15 Towns in the Outer Banks (& Reasons to Visit Each!)

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The Outer Banks has a culture all of its own on the East Coast. These are the fifteen towns in the Outer Banks that breathe a bit of life onto the Eastern North Carolina seaboard.

Are you planning your trip to the Outer Banks last minute?

If you’re traveling to the Outer Banks last minute, you want to ensure you have lodging and tours ahead of time! Below are some of our top picks in OBX!

Best Places to Stay in OBX:

  1. Island Motel OBX (Manteo)
  2. Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks (Kitty Hawk)
  3. Saltaire Cottages (Kitty Hawk)

Best tours in OBX:

  1. Wild Horse watching Tour in Outer Banks (great for kids!)
  2. OBX Ghost Tours
  3. Corolla Kayak Adventure 
  4. Hang Gliding Lesson for Beginners (top-rated!)

🚗  Looking for the best way to get around NC? Click here to check rental car rates for North Carolina!

Best towns in the Outer Banks - Nags Head
Best towns in the Outer Banks – Nags Head

We have listed the Outer Banks towns from north to south and included a map so you can see exactly where each is located! We have also discussed reasons to visit each and some famous attractions nearby.

In your opinion, what are the best towns in the Outer Banks? Let us know in the comments!

Outer Banks Towns Map

To add this map to your Google Maps account, click the ‘Star’ icon next to the map name. You can then view it on your cell phone or computer by heading to your Google Maps account, click the menu and add it to ‘Your Places’.

Towns in the Outer Banks

1. Corolla

Located in the Outer Banks and nestled between the ocean and the sound, Corolla offers its visitors impeccable beaches with cozy retreats and breathtaking scenery to admire from the town’s every corner.

Along the beach, you can witness one-of-a-kind wild horses, the Colonial Spanish Mustang—the island’s true treasures—and go on a guided ride with them.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla North Carolina
Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla, North Carolina

Pay a visit to the Center for Wildlife Education and get acquainted with NC’s rich biodiversity. Adventure seekers can have an exciting day in Corolla Adventure Park or learn to surf, kiteboard, water ski, or kayak in the ocean.

Get the complete view of the Outer Banks while climbing to the top of the gorgeous Currituck Beach Lighthouse, dine at waterfront restaurants, and go shopping to round out your day.

2. Duck

Despite being next to the Outer Banks’ larger towns, Duck stands out with its relatively small area packed with amazing conveniences for a memorable vacation.

As the name implies, this lovely town has seen a lot of waterfowl hunting since the 1800s. Bordering Currituck Sound and the Atlantic, it offers the ideal location for watersport activities.

Boardwalk in Duck NC
Boardwalk in Duck NC // Editorial credit: Joe Benning / Shutterstock.com

Duck’s beautiful beaches are brimming with stunning vacation rentals, fine dining restaurants, shopping complexes, and outdoor theaters. You’ll find plenty of things to do in Duck for all travel tastes!

Visitors can enjoy various special events all year round in Duck Town Park, such as the Duck Jazz Festival, the Duck Yuletide Celebration, and several others.

3. Southern Shores

Neighboring Duck and Corolla, Southern Shores is the ideal destination for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy a serene vacation.

The town has natural landscapes and is well-known for its unspoiled sandy beaches, inviting you to lie down and soak up some sun. Southern Shores features vacation rentals, a few biking trails, marinas, boutiques, tennis and golf courts, and a few restaurants.

Although it may feel serene at dusk, the town is close to other towns in the Outer Banks where you can find several entertaining spots and not feel completely isolated from city life.

4. Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk is one of the most popular destinations located in the busier central Outer Banks, offering pristine North Carolina beaches along with awe-inspiring and diverse fauna and flora.

This was actually the first place I saw the ocean after moving to the US from Germany as a child!

Visit Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve to explore the Outer Banks town’s unique landscapes and stroll along the natural trails in maritime forests to admire the region’s extraordinary wildlife.

Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk

The area’s architectural style is in perfect harmony with the surrounding nature, making this place even more majestic. The town also stands out from its neighbors for featuring plenty of shopping spots (boutiques, retail, and grocery stores).

Food enthusiasts have a wide range of options when it comes to selecting a fine dining restaurant in this city.

Various year-round events, such as marathon races, art festivals, and tasting events, are organized to ensure fun and entertainment.

5. Kill Devil Hills

As the oldest town on the Outer Banks, Kill Devil Hills is a must-see for those looking for a great destination with an amazing food scene and many things to see and do.

The town is well-known for its oceanfront vacation rentals and hotel chains, as well as numerous dining and shopping options.

Be sure to check out the Wright Brothers National Memorial, learn the history of the brothers, and visit the Centennial Pavilion along with the museum displaying the first-ever airplane’s life size replica.

Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills NC
Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills NC

At Avalon Fishing Pier, you can have a snack and a beer, shop for additional fishing gear, and throw a line off the edge of the pier. End your day strolling the flawless OBX beaches and hanging with friends and family as the sun sets on the Outer Banks.

6. Nags Head

Located on the central part of the Outer Banks, charming Nags Head is the town where history meets modern living. Witness Nags Head’s unique architectural style while strolling throughout the Historic District.

Take a relaxing stroll along the unspoiled shoreline, which extends for nearly 7 miles and offers contemporary cottages with old Nags Head style along the way.

Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head
Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head // Editorial credit: refrina / Shutterstock.com

The city’s main treasure, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, is home to the largest sand dunes, natural hiking trails, visitor’s center, gift shop, museum, and various shoreline sports for ocean fans.

The town also features two fishing piers – the Nags Head and Outer Banks Fishing Piers, which offer great fishing experiences, ensuring some exciting catches!

7. Manteo

Located on Roanoke Island in Dare County, Manteo is home to some of the most exciting attractions in the Outer Banks.

Downtown is home to many waterfront fine dining restaurants, shops, art galleries with antique and modern exhibits, historic homes, and more.

Take a boat tour from Manteo Waterfront Marina to discover the Outer Banks’ views from the water.

Explore the region’s rich history at either Fort Raleigh National Historic Site or Roanoke Island Festival Park or step back in time at the Elizabethan Gardens or Island Farm.

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Manteo NC
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Manteo NC

Be sure to stop by and admire artisans’ unique work at the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum, which also serves as a working boat shop located near the lighthouse!

This is one of the best island towns in NC!

8. Rodanthe

Once recognized as the East Coast’s greatest lifesaving station, Rodanthe is one of the Tri-Villages and is best known for its peaceful and pristine beaches.

Visitors can enjoy various water sports activities in Pamlico Sound, such as windsurfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, or simply go for a swim in crystal clear waters.

Rodanthe North Carolina
Rodanthe, North Carolina

One of the must-visit attractions in Rodanthe is the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station, once a base for one of the Outer Banks’ first lifesaving stations and is now a museum dedicated to rescue missions.

Another site for fishing enthusiasts is the Rodanthe Fishing Pier. Rodanthe also features many restaurants, gift shops, and special watersport events to ensure a fun and exciting stay!

9. Waves

Located on the northern part of Hatteras Island, Waves is the second one of the Tri-Villages. Besides being home to gorgeous beaches and oceanfront rentals, it stands out with its large selection of water sports activities!

Water sports giants Kitty Hawk Kites and REAL Watersports are there to provide all the necessities for spending the entire day on the water.

The town features a comparably smaller number of restaurants and shops than other towns in the Outer Banks, but the ones located near the watersport complexes are pretty much sufficient to try local delicacies and recharge before getting back out on the water!

10. Salvo

Salvo, the last and southernmost one of the Tri-Villages, is a dream location for family-friendly activities amidst a serene location.

The OBX town is not much different from its sister towns and offers plenty of beach house rentals and peaceful beaches for sunbathing.

One of the city’s main attractions is the Salvo Day Use Area which features unspoiled beaches along with picnic conveniences, restrooms, and the ideal spot to admire stunning sunrises and sunsets.

Beach Boardwalk in Salvo
Beach Boardwalk in Salvo

The city is close to Rodanthe Pier and is home to the US’s smallest post office’s original replica.

Its access to Pamlico Sound offers a diverse range of water sports activities for adrenaline junkies, such as kayaking, kiteboarding, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and more.

11. Avon

Avon, known as the “Center of Hatteras Island,” welcomes visitors with its gorgeous beaches along with plenty of attractions to keep them entertained throughout their whole trip.

The town’s major attraction is Avon Pier. It has a snack bar and a convenience store where you can refill your tackle box and grab a snack. Night owls also have their spot in the city at the exciting Koru Beach Club!

Shipwrecked boats on Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Shipwrecked boats on Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Visit Kinnakeet Village to check out the area’s oldest houses with coastal gardens or to simply enjoy the breathtaking landscapes. Avon features the island’s only main shopping complex, which houses various stores, restaurants, and a spa center.

At Avon Harbor, you can gaze out at breathtaking sunrises and sunsets or walk along miles of undeveloped beaches lined with waterfront homes.

12. Buxton

Buxton, neighboring Avon, is a small town that has something for everyone. Cape Point features Hatteras Island’s most well-known beach ramp and promises an amazing fishing experience!

Get a bird’s-eye view of the OBX town from the top of the majestic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, probably the most famous North Carolina lighthouse, or learn about the area’s rich history in the nearby keeper’s house museum.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Water junkies will certainly appreciate Canadian Hole and Kite Point for their windsurfing and kiteboarding opportunities.

Hike in Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve to admire the maritime forests along with their abundant wildlife.

Buxton also provides a wide range of dining and shopping options as well as art galleries, mini-golf courses, horseback riding, parks, and organized events and festivals to keep you entertained during your stay in the Outer Banks!

13. Frisco

Frisco is one of the more tranquil destinations on Hatteras Island and is the perfect location for beachgoers looking for places to unwind and settle into coastal life.

The underrated Outer Banks town offers miles of unspoiled beaches along with vacation rentals and two campgrounds.

Discover the region’s rich history at the Frisco Native American Museum, where plenty of artifacts and treasures are showcased in every room.

Boardwalk in Frisco
Boardwalk in Frisco

The Frisco Pier used to be the best place to enjoy the ocean breeze and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, but storms have left only the skeleton of the Pier standing.

The city provides many restaurants and shops, plus the beloved amusement center that is home to the island’s only go-kart track. It also offers many water sports activities so you can spend the whole day riding the waves!

14. Hatteras

Hatteras, bordering Hatteras Inlet from the south, is the ideal destination for fishing enthusiasts and true beach lovers.

It is a hub for pristine beaches, deep-sea fishing, fishing charters, and countless fishing tournaments held throughout the year.

Sunrise in Outer Banks
Sunrise in Outer Banks

Visit sound-front Hatteras Landing to discover Hatteras’ best stores and restaurants and enjoy live music amidst a serene setting. Discover Hatteras’ unique maritime history in the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.

Also, be sure to take Hatteras/Ocracoke Ferry to get the Outer Banks’ best views or simply enjoy a coastal day trip to Ocracoke Island.

15. Ocracoke

Ocracoke is often considered to be the pearl of the Outer Banks and the town is home to 14 miles of pristine beaches and is the ideal destination for those who want to settle in peace and quiet.

It is a compact town full of historical sites to discover, including NC’s oldest lighthouse, the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, and the Ocracoke Preservation Museum.

Ocracoke Lighthouse and Keeper's Dwelling
Ocracoke Lighthouse and Keeper’s Dwelling

Wildlife attractions are a favorite activity when in Ocracoke, whether it’s witnessing the island’s wild ponies at the Ocracoke Pony Pen or admiring the diverse nature at Springer’s Point.

Ocracoke Village, with plenty of dining and shopping spots, as well as boating and fishing options, promises you a memorable stay!

So, what are your favorite towns in the Outer Banks?  Drop your favorite OBX towns in the comments and why you love them so much! Thanks!

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23 thoughts on “15 Towns in the Outer Banks (& Reasons to Visit Each!)

  1. John says:

    Been staying in Buxton for over 25 years. Can’t be beat. Have missed quite a bit on the northern towns and beaches. Will be there in September.

  2. Lulu says:

    Lived here for 40 plus years. Nothing dreamy about living here in the summertime when there is 400,000 tourists here every week. Sigh…

    • Megan Starr says:

      Yikes that does sound crazy! I hope you have a hidden escape somewhere to avoid it a bit. You’re lucky to live somewhere so beautiful though!

      • Roberta Goodman says:

        Have vacationed in OBX on four different occasions & have enjoyed myself every time. The 1st visit was to Corolla, last three visits were to Duck. Next year’s vacation will be in Southern Shores. My family & I have traveled all the way down to Hatteras Island several times (even took the ferry over to Ocracoke Island this past August) so while I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the area I will say we’ve done quite a bit on every trip throughout the entire OBX. I’m partial to the Northern beaches. While Kitty Hawk & points south are certainly very nice, I prefer the atmosphere from Southern Shores northward. The beaches are less crowded due to the fact there are less public beaches. I’m fact I only know of one public beach access in Duck. Corolla beaches have a more powdery consistency compared to Duck beaches which are denser. Either is fine with me, but we’ve stayed in Duck the most because we just love the town. Our last rental’s community was located right in the middle of town basically across the street from Duck Donuts, so we did lots of walking around without having to move our car. We’re trying Southern Shores next year because it’s close enough to Duck to walk there & we want to avoid the constant traffic through Duck. We’re also doing research on which area we’d be happiest to own a rental home. We will be retiring to OBX eventually & want to buy a home beforehand.

        • Megan Starr says:

          Hi Roberta! Thanks for your comment!!! And funny you say you have stayed in Duck three times but are staying in Southern Shores- my family just rented a house in Duck for a week next June!!! I definitely will road trip down to Southern Shores and explore it deeper rather than just surface level like I have done in the past! Totally adding Duck donuts to my list for next year!!! Hope you have a great fall! 🙂

        • Tammy Aycock says:

          Let me know when you are ready to purchase a home here on the Outer Banks. Me and my Team at SAGA will be happy to help. I have been in the real estate game here for 30 years now. My grandmother is from Duck and I grew up in Southern Shores. It is a beautiful area to retire and live. My Team can help you navigate the area and decided what area is best for you! Enjoy Southern Shores next year. Tammy Aycock, Principal Broker, SAGA

        • Nikki says:

          Thanks for the info. My hubby and I are planning our first trip to OBX so we love all the info. So many options. We like activity and people vs. too serene.

    • Roy Wescott says:

      I agree. I was born there in 1943 and left after retiring in 2008, moving to Richmond, Va near children. People are shocked when I tell them I moved away from the Outer Banks. You just have to live there year round. Fantastic place to visit though.

  3. John Hobble says:

    Avon,NC to me was a neighborhood not to be forgotten. From Frank & Frans, Froggy Dog, to walking distances to the beach, to the sound side to catch blue crabs for dinner. Even Avon pier learning how to fish to seeing odd people fishing differently. Some only for sharks, not blues or king mac’s. Yes, met a lot of very special people from other states ( kept in touch too ) even when bonfires & 4 wheeling was allowed on beaches free. Oh, can’t forget some of restaurants to eat still there years later before a Food Lion was built. Guess some didn’t like road trips south or north to get party favors. Heck, we even had fireworks on the beach. Yes Avon more enjoyable experience versus commercial.

    • Megan Starr says:

      That actually sounds perfect. I am living in landlocked Germany right now and I would kill to have a beach bonfire and tasty seafood!

  4. Tina says:

    I fell in love with obx in 1999 when i went to watch the Buxton lighthouse get moved and ive been going there ever since. My favorite town is ocracoke and hatteras inlet.

    • Megan Starr says:

      There is something SOOO special about Ocracoke. I absolutely love OBX too and can’t wait to get back but I am so far away in Germany currently!

  5. Kim Bidwell says:

    I would like to comment on the blurb about Avon, NC. My husband and another couple and I just came back from Avon. It is beautiful there and yes the beaches are awesome! We had issues with the Koru Beach Club. We were directed to go there as our rented house was not ready for our arrival. The entrance to this club is not clear. We were confused as we pulled into the parking lot. Dumpster out front at the entrance which led to a pool. Not a good first impression. Looked around for any person to help us as we were hungry and wanted to relax by the pool with an alcoholic beverage. This place had a pool and Bar with dirty restrooms. It was 4 pm and it stated the pool closed at 5. Bar and food were closed. Was asked by a man if he could help us so told him of our situation…said he’d be right with us. We waited for 45 minutes as he talked with many other people and never even looked at us. Pissed and hungry we left. Very disappointed in Koru Beach Club. Don’t waste your precious vacation time.

  6. Stacie says:

    Great review of all the amazing villages in the outer banks. Two updates for you… The movie theater in Avon hasn’t been open for years… Probably going on closer to 8 years or so. Remnants of the Frisco pier no longer exist. Demolition occurred back in 2019.

  7. Edwina Norris says:

    I love Southern Shores! Lived there 33 years. Perfect place to live in the summer to avoid the influx of 1000’s of tourists. You can make a 180° or 360 ° loop for shopping- 2 grocery stores, 3 pharmacies, Super Walmart, several banks, 2 gas stations, a vet for your pet, a few restaurants, and ocean & sound access. All that without fighting for lane space on Hwy 158!!!

  8. Donna J. Reesman says:

    The OBX is one of those places that you want to come back for more, never gets old. This year we went camping at the Hatteras campground and resort, loved it. The staff were very accommodating with everything we asked. The beaches were very clean and enjoyed flying kites with the grands. Going on the ferry to Ocracoke Island was fabulous, a must do, ferry is free. Driving alone in to Rodanthe was breathtaking with the high dunes that line both sides of the street. Like stepping back in time is so serene. We have housed on the Northern shores but definitely worth your time to visit the Southern shores as well, both shores are totally different, so love OBX

  9. Carrie says:

    Waves market has the best burritos and nachos on the island! We love obx! Manteo is my favorite little town in the fall to visit at obx <3

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