Outer Banks Day Trips – Worth the Drive in 2018

 In Activities, Corolla, OBX, Things To Do In The OBX

The Outer Banks is about more than just the sun, sand and surf. There’s so much to see and do on the Outer Banks that you’ll want to set time aside on your vacation to explore it all. Besides, there’s bound to come a day in every vacation that you need a break from all that fun in the sun. That’s the perfect time to pack up the car and hit the road to experience some of the remarkable places that help to make the Outer Banks the greatest vacation destination on the East Coast. From lighthouses and aquariums to beautiful gardens and wilderness – you don’t want to miss any of it. Whether you make an Outer Banks day trip out of it, or just take to the road for an afternoon of exploring, be sure to check out these beautiful landmarks on your journey. You’re sure to find that they are definitely worth the drive.

Outer Banks Day Trips or Afternoon Explorations

Wright Brothers National Memorial 

More than 100 years ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright proved to the world that man could fly. And they did it right here on the Outer Banks with the first successful airplane flights on Dec. 17, 1903. Enormous sand dunes, steady winds and wide open spaces drew the Ohio brothers to our shores. To commemorate their achievement, this massive monument in Kill Devil Hills marks the exact location where the brothers made history. It’s an experience the whole family will enjoy. Note: Until late summer/early fall of 2018, the Visitor Center will be closed, however, the grounds and outdoor exhibits are open. Information and bookstore services are available in the temporary facility near the parking lot, as well as some smaller exhibits. 1401 National Park Drive, Kill Devil Hills • nps.gov/wrbr

National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitor Center

Located on beautiful Roanoke Island, visitors can learn about the 11 national wildlife refuges and one national fish hatchery located on the Outer Banks and eastern North Carolina. Interactive exhibits, walking trails and a virtual airplane are all part of the experience. Visitors will love stopping by the old Dare Forest Supply Store, learn the history of Buffalo City and more as you watch short films in the center’s theater. Be sure to check out the pocosin diorama and red wolf den while you are there. The center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. 100 Conservation Way, Manteo • fws.gov/ncgatewayvc

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

A visit to the Outer Banks isn’t complete without a trip to Jockey’s Ridge, the tallest active sand dune in the eaatern United States. Slip off your shoes when the sun starts dipping into the Roanoke Sound and treat yourself to amazing views of the ocean and sound from the top. Participate in an interpretive ranger-led program, try your hand at wind sports such as hang gliding or just simply take in the views while you fly a kite. Jockey’s Ridge is an experience any time of day you visit. Let the children explore the dunes by running and sliding down the steeper slopes, and then hike along the sound side beach. Remember to stop by the visitors’ center to learn more about these amazing dunes and the animals that call them home. 300 W. Carolista Dr., Nags Head • jockeysridgestatepark.com

Roanoke Island Festival Park

There is so much to explore on this 25-acre interactive historic site adjacent to downtown Manteo that you will want to give yourself plenty of time. Home to the Elizabeth II, a 16th-century representative ship, visitors can spend time on deck with the crew and practice their hand at some of the daily chores that took place way back when. The park also features the Algonquian Indian Town, English Settlement Site and Roanoke Island Adventure Museum. Both the young and old will delight in the interactive components of the park and the costumed interpreters. A variety of performances are also held throughout the year at the Outdoor Pavilion, including concerts such as the Island Bluegrass Festival. 1 Festival Park, Manteo • roanokeisland.com

The Lost Colony

Step back in time at the Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island as you enjoy The Lost Colony, America’s longest running outdoor drama about the first English colony and its mysterious disappearance. A tradition for both locals and visitors alike, guests will experience exciting battles, Indian dances, the royal court, and the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World. More than 200 actors, technicians and designers have come together each summer since 1937 to put together this popular production. A must see while you are on the Outer Banks, The Lost Colony was written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Green. 1409 National Park Dr., Manteo •  thelostcolony.org

Elizabethan Gardens

Get lost in the beautifully landscaped Elizabethan Gardens, located on the site of the first English settlement on Roanoke Island. During the summer, stroll along paths that feature blooming hydrangeas, crepe myrtles, coneflowers and other native plants. New this year is a butterfly garden, and there are always activities and events in these gardens for those who want to experience more. Beautiful statues and historic treasures are dispersed throughout the gardens. The Elizabethan Gardens are a must-see for gardening lovers and history enthusiasts. 1411 National Park Dr., Manteo • elizabethangardens.org

Oregon Inlet Fishing Center

Whether you want to experience the joy of catching your own dinner or you are a seasoned angler, the experts at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center will guide you – providing you with the gear and instruction for a great fishing trip. There’s something for everyone at the fishing center, which offers everything from offshore fishing charters to half-day excursions in the sound. Even if you don’t fish, you’ll definitely want to stop by the fishing center in the late afternoon to see them bringing in the day’s catch. A trip to the Outer Banks isn’t complete without a stop by this iconic fishing center. 8770 Oregon Inlet Rd., Nags Head • oregon-inlet.com

Lighthouses of the Outer Banks

Make it a point to either visit one or all five iconic beacons of the Outer Banks, which are steeped in maritime history and draw people from far and wide. While all are worth the trip, if you want to climb and see the spectacular views from the top, visit Hatteras Island, Bodie Island and Currituck Beach lighthouses. These three beacons also offer interpretive programs and exhibits for the public. Keep in mind that climbs, which involve more than 200 steps in each lighthouse, can be very strenuous for some visitors. Bodie Island Lighthouse  |  Currituck Beach Lighthouse  |  Cape Hatteras Lighthouse  |  Ocracoke Lighthouse  |  Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Spend the day among the shorebirds at this refuge located just south of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. More than 365 species of birds – including ospreys, snowy egrets and tundra swans – visit the refuge that includes 10 miles of beautiful, untouched beaches. Stop in the visitor’s center on N.C. 12 to learn more about interpretive programs, environmental education, fishing, boating and wildlife observation opportunities. Take a hike or go beachcombing on this beautiful refuge that is away from the hustle and bustle of the beach towns. Kayak eco-tours also provide a great way to see many species of avian life from the water. In the fall, the refuge is also host to many Wings Over Water Festival programs. Pea Island Visitor’s Center, NC 12, Hatteras Island • fws.gov/refuge/pea_island 

Outer banks day trip

Ocracoke Island

Discover Ocracoke Island while visiting the Outer Banks. Take the free Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry and enjoy, or check out the new Ocracoke Express passenger ferry (round trip from the Hatteras Island ferry terminal to Silver Lake is $15). You’ll love the island’s wide-open, undeveloped beaches and charming village. Enjoy life on this island that is alive with art, local music, and community events like the popular Ocrafolk Festival. The island also offers plenty of opportunities for unrivaled solitude. Visitors can easily get around this quaint island on bike. Stay for the day or the week. For ferry schedules, visit www.ncdot.gov/ferry Ocracoke Island •  ocracokevillage.com

day trip outer banks

North Carolina Aquarium

Explore the world under the sea at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. Home to the largest collection of sharks in the state, the aquarium features the Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit and the interactive sea turtle rehabilitation center. There are plenty of new exhibits this year. Visitors of all ages will love wandering through a sunken ship in the Sea Treasures exhibit, getting up close with sting rays at Sea Senses touch tank, watching river otters play, and exploring the Ironclad Sanctuary. Be sure to let the kids run around the Nature Play area located on the aquarium grounds. Check out the website for weekly events and programming. 374 Airport Road, Manteo, NC • ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island

obx day trip

The Whalehead Club

The Whalehead Club and the 39-acre Currituck Heritage Park in Corolla is a perfect venue to spend the day with the family. This Art Nouveau-style residence was restored in the 1920s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The club features a copper roof, curved rooflines, ornamental chimneys, Tiffany lighting and distinctive porches. Visitors can go on a self-guided or docent tour of the club. Also on the grounds are the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. Nearby, stroll through the charming village of Corolla as you soak up small town life by the sea. Visit the website for hours, special events and programming. 1100 Club Road, Corolla, NC • visitcurrituck.com

Outer banks day trips

Jennette’s Pier

Whether you want to cast a line from the pier, take a fishing lesson from the experts or enroll the kids in an adventure camp, Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head has something for everyone. Explore the pier’s indoor aquariums to learn more about local marine life. You’ll find that pier staff works diligently to conserve and help protect the recreational fishery, sea turtles, marine mammals and shore birds for the next generation. Clean wide beaches, free parking, a bathhouse, and a shop that offers tackle, beach supplies, souvenirs, gifts, snacks and cold drinks and amazing views of the Atlantic all make Jennette’s Pier the perfect place to spend a day at the beach. 7223 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC • ncaquariums.com/jennettes-pier

Outer banks day trips

Corolla Wild Horses

The Corolla wild horses were some of the first settlers on the Outer Banks! Originally left behind by explorers nearly 500 years ago, these horses are of Spanish decent and were recently recognized as the state horse of North Carolina. Known for their hardiness, the horses have weathered centuries of storms and feed on the salty marsh grasses native to this area. Current herd size fluctuates between 80 – 100 individuals. They roam freely north of Corolla, in an area that is accessible only by 4WD. There are several tour companies that offer excursions in search of the horses, or if you have a suitable vehicle you can strike out on your own. Just remember that the horses are wild and very unpredictable. It is illegal to feed or come within 50 feet of them, so be sure to bring a zoom lens! Please note: New this year, a permit will be required between Memorial Day and Labor Day to park on the 14 miles of beach from Corolla village north to the Virginia state line. Permits can be purchased at the county’s tourism department with offices in Corolla and Moyock! For more information: corollawildhorses.org

Outer banks day trips
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