Things to Do in the Outer Banks Off-Season
There comes a time each year, towards the middle of summer, when all of the locals on the Outer Banks start truly yearning for the off-season. It's not that we don't love summer, it's just that fall and spring are at times indescribably enjoyable. Most people are people persons, but the spoils of the off-season glory are even more savory when there are fewer crowds on the OBX as well. Fall and spring combine the uncrowded element with subtle delights that summertime vacations often proceed without.
Below are some of my absolute favorite parts about Outer Banks off-season vacations. All may not appeal to you, but combine them and your family is in store for an unforgettable visit and perhaps a new OBX tradition!
This is a biggie. Unlike summertime when it feels like the main attraction is the Atlantic Ocean and miles of beaches, off-season visitors to the Outer Banks enjoy many more annual events and happenings. The weather is conducive to all-day outdoor activity and the smaller crowds make logistics manageable. Concerts, arts and crafts shows, food festivals, and many more indoor/outdoor events take place each year and you'll find the best ones by following our Facebook page!
Considering a beach wedding? The off-season is the perfect time for oceanside nuptials! Your guests will enjoy attractive rental home rates (search now), the weather is fan-tas-tic, and fewer people on the beach give you and your special someone extra space for a fantastic photoshoot!
For java junkies, there is no moment more precious than the morning cup. You're starting your day off right with a warm cup of liquid positivity that all but guarantees you'll make it through the day a champion. While that was a bit overdramatic, starting the day off with a hot beverage has been one of humanity's favorite rituals for thousands of years. When you combine that with cool and crisp salt air sunrises... you're in for a treat! No matter if you're staying in an oceanfront rental, oceanside, or even soundfront/soundside, your senses are all heightened in the morning on the Outer Banks when the sun is waking and the cooler off-season temperatures make your warm drinks even more enjoyable!
A weak spot for me... the seafood on the Outer Banks is the freshest for many species of clams, oysters, shrimp, and crabs during the off-season. Have you ever heard the saying "Only eat oysters in months that end in "R"? Well, visiting the OBX during an "R" month ensures that your shellfish have been hanging out in much cooler waters that are less prone to any bacteria that can potentially develop in extremely hot conditions. The blue crab soft shell seasons also kicks off around May for those visiting in the spring.
Tying in with our mention of events above, one of the largest annual events on the Outer Banks for food is the Outer Banks Seafood Festival, held every October at the beautiful Soundside Event Site in Nags Head. It features dozens of local restaurants creating their take on seafood favorites. Fish, shrimp, crab, clams, oysters... you'll find something for everyone here!
Spring and fall usher in many migratory bird species that make birding a popular activity on the Outer Banks! Wings Over Water is a renowned annual event taking place each year, typically in October and again in December. The event features programs in SIX national wildlife refuges, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Jockey's Ridge State Park, and more. Whether you're an experienced birder or just have a general interest in observing the beauty of the wildlife on the Outer Banks, the event is for all ages and backgrounds!
Want to go at it on your own? Just about anyone can have enjoyable bird watching sessions when traveling around the Outer Banks in the fall. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (immediately across the bridge south to Hatteras Island) is considered one of the gems of the North Carolina Birding Trail and features substantial marshland on the west-facing side of the highway. This area attracts not only migratory species of birds but also full-time residents that can be viewed at any time of year. Make sure you bring a pair of binoculars this year and take time to enjoy the magnificent and abundant wildlife all around you on the Outer Banks!
Surfing and the Outer Banks off-season go together pretty much like peanut butter and jelly.... really toasty peanut butter and homemade jelly. Namely, in the fall, surfing is exceptional on the OBX. The water is still a comfortable temperature from all the hot summer sun and the winds start producing consistent and enjoyable sets of waves. It's not uncommon for 5'-7' waves to be a regular occurrence in the fall on the Outer Banks. Just check the surf/wind forecast or even a LIVE OBX surf camera to get a look before you head out!
Prefer to watch some of the surfing action? There are several annual surfing events on the Outer Banks like the ESA Easterns and WRV Outer Banks Pro. Make sure to follow our Facebook page for all the best events on the Outer Banks.
Fishing from the beach and piers is what I consider to be a peak in the off-season! Sure, you won't be catching a Spot or Croaker with every cast of a bloodworm like in the summertime, BUT you will be placing your bait in the vicinity of much larger species of fish that hang out around the beach in the spring and fall. In October, the Red Drum action is off the charts! Many fishermen converge at the end of the piers and lucky ones land massive (not wimpy) Red Drum like in the photo above. Anglers from the surf also can do well by reading the beach and looking for deep holes to land their baits. Flounder is another abundant fish this time of year. They patrol the holes near shore looking for a meal, so no need to cast very far out!
For those looking for a guided experience, check out Outer Banks Kayak Fishing & Excursions. For the past few years, I've seen countless large Red Drum catches posted on their Facebook page and it looks like an experience to remember. Tell them Village Realty sent you!
While most people are aware that driving on the sections of beach where Highway 12 ends north of Corolla is a year-round activity, from October through May the beaches from Kill Devil Hills to Nags Head also open for beach driving. With fewer crowds in the off-season, this opens up the beach for safe 4-wheeling fun and plenty of options to spend time on the beach. On any given off-season day, it's not unusual to spot beachgoers enjoying a morning of fishing, an afternoon picknick, or an evening beach fire alongside their 4WD vehicles.
By bringing along your 4-wheel-drive, you give yourself the freedom to scour miles of beach for the perfect spot! Vehicles on the beach also enhance your carrying capacity for all that your fun requires, serve as a jukebox to play your favorite tunes on the radio, and can make pretty comfortable places to lay low and relax on the Outer Banks!
I'll admit it, I'm a fan of cooler weather. While the summer sun undeniably pairs with the Outer Banks like a frozen drink with an umbrella straw, there's something about being cozy in a sweatshirt at the beach that's distinctly enjoyable. In the off-season, there's generally no need to lather on sunscreen, and a comfortable outfit like jeans and a sweatshirt are a perfect choice for varied activities. Walks on the beach (amazing in the off-season) call for a little bit of wind/thermal protection, so your sweatshirt will come in handy as well as keep you remarkably comfortable. Bargain hunters and shopping enthusiasts will also enjoy many 50% off seasonal sales at many of the beachwear stores... laden with Outer Banks sweatshirt and cooler weather attire!
Picture this. The table is set. The beach house is full of your favorite people. The fireplace crackles as the smells of the meal to come dance off nostrils. The screen door is cracked to hear the ocean waves and let the salt air peek into the room as it likes. You've spent the whole day enjoying the company of loved ones. Proceed to eat the best meal in months. You get to fall asleep as early or late as you'd like. And you're hundreds of miles away from work and all the people you sometimes should care less about. If this sounds like an amazing time to you, Thanksgiving is an AMAZING time to visit the Outer Banks! Read more about holiday vacations on the Outer Banks here.
PLACES TO STAY
By now, you're probably ready to take an off-season vacation to the Outer Banks. Who can blame you? That means I did my job and you are off to look for places to stay. As a friendly reminder, Village Realty offers nearly 700 vacation rentals at the time of writing this. 7-0-0! That includes rentals from Corolla (near the wild horses, 4WD all year long beaches to the north) all the way down through Duck (quaint shopping/dining village), Southern Shores (ultimate privacy), Kitty Hawk (classic beach town), Roanoke Island (charming little island), Kill Devil Hills ("downtown" of the Outer Banks), and throughout Nags Head (nearby attractions and plenty of things to do). You can book online 24/7/365, and for those looking for a super-flexible way to stay, check out our "Stay Your Way" homes and rentals that allow short stays.
We'll see you at the beach!