How To Have Off-Season Fun Outer Banks PullOverAndLetMeOut cover
Anna Marie

Anna Marie

How To Have Offseason Fun On North Carolina’s Outer Banks

North Carolina's Outer Banks isn't just a summertime destination. Travel with PullOverAndLetMeOut to the OBX for off-season adventure
Hi, I’m Anna Marie. I’m a wife, mother, Irish dancer, and pug mom living in North Carolina. I also love to travel. Come along for the ride! If you see something you like, don’t be afraid to say, ‘Pull over and let me out.’

It all started when my son received a kite as a Christmas present. It’s a really nice kite – too nice to end up stuck in a tree in our neighborhood. Rather than surrendering the kite to a Bradford pear I was inspired to head towards the coast where there is plenty of wind and open space. But not just any coast. My synapses were firing on all cylinders and I decided to take a cue from a famous pair who also headed for the North Carolina coast with their gliders – the Wright brothers. We headed to Kitty Hawk and the Outer Banks in January. The Outer Banks isn’t just a summertime destination. It may be cool but there’s still plenty of opportunity for adventure, education, and discovery. There’s also the prospect of great savings.

The Lost Colony

sign at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
The Lost Colony on the Outerbanks

Our first stop was at Fort Raleigh National Historic site in Manteo. Located on Roanoke Island the park preserves the story of England’s first settlement in the new world and recounts the tale and unsolved mystery of these first settlers. The visitor center is open year-round and houses excellent displays telling of the Native American inhabitants, the story of the Elizabethan period settlers, as well as the significance the area played in the Civil War and  World Wars I and II.

There’s a seventeen-minute film highlighting the ‘Lost Colony.’ It’s a fascinating explanation of how the settlers arrived, settled the land, and ultimately disappeared. Viewers are left pondering questions that remain today as to what became of these brave settlers who completely vanished.

Although summer is the season to see the famous play “The Lost Colony” performed at the amphitheater overlooking the Albermarle Sound, it’s still fun to roam the theater in the off-season.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
1500 Fort Raleigh Road
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Visitor Center at Lost Colony
Begin your visit to the Lost Colony at the visitor center
empty outdoor theater at the Lost Colony
The theater at the Lost Colony is a summer favorite but still fun to see in the off season.

The Beach

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk. The beachfront hotel was a perfect hub for our Outer Banks adventure. The hotel features an indoor pool and workout room, and a restaurant. We were able to take advantage of the sands and OBX ocean breezes outside the hotel and launch our kite.  We also enjoyed collecting shells and walking the beach – which we practically had to ourselves. On a side note, the hotel WiFi was very dependable which is a huge plus for this travel writer.

Exterior of the Hilton Gardens in Kitty Hawk, NC
The Hilton Gardens in Kitty Hawk is right on the beach
woman at the beach in winter flying a kite
Winter is perfect for kite-flying!
sunlight reflecting on the water at the shore of the ocean
You'll have the beach practically to yourself in the off-season.

Outer Banks Dining

While not all restaurants remain open during the off-season, there are still plenty with their doors open to tourists and locals. It’s wise to call beforehand but on the Outer Banks, seafood is still bountiful and delicious in the winter months.

Our hotel offered a wonderful breakfast buffet at a reasonable price but in the evening we ventured out. We were in search of a spot with good seafood, a casual atmosphere, and plenty of television screens to watch the NFL playoff games.

We found Longboards Island Grill fit the bill. Longboard’s specialty is tasty local seafood. Even better, there were TV screens in every direction my head turned. We had the good fortune to dine there the night before they closed for renovations. The waitress explained, “we’ll be closed for a couple of weeks so everything we have is half-off tonight.” They may have been out of a few things, but half-off made me smile and was an Outer Banks off-season savings bonus.

Garden Grille sign at the Hilton Gardens in Kitty Hawk, NC
The Garden Grille at the Hilton Garden in Kitty Hawk

Wright Brothers National Memorial

I’ve been to a number of National Parks but I have to say this one ranks high on my list of favorites. The visitor center is replete with details of the historic events surrounding the first flight the Wright Brothers made on December 17, 1903. However, it was the ranger’s presentation that held the entire group spellbound.

I can’t remember a more silent room as he detailed the “lives of consequence” that brought man’s centuries-old dream of flight to fruition.

Even more amazing was his use of the replica plane to guide us through how the Wright Brothers got off the ground and controlled the thoroughly modern plane that chilly morning on the Outer Banks.

Thoroughly modern because the identical principles the Wright brothers utilized are still in use today. In fact, the ranger explained that the curve of the wings on the Wright brother’s plane in 1903 is just a fraction of a percent different from the curve of the wings on the Space Shuttle.

Lives of consequence – indeed.

You’ll want to spend time exploring the grounds and visiting the monument, but I encourage you to stay and listen to the ranger speak at the visitor center. You won’t be sorry.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

1000 North Croatan Highway
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948

Wright Brothers National Memorial is open seven days a week, year-round. The visitor center and Centennial pavilion are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. (closed Christmas Day, December 25).

Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk NC
Wright Brothers Memorial
Replica plane of the Wright Brothers plane.
A replica of the plane the Wright brothers flew in 1903. The original spent several years in London before heading to the Smithsonian Institute where it remains today.
stone markers representing the flight path of the Wright Brothers
Markers and a path represent the distances flown by the Wright brothers on their first flights.

“Legend says the name ‘Jockey’s Ridge’ came from the early inhabitant’s practice of capturing and racing wild ponies in the area.”
~ Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

front of the visitors center at Jockey's Ridge State Park OBX NC PullOverAndLetMeOut
Jockey's Ridge State Park visitor center
Hang glider resting on the ground outside the Jockey's Ridge State Park visitor center
Hang-gliding lessons are available at the on-site school.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is an amazing natural phenomenon. This Outer Banks treasure is the tallest sand dune in the eastern United States. The ever-changing character of the dunes offers several forms of recreation.

If you’re a kite enthusiast the dunes are a wonderful place to take advantage of the sustained winds. Hikers can travel the dunes and experience the sand first-hand.  Journey along one of the multiple self-guided trails and discover the beauty. If you prefer a briefer walk, take to the 360-foot boardwalk situated near the parking lot and stay above the sand while enjoying the interpretive signs along the route.

For adventurous types longing to soar above the dunes, hang-gliding is permitted on certain dune faces.  A USHGA Hang 1 or other agency-approved rating card is required to hang-glide in the park.  All hang-gliders must register and lessons are available at the on-site hang gliding school.

From October 1st through March 31st sand-boarding is permitted in specified areas. Sand-boarders may obtain a permit in the visitor center and anyone under 18 must have parental permission. If you’re traveling with kids, the park is a giant sandbox they’ll love. My little one let his imagination run wild and soon was pretending he was Survivor Man – a favorite show in our house.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

The entrance to the park, Carolista Drive, is in the town of Nags Head at milepost 12 on the Hwy 158 Bypass (South Croatan Hwy).

Blue skies over the dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Self-guided hiking trails allow visitors to discover and explore dunes.
kid climbing in the sand dunes at Jockey Ridge State Park
My little "Survivor Man"

Outer Banks Inspiration

While all it took was a simple Christmas gift of a kite to inspire an off-season trip to the Outer Banks, it was immediately apparent there’s an abundance of attractions and activities on the barrier islands.

We’re already planning our return trip.  There’s still more to see.

 

Have you visited North Carolina’s Outer Banks? Let me know in the comments! 

a kite flying in the open sky
The kite that inspired a trip!

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2 thoughts on “How To Have Offseason Fun On North Carolina’s Outer Banks”

    1. Yes, I have seen the original plane in the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and yes, off-season is a bit cool so very few are on the beach.Glad you enjoyed the article.
      Happy Travels!

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