If you think there aren’t plenty of shoulder season and off-season things to do in the Outer Banks, think again.
Sure, some places may not be open and the weather in fall, cool winter, and spring might be cooler (and windier) than the rest of the year, but it’s still an awesome place to visit throughout the year.
Plus, there are fewer people vying for those awesome views of the ocean. We’ve traveled there a few times and are more than happy to share our favorite ways to enjoy the Outer Banks during the supposed off-season.
Stay Close to the Beach for Less
You can find tons of off-season rentals and hotels offered at a discount during these times of the year. You can also book a last-minute stay with more ease, as demand goes down during the offseason and shoulder seasons.
That way, you can enjoy spots like Wright Cottage Court (very family-friendly), Cavalier by the Sea (budget-friendly), and other on-the-water places to stay in the Outer Banks as we have.
Cooler weather means that it’s the perfect time for hiking and these Outer Banks trails are absolutely worth exploring. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and Jockeys Ridge State Park are two of the more popular spots for getting outside away from the beach.
We’ve enjoyed strolls around those, but also Nags Head Woods, which we included in our guide to hiking in North Carolina.
And if the weather isn’t cooperating, you can always visit an aquarium. There’s the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island, which showcases wildlife found in the “Seven Rivers,” wetlands, and ocean.
You can also learn about conservation in their Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center. Many folks head to Jennette’s Pier for photo ops, but NC Aquariums hosts an interactive fish display, fishing events, and free programs for Title 1 schools.
Eat at All-Season Restaurants
Thankfully, there are some awesome restaurants in The Outer Banks that stay open throughout many of the towns during the off-season. I’d recommend contacting places in advance before venturing out for your meal.
We’re big fans of Waverider’s and think you could easily spend your morning or afternoon there sipping coffee and digging into their delicious menu.
Drive Up and Down Highway 12
If you’re like us and dig beautiful scenic drives, then NC Highway 12 is for you. Head all the way north to Corolla and go even further if you’ve got a 4WD (and a shovel), or head south.
Continue south through Nags Head and the road is then known as the Outer Banks Scenic Byway. Drive all the way through Cape Hatteras National Seashore, where you can even ferry over to Ocracoke.
Before you do, stops for the Bodie Island Lighthouse, the Hatteras Lighthouse, and one of the best beaches in NC (in Buxton) are required.
Walk or Drive on the Beach
Of course, you could just hang out by the beach, especially if the weather is right. Walk alongside the water outside your hotels or rental and relax.
There are also tons of birding opportunities during the off-season and shoulder seasons, so bring your camera or binoculars along!
You can have more success while shelling since there aren’t as many crowds.
Also, you can drive out to one of the many 4WD-accessible beaches and really get away from it all.
Get in the Water
Yes, I said you can get in the water during the off-season and shoulder season, but not just for swimming. These times of year are especially great for fishing, but also for water sports.
Windsurfers and kiteboarder flock to spots like Canadian Hole and Kite Point, respectively, and you can come watch if you don’t feel like getting in the water.
Check for (Off)Seasonal Events
One of the best off-season things to do in The Outer Banks is partaking in annual events.
We have to start in March with North Carolina’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Nags Head. At the end of the month, Taste of the Beach is a massive food and wine festival that takes over the area.
For more foodie fun, there’s the Outer Banks Seafood Festival in October. As fall turns to winter, visitors will descend upon WinterLights at the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island (weather-dependent).
And of course, you can’t forget about the Celebration of the Wright Brothers First Flight in December.
We hope that you’ve found some new things to do in the Outer Banks during the off-season that will make your time just as enjoyable as the summer! And as always, don’t forget for a pit stop at Bacchus Wine and Beer during your vacation or weekend getaway for all of your local beer, wine, or cheese plates!