Sand and saltwater are the two things that we don’t typically negotiate on. We head to the beach as soon as we have a free moment but sometimes, the weather just isn’t favorable for a beach day. Oftentimes, we use a gusty or chilly day to work on one of our many on-going home projects or we get caught up on work but we always have our mind on being outside adventuring.
So, other than the beach, what is there to do on the Outer Banks? I’ve been asked this question a hundred times and the truth is, there are so many options, you’re sure to find amazing places to explore. We spend as much time outside as we possibly can and every time I think that we have explored all of the hiking trails, we stumble upon another one. Due to our flat coastline, none of our hikes are ever too challenging so all of our children, ages 2-14, can manage to keep up.
Here’s our list of favorite free adventures on the Outer Banks!
1. Sandy Run Park in Kitty Hawk. We take a few bags of food that we have set aside like carrot tops, lettuce, collard greens, kale and grapes and head right on the path. If you walk about 30 steps on this path you will come to a Y, take the path to the left for another 100 steps and you will see a small area to feed turtles. From April-November, you will find hundreds of turtles that are all eager for the treats you have brought. The kids love it and I’ll be honest, its so much fun to watch the turtles appear from under the water. Lots of fish will jump here too! The entire run can be walked in 25 minutes but we usually take it slow and spend about an hour and look for all of the wildlife. In addition to turtles and fish, we’ve seen hawks, lizards, snacks, a fox, deer and even a bald eagle!
2. Nags Head Woods. With some trees that are over a hundred years old and 7 different trails, Nags Head Woods offers us something different every time we explore it. We typically stick with Discovery Trail and Center Trail when we have young kids with us. If we’re just going with our older two kids, ages 6 and 14, we enjoy Sweetgum Swamp Trail. Wildlife isn’t usually something that we encounter here with the exception of bull frogs in the ponds and birds. You can checkout all 7 trails and details online. I’ve found that the website for Kill Devil Hills has the most information for anyone heading out for a hike.
3. Springer’s Point in Ocracoke. This 31 acre nature preserve is bustling with tales of Blackbeard and the early stories of Ocracoke. If these trees could talk! We love walking the half mile trail and trying to picture Blackbeard and his men enjoying a “happy hour” of sorts. You’ll see Teach’s Hole where Blackbeard met his fate but often more exciting for our kids are the egrets, herons and hermit crabs that appear on the sound front beach. There isn’t any parking available so riding a bike or walking to the site is best. Do you research and be courteous of locals who live nearby.
4. Jockey’s Ridge. The tallest living sand dune on the east coast is so much more than a great place to fly a kite. We love approaching the sand dune from a different location each time. Our most frequent adventure begins in the parking lot and then over the dunes to the sound and back. The trail is 1.2 miles long and easy enough for all ages but the length often has us carrying our youngest on the way back to the parking lot. Once on the sound side, you can walk the trail along the water and the maritime thickets. This is one of our favorite spots on the entire Outer Banks.
Now that school is out, the kids and I are happy to have extra time together but it definitely means that we need activities that create both memories and the need for an afternoon nap! There’s nothing better than fresh air and an adventure here on the Outer Banks!