14 Fun Things to Do in the Outer Banks With Kids

Sunset at Rodanthe in Outer Banks
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Natasha Sioss/Getty Images

The 200-mile string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks is a popular family destination renowned for its temperate climate and wide expanse of open beachfront. Here's where to bring the kids in the OBX.

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    Slide Down the Tallest Sand Dune in the East

    Sand Sledding in the outer banks
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    Jockey's Ridge

    Climb to the top of the tallest sand dune on the Atlantic coast at Jockey's Ridge State Park, where the dune's height varies from 80 to 100 feet, depending on weather conditions. Sand dune sledding is a casual affair here, with kids of all ages sliding on cardboard and body boards throughout the year. This spot also delivers spectacular sunsets. (300 W Carolista Dr., Nags Head)

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    Learn to Kiteboard

    Boy kitesurfing
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    Image Source/Getty Images

    Blessed with strong, steady winds, the OBX is a world-class kiteboarding destination. Inexperienced adults and kids ages 7 and up can attend a three-day "Zero to Hero" kiteboarding camp at REAL Watersports. Other activities include surfing, paddleboarding, and Jetskiing. (25706 NC-12, Waves) 

  • 03 of 14

    Visit the Site of the First Flight

    Wright Brothers Memorial, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
    ••• Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

    When the Wright Brothers wanted a place to test their airplane, they chose Kitty Hawk for its brisk winds, open spaces, and sandy terrain. At the Wright Brothers Memorial, you can walk along Orville and Wilbur's original flight paths and learn a heckuva lot about aviation. (N. Croatan Hwy., Kill Devil Hills) 

  • 04 of 14

    Shake up Your Sweet Tooth

    John's Drive-In is a local institution. This classic drive-in shack is renowned for its thick milkshakes and fried fish sandwiches. Milkshakes come in four flavors, with lots of possible toppings. Eat at picnic tables outside. Open May-October. (3716 N. Virginia Dare Trl., Kitty Hawk)

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  • 05 of 14

    Climb a Lighthouse

    Cape Hatteras Light Station at sunset, Hatteras Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA
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    Danita Delimont/Getty Images

    Three of the five historic lighthouses in the Outer Banks have towers that are climbable: Cape Hatteras Light Station (46368 Old Lighthouse Rd., Buxton), Bodie Island Light Station (8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd., Nags Head), and Currituck Beach Lighthouse (Off Rte. 12, Corolla)

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    Pet a Manta Ray or Hermit Crab

    Shark at aquarium in North Carolina
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    Doris Rudd Designs/Getty Images

    One of the Outer Banks' most treasured kid-friendly attractions, the North Carolina Aquarium showcases alligators, sharks, sea turtles, sea otters, and countless other maritime species. You can watch animal feedings, quiz scuba divers in a shark tank, or visit a touch tank and pet hermit crabs, giant horseshoe crabs, and even manta rays. Peek inside the real-life marine hospital where staff care for marine species and get them back on their flippers again. (374 Airport Rd., Manteo)

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    Spend an Evening Ghost Crab Hunting

    Ghost Crab Hunting in the Outer Banks
    ••• William Gray/Getty Images

    Your kids will love hunting for Atlantic ghost crabs on the beach. These opalescent, sand-colored crabs are relatively harmless, spending days burrowed in the sand and coming out at night. Bring a flashlight or headlamps and a bucket, then try to catch them as they scamper on across the sand.

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    Be a Junior Ranger

    Established in 1953 as our nation's first national seashore, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers a junior ranger program for kids ages 5-13 from mid-June through Labor Day. (1401 National Park Dr., Avon)

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  • 09 of 14

    Learn Through Play

    ChildAtPlay.jpg
    ••• Child at Play Museum

    A rainy day is a perfect opportunity to bring younger kids out for some interactive fun at the Children at Play Museum. Hands-on role-play exhibits let kids visit a doctor's office, do some grocery shopping, go fishing, try surfing, visit a lighthouse, and steer an airplane. During the weekly science hour, children can experiment with smells, taste, and touch. (3810 N. Croatan Hwy., Kitty Hawk)

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    Reel in a Big One

    Sportfishing in the Outer Banks
    ••• Bite Me Sportfishing

    Sure, you can fish off the pier. But if you want to tell a very big fish tale, charter a large boat with a captain and mate at Bite Me Sportfishing. Up to six people (including kids age 4 and up) can go out for an all-day adventure of catching tuna, swordfish, mahi, wahoo, and other big fish. Don't have six people in your family? Share the boat with another group. (Hatteras Harbor)

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    Fly a Kite

    The famously windy OBX beaches are why Orville and Wilbur Wright came to test out their 1902 airplane. For an afternoon of high-flying fun, Kitty Hawk Kites sells single-line and stunt kites. (Multiple locations, including 1216 Duck Rd., Duck and 307 Queen Elizabeth Ave., Manteo)

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    Go on a Wild Horse Safari

    A wild Banker Pony mare and her foal, Outer Banks, North Carolina
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    Sean Russell/Getty Images

    Wild horses have run free on the beaches north of Corolla since their ancestors swam ashore from shipwrecked Spanish galleons in the 16th century. Bob’s Wild Horse Tours offers off-road eco-tours in an open-top vehicle so you get a good look at these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. You may also spy white-tail deer, red fox, wild boar, or even buffalo. (1066 Ocean Trl., Corolla)

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  • 13 of 14

    Catch a Fish, Frog, or Dragonfly

    Center For Wildlife Education
    ••• Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education

    Located on the Currituck Sound, the 22,000-square-foot Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education offers a long roster of free outdoor workshops where kids can learn to fish, crab, track animals, or catch frogs or dragonflies. Teens 14 and up can join naturalist-led kayaking excursions on the sound. (1160 Village Ln., Corolla)

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    Learn to Hang Ten

    Little Boy Beach surfing
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    Paul McGee/Getty Images

    Take a two-hour family surf lesson from the folks at the Corolla Surf Shop. Kids 9 and up (and parents, too) can get an introduction to surfing from local expert surfers and learn the fundamentals of surfing: water safety, paddling, catching a wave, popping up on the board, and balance. All equipment is provided. (807 Ocean Trl., Corolla)