The Outer Banks are a grouping of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. It’s a gorgeous place to take the whole family, rent a beach house, and have a kid-friendly good time. Not only are the over a hundred miles of beaches gorgeous and lush, but there are a variety of fun activities that everyone will love to do. Not all of them involve the water in OBX, but since the islands are split into three regions, it’s easy to get around to each part and do different Outer Banks tours and activities.
Divided between Hatteras Island, Roanoke Island, and what is considered the northern beaches, the Outer Banks is a popular destination during the spring break and summer seasons. Take the whole family for a vacation that you’ll always remember.
There isn’t a shortage of things to do in the Outer Banks, although you’ll still want to spend a considerable time at the beach. So if you’re ready for some land, air, and water tours, it’s going to be a memorable trip that the kiddos will love.
Let’s look at the best family-friendly Outer Banks tours and excursions that you are going to want to book for your next trip with the kids.
On Nags Head, Captain Johnny’s Dolphin Tours has been providing boat rides to see Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins in the wild for many years now. There is nothing better than seeing these beautiful and majestic creatures out in the wilds of the ocean. It’s a two-hour tour narrated in an entertaining style by Captain Jamie Westcott, who will give you lots of facts about this beautiful species and the coastline around it.
It’s very family-friendly for all ages. The boat is 50 feet long and 25 feet wide, so there’s plenty of space for the family to roam around and check out the view from many angles on the boat. If you have a large enough family group, you can even book the entire vessel for the dolphin tour.
The dolphin tours happen three times per day, in the morning, afternoon, and a sunset cruise, which leaves about two hours before sunset. The season for dolphin tours runs May through October, Monday through Friday.
If you are interested in booking for a weekend, it’s by appointment only or a charter. Captain Johnny also makes the guarantee that your family will actually see multiple dolphins on the trip. It’s really a magical way to experience all the nature of an Outer Banks Tour.
Fishing Charter Trips
Another boat trip that is a little more interactive than dolphin watching is doing a fishing charter. The fish off the coast of North Carolina is top-notch. The Hook Up Charter is light tackle fishing suitable for the whole family, even for beginners. You may catch a variety of fish species, including speckled trout, red drum, or one of many other types of large fish.
Captain John Canning runs the charters, and as you can tell from his Instagram page, he’s taken many happy families out on these half-day or all-day excursions in Hatteras, OBX. Plus, the guy is a fifth-generation charter captain, so the sea is clearly in his blood. You can feel safe knowing that your entire family is in great hands during these trips out in the ocean.
The Hook Up Charter does clamming trips too, where he will take the whole family to a secluded beach to wade for clams on this leisurely-style cruise. It’s really easy to do in shallow warm water with a small rake that even the littlest kids can handle. Plus, whatever you catch, you can take it back and steam it for a delicious dinner that the whole family will enjoy.
Wild Horse Tours
The Outer Banks wild horses are known to be a magical part of the OBX experience. So taking an open-air-Hummer tour to catch them in the wild is going to make all the animal lovers in your family very happy. Wild Horse Adventure Tours is the place to go.
They offer a tour of adventure and entertaining tour guides who will keep you laughing the whole time. The guides will tell your family stories of the area, all about the legends and lore that make this part of America famous.
The tour covers almost 20 miles of beachfront area, including the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Whalehead Club. You may even see dolphins, foxes, deer, and boars while searching for those wild stallions.
They are called “Banker” mustang horses, and they are a unique breed that has been indigenous to the area since the 1500s. So you will be seeing a huge piece of history on these off-road tours. Each tour lasts about two hours, and make sure you bring some snacks and drinks for the kids to enjoy.
Outer Banks Kayak Adventures does different kayak tours and excursions all over the area. One of the best ones is the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge Tour. It’s a two-hour tour that will allow your family to see nature at its best. Coast down this natural habitat to see alligators in the wild and other exotic creatures, like unique birds and the endangered red wolf.
For families, it’s ideal to book tandem kayaks, so each one has an adult and child in it, if they are under 12-years-old. A guide from the company goes with you on this guided tour to share knowledge and historical facts about the area.
Beginners and experienced kayakers will enjoy this trip for all ages. You can also bring water and snacks if you choose to. Make sure you wear lots of sunscreen with shoes and clothing that you don’t care about getting damp.
If your family has never been hang gliding before, you’re in for a treat. Kitty Hawk Kites offers these hang gliding tours that go over the sand dunes and are a blast for all ages, even the 12 and under crowd. Kids as young as 4-years-old can take part in this adventure.
During the child’s hang gliding lessons, an experienced instructor will run alongside the child to facilitate the fun. They aren’t actually piloting the hang glider on their own, but they do experience the thrill of flying along the dunes.
To participate in any of the hang gliding experiences, each time period lasts a few hours at one of three different locations offered by the company. There are a couple of locations in Nags Head and at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It’s actually considered the largest hang gliding school in the world since 1974.
The instructors are very knowledgeable. They even have tandem hang gliding that goes up to 2000 feet or higher, if you think the kids would be more comfortable with that. Those specific hang gliding trips are for ages 10 and up. It’s a super memorable and exciting journey that will delight each participant.
OBX Ghost Tours
The south is known for fun ghost tours, and don’t worry, it is not all that scary for families. OBX Walking Tours hosts these excursions that take you through historical old ghost towns in this sightseeing experience. The guides on the tours are very entertaining, beguiling you with tales and stories related to the spookier parts of town.
As an all-ages tour that lasts about an hour and a half, it’s an experience that everyone will be thrilled by. There are a couple of different tours. One tour goes over the time period when North Carolina became air flyers as part of the “First in Flight Walking Tour” near the Wright Brothers Memorial.
The other tour is called the “OBX Pirate Walk”, which takes place in downtown Manteo. You’ll learn all about the history of pirates in the area, so if you have any kids or teens who were fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, this is the tour to take. They even have a treasure trivia game after the tour where you can win some actual pirate booty. It’s a blast of yo-ho-ho fun without the rum! Tour prices range from $18 to $25 for children and adults.
Coastal Helicopter Tours
Want to see all of the Outer Banks from an aerial view? It’s easy with a family-friendly helicopter tour from OBX Air Tour Adventures. This is an unforgettable tour that is great for any age. You’ll see gorgeous lighthouses, the amazing coastline, back country, and a view out of every window on the chopper to see shipwrecks, wildlife, and the Wrights Brothers Monument.
It doesn’t get any more fun than this to take to the skies. Each flight can hold up to three passengers, so keep that in mind when booking if you have a large family.
They offer different tours, from their “Discovery Tour”, which is only 12 minutes, to their premium tour, the “Ocracoke Island Tour”, which’s almost two hours long. Keep in mind that flying is contingent on the weather, but if they have to cancel, the company will do its best to reschedule you during your trip.
Being on a beautiful sailboat coasting along the waters of the Atlantic will be a memorable family excursion. The Downeast Rover is the company to go to that does a sailboat charter along the Manteo waterfront. The boat itself is a 55-foot top schooner, but if that doesn’t mean anything to you, just know that it’s a really nice sailboat.
They do day sailing and sunset charters at different times on their two-hour tours. It’s a rate of $45 per person for daytime and $60 per person on the sunset cruises. You can bring along snacks and drinks, if you choose to. Once again, it’s always a good idea to bring snacks for the kids to make any experience more fun for them. Mom and dad may need a little wine, which is also allowed on the sailboat.
For guided stand-up paddleboard tours, it’s a good idea to go to the Kitty Hawk Kayak and Surf School. They are experts when it comes to this easy-to-learn activity that is suitable for families with children as young as 6. There are a few different areas they offer in OBX, including Kitty Hawk, which is ideal for young paddlers and beginners.
It goes through the ecology around the salt marshes of Martin’s Point along the southern shores. A truly beautiful place that is a joy to paddle around.
Some other places they do paddleboard tours are Roanoke Island, Duck, and Cape Hatteras. There are even some night tours that will explore dark coastal areas with flashlights under the moonlight to see fluorescent creatures in the water.
All of the tours are around an hour and a half long and are very safe for families. Be on a dolphin watch during your trip because they like to frolic around the area. Rentals for paddle boards are available for un-guided trips too.
If your family is game to go birding, the OBX is a great place to do it. Native Birding Tours is the outfitter that’s going to guide you along the journey to discover the most beautiful winged creatures in North Carolina. It’s great for all experience levels, families, and beginning bird enthusiasts or ornithologists. Being out in nature like this is a nice way to make a great family memory, no screens allowed.
Jonathan Cooley runs the sighting trips, and he is an area native who grew up in a birding family. He started his eco-tour company in 2019 with its popularity growing year by year. Trips vary in time, but usually go from one to two hours, which is perfect for families and the trip that Mr. Cooley recommends.
Half or full-day excursions are also available, but you just have to know the tolerance of your kids to be out in nature walking around spotting birds. Plus, it gets quite hot during the summer, so it’s best to book an early morning tour for the best weather. You’ll want to bring water, sunscreen, snacks, binoculars, and photography equipment to take pictures of the gorgeous birds and scenery.
If you want to get your family into the waves, there’s no better way than a day of surfing lessons. The Cape Hatteras Surf School does one on one lessons and group lessons for two or more people on Rodanthe Beach. It’s 90 minutes of fun and encouragement with skilled instructors showing your entire family the ropes of surfing the waves.
Create unforgettable family memories while doing an amazing activity together. The prices vary from $90 to $115 per person, depending on how many people are in your group. Just make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen for your whole family. Keep in mind that surfing lessons are usually designed for ages 7 and up for those that are good swimmers.