Most of North Carolina’s coastline is made up of the Outer Banks barrier islands. Some are 80 miles long, while others are just a few miles in length.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, managed by the National Park Service, occupies 70 miles of Outer Banks coastline, with camping available right on the beaches. The entire stretch is sleepy, low-key and ideal for families looking to enjoy a vacation of beach simplicity.
Beach towns in the Outer Banks include Corolla, home to wild horses living on the shore; Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers first took flight; and Ocracoke, which is filled with shops and restaurants on its harbor.
As Atlantic Coast beaches, ocean waves range from mild to massive. In Nags Head, visit the Surf Shop and enroll the kids in surf lessons. If the waves get to be too much, your little ones can climb the sand dunes, play mini golf, visit an aquarium or fish – there’s plenty to do here.
When you do spend the day on the sand, 17 of the beaches and recreation areas are protected by lifeguards between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and multiple public restroom facilities are scattered about the beaches, as well.
In the heart of the small island towns, shops sell snacks and beach gear, and water-sport rentals are provided by numerous companies that will deliver equipment directly to your vacation rental. (The vast majority of accommodation options here are beach rentals.)