Kid Friendly Activities on the Outer Banks

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There are a number of fabulous beaches on the East Coast but few are better than those on the Outer Banks. The miles of wide, sweeping beaches are perfect for families and are quite a bit more laid-back than many other East Coast destinations. While we can easily spend a day relaxing with a towel and some sand toys, we like to explore a bit too. The Outer Banks offers a wide variety of activities to keep everyone in your family entertained, especially your little ones.

Browse away for some vacation inspiration, or use the following links to jump to a specific category or attraction. North Carolina Aquarium, Jennette’s Pier, Children @ Play Museum, H2OBX Waterpark, Horses and Ponies, Plane and Helicopter Tours, Dolphin Tours, Teach’s Hole Blackbeard and Pirate Shop, State and National Parks, Watersports, Miniature Golf, Go Kart Tracks, Movie Theater, Bowling, Skate Parks, Playgrounds

The North Carolina Aquarium

The Outer Banks have their very own aquarium. Located on Roanoke Island, the aquarium is a favorite among kids of all ages. Your young ones will be enthralled with the touch tank where they can interact with many local animals such as hermit and horseshoe crabs, Manta Rays and more. Each day there is a full schedule of children’s programs, talks and activities for even more fun. Children can even see rehabilitation in action at the aquarium’s Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center.

374 Airport Road, Manteo, NC 27954, 252-475-2300

Jennette’s Pier

Jennette's Pier
Jennette’s Pier Photo by James Willamor on Flickr

Jennette’s Pier is one of OBX’s longest running family attractions although the building has changed a lot over the years due to hurricane damage. The 2003 remodel after Hurricane Isabel brought a new, updated structure with a great educational center, seasonal programs for the whole family and as always, great fishing from the iconic 1,000-foot long pier.

7223 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-255-1501 

Children @ Play Museum

The Children@Play Museum is a small educational and interactive museum that is designed for the entire family to learn together through playful and dynamic exhibits. The museum features a 25-foot charter fishing boat that guests can explore as well as a market and cafe to encourage pretend play. Other highlights include a Teddy Bear Hospital and giant Lite Brite. They recently opened a new gem mining exhibit which is loads of fun Oftentimes the museum hosts special classes that are included in the price of your entrance fee.

Milepost 4.5, 3810 N. Croatan Highway, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949, 252-261-0290

H2OBX Water Park

H2OBX Waterpark, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo Credit: H2OBX Waterpark

Freshly opened in 2017, H2OBX is billed as the best outdoor water park in North Carolina. The park features more than 30 exhilarating rides, slides and attractions. There are also resort-style amenities for those parents who wish to relax a bit while the kids enjoy the rides. The park has shopping and dining options for the whole family and is conveniently located nearby popular Outer Banks accommodations. The waterpark was carefully designed to reflect the culture heritage that we all love about the Outer Banks. Various park features pay homage to the area’s legendary pirates, tradition of boat building and the famous Wright brothers all in the context of modern amenities and exciting attractions.

8526 Caratoke Highway, Powells Point, NC 27966, 252-491-3000

Wild Horses and Ponies

Wild Horses, Corolla, North Carolina
Photo Credit: Bob’s Wild Horse Tours http://corollawildhorsetours.com/gallery

The Outer Banks have a few places where you can see wild horses and ponies running free. The area around Corolla is famous as being one of the only places in the country where Corolla Mustangs roam free. Pack sunscreen, water and of course your camera and book a tour with one of the companies in the area. Some of the most popular are Bob’s Wild Horse Tours, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and Wild Horse Adventure Tours.

On the north side of Ocracoke Island further south, there are a few wild ponies that you can view. They are in a 180-acre fenced in area, and while you can’t reach them you can view them from a platform outside the fence.

There are a fairly large number of wild ponies that roam the area near Cape Lookout known as Shackleford Banks. This area is a bit more off the beaten path, but since it is managed by the National Park Service, the ponies can be a somewhat easier to observe in their natural habitat.

Bob’s Wild Horse Tours: 817 B Ocean Trail, Highway 12, Corolla, NC 27927, 252-453-8602

Corolla Wild Horse Fund: 1129 Corolla Village Road, Corolla, NC 27927, 252-453-8002

Wild Horse Adventure Tours: 610 Currituck Clubhouse Drive, Corolla, NC 27927, 252-489-2020

Plane and Helicopter Tours

Aerial view of Wright Brothers Monument
Photo from Eliina on Flickr

Have a budding pilot or helicopter aficionado in your family? Get a completely different look at the Outer Banks with a plane or helicopter tour. A few companies operate tours out of the Dare County Regional Airport on Roanoke Island in Manteo. See impressive lighthouses, wild horses, sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge, the Wright Brothers Memorial, a variety of marine life and much more. You can even arrange for a custom tour which can travel a bit farther out including Cape Hatteras lighthouse and Ocracoke Island.

Outer Banks Air Charters 410 Airport Road, Manteo, NC 27954, 252-256-2322
Coastal Helicopters 410 Airport Road, Manteo, NC 27954, 252-256-2322

Dolphin Tours

Dolphins jumping in the ocean - outer banks dolphin tours
Photo Credit: Ed Dunens on Flickr

Dolphins are such fun creatures to watch and a guided dolphin tour is one of the best ways to experience them in the wild. Tour guides give educational talks on some of the tours and some of them even guarantee that you will see dolphins or get your money back. Sunset dolphin tours are especially popular. The peak season for dolphin tours on the Outer Banks is from June to October. Several companies offer tours including:

Nags Head Dolphin Watch7517 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-449-8999
Captain Johnny Dolphin Tours: 400 Queen Elizabeth Avenue, Manteo, NC 27954, 252-473-1475
Causeway Watersports: 7649 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-441-8875
Kitty Hawk Watersports Dolphin Tours: 6920 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-441-2756
OBX Dolphin Tours: 700 S. Bay Club Drive, Manteo, NC 27954, 252-256-9472
Outer Banks Paradise Dolphin Cruises on the Kokomo:708 Harbor Road, Wanchese, NC 27981, 252-573-0547

Outer Banks Family YMCA

Most people are familiar with the YMCA as an option for family-friendly recreation. The Outer Banks Family YMCA in Nags Head is no exception with a variety of amenities and activities for family members of all ages. Enroll your kids in swim lessons to get them ready for the beach, take a fitness class, get in a workout or enjoy some swim time out of the sun. You could even drop off the kids ages 5-12 for a week of summer camp. There are day passes available for out of town guests and the first visit is complimentary for everyone.

3000 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-449-8897

Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit and Pirate Specialty Shop

Teach's Hole, Outer Banks
Photo credit https://www.teachshole.com

Have any pirate fans in your family? The famous pirate Blackbeard, as well as some other well-known pirates, often hung around Ocracoke Island. This small, privately run museum honors some of the island’s most famous residents and features a replica of Blackbeard and his ships, many of his artifacts and a documentary film. The nearby shop has more than 1000 items related to pirates. Your little pirate-lovers will be enthralled.

935 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC 27960, 252-928-1718

State and National Parks

The Outer Banks is rich with natural, cultural and historical treasures and as a result is home to several State and National Parks. As a bonus for traveling families, kids in 4th grade get in free to all U.S. National Parks!

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the nation’s first national seashore, protects approximately 70 miles of the Outer Banks stretching from Bodie Island in the north, through Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island in the south. Each of the three islands include lighthouses, beach and sound access, campgrounds, nature trails and more to explore. The park is perfect for kids who are interested in lighthouses. Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras Lighthouses are open seasonally for climbing. A third lighthouse on Ocracoke Island is not open for climbing but is still nice to visit.

There are several visitor centers within the park. See the park website for full contact information.

Bodie Island: 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Road, Nags Head, NC, 27959, 252-475-9000

Hatteras Island: 46375 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC 27920, 252-473-2111

Wright Brothers National Monument

Wright Brothers National Monument, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo Credit: Ken Lund on Flickr

The first powered flight was launched in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903 by brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. The flight made the brothers famous and brought a bit of fame to the Outer Banks as well. The site of the first flight is preserved as a National Monument and features a large stone monument that towers on a hill above. The onsite Wright Brothers Museum has a collection of Wright Brothers and other aviation-related memorabilia including full-scale reproductions of the Wright Brothers 1902 glider and 1903 flying machine.

1000 N. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948, NC 27954, 252-473-2111

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Cape Lookout National Seashore, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo Credit: Ted Van Pelt on Flickr

Cape Lookout National Seashore is a 56-mile long section of the Southern Outer Banks which is also known as the Crystal Coast. The seashore runs from Beaufort Inlet in the south to Ocracoke Inlet in the north. Popular activities include horse-watching, shelling, birding, fishing, climbing lighthouses, visiting historic villages and camping. Many of the beaches on Cape Lookout are quite remote and there are virtually no services or amenities. So, be sure to bring everything you need for your visit.

1800 Island Road, Harkers Island, NC 28531, 252-728-2250

Fort Raleigh

Earthworks at Fort Raleigh, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo Credit: rickpilot_2000 on Flickr

If you are interested in colonial history, Fort Raleigh may be of some interest to you. It can also be a good supplement to your kids’ history lessons! The site preserves the known portions of England’s first settlements in the New World which existed from 1584 – 1590. Visitors can also learn about the cultural heritage and history of other groups who have lived on Roanoke Island including Native Americans, African Americans and European Americans. Today pretty much all that remains of the original settlement are earthworks. The site has a short walking trail and in the summer time they produce a drama called The Lost Colony which receives rave reviews.

1401 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 27954, 252-473-2111

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey's Ridge State Park, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo Credit: Wes Hill on Flickr

Home to the East Coast’s tallest natural sand-dune, Jockey’s Ridge is perfect for rolling in the sand or taking a hang-gliding class. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, it is a pretty fabulous place to fly a kite as well. Sand boarding is permitted during the off-season in several areas. Three different nature trails are open year round. You can also take a kite boarding lesson or launch your personal kite-board here. The park has a beach with sound access that offers a bit calmer and more shallow water for little ones who might be afraid of the waves. Our toddler is a bit intimidated by the waves on the ocean side of OBX, but shows no fear at jumping into the Roanoke Sound.

300 W. Carolista Drive (Milepost 12), Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-441-7132

Watersports: Parasailing, Kiteboarding, Jet Ski Rentals and beyond

Windsurfing in the Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo Credit: texaus1 on Flickr

These companies offer any type of water sport you can think of including water bikes, banana boat rides, sea kayaks, kiteboarding, jet ski rentals, surf board rentals, sail boats and much more. Several of them offer lessons and a couple even offer bumper boats at their facility which are great for the whole family. Contact each facility or check out their website for full details of their offerings.

Causeway Watersports: 7649 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-441-8875
Cape Hatteras Kiteboarding: 52904 NC Hwy 12, Frisco, NC 27936, 252-216-7228
Kite Club Hatteras: 40159 North End Road, Avon, NC 27915, 202-549-7693
Coastal Kayak Touring Company: 1240 Duck Road, Duck, NC 27949, 252-441-3393
Kite HatterasHwy 12 & Geo. Gaskins Rd, Buxton Harbor, Hatteras Island, Buxton, NC 27920, 252-305-5290
Kitty Hawk Watersports Dolphin Tours: 6920 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-441-2756
Outer Banks Kayak Adventure: 203 South Virginia Dare Trail, Suite B, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948, 252-489-8146
Kitty Hawk Kites: Locations in Manteo, Avon, Hatteras Landing, Duck, and Whalebone, 1-877-359-8447
RadKITE & Jetski: 24202 Hey 12, Rodanthe, NC 27968, 252-489-0451
Ocean Atlantic Rentals: Locations in Avon, Duck, and Kill Devil Hills, 1-800-635-9559

Miniature Golf

Lost Treasure Golf, Outer Banks, North Carolina

There are a plethora of mini-golf courses on the Outer Banks. Many of them operate seasonally. Some of the most popular:

Paradise Fun Park3300 N Croatan Hwy, 27948 Kill Devil Hills, 252-441-7626
Pirates Island at Corolla Light Town Center: 1159 Austin St. Corolla, NC 27927, 252-453-4443
Jurassic PuttMile post 16, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-441-6841
Galaxy Golf: Mile Post 11, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-441-5875
Corolla Adventure Golf and Bumper Cars: 810 Ocean Trail, Corolla, NC 27927, 252-453-7777
Frisco Mini Golf and Go-kartsMile post 65 Frisco, NC 27936, 252-995-6325 

Go Karts and Speedways

Go-karting in Nags Head, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo Credit: Counselman Collection on Flickr

The Outer Banks has several go-kart tracks and speedways for you to satisfy your need for speed. Some of them even have kiddie carts for younger riders. Many of the tracks are open seasonally from spring until Fall. Check age requirements carefully.

Corolla Raceway: 796 Sunset Drive, Corolla, NC 27927, 252-453-9100
Colington Speedway1064 Colington Rd, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948,  252-480-9144
Fresco Mini Golf and Go-kartsMile post 65 Frisco, NC 27936, 252-995-6325
Nags Head Raceway Go-Karts: 7000 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-480-4639
Full Throttle Speedway: 6504 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-441-4499

Movie Theater

Fancy catching the latest flick? The R/C Kill Devil Hills Movies 10 on the Outer Banks typically has a few family films showing. Check out the showtimes on Fandango.

1803 N. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948, 252-441-5630

OBX Bowling

Photo Credit: Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office on Flickr

Need a break from the sun? OBX Bowling has an updated arcade and state-of-the-art interactive scoring system for each of their bowling lanes. They have an on-site cafe that serves pizza and other nights. The bowling alley is also a good option for a kids birthday party if you are looking for a venue during your vacation.

200 West Satterfield Landing Road, Milepost 10, Nags Head, NC 

Skate Parks

For young skaters or surfers who don’t have any waves to ride there are three skate parks on the Outer Banks which are all quite popular with teenagers but even my toddler likes to go watch.

Island Revolution Skate Park: 1159 Austin Street, Corolla, NC 27927, 252-453-9484
Outer Banks Family YMCA3000 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-449-8897
Fessenden Center (Hatteras Island): 46792 NC-12, Buxton, NC 27920, 252-475-5650

Playgrounds

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Looking for a playground or a park to enjoy a picnic? The Outer Banks have a range of good playground options in town parks, gyms, rec centers and more. Many of the parks are also pet-friendly.

Duck Town Park: 1200 Duck Road, Duck 27949, 252-255-1286
Outer Banks Family YMCA: 3000 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959, 252-449-8897
Bouncing Off the Walls (indoor playground): 3809 N. Croatan Highway, The Bypass, MP 4.5, Kitty Hawk 27929, 252-715-4411
Dare County Family Recreation Park: 602 S. Mustian Street, Kill Devil Hills, 252-475-5920
Kill Devil Hills Town Park: Off of Colington Road, West of the Bypass, Kill Devil Hills, 252-475-5920
Manteo Waterfront Playground: On the waterfront beside the Weather Tower, Manteo, 252-473-2133
Nags Head Town Park: 415 Health Center Drive, M.P. 11 off the Bypass, Nags Head, 252-441-5508
Whalebone Park: Milepost 16.5 on the Beach Road, Nags Head, 252-441-5508
Corolla Village: 1122 Schoolhouse Lane, Corolla, NC 27927
Currituck Sound Park: 8955 Caratoke Highway, Point Harbor, NC 27964
David Paul Pruitt Jr. Park: The Woods Road, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949 (adjacent to Dominian Power)
Sandy Run Park: 4351 The Woods Road, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949, 252-548-6102
Hayman Street Park: W Hayman Blvd, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Meekins Athletic Field and Playground: 1634 North Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
K’Avon Park: 41001 N.C. Highway 12, Avon Fishing Pier, Avon, 252-995-3125


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