The Ultimate Guide for Driving the Outer Banks

Photo Credit: outerbanks.org

If you’re looking for the best tips and tricks for driving the Outer Banks, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we will provide you with everything you need to know before hitting the road in this beautiful part of North Carolina.

From coastal routes to avoiding traffic, we’ve got you covered! So, what are you waiting for? Start reading and get ready to experience some of the best drives in America!

Introduction To the Outer Banks Scenic Byway

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The Outer Banks Scenic Byway is one of the most popular driving routes in North Carolina. This byway offers stunning views of the east coast, as well as plenty of opportunities to stop and explore.

North Carolina’s Outer Banks are a group of barrier islands. The area is divided into three regions: Northern Beaches, Hatteras Island, and Roanoke Island. Additionally, Ocracoke Island can also be found farther south, but it’s less accessible and less frequently visited.

Along the way, you’ll find several small towns, villages, and beautiful Outer Banks beaches that are worth a visit. Trust us, this is a drive you won’t want to miss!

How Long Does It Take to Drive the Entire Outer Banks?

The whole trip, including the two ferry rides, can take at least 5-6 hours but you should plan to spend a full day exploring, even more if you have the time. The OBX is located 30 miles off of the North Carolina coast and stretches over 175 miles long to the border or Virginia. It never exceeds more than a mile in width, making it easy to catch all of the attractions along the way. From wild horses to old brick lighthouses, there’s so much you’ll be able to enjoy on this road trip.

A number of beautiful vacation rentals can be found along the way, so travelers are encouraged to make it an extended trip to pause and breathe in the salty air for a while. Stay tuned at the bottom of this article as we outline our favorite places to stay throughout OBX.

You will want to consider a few additional factors when planning your drive. First, the Outer Banks is a popular summer destination, so traffic can be heavy at times, unless you decide to drive during off season.

Second, there are two ferry rides required to reach Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Islands. These ferries come once every hour, so it’s important to plan your trip accordingly. Finally, make sure to drive carefully and obey all posted speed limits, the roads can be curvy and windy!

What Is the Best Time to Visit the Outer Banks?

The best time to visit the Outer Banks is in the spring or fall. These seasons offer moderate temperatures and fewer crowds. This means you should plan your trip during March, April, May, September, October, or December. The temperatures during these months are usually in the 60s and 70s.

Not only will you avoid the summer crowds, but you’ll also find cheaper hotel rates and fewer traffic delays. So, if you can swing it, plan your Outer Banks road trip for one of these shoulder seasons.

However, the drive is still beautiful in the summertime, just be prepared for higher temperatures and more traffic. During summer, you can expect high humidity and temperatures in the upper 80s, making it a great time for swimmers and water sports enthusiasts to visit.

In winter, the Outer Banks can be a bit chilly, but it’s still a beautiful place to visit. Just be sure to pack your coat! Temperatures during winter months usually hover in the 40s and 50s.

No matter when you choose to visit, you’re sure to have an amazing time driving the Outer Banks Scenic Byway.

Is the Water Clear in the Outer Banks?

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The water is usually pretty clear in the Outer Banks, but it can vary depending on the time of year and weather conditions. In general, the water is clearest during the spring and fall months. It’s important to note though that if you’re expecting Caribbean waters, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised. The Atlantic Ocean is typically much darker than the beaches in Florida, for example, but this certainly shouldn’t deter you from taking this vacation!

Visibility can be affected by a number of factors, including storms, wind direction, and tidal activity. However, even on days when the water is a bit murky, you can still enjoy amazing views of the coast from the road.

How Many Days Do You Need in Outer Banks?

Again, this will depend on what you want to do while in the Outer Banks. If you’re just interested in driving the scenic byway and relaxing on the beach, then 1 or 2 days is plenty.

If you want to do some hiking, fishing, kayaking, sightseeing, or other activities, then you’ll need at least a few days. The average traveler will likely need around 3 to 4 days to enjoy all that the Outer Banks has to offer.

How to Get to the Outer Banks

The Outer Banks area is located on the coast of North Carolina and can be accessed by car from several different points. The easiest way to reach them is via US-64, which runs all the way from Raleigh to Manteo.

Approaching From the North: The Outer Banks Scenic Byway begins in Currituck County and continues through Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Rodanthe, and Nags Head before reaching Whalebone Junction and the northern Highway 12 entrance.

Approaching From the South: To reach the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, visitors should take US Highway 17 or US Highway 70 to Morehead City and Beaufort.

Approaching From the West: North of Raleigh and Rocky Mount, visitors can access the Outer Banks Scenic Byway via US Highway 64. Morehead City and Beaufort visitors can also reach the southern entrance by taking US 70 to NC Highway 12.

What Are the Coastal Routes in Outer Banks?

There are several different coastal routes that you can take in the Outer Banks.

The most popular route is known as the Beach Road, which runs along the coast from Nags Head to Corolla. This road is perfect for those who want to experience the best of the Outer Banks, as it offers stunning views and plenty of opportunities to stop and explore.

Another popular route is the Currituck Heritage Highway, which runs along the northern coast of Currituck County. This route is less crowded than Beach Road and offers a more relaxed driving experience.

Tips for Driving in the Outer Banks

Now that you know a little bit more about the Outer Banks and its many driving routes, it’s time to start planning your trip! Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your drive:

  • Start early to avoid traffic. The best time to drive the Outer Banks is early in the morning or late in the evening when the roads are less crowded.
  • Plan your route ahead of time. There are several different routes to choose from, so be sure to plan out which ones you want to take before hitting the road.
  • Pack a picnic. There are plenty of scenic spots to stop and enjoy a meal, so be sure to pack some snacks and drinks for the journey.
  • Be prepared for traffic. The Outer Banks can be crowded during the summer months through Labor Day weekend, so be sure to allow extra time for your drive.
  • Go for four-wheel drive. The Outer Banks area is home to some of the best beaches in the country, so be sure to take advantage of them by renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
  • Stop by the visitor center. The visitor centers located in each town offer lots of information about the area, so be sure to stop by and get some tips from the locals.

Best Places to Visit in the Outer Banks

Now that you know how to get there and what to expect while driving, it’s time to start planning your trip! Here are some of the best places to visit in the Outer Banks:

The Wright Brothers National Memorial

This memorial is dedicated to the brothers who first flew a powered aircraft and changed the course of history. It’s located in Kill Devil Hills and is a must-see for aviation enthusiasts.

The Elizabethan Gardens

This garden was created in tribute to Queen Elizabeth I and offers visitors a chance to experience the beauty of traditional English gardens. It’s located in Manteo and is open from March through November.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

This national seashore is a must-see for nature lovers, as it offers miles of unspoiled coastline and opportunities for fishing, swimming, surfing, and beach driving. It’s located in Hatteras Village and is open year-round.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

This lighthouse is the tallest in North America and offers visitors stunning views of the Outer Banks coastline. It’s located in Buxton and is open from April through October.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center

If you’re looking to go fishing in the Outer Banks, the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center is a must-visit. It offers charters, rentals, and supplies for those looking to catch their dinner. It’s located in Hatteras Village and is open year-round.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

This lighthouse is located on the most remote island (Cedar Island) in the Outer Banks and offers stunning views of the coast. It’s open for tours from April through October.

The Bodie Island Lighthouse

This lighthouse is located a little closer to civilization than Cape Lookout, but it still offers beautiful views of the coastline. It’s open for tours from April through October.

Nags Head Beach

This beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike and offers plenty of opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing. It’s located in Nags Head and is open year-round.

Corolla Beach

This beach is known for its wide stretches of sand dunes and serene atmosphere. The perfect place to relax and enjoy the Outer Banks. It’s located in Corolla and is open year-round..

Hatteras Island Beach

This beach is located on the southernmost island in the Outer Banks and offers stunning views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pamlico Sound. It’s open year-round.

Outer Banks Boil Company Corolla

No coastal vacation is complete without a good old-fashioned seafood boil. This restaurant serves local seafood as well as delicious BBQ. It’s located in Corolla and is open year-round.

Pea Island

In 1938, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was established to provide migratory birds with nesting, resting, and wintering habitats. Visitors to the refuge can also enjoy wild areas and wildlife. It is located on Hatteras Island’s north end. Among its features are beaches, brackish ponds, dunes, and marshes. More than 370 species of birds have been recorded at Pea Island.

Best Places to Stay the Night

Since there is so much to see and do in the Outer Banks, you’ll likely want to spend more than just a day trip. Here are some of the best places to stay the night:

Stay in an Oceanfront Condo

If you’re looking for easy access to the beach and stunning ocean views, an oceanfront condo is a perfect choice. There are plenty of great options to choose from in towns like Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Duck.

This will provide you will unobstructed beautiful views of the ocean, access to tranquil boardwalks, and private beach access that comes along with amenities such as chairs and umbrellas.

Croatan Surf Club

This is one of the best places to stay in the Outer Banks for those who love to surf. It’s located in Kill Devil Hills and provides luxury amenities in each 2 or 3 bedroom flat or townhouse. The view is incredible, and it’s just 180 feet away from the beach. Every unit comes with a private deck, central air conditioning, and free WIFI.

The Paper Crane

This location is important for budget travelers looking for a good price to host a family in. This large property has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and can sleep up to 5 people. It’s contemporary decorations and oceanic color scheme make it feel like a home away from home.

It’s just steps away from the beach and has a shared pool, hot tub, and fitness center on-site. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy your time here.

Waves Village

The Waves Village condos are located at Milepost 40 on the road and on the soundside, Hatteras Island OBX. Each condo is a three-bedroom, three-bathroom with 1,600 square feet of living space and a 10′ balcony.

The unique kiteboarding village features an outdoor swimming pool, onsite restaurant, and coffee shop. The private hot tub is a great way to unwind after a day of watersports on the Pamlico Sound or surfing on the beach.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in the Outer Banks. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway or an action-packed adventure, this coastal destination has something for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!

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