There are 100+ miles of shoreline that make up the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is a haven for all types of visitors – young and old, families and friends, surfers and anglers, pirates, and privateers. It is also an ideal location to include in your real estate investing portfolio. When you look from the perspective of visitors (your guests), there is a lot to offer to a diverse clientele. It’s a destination that is drivable but still feels remote. It offers some of the best offshore sport fishing on the east coast and is home to a number of competitive tournaments, which bring big boats and deep pockets. Roanoke Island hosts the longest-running out-door symphonic drama, The Lost Colony, which was first staged in 1937. A number of marathons and triathlons are also held on the Outer Banks annually. And the week-long festivals check all the boxes: Pirate, Seafood, Bluegrass, Jazz, Classic Car, Surf Film, Pride, Biker, Jeep, and Kite (remember, OBX is “First in Flight!”) to name a few. And for those who partake in adult libations, OBX is home to a number of vineyards, local breweries, and distilleries. While many other beach markets see a distinct 12-week, Memorial Day to Labor Day, seasonality, the Outer Banks sprinkles good vibes and attractions even after all the sun seekers have returned home.
The most “popular” beaches begin in Corolla and work their way south through Nags Head. And what lies between Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills. These five townships make up where the majority of the OBX vacationers visit. Each has its own draw and below you will learn why.
Kitty Hawk is the first town travelers will come upon when crossing the Wright Memorial Bridge – easy in, easy out. There are plenty of beach access points, grocery stores, shops, and restaurants to choose from. This township, along with Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head, is more developed, and real estate is more concentrated. It has a nice mix of oceanfront, classic cottages, and multi-level, single-family properties. Connecting Kitty Hawk and KDH is a pedestrian- and pet-friendly multi-use path. Cyclists, joggers, and families with strollers enjoy the peaceful sound side trail, especially at sunset.
Kill Devil Hills (KDH) is where the action is! The name itself conjures a lot of attention and it is where the Wright Brothers took flight in 1903. It has a plethora of conveniences, like grocery stores and pharmacies, but a huge selection of restaurants too – from “French Fry Alley” to upscale cuisine to late-night establishments. Retail shops, miniature golf, arcades, bowling, a movie theatre, and laser tag are common attractions when tourists need a break from the sand and shore breaks.
Adjoining KDH to Nags Head is a maritime forest and ecosystem with walking trails named Nags Head Woods Preserve. The Nature Conservancy in NC maintains the park. Nags Head exudes the charm that comes to mind when you think of historic beach towns. Many properties are sided with aged, cedar plank and wrap-around porches. Nags Head is home to the Sound Side Event Site, which hosts carnivals, concerts, and festivals. Surfers are drawn to Nags Heads, where many competitions are held. It also sets the stage for three famous piers. The tallest living sand dune system on the Atlantic coast lives at Jockeys Ridge, where visitors fly kites and hang glide. From the top, you have excellent views of both the ocean and the Roanoke Sound.
In the opposite direction, north of Kitty Hawk on North Carolina Highway 12, lives Duck. It is a quaint town with a mile-long boardwalk, full of unique shops, boutiques, and sound-front restaurants. Most of the rental properties are on the east side of NC12 enabling visitors to walk to the beach. It is a coveted town and opportunities to buy real estate are low while guest occupancy remains high. There is a 6-mile long multi-use path spanning the length of the town. It’s also Duck Donuts’ birthplace (IYKYK).
Further north, crossing out of Dare and into Currituck County, is Corolla. A surge in real estate development in the 1980s put this quiet township on the map. The Wild Spanish Mustangs and Currituck Beach Lighthouse are a couple of the local attractions that bring out-of-towners to this popular beach town. There is a distinct “family feel” with less commercialization and higher-end properties and subdivisions.
Tourism on the Outer Banks began as early as post-Civil War times when hunters and fishermen from New England visited because of the abundance of game birds and big-game fish. As other shorelines of the east coast became built up, the Outer Banks-ers kept the beaches pristine and underdeveloped. In the early 1960s, the Bonner Bridge was constructed linking Hatteras Island to the rest of the barrier islands and with it, a new beach and tourism destination was born.