Free Things to Do in Nags Head, NC
Looking for the best FREE things to do in Nags Head, NC? This list features a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities for vacationers of all ages and interests!
Jockey's Ridge State Park
State and National Parks are abundant on the Outer Banks, and Jockey's Ridge State Park may be one of the most popular. These massive sand dunes have been towering and overlooking the Outer Banks for as long as the barrier islands have existed, and they are constantly moving. This park is an excellent destination for families or groups of any age. You can walk around, climb the dunes, run down the steep hills, and enjoy wonderful views out over the Atlantic Ocean or over the Roanoke Sound onto Manteo. Jockey's Ridge is also one of the best places on the Outer Banks for kite flying, so bring your own or stop by for one of the many free giant kite events during the year!
Outer Banks Event Site
Besides paid events during the year, the Outer Banks Event Site plays home to numerous free festivals and craft shows during the year. Pay close attention for signage during the summer as and you'll be sure to spot a free event when you see it. You can also keep checking our OBX events page for a list of annual events as soon as they're scheduled.
Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve
Acres on acres of pristine maritime forest await your exploration in Nags Head Woods! While the entrance is technically located in Kill Devil Hills (Ocean Acres Drive) the preserve takes up plenty of Nags Head real estate. There is a trail for driving, biking, and walking, as well as several additional paths and boardwalks specifically for non-motorized use. Take a few hours with the family to explore through the woods and experience what the Outer Banks looked like long before commercialization and human inhabitants.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
My personal favorite - go visit Bodie Island Lighthouse, just a short drive south of Nags Head. While climbing the lighthouse isn't free, there's a whole lot to enjoy just by visiting and browsing the grounds. You can view historical artifacts in the lightkeeper's house, walk a nearby boardwalk over marshland, and even sneak out the back path and walk along the sound.
Recently constructed, Whalebone Park is located right across the beach road from Jennette's Pier in Nags Head. Bring the kids out for some free fun time spent on slides, swings, and obstacles in the nautical themed park. There are also shaded picnic tables, bocce, and volleyball court for everyone to use.
Watch the Charter Fishing Boats Return
This was always a favorite for me as a kid... bring your family or just yourselves out to the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center just before the inlet for an afternoon of sightseeing like no other. During the peak fishing season and after 3:30pm, all of the offshore charter boats are returning back to the docks to offload their catches. While those on the trips have paid a handsome price to catch and keep the fish, you get to take a gander at a variety of species from the deep. Check out the big tuna or dolphin fish. There's also plenty of bottom fish and bluefish/Spanish mackerel being brought in from the inshore fleet. This is a completely free activity and quite frankly, the fisherman enjoy showing off their haul!
Oregon Inlet Sound Beach
A popular spot for sunbathing and relaxing in the water, take a few minute's drive south of Nags Head and over the Oregon Inlet bridge. There is a public parking lot immediately after crossing the bridge on the left-hand side, and it links via footpath to a nice little beach area. The inlet beach offers soft sand and great wading waters (no big waves and very shallow for quite a bit). You'll see crabs, minnows, etc. and be right on top of some prime fishing for a majority of fish in the ocean/sound. Bring your beach gear, water, and sun protection, then enjoy a free afternoon activity away from some of the hustle and bustle of the main beaches! (Oregon Inlet Photo Credit: Jennifer Carr Photography)
Watch Surfing Competitions
Every year in the fall, there are some serious surfing competitions that take place in Nags Head. Namely at Jennette's Pier, there are two big ones that stand out: the ESA Easterns and the WRV Outer Banks Pro. You can watch surfing for free at just about every beach on the Outer Banks, but watching professional and semi-pros go at it adds a little more entertainment than a first timer on a rented board. There's plenty of parking at Jennette's Pier and the beaches are big enough for everyone to find a comfortable spot. Mix up your beach days with a stop during one of these tournaments for some surfing action you won't forget.