If you can’t get enough of ‘Outer Banks’ on Netflix, here’s how to plan a trip there
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While so many of us are cooped up at home, we’re all trying to find ways to pass the time and stay entertained — and often, this means a lot of television. A lot.
A few hit shows have gained overnight cult-status, including “Tiger King,” “Normal People” and, of course, “Outer Banks.”
The latter is currently streaming on Netflix, and features high school students trying to find a buried treasure off the coast of (you guessed it) the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
And while many of us aren’t traveling right now (and even though the actual filming is done largely in Charleston), the show still inspired us to start planning a trip to the Outer Banks when it’s safe to do so, and we know we’re not the only ones.
If you fall into that category, you’re in luck. You’ll want to bookmark this article so you can start planning your own Outer Banks adventure … buried treasure not included.
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How to get there
The Outer Banks (also known as OBX) are a narrow strip of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, stretching along nearly half the state. The main areas are Northern Beaches, Roanoke Island and Dare Mainland and Hatteras.
The Northern Beaches, in particular, will be of interest to AvGeeks, since they’re the location of the Wright Brothers‘ first powered flight. Yes, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are both situated on the Northern Beaches in the Outer Banks and are an easy must-visit.
If you’re coming from a land far, far away, your best bet is going to be to fly to Norfolk International Airport (ORF) in Virginia and then drive southwest to the Outer Banks. Delta offers nonstop flights from New York-JFK, Boston (BOS) and Atlanta (ATL); American flies nonstop from Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA) and Charlotte (CLT); and United has nonstop flights from Newark (EWR), Washington, D.C. (IAD) and Chicago (ORD), just to name a few.
If that doesn’t work, another reasonable choice is flying into Raleigh-Durham International (RDU) in North Carolina. This airport is twice as far as Norfolk, but it’s a nice, scenic drive.
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If you’re planning on driving in, there are a number of routes you can take, whether you’re looking for something more leisurely or searching for the most direct trip.
You can also take the ferry to get around the Outer Banks, although times vary depending on where you’re going. Be sure to check the schedule for more information.
Either way, you’ll want to queue up your favorite playlist and enjoy the ride.
Where to stay
While points hotels in the Outer Banks are somewhat limited, you do have options if that’s the route you want to go.
As far as Marriott hotels go, your best bet will be the TownePlace Suites Outer Banks Kill Devil Hills on the Northern Beaches. During the peak summer months, rates start at just $146 or 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Since it’s a Category 4 property, award nights can range from 20,000 to 30,000 points per night.
If you’re a Hilton loyalist, you have some choices here, too. There’s a Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk, as well as a Hampton Inn in Corolla. In the former, rates start at $173 per night, although most are between $200 and $300 per night. If you want to pay in points, you’ll have to fork over 31,000 to 70,000 points per night for standard rooms. But, when only nonstandard rooms are available, the points price can quickly get ridiculous. So, compare the award rates to TPG’s latest valuations of Hilton points to be sure you’re getting a good deal.
At the Hampton Inn, rates start at $183 or 25,000 to 80,000 points per night for standard rooms. During popular times of the year, only pricier nonstandard rooms may be available. Again, you may want to pay with cash if the points price makes your jaw drop. Keep in mind that many weekend nights are already sold out, so you’ll want to book sooner rather than later if you’re considering a trip this year.
Still, the Outer Banks is better known for charming, small motels and inns, rather than major chain hotels. For your summer escape, consider the White Doe Inn, Sanderling Resort and Surf Side Hotel. Rates at these hotels start at $215, $299 and $425, respectively.
There are also plenty of Airbnb properties, ranging from luxury to budget. Renting a house in the Outer Banks is a common way to be near the water and truly enjoy the area, especially if you’re getting together with other families or friends. Prices will drop dramatically if you can stay on off-peak dates, meaning just before or after kids get out of school for summer break.
For example, a house that is $2,000 for a week at the end of May or early June might be at least double that price when July rolls around. Of course, the farther you are from the waves, the less expensive the houses generally will be as well.
Whether you’re reserving a hotel, Airbnb or a private boutique property, travelers paying cash should use a credit card that earns you bonus points on hotel stays, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x).
What to do
First and foremost: The lighthouses. A trip to the Outer Banks isn’t complete without a trip to see the tallest lighthouse in America, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Kill Devil Hills offers wide beaches with lifeguards, big waves, public parking and the Avalon Pier for fishing. Nearby Nags Head is one of the oldest communities on the Outer Banks, so the town has a charming historic feel.
You should also carve time in your itinerary to visit Jockey’s Ridge, the East Coast’s highest sand dune. There’s nothing like watching the sunset here after a full day sightseeing or sunning on the beach.
No matter which part of the Outer Banks you’re staying in, we definitely recommend a drive up to the Northern Beaches to check out the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Whether you’re an AvGeek or not, you’ll be inspired and impressed by the monument and the incredible aviation history. Tickets start at $10 for adults and entry is free for children.
If you’re craving an adrenaline rush, check out Outer Banks Kayak Adventures in Nags Head. They offer a range of kayak and stand-up paddleboard excursions, including Nags Head morning and sunset tours; a nighttime bioluminescence tour; tours of Kitty Hawk forests and marshes; a Roanoke Island history; kayak trips for kids and more.
We also recommend a jeep tour to see the wild horses with a company such as Wild Horse Adventure Tours. While there’s no guarantee you’ll see wild horses on your trip, you’re guaranteed to have a ton of fun riding around with the top down.
Of course, you’re here for some prime rest and relaxation — so be sure to leave your itinerary open for plenty of lazy afternoons in the sun.
Where to eat
The Outer Banks is home to more than 100 locally-owned restaurants, and there’s something for everyone here … yes, even the pickiest one in your group.
There are few better ways to spend a beach vacation than enjoying fresh right on the shore, and Black Pelican is among our favorites. We’re craving oysters just thinking about it.
North Banks Restaurant & Raw Bar, The Blue Point and Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar & Wine Cafe are other top picks in the area. If you’re in the mood for North Carolina barbecue, be sure to keep High Cotton on your list. Stack ‘Em High has multiple locations throughout the Outer Banks, and is arguably one of the best ways to start your day.
You’ll also want to make a stop at the original Duck Donuts (something of a household name these days) that originated in the Outer Banks. If that doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, Big Buck’s Homemade Ice Cream is sure to do the trick.
Road trips will undoubtedly be a hot travel trend this summer, and the Outer Banks really shines as a top contender for your easy, close-to-home vacation if you live anywhere in the eastern part of the country. Gorgeous beaches stretch for 200 miles and offer endless diversions for families, foodies and sunseekers. Combine that with friendly locals and a healthy dose of history, and you’ve got yourself a summer vacation you’ll remember fondly for years to come.
Article updated to reflect that while the show depicts the Outer Banks, it is filmed in Charleston.
Featured image courtesy of Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images.
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