United States Outer Banks

34 spots Public

T. Kirkendall and V. Spring

The Outer Banks, commonly abbreviated as OBX, are a sunny, sandy string of coastal barrier islands with lots of variety including some of the last undeveloped beaches and largest sand dunes on the East Coast, six lighthouses, marinas, maritime forests, estuaries and wild horses.

The Outer Banks offer an endless variety of outdoor activities such as 4 x 4 beach driving, surf fishing, surfing, kayaking, jet skiing, bird watching and wild horse viewing to name but a few.

It was on the Outer Banks that the first English Colony in the New World was built at Roanoke in 1587. Three years later, when a ship came back to the colony, everyone had disappeared. The mystery of what happened to these people has never been solved. There are also fascinating stories of the many shipwrecks along the Outer Banks and the Life Saving Service that was developed to help rescue as many of the victims as possible. Even notorious pirates such as Blackbeard have a place in the history of this coast.

The story of the wild Banker Horses is fascinating. It is believed that the horses escaped or were off-loaded to lighten Spanish ships caught on the constantly shifting sandbars. The horses survived and increased in numbers until the area became a popular vacation spot and people started building houses all across the Outer Banks. Today only a small number of Banker horses remain, generally in wildlife reserves and along national seashores.

Over the years the shifting sands have changed the shape of the Outer Banks. as well as the fate of towns such as Portsmouth. Of course, it should not be forgotten that Orville and Wilbur Wright chose the Outer Banks to make their first airplane flights.

The Outer Banks are open year round, but best visited from April through October with more services available May through September. June, July and August may be very busy.

This guide covers the Outer Banks of North Carolina from the Virginia border south to Atlantic Beach. This includes the busy tourist towns at the northern end of the Outer Banks south through the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Cape Lookout National Seashore, ending at historic Fort Macon. The lighthouses may be photographed at any time of year, but the interiors are not open during the off-season.

For beach driving, obtain a permit from the national seashore office for Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. If interested in fishing or photographing fishermen, head to a marina and talk to a charter boat captain or go to a fishing pier for tackle and gear hire.

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