Illustration: Scott DuBar
The Outer Banks is not a place most people can make a living, but Wes Stalls, kayak buyer for outfitter Kitty Hawk Kites, has lived on the North Carolina coast’s scenic 200-mile stretch of barrier islands since grade school, and he still calls it home.
While summer tourists mostly flock to popular beach spots in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, Stalls is happy to show them OBX’s more adventurous side. Paddling and surfing opportunities abound in the Atlantic and interior sounds, while coastal winds provide perfect conditions for kite surfing and hang gliding. And everyone loves the vast expansive beachscapes, especially on the 70-mile Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the islands south of Oregon Inlet.
“Even though we’re a big destination, you can find plenty of open space, especially on the Southern Islands,” Stalls says.
4 Best Beach Hikes
Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a great place for a day hike with an abundance of coastal terrain. It’s home to the largest sand dune on the East Coast and the starting point for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers accessible pristine beach terrain. Personal favorites include the beaches of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and the hook—inside the Hatteras southern edge. Portsmouth Island is only accessible by boat from Ocracoke, offering the most secluded beaches along the Outer Banks. In the Nags Head Woods you’ll forget you’re at the beach as you hike trails through relic sand dunes.
Pitch a Tent
Pitch a tent at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore campgrounds in Frisco and Ocracoke. Camp Hatteras in Waves is a great privately owned campground, offering both ocean- and sound-side camping in the heart of a premier kiteboarding destination.
Best Stand-Up paddling
High Bridge Creek in Kitty Hawk is a nice flatwater paddle that can be reached from the Bob Perry Public Boating Access. For SUP surfing, try the northern beaches. The Kitty Hawk Public Beach Access has a good bar with deep water and mellow waves.
Serious cyclists enjoy the trip along the national seashore from Nags Head to Hatteras. Riding Ocracoke is a great day trip for family adventure. Biking is the best way to get around because parking is limited.
Try hang gliding at Kitty Hawk Kites, which offers beginner dune lessons and high-altitude tandem gliding.