Southern Shores, North Carolina

Southern Shores is a town in the Outer Banks of North Carolina that is as lovely as its name implies. Can’t you just picture your toes in the sand and a glass of sweet tea in your hand?

Comfortably positioned between Duck to the north and Kitty Hawk to the south, this small segment of the barrier islands is the answer if you seek sun, surf and serenity.

With a full-time population of almost 3,000, Southern Shores is actually home to many more residents than Duck (which has only 400 people). This is surprising because Southern Shores is tiny at only 4.2 square miles! Because it is primarily residential, it’s not as “touristy” as some other areas of the Outer Banks.

Originally part of Kitty Hawk, the town of Southern Shores was first founded as a resort in 1946. It was later incorporated as a municipality in 1979. Since then, the town has become known for its premiere residences and picturesque vacation rentals.

Aviation enthusiasts might be interested to learn more about the Southern Shores Training Area (also known as Target #29) which was in use from 1940-1945. Because the region was so remote and sparsely populated it was employed by several U.S. Naval bases for bombing practice.

While that is certainly no longer the case, the Army Corps warns that munitions are sometimes discovered in the area and are to be reported. The Outer Banks are still along the flight path of local Navy and Marine Corps Air Stations, so look up! You might get a free airshow.

There are no hotels or motels in Southern Shores, but the well-maintained vacation rentals provide the ideal launching pad for your Outer Banks adventure. It’s important to note that only Southern Shores residents or those renting vacation properties have beach access, so this is a great spot to find peace and privacy as you explore the beach.

We love the video below created by the Town of Southern Shores that creatively explains beach rules and regulations. The beaches here are clean and safe, and the town takes pride in keeping them that way for their residents and visitors alike. Learn more by following the town Facebook page (here you will also find links to the informative Southern Shores newsletter).


Things to do in Southern Shores, NC

Worried you might be bored? It’s simply not possible! Obviously, the beach is what draws most people to this slice of islands along the North Carolina coast. Water is literally everywhere and the choices of ways to play are endless (and thank goodness for that, since the Outer Banks see 288 days of sunshine a year).

Within Southern Shores itself, the Currituck Sound offers warm, calm waters in which to place a kayak or paddle board. It’s also the ideal spot for smaller children since there are no big waves to worry about. On a cool morning or in the offseason, check out the Southern Shores Bike Trails that wind throughout the town and beach neighborhoods to get a feel for the island.

Outdoor Water Adventures in Southern Shores

If you are looking for more water activities there are various places you can rent a surfboard, boat, or fishing equipment (don’t forget your North Carolina fishing license, which is super easy to get and costs just $5-10 for a 10-day permit).

Feeling more adventurous? Try surf fishing or windsurfing. Neighboring towns of Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Corolla have just what you are looking for when it comes to equipment rental and lessons.


Looking Beyond The Beaches in Southern Shores, NC

While the beaches are by far our most treasured adventure, we have a wide array of wonderful family friendly activities on the Outer Banks that are sure to please everyone in the group.

There is plenty to do once you leave the town of Southern Shores. Up and down the Outer Banks are more commercialized tourist activities such as mini golf, The Corolla Adventure Park, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial as well as publicly maintained treasures like Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, which is the “home of the East Coast’s tallest living sand dune”.

Just 13 minutes down the road you will find something truly unique: the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve. The Reserve is home to countless species of wildlife and plants. It is also the perfect place to launch a kayak or paddleboard.

Because the Reserve is on such a unique piece of land between freshwater and the sea, it is home to an abundance of natural wonders! You can actually find three distinct habitats here: “Maritime Deciduous Forest, Maritime Swamp Forest, and Marsh and Creek habitats”. This is truly THE place for nature lovers, where you are likely to spot snakes and turtles, birds and bunnies, and yeah...a few mosquitos. Bring your bug spray!

Southern Shores Vacations Year Round

Truly a “Four-Season Destination”, there is fun to be had all year long! The cooler months bring fewer bugs, less congestion and more opportunities to explore nature, which is the area’s biggest advantage. Going shell searching on vacation? Be sure and read our awesome hunting guide on how to find the best seashells in the outer banks!

No matter how you choose to spend your time on the Outer Banks, we are sure you’ll be thrilled with the unique opportunities available in the welcoming town of Southern Shores. This island town is the perfect choice for those looking to bond and relax with family and friends in one of the most stunning locations on the east coast.