The Best Museums To Visit In The Outer Banks

The Outer Banks are known for beautiful beaches, family-friendly attractions, tremendous watersports and fishing, and world-class dining. 

But few realize that OBX also enjoys a rich history that is showcased with beautiful memorials and museums scattered along the islands that make up the Outer Banks. From shipwrecks to the first flight from the Wright Brothers, there’s so much to learn about in our local Outer Banks museums. 

Whether you’re seeking a few educational stops during your vacation to keep the kids busy during summer break or you’re seeking a fun and engaging attraction to enjoy while you take a break from the sun and the sand, check out a few of our favorite museums to visit in the Outer Banks! 

Graveyard of the Atlantic

Photo Credit: Zach Frailey via Flickr CC2.0

59200 Museum Dr, Hatteras, NC 27943 | (252) 986-0720

Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Daily 

Admission: Free

If you’re seeking an interactive museum to keep the kiddos busy for a few hours, the Graveyard of the Atlantic is calling your name! One of the latest additions to the OBX museum lineup, the Graveyard of the Atlantic is most well-known for displaying artifacts and antiques that are found during excavations and expeditions off the Outer Banks coast. 

Additionally, the museum hosts fun events throughout the year, like maritime crafts for kids, canvas-painting events, scavenger hunts, and more. The best part? Admission to the museum is free! Donations are accepted and appreciated, but there is no cost to enter and enjoy all of the museum’s activities. 

Roanoke Maritime Museum

Photo Credit: photo516 via Flickr CC2.0

104 Fernando St, Manteo, NC 27954 

Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Daily 

Admission: Free

Conveniently situated in bustling downtown Manteo on Roanoke Island, the Maritime Museum functions as a working boat shop that provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on North Carolina’s rich maritime history. 

The museum features various displayed watercraft, historical exhibits, and restoration projects, in addition to hosting many hands-on workshops. The Maritime Museum on Roanoke is also home to the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, which also offers engaging educational exhibits and makes a great backdrop for a few souvenir pictures. 

Wright Brothers National Memorial and Museum

Photo Credit: Tom Benson via Flickr CC2.0

1000 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948 

Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Daily 

Admission: $10 / person, children under 2 free

Hard to miss during your drive down the Outer Banks, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is a sight to be seen! Standing at 60-feet tall and made out of pure granite, monument pays homage to the fathers of flight—the Orville and Wilbur Wright. These tenacious brothers spend several years building and perfecting an aircraft and were able to achieve the first successful airplane flight on December 17, 1903. 

The memorial is right next to the Visitors Center, which features artifacts and exhibits on the Wright Brothers’ work and flight research process. There is a small fee to visit—starting at $10 per person (children are free). The Wright Brothers Memorial and Museum is a true “must see” museum for OBX visitors! 

Corolla Wild Horse Museum

Photo Credit: Susan Smith via Flickr CC2.0

520B Old Stoney Rd, Corolla, NC 27927 | (252) 453-8002

Hours: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Daily 

Admission: Free

Many OBX guests are pleasantly surprised to learn that Corolla Beach is home some truly majestic residents—wild horses. Colonial Spanish Mustangs have called the Outer Banks home for centuries, and Corolla Beach now offers several miles of protected beach space for these gentle giants to enjoy a relaxed beach life. 

Nature enthusiasts can take a wild horse tour and enjoy a visit to the Wild Horse Museum. Open year-round, this family-friendly museum offers interactive, hands-on exhibits for children, video displays and horse history exhibits, and seasonal craft activities. Admission to the museum is free, with an occasional small fee for participation in the on-site events. 

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Photo Credit: Jasperdo via Flickr CC2.0

1401 National Park Dr, Manteo, NC 27954 | (252) 473-2111

Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Daily 

History buffs, rejoice! Explore England’s first official home in the ‘New World’ at the Fort Raleigh Historic Site. A cultural and historical mecca, this landmark protects and preserves portions of the first New World settlement, which were active from 1584 to 1590, and showcase the cultural heritage of indigenous Native American groups that lived in the area. 

The museum features genuine artifacts and educational exhibits that bring Outer Banks history to life! A visit entails both indoor and outdoor attractions and exhibits, making it interactive and engaging. The Fort Raleigh Historic Site is a great way to keep the kids busy and sneak in a little learning. 

Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education

Photo Credit: C Watts via Flickr CC2.0

1160 Village Lane, Corolla, NC 27927 | (252) 453-0221

Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Saturday; Closed Sunday

Admission: Free

Coastal enthusiasts and beach lovers alike are sure to enjoy the nautical village housed within the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. Perfect for the aspiring marine biologist in the family, this sweeping center offers an impressive 22,000 square feet of exhibit space. North Carolina wildlife is the focus of the museum, which showcases everything from native fish and bird species to turtles, mammals, and more. 

The museum itself is located in the heart of the Historic Corolla Park, which provides a picturesque setting for an afternoon of exploration. Don’t miss your chance to get a picture with ‘Banks the Bear’, a large, friendly stuffed bear in the museum lobby. The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education offers free admission, though donations are gladly accepted. 

Roanoke Island Festival Park 

Photo Credit: ncculture via Flickr CC2.0

1 Festival Park, Manteo, NC 27954 | (252) 475-1500

Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Daily 

Admission: $10 / person; children under 2 free

Have you ever wondered what a ‘day in the life’ was like for early English settlers? Well, now is your chance to find out! The expansive, 25-acre Roanoke Island Festival Park gives visitors a first-hand settler experience through costumed tour guides and interpreters, interactive historical exhibits, and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages. 

Festival park features three major attractions—the settlement site, the Elizabeth II, and the American Indian Town. The historic park also features education on important Civil War politics, including an interactive exhibit on the ‘Freedmen’s Colony’, a small town established by freed slaves who were emancipated during the Civil War. 

In addition to being chock full of historical fun, the venue also hosts exciting concerts and events in the summer. Pricing for the Island Festival Park starts at $10 for adults and $7 for youths (children under 2 are free). 

Island Farm 

Photo Credit: fallequinox2006 via Flickr CC2.0

1140 US-64, Manteo, NC 27954 | (252) 473-6500

Hours: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Daily 

Admission: $8/person; children under 5 are free

A thoughtfully designed and engaging living history experience, Island Farm interprets the daily life on Roanoke Island during the mid-1800s. The focal point of the historical museum is the Etheridge farmstead, where Adam Etheridge built a house on land that had been farmed by his family since the mid-1700s. It is the oldest period restoration of a house on Roanoke Island, and includes original 19th-century furnishings.

On-site, guests can peruse nearly a dozen buildings, like the original farmhouse, horse barns, chicken coops, the blacksmith shop, and more. Interpreters will guide visitors through the entire experience and bring history to life with educational demonstrations and hands-on activities, like ox-drawn carriage rides, cooking classes, 19th-century games, and gardening lessons—to name just a few. There are also animals that roam freely on the grounds, including chicken, sheep, cow, and horses, so visitors can get up close and personal with a few furry friends. 

A trip to Island Farm certainly won’t break the bank. Tickets are only $8 per person and children under 5 are admitted free of charge. 

Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center 

Photo Credit: Ken Lund via Flickr CC2.0

53536 NC-12, Frisco, NC 27936 | (252) 995-4440

Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Tuesday – Sunday; Closed Monday

Admission: $5/person

Discover and connect with the indigenous Native American tribes that thrived along the Outer Banks and across the country at the Frisco Native American Museum. This historical museum features both indoor and outdoor education space with a variety of exhibits for guests of any age. 

Inside, explore more than 1,000 genuine artifacts from Native American cultures from across the country, with a special exhibit dedicated to OBX tribes. Items include various handmade plates and vases, weapons, articles of clothing, and much more. 

Outside, peruse the nature center’s vast network of winding trails that cover several acres of maritime forest. Along the trails, explore various plants, flowers, and wildlife, many of which are labeled with educational exhibits to create the feel of a full outdoor museum. The nature center also includes a ‘fossil pile’ where guests can explore ancient shark teeth, shells, and fossils that date back thousands of years. 

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station 

Photo Credit: County of Dare via Flickr CC2.0

Rodanthe, NC 27968 | (252) 987-1552

Hours: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Saturday; Closed Sunday

Admission: $8/person; children under 4 free. 

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station (pronounced chi-ka-ma-COM-i-co) is one of the most complete remaining life-saving stations in the nation and a great museum for military and medical buffs. The purpose of the museum is to protect, preserve, and interpret the rich history of the U.S. Life-Saving Service (now known as the U.S. Coast Guard) through interactive presentations and carefully displayed artifacts. What better way to pay homage to our armed services than to learn more about the rich history that has deep roots right here in the Outer Banks?

Few know that Chicamacomico was the very first of seven Life-Saving Stations built in North Carolina and is truly one of the most unique historical maritime sites along the entire East coast. The site includes an original 1800s life-saving station, a wreck pole, a midgett house and cook house from the 1900s, and more. The site tour is self-guided, though there are plenty of museum staff on-hand to answer any and all questions you might have. 

There’s plenty to see and do in the Outer Banks for guests of all ages! Be sure to check out our Official OBX Blog for more vacation bucket list items, exclusive getaway deals, and more. 

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