The Best Time To Visit The Outer Banks

“What’s the best time to visit the Outer Banks?”—this is a question we often get, especially for first-time visitors.

Of course, the ‘best’ time to visit any destination is truly subjective. Some folks love hitting the southern shores during peak season while others prefer the mild temps and wide-open beaches of the winter.

For this analysis, we highlight the best part of each season in the Outer Banks and share our favorite time to visit OBX. Let’s dive in!

Best Time of Year for Avoiding Crowds—Winter

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  • Typical weather: Low 40s to high 50s
  • Pros: Fewer crowds and better availability of vacation homes
  • Cons: The ocean water is too cold for most to swim in

We’ll start with a less obvious option for beach tourism—winter. Though the winter months are definitely the least popular time from a volume perspective, the visitors we do get during the ‘off-season’ are lifelong beach lovers. They are passionate about not just the allure of a seaside destination but about embracing the entire island lifestyle.

Things to Do in the Winter in the Outer Banks

If you visit the Outer Banks in the winter, you’ll not only enjoy very reasonable prices but also the benefit of wide-open beaches. 

Though the ocean water will be too cool for most (unless you’re feeling brave) for swimming, temps are fairly mild, ranging from the low to high 50s during the day and low to mid-40s at night—a far cry from the snow and ice storms you might encounter elsewhere. If you do brave the Atlantic Ocean, you can warm up in your very own oceanfront condo.

As for entertainment, there’s still plenty to see and do after the summer crowds dissipate. Golf is a popular draw, and area courses like Nags Head Golf Links, Sea Scape Golf Links, and Kilmarlic Golf Club offer year-round tee times and a first-class golf experience.

The mild temperatures also lend nicely to extended outdoor exploration. Tour a few of the famous OBX lighthouses such as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, and Bodie Island Lighthouse, go hiking at one of the many area state parks, check out the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, or visit the native wild horses at the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

Winter Holidays

How would you feel about replacing your Christmas tree with a Christmas palm?

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the holidays, and OBX decks way more than the halls to celebrate the holiday season. Plan a holiday getaway with the family for a unique tradition or partake in one of the festival seasonal events, like the Festival of Trees, Duck Yuletide Celebration, or Outer Banks Festivus Road Race.

Best Time of Year for Great Deals—Spring

  • Typical weather: High 50s to low 70s
  • Pros: Grab great deals on rental homes and enjoy plenty of family-friendly events
  • Cons: Our East Coast beaches may still be too cold for sunbathing and swimming

Our favorite time of year for snagging a great deal on an OBX vacation? Without a doubt—spring.

The area starts to perk up, quite literally, around March. The days get longer, the temperatures get warmer, and the entire coast comes out of hibernation.

Things to Do in the Spring in the Outer Banks

Let’s start with the weather. Temps average high 60’s to low 70’s during the day and high 50’s to low 60’s at night. The ocean is a little too chilly for swimming in March and April but usually gets comfortable enough to take a dip by May. That’s not to say you wouldn’t enjoy basking in the sun and sand on a warm spring day! 

The mild weather is also ideal for exploring Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge’s stunning sand dunes or go hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge.

The uptick in temps brings the coastline to life—literally. This is a great season to visit the famous Elizabethan Gardens, a historic attraction that boasts over 10 acres of expertly maintained gardens and a coveted spot along the official North Carolina Birding Trail. If animal watching is a passion, check out the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, or the Corolla Wild Horse Museum.

Spring Events

The favorable weather makes spring a great time of year to enjoy local OBX events. You can’t beat hunting for easter eggs on the beach, and the annual Easter EGGstravaganza in Nags Head is fun for the whole family. The ‘Taste of the Beach’, which showcases OBX’s culinary scene, is another crowd favorite.

Many area rentals are eager to kick-start the season, which makes spring a great time to snag a great deal on an OBX vacation.

Best Time of Year for the Beach—Summer

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  • Typical weather: Mid 70s to low 90s, late summer is the start of the hurricane season
  • Pros: It’s the best time of year to soak up the sun on our beautiful beaches
  • Cons: More crowds and the weather may be too hot for some outdoor activities

It almost goes without saying that the summer months are the best time of year for any beach vacation—but especially the Outer Banks. Our charming seaside towns come to life between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and there’s a shared excitement among visitors that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Things to Do in the Summer in the Outer Banks

While the summertime is great for hitting the beach, you’ll probably want to steer clear of any outdoor time that doesn’t involve being near a body of water.

 Average temperatures in the summer top out in the low 90s during the day and the mid to high 70s at night—though there’s something to be said about a nice beach breeze. Keep in mind, this doesn’t include the heat index, which can send temps higher. Luckily a nice sea breeze can offset these high temps. 

If you need a break from the summer sun, check out a few of OBX’s great indoor attractions. The North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo is a great choice for families, as is the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum on Hatteras Island and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. There are also several movie theaters and art galleries along the coast. When all else fails, shop ‘til you drop at one of the area’s charming boutiques or catch the refreshing sea breeze on Jennette’s Pier.

Dining is also a top priority for summer visitors, and the Outer Banks offers no shortage of great spots to get your fill of beach fare. The Outer Banks Boil Company is your go-to spot for delicious seafood pots—an OBX tradition with two area locations (Corolla and Kitty Hawk). Other favorites include Cafe Pamlico, The Saltbox Cafe, High Cotton BBQ, and Goombays Grill—to name just a few. And, it wouldn’t be a trip to OBX without indulging in Duck Donuts, the perfect way to start or end any day in the Outer Banks.

Try Your Hand at Watersports

Of course, we can’t talk about summertime in the Outer Banks without mentioning watersports, and there’s something for every age and experience level. Adventurers will love jet skiing, kiteboarding, or parasailing while visitors seeking a more relaxing activity can enjoy banana boat rides, kayaking, or paddle boarding. For an even more placid trip, try launching on the sound side of the barrier islands.

For visitors seeking ample beach time, you can’t beat a summer vacation in the Outer Banks!

Tip: Check out these easy beach hacks to make the most of your time on OBX.

Best Overall Time of the Year to Visit—Fall

Photo Credit: celestekellogg via Instagram
  • Typical weather: Low 60s to high 80s
  • Pros: A great time for events, outdoor activities, and getting a great deal on accommodation
  • Cons: Nothing!!

You’re sure to fall in love with the Outer Banks this fall… ok, cheesy slogans aside, fall is definitely the best time of year to visit the Outer Banks.

Many are surprised to find that fall weather in the Outer Banks is fairly similar to the summer, only slightly cooler (and arguably more enjoyable). Highs average the high 70s to low 80s while the lows at night rarely drop below 60 degrees. 

The best part is, the warm weather allows the ocean to stay comfortable enough for swimming and watersports through October, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the beach and other outdoor activities.

Things to Do in the Fall in the Outer Banks

Fall is full of fun for the whole family. The area offers several annual events that always draw a crowd. From the Duck Jazz Festival and the Outer Banks Seafood Festival to the Lost Colony Wine Festival and the Outer Banks Triathlon—there’s tons to see and do during autumn in OBX.

The best part about fall is that you can do just about everything else you enjoy during other times of the year. Wine and dine your way up the coast, catch up on your favorite novel while soaking up the sun, and immerse yourself in coastal history at the area’s top museums and exhibits—anything is possible during this magical time of year.

The best part is, the summer crowds are gone and you can snag a pretty good deal on an OBX vacation rental.

Outer Banks is the Perfect Year-round Destination

No matter your personal favorite time of year to visit the Outer Banks, we’ll be here waiting! Our expansive inventory of OBX vacation rentals offers something for everyone.

What are you waiting for? Start planning your Outer Banks vacation today!

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