12 Fun Things to Do in Nags Head, NC: Sun, Surf, and Sand Dunes

by Maria
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Heading to Nags Head this year? I’m here to share the top attractions and things to do in Nags Head. From the towering dunes of Jockey’s Ridge to the iconic Bodie Island Lighthouse and the endless beaches waiting for your footprints, Nags Head is the hidden gem of the Outer Banks.

Ever dream of a place where you can just kick back but also find some adventure when you feel like it? Nags Head, NC, has been that spot for me. It’s where you can climb a lighthouse in the morning and surf under the stars at night. 

I’ve had some of my best moments here, from the thrill of hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge to chilling on the serene Coquina Beach. This isn’t your typical tourist trap. It’s a slice of beach paradise with a laid-back vibe and tons of fun stuff to do. 

If you’re wondering about the coolest things to do in Nags Head, you’re in for a treat because I’ve got the inside scoop. Whether you’re here for the waves, the views, or just to escape the daily grind, Nags Head has something special for you. Let’s dive into this coastal adventure together, shall we?

Discover 12 Fun Things to Do in Nags Head, NC: From Sun and Surf to Sand Dunes!
Discover 12 Fun Things to Do in Nags Head, NC: From Sun and Surf to Sand Dunes!

Best places to visit in Nags Head, North Carolina

Ready to explore the wonders of Nags Head? From the serene stretches of sand at Coquina Beach to the lively atmosphere of Jennette’s Pier, there are plenty of incredible places in Nags Head to visit.

Dive into the crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic, cycle along the picturesque Nags Head Multi-Use Path, or enjoy the fresh catch at a local seafood restaurant. Here’s your ultimate guide to making the most of your visit to Nags Head. Every moment here promises a story worth telling!

1. Climb the Bodie Island Lighthouse

Want to catch some of the best views in Nags Head? Then you’ve got to climb the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Believe me, it’s an experience that’s pretty unforgettable. Imagine looking out from the top, with the ocean stretching on one side and the sound on the other. It’s the kind of view that makes you want to pinch yourself.

Here’s a little tip from someone who’s been there: try to visit at sunset. The sky turns all shades of orange and pink, and the water catches every last bit of light. It’s genuinely one of those ‘wow’ moments. And if you can, bring a friend. Everything’s better when you’ve got someone to share these moments with.

Don’t forget to bring a little snack and some water. Once you’re up there, you’ll want to stay a while, trust me. And yeah, there are a few steps to tackle, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Plus, the bragging rights? Totally worth it!

Climbing this lighthouse is like a quick ticket to feeling a bit more adventurous, a bit more connected to this beautiful spot on the coast. It’s easily one of the most fun things to do in Nags Head. You’re going to love it.

Climb to unforgettable views at Bodie Island Lighthouse, especially stunning at sunset!
Climb to unforgettable views at Bodie Island Lighthouse, especially stunning at sunset!

2. Stroll along Jennette’s Pier

You know, visiting Jennette’s Pier isn’t just about ticking another attraction off the list. It’s about experiencing a slice of local life and getting that perfect mix of ocean vibes and relaxation. This isn’t your average pier. It stretches out into the Atlantic, offering breathtaking views that you just can’t find anywhere else in Nags Head.

First off, grab your camera or phone. The views here are spectacular. You’ve got the ocean sprawling out in front of you, surfers catching waves, and if you’re lucky, a dolphin or two making an appearance. 

Now, if you’re into fishing, or even if you’ve never thought about it before, this is the place to give it a try. The folks here are super friendly and will help you get started. Who knows? You might just catch your dinner!

But here’s the thing – it’s not just about what you see or catch. It’s about feeling the breeze, smelling the salt in the air, and hearing the waves crash. It’s a moment to slow down and soak it all in. Sometimes, I just grab a coffee, find a spot, and watch the world go by. It’s my little escape, and I have a feeling it could be yours too.

Wondering what to do in Nags Head, NC? A stroll along Jennette’s Pier is one of those simple pleasures that reminds you of the beauty all around us. Don’t miss out on this slice of magic.

Enjoy breathtaking ocean views and a slice of local life at Jennette’s Pier. | Image Source: Jennette's Pier / TripAdvisor
Enjoy breathtaking ocean views and a slice of local life at Jennette’s Pier. | Image Source: Jennette’s Pier / TripAdvisor

3. Explore Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Ever feel like you’ve stumbled into a desert without leaving the coast? That’s Jockey’s Ridge State Park for you. It’s home to the East Coast’s tallest natural sand dune, and let me tell you, the view from the top is nothing short of spectacular. It’s like standing on the edge of the world, with panoramic views of both the sound and the ocean that are guaranteed to steal your breath away.

I recommend visiting at sunset. There’s something magical about watching the sun dip below the horizon from up there, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink. And the sand under your feet? It cools down, making the climb a breeze.

But Jockey’s Ridge isn’t just a one-trick pony. It’s a playground for adventure-seekers. Ever tried hang gliding? This is the place to do it. Imagine gliding through the air, with the wind as your guide. It’s exhilarating and peaceful all at once. Plus, the park’s gentle slopes are perfect for sandboarding or just tumbling down if you’re feeling playful.

If you’re looking for things to do at night in Nags Head, stick around after dark during one of the park’s “Stars Over the Dunes” programs. Stargazing here is an experience like no other, with the Milky Way shining brightly overhead, unobstructed by city lights. It’s easily one of my favorite places to visit in North Carolina!

Discover the East Coast's tallest natural sand dune at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
Discover the East Coast’s tallest natural sand dune at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

4. Visit the Outer Banks Kayak Adventures

If you’re anything like me, there’s something about being on the water that just sets your soul right. And Outer Banks Kayak Adventures? It’s the perfect spot to dip your paddles in. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or you can barely tell which end of the paddle goes in the water, this place has got you covered.

Picture this: gliding through calm, crystal-clear waters, with nothing but the sound of your paddle breaking the surface and the occasional call of a seabird overhead. It’s peaceful, it’s rejuvenating, and honestly, it’s the kind of adventure that makes you forget about your phone for a while.

They offer a variety of tours that cater to different interests and skill levels. My personal favorite is the sunset tour. Watching the sun melt into the water, painting the sky with shades of pink and orange, all while you’re floating on the serene waters of the sound – it’s an unforgettable moment.

Don’t worry about gear; they provide everything. Just show up ready to embrace the tranquility of the Outer Banks from the best seat in the house – your kayak. And if you’re up for a little more excitement, ask about their stand-up paddleboarding options. It’s a fun challenge and a great way to get a different perspective of the stunning landscapes.

Keen to add a splash of adventure to your trip? Outer Banks Kayak Adventures is a must-do. It’s a way to connect with nature and maybe even yourself.

Experience tranquility on the water with Outer Banks Kayak Adventures, perfect for sunset tours. | Image Source: Outer Banks Kayak Adventures / TripAdvisor
Experience tranquility on the water with Outer Banks Kayak Adventures, perfect for sunset tours. | Image Source: Outer Banks Kayak Adventures / TripAdvisor

5. Discover Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Despite what you might think, Nags Head isn’t just about the beaches. The Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve is a marvel of nature that feels worlds away from the sandy shores. It’s a place where green canopies form natural tunnels and trails invite you to lose track of time.

Here’s the deal: it’s not just a walk in the woods. It’s an immersive experience into diverse habitats, from maritime forests to freshwater ponds. You might just spot some deer, foxes, or even an elusive otter if you’re lucky. It’s one of the best places to go in Nags Head for those who love to mix a bit of mystery with their exercise.

Bring your walking shoes and a sense of adventure. The trails range from easy strolls to more challenging hikes. I recommend checking out the Sweetgum Swamp Trail. It feels like stepping into a storybook with its enchanting atmosphere.

For a day away from the beach crowd, Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve offers a peaceful retreat. It’s a reminder of the Outer Banks’ diverse beauty and a must-visit for anyone wanting to experience the area’s natural charm.

Immerse yourself in diverse habitats and serene trails at Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. | Image Source: David M / TripAdvisor
Immerse yourself in diverse habitats and serene trails at Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. | Image Source: David M / TripAdvisor

6. Hang Glide at Jockey’s Ridge

Have you ever dreamed of flying? At Jockey’s Ridge State Park, that dream becomes a thrilling reality. Hang gliding here is an experience that etches itself into your heart. Imagine soaring over the largest natural sand dune on the East Coast, with panoramic views of both the sound and the ocean. It’s breathtaking.

For beginners, don’t sweat it. There are schools right there in the park that will have you up and gliding with expert guidance. They’ll take care of the technical stuff; you just need to embrace the wind. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Nags Head, especially if you’re chasing that unique blend of adrenaline and serenity.

Here’s a tip: go for a sunrise or sunset session. The sky’s colors add a magical layer to the already stunning views. Plus, the cooler temperatures make for a more comfortable glide.

Bring your courage and a camera (or a friend willing to snap photos from the ground). Hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge is an unforgettable way to witness the Outer Banks’ beauty from a bird’s eye view. It’s a story you’ll love sharing, complete with bragging rights.

Soar over stunning dunes with a hang gliding adventure at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
Soar over stunning dunes with a hang gliding adventure at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

7. Relax at Coquina Beach

One of my favorite beaches in Nags Head is Coquina Beach. It’s the perfect escape when you’re looking to relax and just breathe in the coastal vibes. The soft sand, the rolling waves, and not to mention, plenty of space to find your little slice of paradise.

What makes Coquina Beach stand out? It’s less crowded, giving you plenty of space to spread out your towel or set up beach chairs without bumping elbows with a stranger. Plus, the clean facilities and ample parking make it hassle-free, which is always a bonus.

Here’s a tip from someone who’s been: Don’t miss out on the little trails that lead from the parking lot through the dunes. They offer a beautiful, natural backdrop for a leisurely stroll or a candid photo session. And if you’re lucky, you might spot some of the local wildlife.

And when the day does start to fade, don’t rush off. The sunsets here are breathtaking. It’s like the sky puts on a show just for you. Trust me, a day here feels like a deep exhale.

Find your slice of paradise at the tranquil and spacious Coquina Beach. | Image Source: Whitney / TripAdvisor
Find your slice of paradise at the tranquil and spacious Coquina Beach. | Image Source: Whitney / TripAdvisor

8. Cycle the Nags Head Multi-Use Path

Got a bike? Love to feel the breeze on your face? Then you’ve got to check out the Nags Head Multi-Use Path. As one of the best attractions in Nags Head, this bike path is your ticket to exploring the area in the coolest way possible. Picture this: you, your bike, and miles of scenic views that make you want to stop every five minutes just to take it all in.

I recommend starting early or late in the day to catch the golden hours. The path takes you through such a varied landscape, you’ll feel like you’ve seen all of Nags Head by the time you’re done. Don’t worry about packing snacks. There are plenty of spots to grab a bite or a drink along the way.

Make it a leisurely ride or challenge yourself to the full length; either way, you’re in for a treat. It’s a fantastic way to see the sights, get a bit of exercise, and maybe even discover some hidden gems in North Carolina. So, grab your bike (or rent one!) and hit the path. I promise, it’s a ride you won’t forget.

Explore scenic landscapes on the Nags Head Multi-Use Path, perfect for a leisurely ride. | Image Source: Outer Banks Bicycle / TripAdvisor
Explore scenic landscapes on the Nags Head Multi-Use Path, perfect for a leisurely ride. | Image Source: Outer Banks Bicycle / TripAdvisor

9. Savor the Seafood at Owens’ Restaurant

Let’s talk about a must-visit spot in the Outer Banks, especially if you love seafood: Owens’ Restaurant. This place is like a hidden gem that’s been perfecting the art of seafood for generations. Every time I swing by, it’s a whole new adventure for my taste buds.

From the moment you step in, you’re treated to a blend of tradition and taste that’s hard to find anywhere else. I always make it a point to try whatever’s fresh and in season. Trust me, you can’t go wrong here. The vibe? It’s as warm and welcoming as a family gathering.

So, when you’re looking for places to visit in the Outer Banks, make sure Owens’ Restaurant is on your list. It’s an unforgettable dive into local flavors. Your foodie heart will sing praises, guaranteed.

Indulge in generations of seafood perfection at the iconic Owens' Restaurant. | Beth W / TripAdvisor
Indulge in generations of seafood perfection at the iconic Owens’ Restaurant. | Beth W / TripAdvisor

10. Surf the Waves at Jennette’s Pier Beach

Alright, adrenaline junkies and serene surf seekers, Jennette’s Pier Beach is where you wanna be. Trust me, it’s a surfer’s dream come true. Whether you’re looking to stand on a surfboard for the first time or you’re practically a dolphin, this place is for you.

The water’s perfect, the vibe is unmatched, and guess what? There are plenty of local surf schools ready to turn you into a wave-catching hero. I highly recommend Outer Banks Surf School. They’re so friendly and skilled, you’ll leave feeling like the ocean is your second home.

If you’re hunting for an unforgettable adventure in the Outer Banks, make sure Jennette’s Pier Beach is on your Nags Head things to list. Surfing here is about the sport and stories you’ll brag about for years.

Catch the perfect wave at Jennette’s Pier Beach, a true surfer’s paradise. | Image Source: Jennette’s Pier Beach / Google Reviews
Catch the perfect wave at Jennette’s Pier Beach, a true surfer’s paradise. | Image Source: Jennette’s Pier Beach / Google Reviews

11. Enjoy a Sunset Dolphin Tour

Heading out to see dolphins at sunset is an Outer Banks highlight you shouldn’t miss. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Nags Head and Manteo offer tours that get you up close with these playful creatures. The best part? You can find tours leaving daily, especially during the warmer months from May through October. The dolphins are most active at this time of year.

If you ask me, evening tours are the golden ticket. Not only do you escape the heat, but the sunset paints a perfect scene – dolphins against a backdrop of vibrant skies. It’s both chill and thrilling.

To lock in your spot, book a tour with one of the local companies like Nags Head Dolphin Watch. They’re known for their knowledgeable guides and commitment to conservation. I took a tour with them last year, and my experience was both fun and educational.

So, if you’re looking for exciting things to do in Nags Head, don’t skip out on a dolphin tour. It’s a unique way to experience the area’s natural beauty and marine life, creating memories that last far beyond your stay.

Embark on a sunset dolphin tour for a magical experience against a vibrant sky.
Embark on a sunset dolphin tour for a magical experience against a vibrant sky.

12. Take a Moonlit Walk on Nags Head Beach

Strolling under the moonlight at Nags Head Beach feels like uncovering a hidden gem in your beach getaway. It’s a must-do, trust me. Picture this: the moon is full, casting a silver glow over the waves, and you’re strolling along the shore, feeling the cool sand under your feet. It’s peaceful, almost like the beach is sharing secrets just with you.

Aim for a night when the moon is showing off – a full moon night is your golden ticket. That’s when the beach turns into a scene straight out of a romantic movie. Whether you’re with your special someone or just enjoying your own company, it’s an experience that’ll stick with you.

A moonlit walk on Nags Head Beach is a simple joy that speaks to the soul. Make sure your camera is ready because you’ll want to remember this. And hey, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not dip your toes in the water? It’s easily one of the best things to do in Nags Head.

Experience the serene beauty of Nags Head Beach under the enchanting glow of the moon.
Experience the serene beauty of Nags Head Beach under the enchanting glow of the moon.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the best things to do in Nags Head, NC:

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Nags Head? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to one of the most beautiful places in North Carolina.

Is there a lot to do in Nags Head?

There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Nags Head. From stunning beaches and historic landmarks like the Bodie Island Lighthouse to adventurous hang-gliding at Jockey’s Ridge, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re into water sports, exploring nature, or just chilling on the beach, you won’t be bored.

Does Nags Head have good nightlife?

Nags Head has a relaxed nightlife vibe. You’ll find some great spots for live music, delicious seafood, and cozy bars to unwind in after a day of sun and surf. It’s not the place for wild clubbing, but perfect for enjoying laid-back evenings.

Can you swim in the ocean at Nags Head?

Yes, you can swim in the ocean at Nags Head, and it’s fantastic! Just keep an eye on the flag warnings to stay safe. The beaches here are beautiful and well-maintained. They’re ideal for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing.

What is the best month to go to the Outer Banks?

The best month to visit the Outer Banks is September. The summer crowds have thinned out, the weather is still warm, and the water temperature is just right. Plus, accommodation prices tend to drop. It’s the perfect time to explore the area without the hustle and bustle.

Love Nags Head? Share these must-do activities with your friends!
Love Nags Head? Share these must-do activities with your friends!

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