The Outer Banks is located on the east side of the US, and the only reason why they’re not that popular is that the east has quite a few other summer destinations that people go to instead.
However, this region has plenty to offer, and we hope that our article on where to stay in the Outer Banks can convince you that it’s definitely a great place to visit.
Where to Stay in the Outer Banks
Before we tell you where to stay in the Outer Banks, we should probably tell you a bit more about the region as a whole. The entire area is practically covered in beaches, so finding a place where you can work on your tan or swim a few laps isn’t going to be hard at all.
You also have plenty of attractions like mini golf fields, go-karting tracks, amusement parks, obstacle courses, and many other fun things that you can try out.
The best part is that all of these attractions are scattered all over the place rather than just being in one city, which means that you’ll have some fun attractions close to you regardless of where you stay.
In addition to that, there are also more than a few museums that you can visit. All of them are pretty unique, so you’re bound to find something that appeals to you.
And finally, there are aquariums where you can see exotic fish on display, as well as scuba tours where you go to see the marine life first-hand. What we’re trying to say is that there are more than enough attractions and activities to choose from, so let’s just tell you all about them in more detail.
The 5 Best Parts of the Outer Banks
There are 10 cities and areas that comprise the region known as the Outer Banks, but we’ve managed to cut the number by half because we only kept the cities that had something unique to offer to tourists.
- Kitty Hawk: The habitat of turtles and otters and an ideal place to do some scuba diving
- Kill Devil Hills: Where you’ll find tons of statues dedicated to important moments in the history of flight
- Nags Head: Several adrenaline-filled attractions and adventure parks
- Manteo: Probably the richest city in the region in terms of history
- Buxton: Home of some of the most interesting museums in the Outer Banks
The Best Areas & Hotels in the Outer Banks
The first thing that you’ll notice about the Outer Banks is that all of the cities and locations have names that are pretty out there. However, if you can ignore the strange naming pattern, this cluster of cities can provide you with everything you need to have a fun vacation, regardless of where you stay.
That being said, each of the locations that we go over will have some unique attractions that you won’t find in any of the other cities. This means that it’s still a good idea to go over the fun pastimes that we cover and decide on where to stay in the Outer Banks based on the ones you find to be the most interesting.
1. Kitty Hawk
The northernmost area of the Outer banks has some fantastic beaches and a massive boardwalk where you can find some fantastic restaurants and bars if you want to go out for a night on the town.
While the beaches are the natural draw of the area thanks to the fine sand and the crystal-clear water, the sealife is another big reason why people come to Kitty Hawk. If you go for a scuba diving tour in the deep, you’ll more than likely run into some pretty exotic-looking fish.
You might even stumble upon the otters and turtles that call this place their home as well. You’ll also find a children’s museum in the area, which might sound particularly appealing to anyone traveling with little ones.
There are tons of interactive exhibits that the children can participate in and have fun with, and at the end of the day, they might even learn something interesting.
However, if you’re on vacation with your partner, then the nearby park might be a better option. There are tons of picnic areas where you can enjoy a sit down in the shade or maybe take a walk and explore the greenery in the area.
The only real issue with this city is that while there are restaurants and bars, they’re all sort of the same, so if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.
Things to Do
- Pack a few food items, get a large blanket, find a nice spot in the shade, and spend a few hours in the park just enjoying your picnic.
- Go to the children’s museum and check out the interactive exhibits that are primarily meant for kids but can honestly be enjoyed by all ages.
- Go to the beach and spend the day tanning, swimming, or trying to see the indigenous turtle and otter population with your own eyes.
Where to Eat
- Hurricane Mo’s Beachside Bar And Grill is the best place in the area to get some pub grub.
- The Rundown Cafe has both Pacific and Carribian dishes that you can try out.
- La Fogata is where you go if you’re in the mood for some Mexican fare.
Kitty Hawk Budget Hotels
- Baymont by Wyndham offers free parking for all of the guests, a front desk that’s always available for anything you might need, and rooms that come with a cable TV and a refrigerator.
Kitty Hawk Mid-Range Hotels
- The Pirates’ Retreat Cottage is a holiday home that’s quite spacious, comes with a full kitchen that’s equipped with a refrigerator and a microwave, a living room with a flat-screen TV, a bedroom with a large bed, and free wifi throughout the property.
Kitty Hawk Luxury Hotels
- Hilton Garden Inn has both an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool, an in-house bar with tiki-themed tables where you can enjoy a drink, and rooms that come with a cable TV, a small refrigerator, and a coffee maker.
- Beachwoods by Diamond Resort has two massive swimming pools, a water slide, a rec room with plenty of games, a fitness center, a tennis court, and a flat-screen TV in every room.
2. Kill Devil Hills
Everyone knows who the Wright Brothers are, and everyone knows what they invented, but not many people know that the maiden flight of their prototype plane was actually tested in this very area back in 1903. To commemorate this historic event, there’s a huge monument called the “Wright Brothers National Memorial.”
Additionally, you might also be interested in a similarly themed monument called the Monument to a Century of Flight that’s nearby the Wright Brothers’ site. Here, you’ll find inscriptions that mention some of the most significant milestones in the history of aviation.
On the other side of the spectrum, if you’re not interested in historic sites, then you might want to check out the Paradise Golf & Arcade, where you can get a club and sink some balls or spend some coins on pinball and have a relaxed night of fun and games.
This area is also the home of a place called Destination Fun. This is a sort of indoor amusement park with plenty of playgrounds for kids, a video game arcade with quite a selection of machines, and even a pirate-themed laser tag zone where you can shoot your friends.
This is the most visited spot in the Outer Banks, and the massive influx of tourists every year means that the restaurants and bars in the area have adjusted their prices accordingly and might overcharge you for a beer.
Things to Do
- Go to the Wright Brothers National Memorial or the nearby Monument to a Century of Flight and learn a bit more about the history of aviation.
- Get some change, put on your golf cleats, and spend a whole day at the arcade and minigolf place for a bit of goofy fun.
- Destination Fun Zone is a great place where you can spend an entire day just having a bit of fun with your friends.
Where to Eat
- The Kill Devil Grill is a casual eatery where you can grab some BBQ.
- JK’s Restaurant offers both land and sea fare depending on what you feel like eating today.
- Outer Banks Brewing Station is the best place to go if you want to grab a stiff drink.
Kill Devil Hills Budget Hotels
- Driftin Sands allows you to keep pets in your room, has free wifi throughout the property, and a coffee maker in every room.
- Days Inn by Wyndham has an outdoor swimming pool, a complimentary breakfast every morning, and a front desk that’s always open.
Kill Devil Hills Mid-Range Hotels
- John Yancey Oceanfront Inn comes with an on-site laundrette, as well as a microwave, a small fridge, and a cable TV in every room.
- Comfort Inn on the Ocean offers a buffet breakfast every morning, an in-house bar, and a cable TV in every room.
Kill Devil Hills Luxury Hotels
- The Sea Ranch Resort comes with an indoor swimming pool, an in-house bar where you can grab a stiff drink at night, a complimentary breakfast every day, and rooms that come with a flat-screen TV and a coffee machine.
- Ramada Plaza by Wyndham is a beachfront hotel that provides all of the guests with a complimentary breakfast every morning, an indoor swimming pool, a fully-equipped fitness center, and free wifi throughout the property.
3. Nags Head
This is the home of the Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which contains the largest sand dunes in the Eastern United States. Now, we agree that the sightseeing value of a pile of sand isn’t exactly high, but the dunes make up for it by allowing you to go paragliding or sliding down them for a bit of adrenaline-filled fun.
Keeping with the high-octane attractions, you can also find a go-karting track, where you can drive a few laps, as well as an amusement park called First Flight Adventure Park. In the latter, you’ll find courses full of rope ladders, zip lines, balancing beams, and plenty of other fun obstacles that you can try and run through.
This area also has several golf courses where you can try to make trick shots and beat your friends, as well as a full-sized golf course where you can practice your swing or learn how to play if it’s your first time.
And finally, if you’re in the mood for some peace and quiet, then you might like to check out the multiple fishing spots that can be found in the area. We suggest renting a boat and going out deeper into the water if the weather allows it — it’s worth it.
Nags Head definitely has more than enough entertainment venues to keep anyone occupied for several weeks, but the surprising issue with this area is that most of the hotels aren’t all that great. There are a few good ones here and there, but they’re usually pretty expensive and almost always booked up unless you call a few weeks ahead of time.
Things to Do
- Visit the giant dunes in the area and have some fun gliding down the hill, or maybe go a bit more extreme and try out some paragliding.
- Check out the mini golf courses in the area and play a few holes with your friends.
- Go to the First Flight Adventure Park and have a bit of fun on the obstacle courses while also getting some exercise in.
Where to Eat
- Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant has a great seafood specials menu that you can try.
- It’s All Gravy Italian Eatery offers everything from salads to submarine sandwiches.
- Sugar Creek Seafood Restaurant is where you go if you want to try some crab and lobster dishes.
Nags Head Budget Hotels
- Dolphin Oceanfront Motel comes with a small refrigerator and a cable TV in every room, as well as a swimming pool with a lounge area.
- Colonial Inn has a flat-screen cable TV, a microwave, and a coffee maker in every room, as well as an outdoor swimming pool.
Nags Head Mid-Range Hotels
- Comfort Inn South Oceanfront comes with a fitness center with quite a lot of different workout gear, rooms that come with an AC unit and a cable TV, and free wifi throughout the property.
- Blue Heron Motel has two swimming pools of varying sizes, a flat-screen TV, and a coffee maker in every room, as well as free parking for all of the guests.
Nags Head Luxury Hotels
- Surf Side Hotel is located near the beach, has two swimming pools, offers a complimentary breakfast every morning, and all of the rooms come with a flat-screen TV, a coffee maker, and free wifi.
- First Colony Inn comes with an outdoor swimming pool, a fully-equipped business center, a complimentary breakfast every morning, and rooms that come with a microwave, a small refrigerator, and free wifi.
Manteo is where you’ll find the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum, which tells the interesting story of the first lifesaving station in the US that included black people in a time when they were considered to be second-class citizens.
Island Farm is another interesting museum where you can go if you want to experience what life was like back in the 1850s. You’ll see many interactive exhibits of people dressed in period-accurate garb going around and doing all of the chores that were expected of the workers.
In the meantime, you’re also being told about what life was like in those times, as well as a little bit of the history of the city. There’s also a similar attraction nearby that’s called the Roanoke Island Festival Park.
It also involves dressed-up actors telling you about the history of the region, but this time you also get dressed up and participate in the activities, which is always a load of fun.
The most fun attraction, though, would have to be the North Carolina Aquarium. This massive structure is home to thousands of different aquatic species, and you can visit it every day between 09:00 and 17:00.
Manteo shares the same issues with the hotels as Nags Head, which probably shouldn’t be a shock considering how close they are. However, the hotels in Manteo are much sparser both in terms of locations around the city and in terms of the amenities that they provide.
Things to Do
- Visit some of the fun museums that can be found here and learn a bit more about the history of the town.
- Go to the Aquarium and check out all of the colorful exotic fish that can be seen swimming around.
- Check out Fort Raleigh National Historic Site if you want to see the place where the first English settlement in the New World was founded.
Where to Eat
- Stripers Bar & Grill is a massive 3-story eatery with a great seafood selection.
- Lost Colony Tavern has a classic pub feel to it, and it has quite an assortment of craft beers.
- Darrell’s Restaurant has been running since the 60s, and it’s the best place around if you want to try some oysters.
Manteo Budget Hotels
- Island Motel OBX offers incredibly cost-effective rooms, and all of them come with a flat-screen TV and free wifi.
- Elizabethan Inn comes with a flat-screen TV and a coffee maker in every room, as well as free parking for all of the guests.
Manteo Mid-Range Hotels
- Heart of Manteo is a hotel that lets you keep pets in your room and offers a flat-screen TV and a seating area in every room.
- Scarborough Inn has an AC unit and a cable TV in every room, as well as a microwave, refrigerator, and coffee maker.
Manteo Luxury Hotels
- Tranquil House Inn provides all of the guests with a concierge service, an in-house bar, and rooms that come with cable TV and an AC unit.
- Roanoke Island Inn comes with a complimentary continental breakfast every morning, free wifi throughout the property, and rooms that come with an AC unit and a TV.
Buxton is the best place in the region if you want to spend your vacation out in nature or as close to the beach as possible. There are a large number of hiking trails that you can explore, which will take you deep into nature, where you’ll see some wonderful sights.
Naturally, there are equally as many, if not more, beaches where you can just chill all day. However, if you’re looking to get a bit of cultural enrichment from your trips, then you might be interested in going to the Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center.
As you might have guessed by the name, this is where you can learn a bit more about the culture of the Native American tribes that used to live on this land, as well as their bloody history.
Bruxton also has quite a few restaurants and bars, so you might be able to catch a live gig somewhere if you’re lucky. In addition to the restaurants, there are also plenty of fishing spots, a few go-kart tracks, a mini golf course, and a few other attractions as well.
In essence, Bruxton has a little bit of everything, however, despite the fact that you can find bars and nightclubs here and there, they’re pretty one-note and samey. What we’re trying to say is that anyone that’s looking for a wild party probably won’t find it here.
Things to Do
- Go on one of the many hiking trails that can be found in the area and explore the greenery on the island.
- Take a trip to the Native American Museum and learn a little bit about the Native Americans that used to live here, their garb, their customs, their iconography, and so on.
- Spend a day at the beach and do a bit of swimming, or maybe go to a jet ski rental and try one out for a bit.
Where to Eat
- Buxton Munch Co is a simple place where you can grab a sandwich.
- Sandbar & Grille has arcade games and burgers, which is a match made in heaven.
- Lighthouse Sports Bar is where you go if you want to grab a beer.
Buxton Budget Hotels
- Sea Gull provides rooms at incredibly reasonable prices, all of which come with cable TV and access to the motel’s Outdoor swimming pool.
- Hatteras Island Inn has a microwave, a refrigerator, and free wifi in every room, as well as an outdoor swimming pool.
Buxton Mid-Range Hotels
- Cape Pines Motel Hatteras Island comes with an AC unit and free wifi in every room, as well as a free parking spot for all of the guests.
- Swell Motel provides all of the guests with a coffee maker, a flat-screen TV and free wifi in every room, as well as an outdoor swimming pool, and a children’s playground.
Buxton Luxury Hotels
- Cape Hatteras Motel has a flat-screen cable TV, a microwave, a coffee maker, and a small refrigerator in every room, and the hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool, a hot tub, and free wifi throughout the property.
So, Where Should You Stay in the Outer Banks?
|⛱️ Best for Relaxing on the Beach||Kitty Hawk|
|🏛️ Great for History Buffs||Kill Devil Hills|
|⛵ Best for Activities||Nags Head|
|🏰 Most Historic Area||Manteo|
|🖼️ Best Museums||Buxton|
Buxton may not have a thriving nightlife, but anyone that’s looking to get more in touch with nature will definitely love the hiking trails in the area that take you around the island’s most scenic sights.
Nags Head is where you go if you want to spend your entire day in Jockey’s Ridge State Park trying out extreme sports on the sand dunes.
Kitty Hawk has great restaurants, great bars, and great beaches where you can spend entire days without noticing. However, wherever you stay, the Outer Banks have something for every budget and agenda. Happy travels!