Tips for Planning an Outer Banks Beach Vacation

Posted By Katie on Jan 20, 2014

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As the January cold and snow sets in, I always start dreaming of a beach vacation.  My family’s favorite summer beach vacation is the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  If you want to rent a beach home in the Outer Banks this summer, now is the time to start planning for it!

The Outer Banks is a set of small barrier islands that stretch over 200 miles along the North Carolina shore, starting just south of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and covering most of the North Carolina coast.  You can enjoy just about any water sport in the Outer Banks, including body boarding, surfing, scuba diving, kite surfing, jet skiing, parasailing, etc.

Planning a trip to the Outer Banks can be daunting because you have so many options on where to stay and what to do.  Here are a few ideas of what to think about as you plan an Outer Banks vacation.

Tips for planning your Outer Banks, North Carolina beach vacation | | summer vacation | family reunion | lighthouse

Choose your lodging

Decide what type of lodging you want.  Choose from:

  • vacation rental homes
  • condos
  • hotels
  • bed and breakfast
  • campgrounds

If you are traveling with a family, I highly recommend renting a vacation home.  The extra space and ability to prepare some of your own meals make vacation rentals my favorite type of lodging for destination vacations.  Check out these tips to make sure you rent a home you are comfortable in.  I have had very good success with homes I rented from Brindley Beach rentals in the Corolla and Duck area.  Plan to rent a vacation home for week.  Most vacation rentals turn over on either Saturday or Sunday.

Rent a beach umbrella and chairs

The best money I ever spent on a beach vacation was to hire someone else to haul and set up my beach umbrella and chairs.  Check out locations and pricing here.  If you don’t make an advance reservation, bring cash to the beach on Saturday morning and reserve your spot for the week.  You won’t regret it.  Trust me.

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Beach umbrellas are a lifesaver for families!

Rent beach equipment

Want to try a paddle board?  Kayak in the ocean?  Ride bikes along the many wonderful bike trails?  Bring equipment if you’ve got it, but if not, plan to rent anything you need to enjoy your week.  Bikes, surf boards, body boards, ocean kayaks, tennis racquets, etc.  You can rent just about anything and sometimes not having to bring your own is so worth it.

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Body boarding at the Outer Banks.

Take a lesson

Want to try something exotic?  Take a kiteboarding lesson, or enroll your kids in surf school.  Consider an intro scuba diving experience to a wreck site.  You can find classes, lessons, and instructors for just about any water sport you are interested in.

Catch a sunset on the Currituck Sound

We have stayed several times in a beach house on the the Currituck Sound in Corolla, NC.  In Corolla, you can stay on the sound side in a less expensive home and ride bikes to the ocean less than 0.5 miles away.  There are many activities to enjoy on the Currituck Sound, including catching crabs, kayaking or jet skiing, paddle boarding, and bird watching.  The most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen were from our vacation rental on the sound side.

Visit the Wright Brothers Memorial

The birthplace of flight happened in the Outer Banks.  Plan a few hours in your trip to visit the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  We went on a wet, rainy day and enjoyed the museum and caught a break in the storm to wander through the field where they first flight happened.  Interesting for both kids and adults.

outer banks

Wright Brothers Memorial

Visit a Lighthouse

There are five lighthouses to explore in the Outer Banks.  Children will love the experience of climbing to the top of a lighthouse and looking out at wonderful views of the ocean and the sound.

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Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla, NC

Take the Kids Ghost Crab Hunting

Don’t miss out on this unique experience.  Learn the tricks for catching ghost crabs here.  MAB_3915

The Outer Banks offers so much to do that this is just a small sampling of the many activities available to families vacationing in the Outer Banks.  If you haven’t been yet, consider it for a memorable summer beach vacation!

Looking for more things to do in the Outer Banks?  Check out our North Carolina page.


Katie is a busy mom living in Northern Virginia with her husband and five children ranging in age from toddlers to teens. When she isn't traveling, she is planning her next trip. Katie loves all types of travel, but she especially loves beach vacations. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a favorite family destination.


  1. Sounds dreamy! I would live to do this one day.

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    • I forgot to mention that the water in the Atlantic Ocean is significantly warmer than the Pacific. It’s fun to spend hours in the water and not freeze! It truly is a magical place.

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      • We have never been to OBX and have no idea what is best to do, see, or stay. Any top recommendations?

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        • So many choices with 200 miles of beachfront in the OBX. My personal favorite spots are Corolla and Duck for family-friendly, calmer water. But you can’t go wrong anywhere in the Outer Banks. Check out the links on this article for other fun ideas of things to do with the kids. Some top choices are to visit a lighthouse, see the Wright Brothers Memorial, or go to the sand dunes. But many families hit the beach and never leave … so it just depends on what you are looking for. Enjoy!

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  2. These are great suggestions. I would add to be aware that the weather is not tropical, and thus beach vacations must be in the summer if you want to swim. The Outer Banks are beautiful all year, though.

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  3. This is some really good information about how to make a beach vacation fun. I liked what you said about how taking lessons like surfing could be a fun thing to do. It could also be fun to take beach volley ball lessons.

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