Nature Enthusiast Outer Banks Trip Planner

Home to a varied collection of both plants and animals, there are a plethora of spots on the Outer Banks that are perfect for any nature enthusiast. If you don’t mind getting a little dirt under your fingertips then grab your binoculars and lace up your hiking boots because this trip planner is for you!

Read more to find a week-long itinerary perfect for anyone who wants to see and experience the of exotic and native plants and animals of theOuter Banks!


Located off the beach in Manns Harbor, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge includes more than 150,000 acres of wetland habitats and a wide variety ofwildlife ranging from wood ducks and alligators to black bears (yes bears) and red wolves. You can also find a wide array of plant speciesincluding: Atlantic white cedar, bald cypress, wildflowers and shrubs.

The refuge has great hiking and wildlife trails for visitors in addition to observation platforms, fishing areas and kayaking and canoeing routes.

Hours:Refuge is open daily during daylight hours.

Admission:Free admission! Guided canoe tours and free interpretive programs are available May – October.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
Milltail Road
Manns Harbor, NC 27953


Home to more than 360 species of birds, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is a 6,000-acre heaven for wildlife. From spring to autumn, a vast array ofwading, shore and upland birds can be seen. There are several observation platforms near the visitor center parking areas along with nature trails andblinds.

The refuge’s objectives are to provide a nesting, resting and wintering habitat for migratory birds including snow geese, migratory waterfowl, shorebirds,wading birds and raptors. In addition to bird watching, visitors can enjoy kayaking, beachcombing, surfing fishing and photography.

Hours:Open daily during daylight hours. Visitor center is open seasonally.

Admission:Free! Guided canoe tours are available for a small fee.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Milepost 32 on NC 12
Nags Head, NC 27959


During the third day of your Outer Banks vacation; we recommend that you head over to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. You can marvel at the largest collection of shares in the state, Interact with scuba divers in the 285,000-gallon "Graveyard of the Atlantic" tank, touch an alligator or feed the stingrays as you explore the “Waters of the Outer Banks,” 

Also, don’t miss out on the interactive Operation: Sea Turtle Rescue exhibit. The variety of exhibits promises to educate and entertain visitors.

Hours:Open 9am to 5pm daily and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Admission:Ages 13-61: $8 | Seniors: Ages 62+ $7 | Children: Ages 3-12: $6 | Ages 0-2: Free

North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island
374 Airport Road
Manteo, NC 27954


Built as a living memorial to Sir Walter Raleigh’s lost colonists, the Elizabethan Gardens are no brainer for this trip planner.

Spring-time tulips lead into an ever changing palette of year-round color from hydrangeas, native plants, perennials and camellias. You can venture on aself-guided tour of the gardens and enjoy colorful crepe myrtles in the Sunken Garden or enjoy the view from a sound-side, 16th-century style gazebo

Garden-inspired workshops throughout the year bring you face to face with masters of their craft, eager to share their skills. Be sure to stop by theirgarden shops to view a selection of plants available for purchase from their nursery.

Hours:Open year-round. Hours vary with season.

Admission:Adults: $8.00 | Youth (6 - 17): $5.00 | Children (5 and under): Free

Elizabethan Gardens
1411 National Park Drive
Manteo, NC 27954


The 1,400-acre maritime forest known as Nags Head Woods is a must visit for nature enthusiasts. Featuring more than five miles of self-guided hiking trailsranging in difficulty from easy to hard, Nags Head Woods features a diversity of plant and animal life that is unusual to find on a barrier island.

Towering oaks, hickories and beach trees line the preserve to create a canopy of trees that are typically found in the mountains of the eastern UnitedStates. In addition to the diverse plant-life, there have been over 100 species of birds that have been spotted in the woods and over 50 bird species nestthere. You can also see a variety of amphibians and reptiles on the hiking trails.

To safeguard the sensitive diversity and history of the Preserve, trails are for foot traffic only. Dogs, bicycles and horses are welcome on the gravelroadway, but not on the trails.

Nags Head Woods Preserve
701 West Ocean Acres Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948


A perfect activity for nature lovers and hikers, the Currituck Banks National Estuarine Preserve takes visitors into the marshy areas of Currituck County.Venture down the Reserve Access Trail and view various types of flora indigenous to the area. The preserve is also a great place for birdwatchers too!

Since this is protected land, there is no fishing or hunting allowed. It’s definitely worth the visit to see part of the Outer Banks in its natural beauty.

Currituck Banks National Estuarine Preserve
NC Route 12,
Corolla, NC 27927


Visitors to the 22,000-square-foot center located on the Currituck Sound will have the opportunity to learn about Currituck County’s rich natural history and heritage. Waterfowl hunting, decoy-making and fishing are all traditions connected to the region's ecology and are important elements in the center's design. 

The center houses an exhibit gallery, auditorium, museum store, large decoy collection and a 12,000-gallon aquarium. Also, be sure to inquire about theirdaily educational programs!

Hours:April – October: Mon. – Sat. 8am - 5 pm November – March: Mon. – Sat. 8 am - 5 pm

Admission:Free! Be sure to call ahead to sign-up for programs.

Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education
1160 Village Lane Heritage Park
Corolla NC 27927

Seaside Showcase

It all starts with a luxurious Seaside vacation home or condo in one of the world’s most beautiful beachside communities.