Beyond the Beach: Unique OBX Activities

When describing the Outer Banks as a family destination, the immediate thought is there’s lot’s of things for younger children to do–which is certainly true, but that’s only part of the story. Families keep coming back year after year to the Outer Banks because there is something for everyone and that includes adults–lots of nightlife and wine tasting–and some truly unique activities for older kids (12 and up) and their parents.

The Atlantic Ocean is the obvious draw–that and the beaches and the temperatures that tend to be just a bit more moderate than the cities. Any vacation on the Outer Banks should include at least two or three days of enjoying the beach, but even that has a lot to it.

This 120 mile strip of sand has some of the best surf on the East Coast and spending a few  hours riding waves is a great way to spend a day. It’s not just surfing–there’s skim boards, body boards and surf kayaking. And others that probably just didn’t get mentioned.

Hang gliding, however, is the one activity that is truly unique to the Outer Banks. There are certainly other hang gliding schools, but Kitty Hawk Kites is the oldest (since 1974), claims to be the largest (probably is, tough to verify, though) and is the only one that teaches on sand–a real advantage for novice flyers.

The sense of euphoria and accomplishment that consumes student pilots the first time your feet leave the ground and you know you are actually flying this gigantic kite is unforgettable. If you do take a dune lesson (there is also a 2000’ tow behind an ultralight plane offered at the Cotton Gin) wear sandals (the sand can get very hot) and take lots of water.

Hang gliding is only one of many activities that take advantage of the winds of the Outer Banks. Windsurfing has been a part of the area’s recreational package for years and more recently kiteboarding has become really popular. The two largest kite surfing centers and schools are Real Kites and Kitty Hawk Kites–almost side by side in Salvo, south of Oregon Inlet. Located on the Pamlico Sound, there is no better place anywhere to learn the sport. Predictable breeze and shallow water make it a perfect setting.

The west side of the the Outer Banks offers an endless variety of sounds and estuaries . . .  ideal for kayaking. There are a number of tours offered (too numerous to even begin to list) or for more experienced paddlers, rentals are reasonably priced.

This is just a small sampling of the activities that would be good for older kids and parents, and for the most part all of these take a fair amount of physical fitness–not excessive, just reasonable.

There are more sedate things to do as well. Flying a kite on the beach is a wonderful experience  and flying from the top of Jockey’s Ridge is truly memorable. If you have never flown one before, try a stunt kite. Just accept that it will crash four or five times before you figure it out.

Or, to just sit and enjoy something, check out the Lost Colony. It’s their 75th anniversary and the play has been updated and is a great evening of theatre.