The Town of Duck in North Carolina has a nearly mile-long boardwalk along the Currituck Sound.

Fun & Free Things to Do in the Outer Banks

If you can afford it and it is what you want to spend your money on, luxury travel is great. But what about those of us who do not want to blow out their travel budget on a single trip? The answer is to find the right destination. For example, there are so many free things to do in the Outer Banks of North Carolina that you will not feel like you are intentionally saving money.

With trips to the beach, lighthouses, museums, and national parks, you and your family and friends will be having so much fun that you will not even remember you are not spending any money. And you can use all that money you saved for some fresh seafood, a special souvenir, or, even, your next trip.

The beaches are one of the best free things to do in the Outer Banks! Outer Banks beaches are free, with no permits or tags required.

Outer Banks Beaches

The beaches are probably the top draw for visitors to the Outer Banks. And they do not disappoint. The collection of barrier islands has more than 100 miles of beaches to offer. And the beaches are one of the best free things to do in the Outer Banks.

The beaches themselves require no permits or beach tags like you may find in other beach communities around the country. Instead, each of the communities and towns along the Outer Banks has its own rules on access to the beaches associated with how you get there. For example, some towns require parking permits. The northern beaches of Carova are accessible by a permit and four-wheel drive vehicles only. It is also worth noting that not all beaches have lifeguards on duty.

During the early spring and fall off-season in the Outer Banks, many of the beaches are dog-friendly, too.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse peeks out above the trees. A visit to the lighthouse is a popular thing to do in Corolla, NC.

Outer Banks Lighthouses

Lighthouses may seem like something from yesteryear. But along the 200 miles of the Outer Banks, five lighthouses have continued to keep watch: Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Light, and Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Although these days there are a few less pirates along the coast than there used to be.

Most of the lighthouses are open to be climbed for a fee. But you can still visit and marvel at these historic buildings from the outside for free.

A sixth lighthouse, Roanoke Marshes Light, in Manteo is a replica that can be visited.


New visitors to the Outer Banks will likely expect to find a typical beach town. But Manteo is different. Manteo is on Roanoke Island and a visit there is like walking into a quaint and charming Southern small town, complete with historic architecture.

The historic downtown area on the waterfront is extremely walkable, with narrow streets and sidewalks lined with independent shops and boutiques. On the edge of the island, the Roanoke Island Festival Park offers some admission-based activities, but the park area is open to the public to enjoy.

You could easily spend a day exploring everything the town has to offer.

The Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve offers a different side of the OBX in spring.

Walking Trails

The Outer Banks are rich in outdoor activities any time of the year. Activities like hang gliding, kayaking, and swimming are the most obvious options. But there are some great trails for walking, hiking, and running throughout the region.

For a more wooded hike explore Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve, which includes the area’s only covered bridge. If you prefer to stick to the water, the Duck Boardwalk along the Currituck Sound offers spectacular views.

Birdwatching & Animal watching

Each year, migratory birds fly south for the winter and north for the summer. The Outer Banks just happens to be along the Atlantic Flyway route that traces the United States’ eastern seaboard. That makes it ideal for observing migration in action and one of the fun and free things to do in the Outer Banks.

The Pine Island Audubon Center names some of the best birdwatching locations along the Outer Banks, including the Elizabethan Gardens and the Corolla area of Currituck Lighthouse and Whalehead Club.

Whalehead Club and Historic Corolla Park.

Historic Corolla Village

Historic Corolla Village is centered around Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Just a quick walk away is a collection of a half-dozen restored historic buildings including the Whalehead Club and a stunning wooden bridge that dates to the 1920s.

There are also free attractions like the Currituck Maritime Museum and Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. If you’re looking for an adventure, keep an eye open for some obscured trails. The paths lead from the parking area out to Whalehead Bay.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Fort Raleigh is the site of the first English settlement in 1587. The settlement is known today as the Lost Colony, as the cause of its demise is somewhat unclear. Supply ships were unable to return until 1590 and, when they did, the colony was abandoned and no survivors were found.

Today, visitors can learn the history of the colony and the location. There are exhibits and visitors can explore preserved archeological evidence. You can also get a feel for the colony by walking the 1950s earthwork fort reconstruction. There is no entrance fee for the park, making things one of the fun free things to do in the Outer Banks!

Visitors walking on the sand dunes at Jockey's RIdge State Park.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Nestled a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and just next to the Roanoke Sound in Nags Head, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is home to the tallest living sand dunes on the eastern coast.

As Europeans began visiting the New World, 16th-century mariners are said to have used the massive dunes as a landmark. The first known reference to the dunes as Jockey’s Ridge is in the 18th century. Popular local lore credits the origin of the name to the dunes serving as a racing track for the region’s wild horses.

The 426-acre state park hosts multiple ecosystems, making it a great place to indulge in outdoor adventures.

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Save money without feeling like you are saving money with fun, free things to do in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the popular beach destination. #obx #outerbanks

All photos, as well as opinions, are my own.

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