7 Great Dolphin Tours in Kitty Hawk

For some, an Outer Banks getaway means relaxation, enjoying the famous beach communities that dot the shores, and eating some of the best seafood on the Eastern Seaboard. But for others, it is the once in a lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse of the bottlenose dolphins that frequent the coastal North Carolina waters year round.

If this rings true for you, and you’re planning a trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, consider yourself lucky! The OBX delivers plenty of opportunities to experience dolphins thriving in their natural habitat.

Photo Credit: Chase Schiefer

Throughout Kitty Hawk and the Outer Banks coastline, you’ll find plenty of options for dolphin tours when staying at a local vacation home. These boat tours allow you to take in the scenic beauty of Coastal Carolina while looking for these friendly mammals in their native habitats. From sunset tours on large boats to kayaking through the sound, we’ve rounded up the best dolphin-watching excursions the OBX offers!

Kitty Hawk Kites Dolphin Tours/Nags Head Dolphin Watch

Kitty Hawk Kites is a prominent name in the Outer Banks region, specializing in outdoor adventures in the OBX. From hang gliding to kiteboarding to kayaks, this outdoor venue offers practically any activity an outdoor enthusiast could dream of!

One of their most popular outdoor adventures is their dolphin watch tours. These tours are offered throughout the day and in several locations throughout the Outer Banks, including the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. In addition to daytime dolphin cruises, Kitty Hawks Kites also offers sunset cruises.

Many of their knowledgeable and experienced guides are marine biologists and naturalists. They can offer great insight into the behavior and habits of the local dolphin population. Additionally, Kitty Hawk Kites proudly supports the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research. Their commitment to environmental conservation means you’ll be part of a tour that promotes responsible dolphin watching and marine preservation.

Outer Banks Kayak Adventures

  • Book a Tour: obxadventure.com
  • Tour Time: 1-2 hours depending on tour
  • Ages: All Ages

For those seeking a more intimate and eco-friendly way to experience dolphin tours, Outer Banks Kayak Adventures is a great option. You’ll come up close and personal with dolphins and the region’s abundant marine life as you paddle through the serene waters of the Pamlico Sound. Stingrays, crabs, squid and a wide variety of fish can also be spotted along the tour that travels through both the marsh and the sandy shoals of the Oregon Inlet.

In addition to dolphin tours, this venue also offers a tour through Pea Island for bird lovers. This kayak tour leads you through the salty marshes of the Pamlico, encountering many of the region’s 365 species of native birds, including osprey and pelicans.

Outer Banks Kayak Adventures provides both life jackets and paddles. They offer tandem kayaks, hybrid kayaks for people with limited mobility, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) for most tours.

Tours are available for all ages, but 12 and under are recommended to paddle in a tandem kayak. A shorter kayak tour through the Kitty Hawk Maritime Forest is also available for younger children.

Coastal Kayak Touring Company

Coastal Kayak Touring Company is another spot offering dolphin tours by kayak. Their Bodie Island Lighthouse tour boasts the potential to spot these majestic creatures as you paddle along the Roanoke Sound. You’ll also encounter incredible Cape Hatteras National Seashore views and the iconic Bodie Island Lighthouse.

This venue offers several additional kayak tours, including a tour of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. This unique tour often encounters a diverse population of area wildlife, including bobcats, river otters, and black bears.

Sit-in and sit on top kayaks and double kayaks are also available. SUP boards are available on the Pine Island tour. Coastal Kayak prides themselves on their commitment to ecological education and providing customers with sustainable and eco-friendly tourism.

Captain Johnny’s Dolphin Tours

Captain Johnny’s Dolphin Tours is the only tour in the Outer Banks area offering a guaranteed dolphin sighting. The boat’s owner and captain is an 11th-generation OBX native who offers abundant knowledge about the local heritage and native marine life. The tours offer an educational narrative detailing the life of the native Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins.

Their tour boat, The Captain Johnny, is a 14 foot long passenger vessel that can accommodate up to 49 guests. It is Coast Guard Inspected, offers sun protection and has a restroom on board. Tours are available morning, afternoon, and at sunset, weather permitting. Captain Johnny’s also offers shrimp and crab charters in addition to their popular dolphin tours.

They have two locations on Roanoke Island in Manteo. In addition to group boat tours they also offer private charters for events. You can even host a dinner party on board with a bring your own food along option.

Harbour Star Dolphin Tours

If you’re looking to enjoy a dolphin tour and a quiet coastal escape, you’ll want to head to Wanchese Marina. You can enjoy a day exploring this sleepy seaside town and then an afternoon watching the native wild dolphins splashing in the sea.

Harbor Star’s Dolphin Tours depart four times daily, including a sunset evening cruise. You’ll embark on a 50-foot cruise boat with guides who are extremely knowledgeable about the local dolphin population.

In addition to dolphin tours, Wanchese Marina offers a variety of charter options, including inshore and offshore fishing charters and shrimping-crabbing charters.

Nor’Banks Sailing & Watersports

While Nor’Banks Sailing & Watersports doesn’t offer dolphin tours specifically, they do offer the largest sailing fleet on the Outer Banks. You can experience the dolphins on a comfortable pontoon boat or while sailing the seas on a private catamaran cruise.

While this trip isn’t billed as a dolphin tour, you’re just about guaranteed to encounter some dolphins on your adventure. Catamaran cruises come with a knowledgeable captain and crew who know the best areas to spot dolphins in the wild.

In addition to catamaran cruises, Nor’Banks also offers boat and equipment rentals for those searching for other water-based entertainment. Whether you want to rent a jet ski or a pontoon boat, you can find it here.

Miss Hatteras Fishing

While Miss Hatteras Fishing is perhaps best known for their inshore and offshore fishing in their head boats, they also offer a sunset dolphin cruise.

This tranquil cruise through the Pamlico Sound will reward you with stunning sunsets and a glimpse of beautiful dolphins as they play in the open sea.

Dolphin tours are available Wednesday-Friday. Be sure to check with their office when booking, as tour times vary from season to season.

Experience the OBX Dolphins in their Natural Habitat

Photo Credit: Denis Moskvinov

Whether you’re looking to paddle through the sound or board a luxurious catamaran, you’ll find the perfect dolphin tour option in the OBX. It’s easy to book a trip from the comfort of your First Flight vacation rental and then set off in search of your own personal Flipper. On your Outer Banks vacation, the wonders of the sea are just a boat ride away.

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