What to See and Do on North Carolina’s Atlantic Coast


North Carolina’s beaches may have achieved international fame from the Wright Brothers’ famous flight, but the Outer Banks area offers more than just the brothers’ National Museum. The area’s natural beauty, history, and spacious beaches make it the ideal place for a family vacation. Here are the top three places to visit on your next visit to the Outer Banks.

Graveyard of the Atlantic

Just off of Cape Hatteras in the Diamond Shoals lies the Graveyard of the Atlantic, a treacherous collection of thousands of shipwrecks. One of the most notable is the USS Monitor, a nearly thousand ton Civil War gunboat that sank on New Years Eve in 1862. The rough seas may have spelled the end to many a pirate ship or clipper (to the point that a nearby headland was named Cape Fear), but today it’s a popular destination for scuba divers and shipwreck investigators. Beginners can learn the basics of snorkeling at local dive shops, while experienced divers can take advantage of deep sea and night dives near the wrecks.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The US government didn’t sit idly by as the coast off of the Outer Banks gained its dangerous reputation. In 1794, the newly-formed US Congress commissioned the construction of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. Over 100,000 visitors annually climb the wooden steps of the 208 foot tall lighthouse. It’s a strenuous climb, so be sure you have a hearty breakfast at one of the local restaurants before you go. The lighthouse affords stunning views of the Atlantic and green shoreline, so be sure to bring your camera. Visit at sunset and you’ll see unforgettable vistas.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Nearby Nag’s Head is home to Jockey’s Ridge State Park, home to the tallest sand dune in the Eastern United States. Admission is free and the park is open year round (except on Christmas Day), making a stroll through the coastal sand dunes a perfect activity for the whole family. Spend the day building sand castles or sand boarding or grab a picnic lunch from the local restaurants and enjoy the Sahara-like dunes.

Be sure to find rentals near the beach with access to local dining and restaurants, or look into some of the Outer Banks’ house rentals. It’s your vacation: do what you want with it.

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