Offseason... The Outer Banks of North Carolina

The outer banks of North Carolina… are you familiar with the area? The 200-mile-long string of narrow peninsulas and barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and southern Virginia? What thoughts come to mind? Bright sun, sand dunes covered with sea oats leading to beautiful water, miles of soft sandy beach, relaxation, great sea food, and wonderful times with family and friends? We’ve been to the outer banks a number of times during the “peak season” (June, July, and August), but until last week we’d never been there during the “off season”. How was it? Awesome!

We set off on a 7-night road trip with only one plan… to stop in Annapolis, MD, the first night. The weather was very cold and windy in the Annapolis and Chesapeake Bay areas, and it was snowing in Ocean City! Needless to say, we scooted south quicker than expected. A few days later we found ourselves on Airbnb trying to find a house in Nags Head, NC that would rent for 3 nights… what follows is what we found and our recommendations for an “off season” visit to the outer banks of North Carolina…

Where to stay

During our trip we explored the area from Kitty Hawk to Hatteras. On our prior trips we stayed in Avon, which is in the southern area of the outer banks close to Hatteras, and less populated in the “peak season”. However, in the “off season” the northern areas like Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Whalebone offer far more options for activities and dining.

What was open

In the Nags Head area, we estimate that about 60% of the restaurants and activities were open. We had no problem finding great places to eat, shop, and amuse ourselves. Many of the fish markets were closed, but we found Carawan Seafood Co. in Kitty Hawk, which was awesome… we enjoyed our fish so much that we cooked dinner twice!

Of all the communities we drove through, the least was open in Rodanthe… actually we can’t remember anything being open there. About 40% of the restaurants and stores were open in Avon and Hatteras.

What to do

No matter what time of year it is, the shoreline is magnificent… it’s awesome to stand in front of the ocean and look both ways and see nothing but sand and water. We were blessed with a warm day and enjoyed the beach… walking, collecting shells, sitting in the sun, and playing in the sand. The water was way too cold to go in without a wetsuit (although some people down the beach took a little plunge after a few adult beverages…).


Our second day in Nag’s head wasn’t quite as warm and was very windy, so we took the opportunity to explore. One of the most impressive attractions of the area is the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. We all really enjoyed learning about the Wright Brothers work leading to the first flight, what brought them to Kitty Hawk, and the people who helped them along the way.

Some of the most iconic lighthouses are located in the outer banks… we visited the Bodie Island Lighthouse and the Hatteras Lighthouse.

The Outer Banks are overall really beautiful and a great place for a ride in the car to look around. We stopped at a number of piers and different beaches as we explored the various communities.

Finding the best lodging option

House rentals are the primary lodging option in the outer banks. There are a few hotels, but you get far more for your money with a house rental. One wrinkle is that many of the house rentals require a week stay and only start/stop on certain days of the week. To get around this we went the Airbnb route. We were able to find a BEAUTIFUL house in Nags Head just a street off the beach for $198/night. It was our first Airbnb experience and we loved it. Our host was excellent, the house was spotless, and we didn’t have to worry about brining things like towels and linens. Click here for the Airbnb link… the pictures are so accurate we didn’t feel the need to take more.

The awesome food

Whether you like sea food, steak, vegetarian, burgers, or pizza, the outer banks has great food. One of the top rated spots in Kill Devil Hills is Food Dudes… Food Dudes is in a strip mall and from the outside it doesn’t look like much… step inside and immediately a fun and laid back vibe hits you. Todd had the tostada with blackened tuna, which was pretty epic. I had a fantastic blackened tuna salad, and Daniel had a burger and waffle fries which he loved.

While we were exploring we needed a place for lunch. We originally thought we’d stop in Rodanthe, but nothing was open, so we kept driving and ended up in Avon at Bros. Sandwich Shack. Bros. has a great selection of burgers and sandwiches, and also offers a really great salad. All of the ingredients are very fresh and high quality… Todd’s Philly Steak had a “silky” smoked gouda cheese sauce and special bread that was described as “not just a taxi” for the sandwich!

We always love a good pizza and were really pleased with the pizza from Slice Pizzeria and Kill Devil Hills. Slice offers lots of different pizzas either whole or by the slice. Todd also had a really good Greek salad.

The weather

We had full sun the entire time we were in the outer banks. The temperature was as low as the low 40s at night and as high as 68 during the day. Our second full day in the outer banks was a little cooler… mid 50s… and was very windy. We looked at the forecast before we left and it looked like a mix of temperatures from the mid-50s to the mid-60s for the next week.

Wrapping it up

We had a great time and would definitely visit the outer banks again in the off season. As we looked around we noted that many places open back up in March… the outer banks could be a fun and inexpensive spring break destination at some point!

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