Summer is the ideal time to talk about Outer Banks beaches. Discretion being the better part of valor, I won’t name a favorite beach, instead I’ll describe some favored Outer Banks beaches north of Oregon Inlet, and leave it up to each reader to discover their favorite spot by the sea. First of all, there are no bad beaches on the Outer Banks. Some are a bit sandier or a bit wider than others, but honestly it seems what makes people favor one beach over another is proximity.
For example, in Kitty Hawk, the beach around Black Pelican is very nice, although not quite as wide as the nourished beaches of South Nags Head. However, there are a lot of facilities right there at the parking lot including restrooms, showers and John’s Drive-in just down the road. Up the road near Ocean Boulevard Bistro, there’s ample parking, Art’s Place and Winks Market. The beach there is a bit narrow, and the sand is not as soft as other areas, but it’s a great location for families.
If there’s such a thing as the center of commerce on the Outer Banks, it’s probably Kill Devil Hills. The town may have the best parking available for beach goers and there are a lot of popular places for snacks and meals along the Beach Road. On the northern end of town, the beach tends to be a bit more narrow and steep, but widens toward the south end and into Nags Head.
The sand on the Nags Head beaches has always been some of the finest grain and softest sand around. After beach nourishment–which extends about a mile north of Jennette’s Pier to Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS) on the south end–the beach is very wide with a gradual slope to the ocean.
The area around Jennette’s Pier is a great spot for families, including access to restrooms, showers, Cahoon’s grocery store and local restaurants. Coquina Beach, which is part of The Cape Hatteras National Seashore, is located at the south end of Nags Head. It’s one of the best beaches around with ample parking, restrooms and showers. Pack a picnic lunch, though–there are no places to eat for three or four miles in either direction.
Finishing up with Dare County beaches, Duck and Southern Shores have wonderful beaches, but access is restricted to property owners and renters. The beaches in both towns are away from commercialized districts, so plan accordingly.
Corolla, in Currituck County, may have the best beaches on the Outer Banks. Wide beaches and soft sand with a gradual slope to the ocean–what more could you want? A personal favorite for access sites is the southernmost beach access in Corolla. There’s a shopping center directly across the street, with restrooms and showers available. It’s a bit of trek to the beach, along a boardwalk, but the trip is well worth it. There are additional public access spots farther north–for the most part located along Lighthouse Drive. There’s adequate parking at all these sites, but no facilities.
A quick note about Carova, located on the north end of Corolla: The beach is part of NC 12 and there is considerable vehicular traffic. The speed limit is 25mph, but that doesn’t mean everyone is driving the speed limit or paying attention, so be aware. It is a marvelous beach, and a lot of these areas are great for surfing.