Massive sand dunes—the tallest on the East coast—roll majestically across the landscape. No, you have not been transported to Africa. This natural phenomenon that covers 426-acres of Jockey’s Ridge State Park is located in Nags Head. And what makes it even more stunning than the Sahara is that within minutes you can be surfing some of the biggest waves in the area.
The beach town offers many of the attractions prevalent on the Outer Banks, including gulf-stream fishing, water sports, sun bathing and boating, but you’ll also find Nags Head has its own unique character. The area is particularly suited to families with its large beaches, bike trails and two fishing piers; it also offers one of the widest varieties of restaurants on the Outer Banks.
Whether you decide to climb the Bodie Island Lighthouse, charter a boat, or spend the day playing in the sand and surf at Coquina Beach, an undeveloped stretch of shoreline, you’ll find yourself quickly forgetting work and enjoying life.
Since the 1930s, this bed and breakfast captures the history and romance of the area with direct access to the beach. Amenities include a homemade breakfast, afternoon social, outdoor pool and beach chairs.
This beautifully furnished boutique hotel is located on the Roanoke Sound offering sunset views and access to marshes and boardwalks from which you can fish. Each well-appointed room features a kitchen and can accommodate up to six guests.
For those traveling with a large family or friends, there are plenty of private home rentals to choose from, ranging from modest to luxurious. Locations also vary, including quaint beachfront properties to condos with amenities.
Celebrating its 70th year as the only restaurant in the Outer Banks still owned and operated by the founding family, you’ll find delicious coastal cuisine such as lobster, shrimp and locally caught fish.
This Caribbean-inspired, seafood dive is a great place to enjoy local seafood with locals; try the Hatteras-style chowder, crabcake sandwiches or fish tacos. For those with extra time, step out back and enjoy a game of beach volleyball.
Don’t miss this local frozen yogurt bar opened by pro surfer Jesse Hines and his wife, Whitney. Enjoy sweet treats, including vegan sorbet, in this beach shack atmosphere with surfboards overhead and a small game room.
This indoor/outdoor bar on the historic Outerbanks Fishing Pier offers a great venue to grab a drink and listen to live music. And, don’t miss the 15¢ shrimp between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Located on the soundfront, this upscale bar and restaurant provides a front row view of the sun setting over the water. With a robust wine collection and cocktail menu, you can enjoy a drink or stay for dinner.
If you do one thing (beyond laying on the beach!), make sure you visit these sand dunes, the tallest on the East coast—80 feet above sea level. The park features a visitor’s center with a dune ecology museum and a 360-foot boardwalk along the Roanoke Sound. Several adventure outfitters offer experiences such as paddling, sand-boarding and hiking. Kitty Hawk Kites offers both novices and more experienced flyers hang gliding lessons on the dunes. History buffs can fly in a reproduction of a 1902 Wright Brothers glider, one of the few in existence that the public can enjoy.
There are countless water sports that you can enjoy in Nags Head from flyboard lessons, stand-up paddling to a local favorite—surfing. Arguably one of the oldest surf spots in the area, Nags Head is known for some of the biggest waves in the region. Most of the beaches offer great surfing spots, but check out Jennette’s Pier for a less known option. Several companies, including the Farmdog Surf School provide rentals (surfboards, paddle boards, and even beach cruisers) and private and group surf lessons.
May kicks off the music season in town with two talents, Greensky Bluegrass and Roadkill Ghost Choir, performing on May 7th. The Soundside Live series is a free music event that takes place on the south side of Jennette’s Pier. Nags Head will also host the Hang Gliding Spectacular and Air Games this month (May 18-21) where for the last 40 years competitors from across the nation have come to fly and play. On Friday, they screen the Kitty Hawk Kites Film Festival, and the Woody Jones Memorial Street Dance takes place on Saturday.
Whether you’re a fisherman or a sailor, there are plenty of boat tours to choose from. Commercial fisherman Captain Marc Mitchum offers educational crab and shrimp charters (obxcrabbing.com) where you can learn about the species and environment, trawl for shrimp, and pull up crab pots. After a 15-year absence, airboat tours have returned to Nags Head, offering visitors access to areas that normal boats can’t reach, while sailing aficionados can take a sunset cruise into the Albemarle Sound.