I recently returned from a week-long vacation in the Outer Banks (OBX). My cousins rent a house each year, so we go down and hang out at the beach. It’s awesome! They have been doing this vacation for years, but I only went this past year. They typically rent in the Nags Head area. But, our friends have a house down in Hatteras (Check out Charma’s Landmark here)- the more remote end of OBX.
While I really enjoy both locations, I am going to do a quick breakdown of the Pros and Cons of the more “tourist-y” vs more “local” locations of the Outer Banks.
Pros of Nags Head:
- Lots of things to do: Whether you want to hang out and fish, go hang gliding, or go to an adventure course, there are tons of options in the northern region of OBX
- Lots of restaurants: From locally owned businesses to fast food chains, there are tons of options for your family in this area. BTW, I love Duck Donuts and highly advise people go for breakfast one day to customize your donut.
- Shopping: There are lots of places to buy clothes, food, or anything else you may need while you’re vacationing. There are Super Wings on every block, small sets of outlet stores, and full grocery stores.
- Fishing: There are lots of bait and tackle shops in the area, as well as piers where you can fish. You can also fish from the beach as long as you aren’t too close to anybody! If you’re looking for a cool outing, check out the Wendy Kay out of Mann’s Harbor for a shrimping and crabbing excursion!
- Close to Main-land NC: It’s a pretty short drive when you leave the main land of North Carolina to Nags Head, which is nice when you’re on the tail-end of an 8 hour drive. It is also nice because you can go check out Roanoke Island or the wildlife refuges nearby.
Cons of Nags Head:
- Crowds: The Nags Head area is much more crowded than the areas that are further down the island. If your rental is farther from the public access areas, you will probably have a more private beach area, but sometimes it can get pretty busy. You might also get stuck in some traffic due to the number of people in the area.
- More expensive: Being a more popular area, the houses and stores are typically a little bit of a tourist trap and cost more than some of the local places or less popular beaches.
Pros of Hatteras:
- Remote: If all you want to do is lay back and relax, disconnect from the world, Hatteras is your place! Whenever we go down, I turn off my phone and allow myself to fully relax, which isn’t something I can do most places.
- Learn about the locals: In this small town, you get a lot more locally owned restaurants and shops. It’s really nice to go to a little Mom and Pop Shop and support small businesses.
- Close to the ferry: If you want to go check out Ocracoke Island, the ferry is just a few minutes away! It is definitely a cool day trip and a really easy and free way to get on the water if you don’t have access to a boat personally.
- Fishing: It is super easy to fish from the beach here, and since there are usually fewer people, you don’t run the risk of crossing lines with anyone or getting in the way of anyone fishing. There is also easy access to the sound side where you can catch plenty of bait fish. If you’re looking for some off-shore opportunities, look for the Miss Hatteras.
- Less crowded: When we go down to Hatteras, there is almost never anyone there! It’s such a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.
Cons of Hatteras:
- Remote: Although it is a pro, it is also a con. The drive down adds an extra hour or hour and a half to your drive to get down to Hatteras. And, sometimes being far away/not having much cell service, while refreshing, could be frustrating for some people as well.
- Less shopping: There are handfuls of local shops and a small grocery store, but there aren’t any fast food locations or outlet malls. If you forgot something, you can usually find it in one of the shops, but if you need a technology store or something more specific, you may have to drive up to the Nags Head/Corolla area
Whether you choose Nags Head or Hatteras, you’re going to have a fantastic vacation! Take some time to sit in the sun and unwind. If you’re the type of group that likes to go out to eat, have activities available, and go shopping, Nags Head might be a better choice for you. But, if you’re looking to get to know the local and disconnect from the outside world, Hatteras may be your spot. I am a little bit biased towards Hatteras because we have connections there, but after having been to both locations, I love both for very different reasons. Nags Head is great because my friends and I could go out when being at home with the parents was too much, but Hatteras is a wonderful place to explore that may take you out of your comfort zone.
Short plug for our friends’ house-Charma’s Landmark:
Charma’s Landmark is a huge house with beds for 13 people and room for air mattresses if you need the extra room! There are big windows with views of the ocean and a Happy Hour Tower with views of the ocean and the sound. It has easy access to the beach, just over the dunes! The house also comes with access to a hot tub and a gas grill right on the deck. There are two big tables and a fully stocked kitchen with gadgets and spices you need for family dinners. The living room has a SUPER comfy couch and a big TV so you can keep up with your shows or have a movie night. The house is also just around the corner from the Ocracoke Ferry and the shops (close enough you could bike or walk!)