Coast March Cover EJ

Sure, walks on the beach and drinking a cold Corona by the seashore are at the top of every list of things to do on the Outer Banks, but to help you celebrate Dare County’s 150th birthday, we tried to find some ideas that are, well, unexpected. Kind of like Dare County itself!

So, here are 50 things to do slightly off the beaten beach, for tourists and residents alike, all year round.


  1. Discover History. Dare County boasts more than 30 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sites such as the tiny Salvo Post Office, build around 1910, and Caffeys Inlet Lifesaving Station in Duck, built in the late 1800s. Travel back centuries without leaving the county.
  2. Climb a Lighthouse. Dare County is home to two lighthouses open to the public. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest in America and most recognized in the world. The Bodie Island Lighthouse is the third in that location, erected after the second was destroyed to keep Union troops from using it in the Civil War. It worked – no troops have been spotted there since.
  3. Visit a Shipwreck. Five shipwrecks lie just off the coast along what was once the superhighway of the high seas. You can explore some of these just by swimming, scuba or kayak.
  4. Kill Devil Thrills. In this era of commercial flight and space travel, it still thrills that the first engine-powered, manned flight happened almost 117 years ago right here in Dare County. Spend a day at the recently remodeled visitor center and walk the very path of that first flight.
  5. Adopt A Pet. A new pet from the Dare County animal shelter managed by the local chapter of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty for Animals will give you 50 things to do every day!
  6. Make a Quilt. Join the OBX Blanketeers and help make a quilt or blanket for senior citizens, nursing home residents, hospital patients and children. Can’t quilt? If you can tie a knot, you can make a blanket.
  7. Touch A Snake. If you happen to run across a “crazy guy with a snake,” it is probably Kurt O’Dell. The self-taught snake expert gives presentations on how to tell the difference between touchable and nontouchable varieties.
  8. Commune with Nature: Whether bird watching on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 6,000-acre haven for hundreds of wading, shore and upland birds, exploring Nags Head Woods, a self-guided nature preserve that was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974 and offers 8 miles of hiking trails, or taking a guided kayak tour to see a sensational sunset there are myriad ways to reconnect with Mother Earth.
  9. Surf a Movie. What do you get when you combine the culture of surfing, the artistry of independent films, and the beauty of the Outer Banks? You get the Surfalorus Film Festival, a three-day array of the year’s best surf films that returns to the Outer Banks every September.
  10. Ride The Sky. Know what Dare County residents look like from 2,000 feet in the air? Ants. They look like ants. Go hang gliding. The folks at Kitty Hawk Kites will tell you it “feels like flying.” And after you land your feet might not touch the ground for days!
  11. Sip Coffee. Dare County boasts no less than 50 places to savor the bean, whether your order is basic black to a hyphenated string of Italian words. Everything goes better with coffee.
  12. Eat Ice Cream. Hey, it’s our birthday! Eating this treat belongs on every list for every occasion. Dare County has plenty of places to dip your cones and sprinkle your scoops.
  13. Shop a Thrift Shop. You don’t need to be a pirate to dig up buried treasure. Sail into any thrift shop for an adventure in shopping for only a few doubloons.
  14. Trivia Time. If you can name all of Andy Griffith’s TV girlfriends, you will excel at Greg Smrdel’s trivia questions, pulled from his book “The Andy Griffith Show: Complete Trivia Guide.” Griffith, of course, was a well-known fixture on Roanoke Island, from his early days playing Sir Walter Raleigh in “The Lost Colony” until his death at his Manteo home in 2012. Grab a copy of Smrdel’s book and quiz your friends and family!
  15. Party like a Pirate. In 1718, Blackbeard the Pirate met his final fate on Ocracoke Island. Every October, you can celebrate the anniversary of his demise at the annual Blackbeard Pirate Jamboree.
  16. Discover “The Lost Colony.” America’s first English colony was founded – and subsequently lost – on Roanoke Island in 1587. You can rediscover it every year at the outdoor symphonic drama created in 1937 by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green.
  17. Sightsee with Sharks. Get up close with sharks, seahorses, squid and jellyfish at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
  18. Swim with Sharks. Get up close AND personal with scuba diving at Roanoke Island Outfitters and Dive Shop, which also offers wreck diving, spearfishing, scuba classes, freediving and dive charters.
  19. Find the Mother Vine. Enjoy wine? Then you must pay homage to the Mother Vine, America’s oldest cultivated grapevine. Dated to be more than 400 years old, its roots still draw life from Dare County soil, testimony to Sir Walter Raleigh’s praise of “grapes of such greatness, yet wild, that France, Spain nor Italy hath not greater.”
  20. Paint A Picture. Dare County offers a 360-degree palette of breathtaking views, from swelling ocean surf to gull-filled skies. Pick up a brush for some en plein air paintings, with a class at Dare County Arts Council. Or just admire the work of artists who did.
  21. Take A Picture. Fine art photographer Logan Gearhart took his first photo on a cell phone. Now he’s an outdoor travel photographer who creates sweeping images of the Outer Banks to share with a wider audience. You can, too.
  22. Feast at a Food Truck. Food just seems to taste more adventurous when served from a food truck, as at the Outer Banks Food Truck Showdown at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head in May. It’s real meals on wheels.
  23. Feed The Birds. Don’t go birdwatching – make the birds come to you. The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island will show you how to build a bird habitat that brings flocks to your own backyard.
  24. Build a Boat. The Dare County Boat Builders Foundation hosts tournaments and offers scholarships to keep this local trade alive.
  25. Ride a Bike. Visit the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce for a map of bike paths through the area. You know what they say about riding a bike … .
  26. Learn to Surf. The surf is always up in Dare County. Sign up for one of the many surf camps, such as Hukilau Surf Camps, to make sure you are up for the surf.
  27. Learn to Dance. Time to shuffle-ball-change up your exercise routine. Did you know the Dare County Parks and Recreation has a dance department? They teach ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical and pointe.
  28. Learn to Sail. Haft the mainsail, trim the portcullis and hoist the hawser! Learn the correct terms at the Outer Banks Community Sailing Program at the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum.
  29. Dine Out. From Californian to Caribbean, Thai to tapas, bistros to bagels, Dare County offers a smorgasbord of menu choices. Abandon all diets, ye who enter here.
  30. Dine In. Hankering to test your kitchen skills on fresh seafood? Head to Buxton Seafood, one of numerous fresh seafood markets, and pick up a mess of shrimp, clams, scallops, crab, lobster or a net full of bounty from the sea. Or cut out the middleman and ...
  31. Go Fish. Learn to surf fish. All Saints Episcopal Church in Southern Shores offers classes in its After Dark program. Speckled trout, your table is waiting.
  32. Release the Butterflies. Watch as butterflies are released into the Dare County wild each Wednesday in April at the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island.
  33. Attend a Meeting. You know, there are official groups that tend to city and county business. It wouldn’t hurt to get more involved in matters that affect your livelihood and your life. Go to a dang meeting. Local officials are happy to see you and chat.
  34. Do Yoga. Yoga is exercise you can do no matter your age, flexibility, or physical condition. All you need is a mat and comfortable clothing to learn to bend, fold and rejuvenate.
  35. Run a Marathon. Outer Banks Sporting Events offers every whacky race theme from the annual Running of the Leprechauns to the Flying Pirate Half Marathon to the Outer Banks Triathlon. Where else can you find a beach, a bike path, and an ocean in such perfect proximity?
  36. Drink and Run. Not up for 26.2 miles? How about 10 miles? How about 1 mile? How about 1 mile with drinking? Then try the Outer Banks Beer Mile held on St. Patrick’s Day in Kill Devil Hills. Drink. And run. And drink and run and drink and run ... .
  37. Save a Swimmer. Get a job in ocean rescue for the Kill Devil Hills Fire Department. Or any of the other towns along the coast.
  38. Sing Karaoke. It’s just like singing in the shower, without having to clean soap scum off the tiles. There are plenty of places to unleash your inner vocalist.
  39. Stand Up. The Comedy Club of the Outer Banks in Kill Devil Hills features both domestic and out-of-state humor. See if you can tell the difference.
  40. Sit Down. Not into walking? Take Chair Aerobics, a 30-minute workout while remaining seated. It’s one of dozens of daily classes offered at the Dare County Center, requiring varying degrees of effort.
  41. Really Sit Down. Find a comfortable bench facing the ocean and be inspired.
  42. Brew Pub Crawl. More like an expedition, as the area boasts five microbreweries spread from Corolla to Ocracoke and the mainland. The Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills is the nation’s first wind-powered brewery, and the small, but mighty Lost Colony Brewery and Café is in Manteo. Corolla has the Northern Outer Banks Brewing Company, while 1718 Brewery is located on Ocracoke Island just before you hit town. The state’s first microbrewery, the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery, is in Jarvisburg alongside the highway on and off the island. (Yes, Ocracoke and Corolla and Jarvisburg are technically in other counties, but what’s a birthday party without guests?)
  43. Drive the Beach. No, don’t take the Accord for a spin on the sand unless you want to spin in the sand. There are plenty of places for four-wheeling in Dare County, both in and out of season, and folks can drive the northern Currituck beaches of Corolla and Carova, and Ocracoke, as well. Permits are often required, so check with each municipality, as well as the National Park Service. If you drive the beach in Corolla, you might get lucky enough for a ...
  44. Mustang Sighting. A herd of wild horses, descendants of Spanish mustangs from centuries ago, freely roams the beaches and neighborhoods of northern Corolla and Carova. You might spot them taking a siesta at the shoreline, or in shade near the unpaved streets of Carova. No touching or feeding.
  45. Blue Water Bluegrass. The annual Bluegrass Island Festival, billed as Mountain Music by the Sea, encompasses four days in mid-May. More than 20 acts are scheduled to perform at the festival, based at the beautiful Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo.
  46. Disc Golf. For those who think conventional golf is a good walk spoiled, as the saying goes, then pick up a disc. Kill Devil Hills is home to the Casey R. Logan Disc Golf Course, an 18-hole layout with amateur and professional fairways.
  47. Watch the Dolphins. Several outfits offer dolphin-watching tours in coastal waters and sounds. One local captain describes the endeavor as “wandering aimlessly, with no particular porpoise in mind.”
  48. Splash Away. If you want a break from the beach, but still want to get wet, venture a few miles inland to neighboring Currituck County’s H2OBX Waterpark, which has more than 30 rides, slides, tubes and attractions for individuals and groups. Or just lounge at one of their cabanas, while everyone else climbs and slides.
  49. Write a Book. Sure, you can do this anywhere. But we didn’t want this to be just another frivolous piece, so do something to improve yourself.
  50. Read a Book. You remember libraries. Lots of books. Peace and quiet. Free Wi-Fi. Dare County Library branches still have that.

And one for good measure ...

Walk the Beach. OK, we can’t do a list without including the obvious one. Dare County has miles of the best beaches on the planet. Get out and enjoy them!

Happy Birthday, Dare County!

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.