Day One: Corolla & Duck Town
Your ultimate Outer Banks Itinerary starts in the beautiful towns of Corolla and Duck. Corolla is located in the northernmost part of the Outer Banks. Just north of Duck town.
This is the ideal place to start without having to backtrack, especially if you plan to stay in towns like Hatteras, Nags Head, or Kitty Hawk. The drive alone can take up to 58mins especially if you’re coming from the most northern end of the OBX.
Admire the wild horses of Corolla
If you only get to experience one thing in Corolla let it be the wild horses. People from all over come to Corolla to admire the wild mustangs that freely roam the beaches of the island.
These beautiful creatures are descendants of other horses that were brought over in the early 1500s by Spanish explorers.
As of today, the horses are protected by the Wild Horse Fund a non-profit organization that makes sure the horses are well protected so visitors and locals can enjoy their company for many years to come.
You will spot many wild horse tours in Corolla taking people down to the beach however, you don’t need to book a tour to see the horses.
If you have a 4×4 you can actually drive along the beach and see them for free. A 4×4 is necessary as they only allow 4-wheel drives on the beach and you will also need a permit.
If you don’t happen to have a 4×4, you can walk to see them. I’ll say it is quite the walk, as they are located a lot further down from the main beach.
The best time to see wild horses on Corolla is anytime during the day. A warm day with minimal wind is probably best.
Please note that feeding or being within 50 feet of the wild horses is illegal and is considered extremely dangerous as they are wild animals.
Lunch and shopping in Duck
Then pop into Duck town for some lunch and a bit of shopping. NC Coast Bar & Grill does some incredible lunches, they are all about fresh local produce & seafood, which is amazing.
Be sure to try their Carolina crab dip and their mother earth fish & chips. Oh, and to top it off you’ll probably want to try their oysters as well.
You’ll also want to hit up Duck Donuts. It’s a local donut shop that serves up the most delicious made-to-order donuts. Just be sure to go in the morning or before lunch as they are only open from 7 am – 1 pm.
Corolla Park is free to enter, it’s a great way to discover the history and cultural heritage of Corolla. The park’s main attraction is the Whalehead Club an old architectural museum built back in 1920.
Day 2: Kitty Hawk / Nags Head
Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags head I would say are the most popular towns on the island.
If you plan to rent a beach house this would be the spot as there are plenty of fun activities, attractions, and restaurants so close by.
Visit the Wright Brothers Memorial
To kick off day 2 head on over to the world-famous Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.A museum dedicated to Wilbur and Orville Wright, the first two men to successfully achieve airplane flight.
Pop into the visitors center and learn about the Wright brother’s story and how they spent many years working on the science of aviation.
Don’t miss the first flight boulder and flight line. The very spot where Orville and Wilbur first took flight and the many landing spots.
And lastly, take a stroll down to the Wright Brothers Monument, a historic memorial that commemorates the brother’s successful achievement in flight.
Fishing off Jeannette’s Pier
For lunch, head back into Nags Head to the Fish Heads Bar & Grill on the Outer Banks Pier. Craving a fresh burger? Then check out the local Nags Head cafe! Then head on down to Jennette’s Pier for a spot of fishing and beach time.
Here you can rent fishing rods, supplies, and bait and try your luck at catching some local sea bass. All-day fishing costs $14 for adults and $7 for kids.
The Outer Banks is known to have some of the best beaches along the east coast. Enjoy an afternoon of paddleboarding, surfing, kayaking or simply relax along the shoreline and soak up the sun.
The best Outer Banks beaches
– Kitty Hawk
– Nags Head
– Coquina Beach
– Southern Shores
– Ocracoke Island
Kite Flying at Jockey Ridge State Park
There are two things you shouldn’t miss in the Outer Banks, and that’s the wild horses in Corolla and Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
Jockey’s Ridge is the perfect location for kite flying, hang gliding, sightseeing, and sunset viewing.
From the top of the dunes you can see all the way to the beach and on the other is a beautiful view of Roanoke Sound. Jockeys’ Ridge at sunset is absolutely breathtaking and the best way to end the day.
Entry to the park is free and is open from 8 am – 9 pm.
Fun Fact! If you happen to find shining objects in the dunes these are actually glass-like tubes from lightning hitting the sand during thunderstorms.
Day 3: Oregon Inlet & Cape Hatteras
Day three is all about enjoying nature. Take a stroll along the beach and explore the Outer Banks marshlands.
There’s no development between Bodie Island and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, so today would be a perfect day to pack a picnic and enjoy it on the beach.
Check out the old abandoned Life-Saving Station
If you are into abandoned buildings like me and you’re up for a little bit of exploring then I highly recommend checking out the old Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station.
It was built in 1874 and is one of seven original lifesaving stations built on the Outer Banks.
The station was in use from the late 1800s up until 1988 when it was permanently closed as it was too hard to maintain with the shifting of the sand dunes.
This beautiful old station is on the National Register of Historic places and can be spotted just as you drive over the Bonner Bridge towards Hatteras Island.
Tips for Visiting the Old Life-Saving Station
Parking – As you come over the bridge you’ll want to take the first exit on the left this will take you to a small car park located just underneath the bridge. There is a small cove next to the parking lot which is also pretty cool to see.
Getting to the station – Now don’t do what I did, which was cut through the shrubby, there was actually a lot of broken glass & metal debris.
If you head to the cove first you’ll see a wide sand trail that leads you past the life-saving station and takes you all the way to the beach.
Best time to visit – The best time to visit is in the late afternoon during the summer. We visited around mid-morning and by this time it was already pretty hot. Walking up the hot sand dunes in sandals wasn’t fun.
Unless you’re wearing covered shoes or the hot sand doesn’t bother you too much, then I would suggest visiting in the afternoon when the sand has cooled down.
Plus, the station looks absolutely amazing at sunset which makes for the best photo ops.
Check out “Ocean Pursuit” shipwreck
As mentioned above the Outer Banks is notoriously known for its shipwrecks. You can actually visit a few of these shipwrecks either by walking, swimming, scuba diving, or kayaking.
The newest shipwreck to the OBX is the “Ocean Pursuit” a fishing boat that became lodged in the shore in early 2020 at Coquina Beach.
The fishing vessel actually got stuck in shallow waters along the northern end of the channel. The crew were safely rescued and were airlifted off the sinking boat.
As of today, the ship is slowly sinking deeper and deeper into the sand. This was so cool to see as I’ve never seen a shipwreck being swallowed up by a beach.
You can visit the beached vessel on the south end of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore at ramp 4. Right next to the Oregon Inlet campground. See the previous map above.
Explore Hatteras Island
Take a drive out to Hatteras Island and experience its slower and simpler pace of living.
The most popular activities to do on the island are surfing, charter fishing, or exploring miles of undisturbed shorefronts.
Many of the island’s top attractions are nature-oriented, from paddle boarding and kiteboarding to deep-sea fishing and lush woodland trails.
If you enjoy shopping, museums, and delicious restaurants, Hatteras has all these plus more.
Top things to see & do on Hatteras Island
– Climb the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
– Stroll along Hatteras National Seashore
– Walk the Buxton Woods Trail
– Visit the graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
Visit the Bodie Lighthouse at sunset
To end your day exploring the Inlet and head on over to the Bodie Island Lighthouse for sunset.
The Bodie Lighthouse (pronounced “body’) is a definite must-see when visiting the Outer Banks.
This beautiful brick lighthouse is one of the very few remaining lighthouses left in the US that becomes lit. On a clear night, you can see the light flashing from 19 miles away.
It was first built in 1847 but later abandoned due to a poor foundation. It was later restored in 1859 with a better foundation in place. In 1861 the lighthouse was once again destroyed by confederate troops during the civil war.
As of today, the lighthouse is fully restored. Visitors can now climb the 214 refurbished steps that spiral all the way to the top.
The lighthouse is located just south of Nags Head, right across the road from Coquina Beach.
It’s free to visit the lighthouse and surrounding grounds. However, if you wish to climb the lighthouse, it is $10.00 for a ticket and $5.00 for seniors and kids under 11.
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Day 4: Ocracoke Island
To end your last day in the Outer Banks, why not take the ferry out to Ocracoke Island.
Ocracoke Island is located at the southernmost point of the Outer Banks. It’s a small undeveloped seaside village with just a small population of 706 people.
The island is most famous for its shelling and interesting history of pirates.
The infamous pirate Blackbeard frequently visited Ocracoke back in the 1700s and would spend most of his nights at his camp throwing wild pirate parties.
Catch the ferry to Ocracoke Island for a beach day
To get to Ocracoke, you’ll want to catch the ferry from the Hatteras Island Ferry Terminal.
The ride to Ocracoke is free and normally takes about 60 mins. These directions will get you to the right ferry terminal.
See here for all ferry schedules and other information.
Explore some of Ocracoke’s top highlights
– Ocracoke Lighthouse
– Ocracoke Beach
– Springer’s Point
– Pony Pen
And that’s a wrap on your 4-day Outer Banks vacation. You could easily spend a week or more exploring the islands. This 4-day Outer Banks Itinerary definitely hits the top spots if you happen to be short on time.
I had an absolute blast exploring the Outer Banks! This was actually my first time visiting the area and I can confidently say that this is now one of my favorite beach vacation spots in the United States.☺️
If you’re already planning a trip to the OBX I would love to know what’s on your agenda? Leave them in the comments below!
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