The 3 Best Towns in the Outer Banks Are…
North Carolina’s Outer Banks are actually a series of barrier islands that run for a 130-mile span just off the coastline of mainland NC. There are a number of established townships and villages scattered along the way, from Corolla in the north to Ocracoke in the south, and each of them have their own unique flavor.
Although each OBX town is special in its own way, we here at Great Escapes happen to think that three towns in particular are the best. Keep reading here to find out which ones we picked, and why!
Of the three towns that make our list, you could say that Corolla is the “fanciest” of the trio. Known locally for its trendy, upscale shopping and dining, Corolla is a great fit for people and families who enjoy the best of both worlds. Whether your particular brand of personal restoration involves relaxing on the beach or intensive bouts of retail therapy, Corolla has got you covered.
When your skin is sufficiently sun-kissed and your local treasures budget is blown, Corolla also has several distinctive attractions that you won’t want to miss.
First, no visit to the Outer Banks is complete without visiting as many of the five lighthouses as you can, so checking out the Currituck Beach Light House is kind of a mandatory activity. Open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (weather permitting), this facility is more than “just” a functioning light station. Should you choose to pay to climb the 220 steps to the see the impressive Fresnel lens at the top, you will also be rewarded with several educational exhibits and an incredible 360-degree view of the surrounding area.
History and home-design buffs will no doubt want to leave the lighthouse and travel right next door to visit The Whalehead Club. Whalehead, a 21,000-square-foot, 1920’s Art Nouveau-style residence is truly a well-preserved and restored historical gem. Visitors will revel in the fine furnishings and architectural attention to detail as well as hang on to every word of the stories about ghostly sightings and other mysterious goings-on.
Whereas Corolla is a town offering tons of attractions and man-made things to keep you busy, the Town of Duck is the place to be if you’re looking to unwind and enjoy wandering through a charming OBX town with a small-town vibe.
Of our three towns, Duck is already the most pedestrian-friendly of the bunch, and is working every day toward becoming even more so. The shop-filled Village of Duck is centrally-located and easily accessible by foot from both the 6-mile Duck Trail on the street side as well as from Duck’s super-unique, not-quite-mile-long boardwalk.
While it is important to note that the Town of Duck “neither owns nor maintains any public beach access locations,” the town does offer various ways to access the gorgeous OBX environment. In particular, Duck Town Park features “11 acres of natural beauty including trails through the maritime forest and willow swamp, open green space, soundside views and access to the Duck Boardwalk. Park amenities include an amphitheater, public kayak/canoe launch, playground, dog-friendly water fountain, picnic shelter and Town Green.”
Duck also maintains a full schedule of family-friendly events, which can be found here.
And last but certainly not least, Southern Shores rounds out our list of the three best towns in the Outer Banks.
The Town of Southern Shores is a small (4.2 square miles!), primarily residential community. Whereas Corolla and Duck cater to both residents and visitors alike, Southern Shores is more focused on the serving the needs of their permanent community of people. This makes it a great place for visitors and/or home owners who are interested most of all in a quiet stay on a fabulous OBX beach.
The “tremendous community pride” and commitment to responsibly establishing and maintaining all facets of life required to support the active coastal lifestyles of Southern Shores residents and visitors is what makes this quiet town so great. We also happen to love their recent take on the (fairly long) list of (fairly common) beach rules. Let's face it - any town that can take a set of rules and regulations and deliver them in both a humorous and memorable way wins the day in our opinion!