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Things to Do

Explore the Outer Banks in the offseason, minus the crowds

Hotel rates are cheaper and mild temperatures stretch into December. 

Avoid the summer crowds on a visit to

Avoid the summer crowds on a visit to the Outer Banks this fall. Photo Credit: Jennifer H. Cunningham

The Outer Banks region of North Carolina is a can’t-miss destination in the summertime. But the coastal area still packs in the charm in the fall and early winter months.

Skip the crowds and visit the Outer Banks, which largely escaped Hurricane Florence, in the offseason. Hotel rates are cheaper and visitors can still enjoy mild temperatures, which stretch into December. 

The 130 miles of barrier islands and peninsulas are home to more than a dozen quaint beachside towns and villages. Each has its own character and charm and no two are the same. Here are a few to know, from north to south.

KILL DEVIL HILLS

The most developed village in the Outer Banks, Kill Devil Hills is where Orville and Wilbur Wright famously commandeered the first successful plane flight in 1903. Explore America’s pioneering days in aviation at the Wright Brothers National Memorial ($10/adults, FREE ages 15 and younger; 1000 N. Croatan Hwy., 252-473-2111, nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm), which commemorates the historic flight with spots marking where they took flight and landed, a monument and more.

Take advantage of the fresh catch from the Atlantic and the Pamlico Sound with a meal at Awful Arthur’s (2106 N. Virginia Dare Trail, 252-441-5955, awfularthursobx.com), an oyster bar that serves local fare such as seafood broiled with garlic, butter and white wine.

MANTEO

Manteo features a walkable downtown on the waterfront with antique stores, restaurants and souvenir shops. 

The Elizabethan Gardens ($9/adults, $6/ages 6-17, $2/younger than 5; 1411 National Park Dr., 252-473-3234, elizabethangardens.org), an arboretum, ornamental garden and historic botanical museum, boasts more than 100 species of shrubs, trees and flowers. The gardens are inspired by “The Lost Colony,” the first English settlers in the New World who disappeared without a trace in 1587 around what is now Manteo. 

North Carolina's burgeoning craft spirits scene includes Outer Banks Distilling (closed Sundays & Mondays; 510 Budleigh St., 252-423-3011, outerbanksdistilling.com), which produces small-batch rum, such as its Pecan Honey, which is infused with pecan shells. A tour ($10) includes a tasting flight.

RODANTHE

This picturesque community is home to the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station (open April-November, closed Sundays, $8/adults, $7 seniors, $6/ages 4-17; 23645 Hwy. 12, 252-987-1552, chicamacomico.org), the original buildings that were an early precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard. For birders, kayakers and nature enthusiasts, the Pea Island National Wildlife Reserve (fws.gov/refuge/pea_island) is a draw.

HATTERAS ISLAND

This area of rural beach communities is home to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (46379 Lighthouse Rd., Buxton, nps.gov/caha/index.htm), which was built in 1870 and, at nearly 200 feet, is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States.

The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum (closed Sundays, FREE; 59200 Museum Dr., 252-986-0720, graveyardoftheatlantic.com) has exhibits on the area’s maritime history, from pirates (such as the infamous Blackbeard) to its Civil War past to artifacts recovered from 19th-century shipwrecks.

GOOD TO KNOW

Getting there: The closest airport is in Norfolk, Virginia, about an 1 1/2 flight from NYC and then another two-hour drive to the Outer Banks.

Getting around: Public transportation can be spotty, so it’s essential to have a car.

Where to stay: In Kill Devil Hills, the beachfront Ramada Plaza (1701 South Virginia Dare Trail, 252-564-7222, ramadaplazanagshead.com) is close to local attractions. Slightly north in Duck, the Sanderling Resort (1461 Duck Rd., Duck, 855-412-7866, sanderling-resort.com) offers upscale accommodations, private beachfront access and the on-site Southern coastal restaurant Lifesaving Station.

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