Travel + Leisure Staff
November 09, 2017

With more than 100 miles of breathtaking shoreline just off the coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks is a favorite beach destination for travelers of all types. Here, travelers will find a collection of charming towns, as well as ample opportunities for seaside activities befitting both families as well as couples.

If you’re in search of a beach with an energetic vibe near both shopping as well as dining, head to northern spots like Nags Head or Southern Shores for bustling, beautiful public beaches. The villages on Hatteras Island provide a more quiet alternative, suitable for an afternoon enjoying a good beach read and relaxing seaside.

Travelers come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the wild horses that have lived on this stretch of barrier islands for more than 400 years. Head to the Outer Banks’ north end, around Corolla, for an off-roading adventure or tour to see these stunning creatures in their natural habitat.

Related: The Best Beaches for a North Carolina Getaway

To continue your wildlife adventure, explore Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, also located on the north end. There is plenty to see when visiting this 8,500-acre expanse, from brackish marshlands and grasslands to undisturbed dunes and a maritime forest.

It wouldn’t be a proper seaside vacation without a visit to an iconic, historic lighthouse. The black-and-white striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built in 1870 on the southeastern tip of the island, and is one of the state’s most iconic points of interest. Take in a phenomenal view of the surrounding land and the Atlantic Ocean by climbing the 257-step staircase to reach an elevation of 166 feet.

Come back down to sea level and head to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head for some wild dune adventures. Here, you’ll find 426 acres of pristine, protected land, as well as the largest living dune on the East Coast. Fly kites, catch a stellar sunset, and for those who are brave, try hang gliding lessons.

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