Favorite Winter Things to Do
Winter is certainly the slow time of the year on the Outer Banks, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! Over the years, as more and more people have discovered the Outer Banks in the off season, businesses have responded. Now there are quite a number of year round restaurants, coffee shops and stores.
One thing that has not changed over the years are the outdoor activities that are so much a part of winter on the Outer Banks. Here are a few of the activities that locals and visitors love.
Winter is the best time for beach combing on the Outer Banks. The obvious reason is that there are fewer people, and therefore less competition for flotsam of the sea!
But there’s another reason — winter produces more storms than any other season. Every winter brings at least two or three nor’easters that track up the coast and stir up the sea.
Big waves and rough surf bring more gifts from the sea, like shells and sea glass.
Surfing and Kiteboarding
Catching good waves during winter on the Outer Banks can be an iffy proposition. As surfers know, churned up seas and wild surf are not the best conditions, and that’s what a strong northeast wind and low pressure creates. However, on the backside of nor’easters, the wind often shifts to the west and that can create some great conditions.
On the flip side, the almost constant north to northeast winter winds create almost ideal conditions for kiteboarder. Experienced kite boarders take to the ocean where the winds can get really powerful. Most stay on the sounds, which is generally a bit more tame.
Either way, great conditions for a kiteboarder.
Hiking and Exploring Outer Banks Soundside
There are four protected maritime forests on the Outer Banks—Currituck Estuarine Reserve, Kitty Hawk Woods, Nags Head Woods and Buxton Woods. If the maritime forest along the sound at Jockey’s Ridge is included, there are five. And that doesn’t count Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
All of them have well-marked trails that are worth exploring, and winter is one of the best times to do so. If solitude is part of the goal, there are not very many people on the trails December through March.
On Pea Island, look for thousands of migratory waterfowl through February. A real treat that will sometimes show up at the Currituck Reserve trail are the Corolla Wild Horses foraging for food in the winter.
Offshore is really where it’s at in the winter. As the water temperature dips below 50, the nearshore and surf fishing slows down a bit.
However, offshore in the Gulf Stream, things can really heat up. This is the best time of the year to catch bluefin tuna—the largest of the tuna species that typically weigh over 800 pounds. Yellow fin tuna are also common in the winter, as well as wahoo, a cousin to barracuda.
Inshore and surf fishermen—don’t despair. Slower fishing does not mean nonexistent, and winter is one of the best times to hook rockfish.
At one time, the Outer Banks was the premier winter migratory waterfowl hunting destination on the East Coast. Over 60 hunt clubs lined the shores of the sounds, especially Currituck Sound.
Hunting may not be quite as good as it was in the heyday of the historic hunt clubs, but quite a number of hunters still make an annual trek to the Outer Banks as the migratory waterfowl arrive.
There are local guides, and a number of them have their own duck blinds. If possible, check in with one of them for best results.