One of our favorite summer getaways in the Southeast would have to be the Outer Banks. Not only are they easy to get to from Charleston, Raleigh, and Virginia Beach, they offer the perfect combination of sunny beach days and educational family fun. For this past trip, we invited both of my sisters and their families, so our rental house was filled with laughter and sandy shoes the entire time. We adore traveling with our extended family since the kids can all play with one another: there’s so much to do on the Outer Banks that the adults never had to figure out what we were doing with the kids each day.
On our last trip to the Outer Banks, we made sure to include plenty of fun for both the adults and the kids during our 10 days there. Here’s what we did to make the vacation unforgettable both little ones and adults alike!
1) We climbed to the top of the Outer Banks lighthouses. We visited both the Bodie Island lighthouse (200 steps) and the Cape Hatteras lighthouse (257 steps) and went all the way to the top! If you decide to take your kids, know that anyone venturing to the top must be at least 42″ tall and cannot have anyone carry him or her. Those little legs will get a workout, but the effort is worth the views from the top of the lighthouses. Younger kids who can’t make the climb (or don’t want to) will love waving to their family members from the bottom of these massive structures.
2) We went looking for the wild horses of Corolla. My kids were fascinated with the idea of wild horses, so we made to sure take some time out to learn more about them. These mustangs landed on the Outer Banks as a result of shipwrecks several hundred years ago. Today, the horses are protected but, if you’re lucky, you can still find them (but don’t get too close!). We decided to take a wild horse tour, which was a highlight of our trip. And, best of all, since we were staying on Corolla in Sea Watch I, we didn’t have far to go to see the horses.
3) We spent the day on Ocracoke Island. This adorable island is on the southern end of the Outer Banks and is accessible only by ferry from Hatteras Island. We rented bicycles and explored the town at our own pace. There’s plenty of shopping for the adults, while kids will look forward to the variety of ice cream and snacks spots. There’s a lighthouse on the island that kids might find interesting. At night, older kids will love the historic ghost walk that delves into the spookier elements of the island.
4) We tried to solve the mystery of the Roanoke Colony. Surprisingly, the Outer Banks had an established English colony that predated Jamestown. However, the colony disappeared without a trace around 1590, leaving only the word “Croatoan” carved into a nearby tree. Historians theorize that the colony might have intermarried with the local tribe, attempted to return to England but were lost at sea, or were killed by Spanish explorers. Families will enjoy an original play based on the colonists’ experiences; “The Lost Colony” play runs throughout the summer. The outdoor setting for the play makes it perfect for kids who will love the open air theatre as much as they do the 2 hour long play.
5) We learned to fly at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Back in 1903, the wright Brothers had the first successful flight from the top of Big Kill Devil Hill. Although the flight lasted less than a minute, this was where modern aviation was born, and it’s a fantastic site for kids. They’ll marvel at the life-sized model of the brothers’ plane, and they can learn more about the men behind this daring experience.
6) Play on the giant sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge. These massive sand dunes are a sure hit with the younger ones on your vacation. They make for great places to run up and down, but if you have more adventurous kids, they will love sandboarding these massive dunes. You can also bring a kite to fly, hike the self-guided park trail, or hang-glide from several of the dunes.