starting off strong, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches more than 70 miles along the Outer Banks and offers a multitude of pristine beaches perfect for sunset watching. Head to the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in North America, and witness the interplay of light and shadow as the sun paints the sky with an array of colors as the sun sets after an eventful day exploring the Outer Banks.

Alternatively, find a secluded spot on one of the many tranquil beaches and enjoy the peaceful serenity in the early morning on the oceanside or the quiet calm of the evening on the soundside. Places like Cape Point and Canadian Hole are perfect for watching both the sunrise and the sunset because they give you a prime spot to see the sun cast its final light of the day across the sound while the fresh ocean breeze sprinkles the air with salt nearby. You'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere in the world that boasts a sunrise or sunset like those you'll find on Hatteras Island, which is why we recommend trying to catch both if you can. This untouched, protected region of the coast preserves nature unlike anywhere else you've seen before.

Sunrise & Sunset: Jockey's Ridge State Park

Located in Nags Head, Jockey's Ridge State Park boasts the tallest living sand dune system in the eastern United States. If you make it to this state park for the sunrise, you'll truly feel like you've landed on another planet. The glowing blue and orange of the sky constrasts with the warm sand, transporting you to the quiet place of a world before development as you greet the day.

As the sun sets, the shifting sands take on an ethereal glow, creating a surreal setting for sunset enthusiasts. Climb to the top of the dunes and witness the sun's descent amidst a panoramic view of the Pamlico Sound and the surrounding coastal landscape. The combination of the vibrant sky, rolling dunes, and the sensation of the ocean breeze makes for a truly magical experience.

Sunrise: Corolla/Carova 4WD Area

A sunrise over the ocean is certainly an amazing thing to witness and what better way to start your day than directly on the sand in Corolla? Check out our guide for driving on the beach before you go, but if you have a vehicle with 4WD, air down your tires and head north for an unforgettable sunrise experience. Leave the paved roads behind get straight onto the sand. Enjoy the remote nature of the 4x4 area, as it's often referred to, and greet the day with all the peace and quiet of a region untouched by man. If you're lucky, you may even get the chance to see a few of the Corolla Wild Horses also watching the sun. Just be sure to keep your distance and let them enjoy the safety of this remote beach. 

Sunrise: Outer Banks Fishing Pier

If you're looking for the perfect spot to not only start the day with the sun, but have a little extra fun while you're at it, there's no better place to watch the sunrise over the ocean than the Outer Banks Fishing Pier. The pier, which is lighted and open 24 hours a day, is the ideal place for witnessing the unbelievable colors that the sky and the ocean turn as the sun rises. Have your reels ready and catch a few fish before dawn or simply bask in the cool sea breeze and let all the peace in the world consume you. Stay for lunch and grab something delicious at Fish Head Bar & Grill or come back in the evening for live music and brews. 

Sunrise: Pea Island Wildlife Refuge

Make your way a little further south, and you'll be able to enjoy a spectacular sunrise and cool, breezy morning at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. This isolated refuge boasts more than 5,000 acres of preserve where you can explore multiple wildlife habitats including salt marsh, scrub-shrub, freshwater, and beach. It's a wonderful place for birdwatching while also offering the perfect place to park your car and enjoy the quiet, early morning beginning of a new day on the Outer Banks.

Sunset: Bodie Island Lighthouse

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse isn't the only picture-perfect spot for an Outer Banks afternoon. Another magnificent spot to watch the sunset is the Bodie Island Lighthouse in South Nags Head. As the golden hour approaches, the historic lighthouse, standing tall against the backdrop of the vibrant sky, presents a captivating sight. Explore the nearby boardwalk and nature trails, immersing yourself in the coastal flora and fauna, and make your way to the lighthouse to witness the sun's dramatic descent over the Pamlico Sound. Be sure to check out to see when the next Full Moon Climb is available! Pair the perfect sunset with the brilliant scene of an Outer Banks full moon over the sound and you'll have memories to last a lifetime.

Sunset: Ocracoke Island

For a more secluded sunset experience, venture to Ocracoke Island, accessible by ferry from Hatteras Island. This remote and picturesque island offers a slower pace of life and unspoiled natural beauty. Head to Ocracoke Village and make your way to Springer's Point Nature Preserve, a serene coastal sanctuary where you can bask in the glory of the setting sun. The combination of the peaceful surroundings, expansive views, and the sound of nature creates an intimate sunset experience. Be on the lookout for Blackbeard's Ghost or the Flaming Ship of Ocracoke if you're looking for something a little more adventurous to do at sunset!

Sunset: Roanoke Island

Roanoke Island, rich in history and charm, is another hidden gem for those searching for the Instagram-perfect sunset. Take a stroll along the Roanoke Marshes Light boardwalk on the Downtown Manteo waterfront and watch as the sun casts its warm glow across the Roanoke Sound. This waterfront vantage point provides a captivating view of the sun sinking into the horizon, illuminating the tranquil waters and the nearby sailboats. Stay a while and embrace the tranquility that envelops this beautiful island as you wait for the next showing of the Lost Colony or grab a delicious bite to eat downtown. However you choose to spend your evening in Downtown Manteo, it's sure to be memorable and seeped in all the historic beauty of this region. Be sure to check out a Historic Manteo Walking Tour for an even more in-depth look at the rich and expansive history of this tiny little island.

Sunset: Duck

Duck's location on the sound provides a unique perspective for sunset viewing. As the sun descends towards the horizon, the tranquil waters of the sound become a canvas for the sky's vibrant colors. The combination of the setting sun, the reflective surface of the sound, and the surrounding natural beauty creates a kaleidoscope of hues that are simply awe-inspiring.  After enjoying the sunset, continue your elegant Outer Banks evening by indulging in a waterfront dining experience on the Downtown Duck Boardwalk. Several restaurants and eateries in the area offer scenic outdoor seating overlooking the sound. This allows you to savor a delicious meal while still being captivated by the lingering beauty of the sunset and the soothing sounds of the water.

Book Your Next Magical OBX Vacation Today!

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a veritable paradise for both sunrise & sunset lovers, offering a myriad of stunning locations to savor the fading evening light after a full day of exploring all the beauty and wonder that comes with this stretch of barrier islands or starting the day with the quiet beauty of the sun. Whether you choose to climb the towering dunes of Jockey's Ridge State Park, visit the iconic lighthouses at Cape Hatteras or Bodie Island, escape to the secluded beauty of Ocracoke Island, or indulge in the waterfront views on Roanoke Island, each spot offers a unique experience and an opportunity to witness nature's daily masterpiece. So, pack your camera, bring a blanket, and prepare to be captivated by the awe-inspiring sunsets that grace the Outer Banks each and every day of the year.

Check out some of our available Outer Banks vacation rentals for families of all sizes. 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!

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Pack your bags, leave your worries behind, and escape to the Outer Banks—a place where relaxation is not just a luxury but a way of life.

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.