The temperature may be dropping, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a winter journey to the Outer Banks. Though you won’t be hitting the beach in the same fashion you would during summer months, winter in the Outer Banks brings its own kind of charm. Warm up your days this winter with these Outer Banks winter activities!
Take in the Winter Lights at Elizabethan Gardens
Get in the holiday spirit by strolling through the Elizabethan Gardens after it has been decked out in lights for the winter season. Already a beautiful destination complete with flowering plants and a Discovery Cottage that’s great for kids, the Elizabethan Gardens come alive in the winter with holiday displays and décor throughout. Stroll along the festively lit paths in this winter wonderland, with the sights and sounds providing a special setting to get you into the holiday spirit.
Go for a Stroll on the Beach
The water may be a little cold for a swim, but the oceanfront still holds a special magic, even during winter months. With a hoodie to keep you warm and the cool sand beneath your feet, there are miles of beach to explore in the Outer Banks, and you’ll find the serenity of fewer crowds during this season. In the evenings, the clear skies and few lights make the sky come alive in a brilliant display of stars. By day, comb the shore for shells and discover colorful beach glass treasures.
Bring the Outdoors In
If the weather won’t cooperate for a nice beach stroll, or you’re just interested in learning more about the area’s fauna, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education is a great bet for an interesting afternoon. Located in Currituck Heritage Park, this free museum near the lighthouse is a fun way to learn about the area’s natural history and the need for preservation. It’s not a “boring” museum; your kids will love searching for the stuffed birds in the scavenger hunt, watching the film on the area’s history and culture, and trying out the other fun activities that staff provide. The Wildlife Education Center is a great stop for visitors who are new to the Outer Banks!
Go Lighthouse Hopping
Lighthouses have a certain lure about them, and you’ll find several scattered across the Outer Banks. From the bold black and white stripes of the Bodie Island Lighthouse to the natural brick exterior of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, each of these iconic structures have their own character, history, and charm. The interiors of some of the lighthouses can be explored, also providing a window into the area’s rich maritime history. If you don’t make it before they close for the season, exploring the exterior and the surrounding grounds is still a picturesque way to spend some time along the coast.
Dive into Local History
It’s always so much easier to appreciate a destination when you know more about its local culture and customs. The Outer Banks have a fascinating history, from the Wright Brothers to Blackbeard the pirate. Don’t miss out on it!
Open every day of the year except for Christmas, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is a must-see site in Kill Devil Hills. Stand in awe of the Wrights’ striving for the sky at the sand dune and hills where they first took flight; visit the visitors’ center to learn more about their journey. You’ll see a replica of their first successful plane, and this is a great stop for the whole family.
Another great spot for learning more about the Outer Banks is the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Located on Roanoke Island, this site preserves and commemorates the history of the original Algonquian inhabitants, the English settlers who founded the fort in the late 1500s, and the freed slaves who found refuge here during the Civil War. It’s a fascinating window into many aspects of American life, past and present, and includes a nice 2.5-mile loop walk on the Freedom Trail, where you can explore the maritime forest.
Finally, no visit to the Outer Banks would be complete without some pirate history! You probably know that Blackbeard the pirate lived on Ocracoke Island, but you’re bound to learn more about him if you visit Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit. Explore this small but detailed museum for some fascinating tidbits of North Carolina history, and enjoy browsing in the gift shop for some excellent souvenirs of your visit.
Best Things to Do in the Outer Banks
No matter the season, the Outer Banks is a memorable destination, which is why so many visitors faithfully return year after year. Make your winter getaway memorable by treating yourself to a stay in one of our exquisite Outer Banks winter vacation rentals!