In contrast to the bustling boardwalks and vibrant nightlife of the northern Atlantic Coast, the barrier islands of North Carolina serve as a perfect getaway for visitors looking for Southern charm and expansive stretches of undeveloped Atlantic Ocean beachfront. For visitors looking for quieter natural excursions, the 70-mile Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC offers fishing, surfing, boating, shelling, camping, and unique wildlife watching opportunities. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.Bald Head Island

Bald Head Island
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Bald Head Island is North Carolina’s southernmost settlement, located at the tip of Cape Fear in Brunswick County. Though the island served important roles in the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, it is perhaps best known today as the primary location in the 1989 feature film Weekend at Bernie’s. Three lighthouses have serviced the island, including the out-of-commission Old Baldy Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1817 and is the state’s oldest extant lighthouse, offering tours today through the Smith Island Museum. The island is recognized nationally for its bird and sea turtle nesting populations and features 14 miles of gorgeous visitor beaches and attractions such as the Bald Head Island Club golf course, named the number two course renovation in the country by Links magazine. Many vacation rentals on the island provide complimentary temporary memberships to the Bald Head Island Club and the Shoals Club, which offer gourmet restaurants and marina access.

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2.Bird Island

Bird Island
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Bird Island is an undeveloped barrier island along North Carolina’s southwestern coast that has been declared as a Dedicated Nature Preserve. 1,481 acres of the island’s land is protected as Bird Island Preserve, which is home to notable populations of loggerhead sea turtles and seabeach amaranth, both threatened species. Visitors may access the island by boat at the Little River Inlet or on foot from Sunset Beach, which offers parking at Main Street and the 40th Street Boardwalk. The island is a perfect spot for nature lovers, offering day-use public walking access throughout its maritime grassland, salt marsh, and dune beach ecosystems.

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3.Bodie Island

Bodie Island
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Bodie Island’s name is misleading, as it has been joined to the Outer Banks peninsula since the 1811 closure of the Roanoke Inlet. Today, it connects Nags Head to Oregon Inlet and is maintained as part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which spans more than 70 miles along the Outer Banks region. Unlike the nearby tourist areas at Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, Bodie Island is a largely undeveloped natural paradise, offering ample opportunities for activities such as boating, kayaking, fishing, and bird watching. The 10-mile island is also home to the historic Bodie Island Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1872, and the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, one of the region’s largest fishing centers. Off-road vehicles are permitted on several beaches, and overnight accommodations are available at the NPS-managed Oregon Inlet Campground.

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4.Cedar Island

Cedar Island
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Cedar Island is commonly used to refer to a group of mainland communities near Beaufort and Morehead City, though the proper island is a four-mile refuge located across West Thorofare Bay from mainland North Carolina. Much of the island is preserved as Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1964 and offers a wide variety of entertainment for nature lovers and beach buffs alike. The island is accessible via the Cedar Island Ferry route or NC Highway 12 and offers opportunities for boating, fishing, hunting, kayaking, shelling, bird watching, and horseback riding. As the closest region to popular Ocracoke Island, the island makes a perfect day trip or secluded getaway, offering both campground and motel accommodations.

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5.Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle
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Emerald Isle was named for the lush green oasis it offered in the midst of the Crystal Coast’s sparkling waters and remains a beautiful refuge today. The island is also known as Bogue Banks Island and offers a wide variety of activities for every outdoor lover, including swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking. The Point offers a quiet beach haven and minimal crowds as compared to beaches on nearby resort islands, while the family-owned Salty Pirate Water Park provides thrills for young visitors. Other popular recreational spots include the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier, the 41-acre Emerald Isle Woods Park, which features a disc golf course, and the secluded Cedar Street Park.

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6.Harkers Island

Harkers Island
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Harkers Island is located approximately half an hour from Emerald Isle via US-70 and Harker’s Island Road. The island features an unincorporated community of residents known as “hoi toiders,” who speak a unique dialect of English and are descendants of original 18th-century settlers. Today, the island is a major center for waterfowl enthusiast tourism and is home to the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center, which showcases waterfowl art and carvings. In December, the Core Sound Waterfowl Festival attracts more than 10,000 waterfowl enthusiasts to the island. Other notable sites include the National Park Service Visitor Center for nearby Cape Lookout National Seashore, which showcases a park documentary film and children’s activities.

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7.Hatteras Island

Hatteras Island
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Hatteras Island divides the Pamlico Sound from the Atlantic Ocean and is the largest island within the Outer Banks region, spanning nearly 48 miles. With year-round mild temperatures, accessible beaches, and a wide variety of laid-back tourist activities, the island is the quintessential North Carolina getaway. The island is the primary site of the 72-mile Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which also spans nearby Bodie and Ocracoke Islands and offers eco-friendly outdoor activities such as boating, windsurfing, and kiteboarding. Seven villages on the island offer attractions such as the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, the Hatteras Island Ocean Center, and the Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other attractions include Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the tallest extant lighthouse in the United States.

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8.Knotts Island

Knotts Island
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Knotts Island is a small, marsh-filled island that is home to an unincorporated community offering true local charm. The island is surrounded by the North Landing River, Currituck Sound, and Knotts Island and Back Bays and is accessible from Virginia Beach via Princess Anne Road or by ferry from the mainland. Major attractions include the Swan Island Hunting Club, the Martin Orchard and Vineyard, which offers a public picking orchard and event pavilion, and the Bay Villa restaurant and bar, which is also home to the island’s main boat access ramp. Private seasonal equestrian lessons and children’s camps are offered at Willowgait Farm, and an annual Peach Festival is held on the island every year in June.

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9.Masonboro Island

Masonboro Island
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Masonboro Island is North Carolina’s longest undisturbed barrier island, stretching 8.4 miles along the state’s southern coastline within New Hanover County. The island is preserved as Masonboro Island Reserve, which is overseen by the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve and is designated as a North Carolina State Natural Area. Its natural ecosystems are a mix of dunes, marshes, and tidal flats and provide an important nesting area for threatened loggerhead sea turtles. Visitor access to the island is restricted to boat, kayak, and canoe travel, with private ferry service available from several ferry companies. Overnight camping is permitted at several sites throughout the island.

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10.Oak Island

Oak Island
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Oak Island is the perfect destination for families looking for a classic North Carolina beach vacation, offering more than 60 public beach access points and seaside attractions such as old-time ice cream parlors and miniature golf courses. A number of historic sites are available for touring, including Oak Island Lighthouse, the state’s most recent lighthouse, constructed in 1958. Popular family attractions include the Oak Island Nature Center and the Ocean Education Center, which offer natural history exhibits and programming, and the community-supported Oak Island Skate Park. Two ocean piers span the island’s shoreline, including Oak Island Pier, the state’s tallest pier, and the Ocean Crest Pier, voted as the state’s top fishing pier. Parents can shoot the green at the Oak Island Golf Country Club, designed by renowned architect George Cobb, or tour the filming locations of feature films such as I Know What You Did Last Summer or Crimes of the Heart.

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11.Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke Island
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Ocracoke Island is one of three islands that comprise the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a 70-mile undeveloped national seashore managed by the National Park Service offering a number of secluded visitor beaches and opportunities for boating, fishing, surfing, and swimming. Lucky visitors can catch a glimpse of the island’s wild pony population, which are believed to be descended from mustangs owned by Spanish explorers. The island is accessible via several passenger ferries from the mainland and nearby islands and from the public-use Ocracoke Island Airport. A variety of eclectic locally-owned shops and restaurants are offered within the National Register of Historic Places-listed Ocracoke Village, located on the island’s southern end, which is also home to the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, the state’s oldest operating lighthouse.

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12.Pleasure Island

Pleasure Island
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Pleasure Island was formerly known as Federal Point before the 1930s completion of Snow’s Cut, which separated the island from its mainland peninsula. The island is home to the coastal cities of Kure and Carolina Beach and the annexed community of Wilmington Beach, which offer a variety of unspoiled beach areas and family attractions. Carolina Beach Boardwalk, which showcases classic amusement rides and boardwalk arcade games, has been named one of the top 10 boardwalks in America by Budget Travel and Food and Wine magazines. Other major attractions include Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, the family-friendly Ocean Front Park, and the Kure Beach Fishing Pier, one of the Atlantic’s oldest fishing piers.

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13.Roanoke Island

Roanoke Island
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Roanoke Island is an eight-mile island near Nags Head that is accessible from the mainland via the Virginia Dare, William. B Umstead, and Washington Baum Bridges. As one of the oldest communities on the Outer Banks, the island was the site of the 16th-century Lost Colony, which has been immortalized in an eponymous outdoor symphonic drama offering seasonal performances at the 25-acre Roanoke Island Festival Park historic attraction. A variety of shopping and dining experiences are offered in the town of Manteo, located on the island’s northern end. Other major attractions include the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Roanoke Island Aquarium, and the North Carolina Maritime Museum.

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14.Shackleford Banks

Shackleford Banks
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Shackleford Banks are the southeasternmost part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore and are a must-see destination for nature lovers visiting the Crystal Coast. The 8.5-mile island is accessible from Harkers Island and mainland city Beaufort by a number of ferry services and formerly housed the Diamond City community. Since the 1960s, the island has been managed by the National Park Service and offers ample opportunities for shelling, surfing, fishing, paddle boarding, and kayaking. Wildlife enthusiasts can observe the island’s Banker Ponies population, believed to have descended from Spanish Mustangs that were shipwrecked in the 16th century, along with a variety of shore, water, and migrating bird populations.

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15.Topsail Island

Topsail Island
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Topsail Island is a 26-mile island located along North Carolina’s southeastern coast that are believed to have been named for their early population of pirate ships, whose topsails were often visible from the open seas. In World War II, the island was home to an anti-aircraft training base that was converted into the Operation Bumblebee guided missile development base during the Cold War. Today, the island is home to three quaint communities offering locally-owned businesses, such as the Jolly Roger Fishing Pier, the Queen Jean headboat, and a number of restaurants and gift shops. Family-friendly attractions include the Topsail Island Skating Rink, the Patio Playground putt-putt course, and the Missiles and More Museum, which preserves the island’s military history.

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15 Best North Carolina Islands



More Ideas in NC: The Windjammer Inn

The Windjammer Inn in North Carolina is a family-friendly oceanfront hotel set on beautifully landscaped grounds in Atlantic Beach. Simple ocean-facing rooms have modern décor and spacious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms – some of which have whirlpool tubs, fridges, microwaves and cable television. Hotel amenities include a wooden deck with Bali beds and seating, a seasonal outdoor heated pool and hot tub and a tranquil lagoon with a waterfall. A private walkway leads to the beach where guests can relax in hammocks and soak up the views. Located a few miles from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and the Fort Macon State Park, the hotel is ideally placed for a family holiday with children.

Guest Accommodations

The Windjammer Inn features a variety of informally designed guest rooms with contemporary décor and furnishings, spacious bedrooms with comfortable beds dressed in clean linens, and en-suite bathrooms with shower/bath combinations or separate showers and whirlpool tubs. All rooms have modern amenities, including refrigerators, microwaves, televisions with cable channels, two telephones, irons and ironing boards, hairdryers, clock radios, and complimentary wireless Internet.

Double Rooms offer two double beds in deluxe linens, en-suite bathrooms with shower/bath combinations, fresh towels, and organic bath products, and spacious sitting areas with sleeper sofas for additional guests. Double Rooms have private balconies with tables and chairs and lovely views.

King Rooms have private balconies with beautiful ocean views and feature king-size beds with deluxe linens, en-suite bathrooms with shower/bath combinations, fresh towels, and organic bath products, and spacious sitting areas with sleeper sofas for additional guests.

Specialty Rooms have offered two double beds in deluxe linens, en-suite bathrooms with shower/bath combinations, fresh towels, and organic bath products, and spacious sitting areas with sleeper sofas for additional guests. These rooms also have private balconies with tables and chairs and stunning ocean views.

whirlpool Rooms have king-size beds with deluxe linens, en-suite bathrooms with showers, whirlpool tubs, fresh towels, and organic bath products, and spacious sitting areas with sleeper sofas for additional guests. These rooms also have private balconies with tables and chairs and stunning ocean views.

Dining

A complimentary breakfast is served to guests every morning and includes fresh fruit, cereals, yogurt, and freshly baked muffins and bread, along with juices, hot tea, and coffee.

Amenities and Recreation

Amenities at the Windjammer Inn include a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, a sun deck with sun loungers, deck chairs and tables, and umbrellas. There is a tranquil lagoon with a waterfall and fountain and several golf courses nearby to enjoy.

Located right next to the beach, the oceanfront hotel is within walking distance of several restaurants, cafés, and bars, shops, movie theaters and marina services. The Country Club of the Crystal Coast offers championship golf courses and other recreational activities, and the hotel is a few miles’ drive from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, and Fort Macon State Park.

The seaside town of Pine Knoll Shores is situated east of Emerald Isle and offers miles of pristine white sandy beaches and many activities and attractions, including one of the area’s most popular attractions, the North Carolina Aquarium. The famous marine park is home to an array of sea creatures, ranging from sharks, otters, sea turtles, stingrays, and more, and is surrounded by a private reserve known as the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, which features hiking and biking trails, and an array of natural fauna and flora. Other attractions in the area include the Fort Macon State Park in nearby Atlantic Beach, the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier on Emerald Isle, and the Country Club of the Crystal Coast.

103 Salter Path Rd, Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512, Phone: 252-247-7123

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More Ideas: Topsail Shores Inn

Situated in the quiet fishing village of Sneads Ferry just a few minutes from the beautiful North Topsail Island, Topsail Shore Inn is a family-friendly hotel that offers an ideal getaway for the whole family. Less than 20 miles from Jacksonville, this modern low-rise inn features simply decorated guest rooms with kitchenettes, flat-screen TVs, MP3 docking stations and free Wi-Fi. A complimentary snack bar provides an array of delicious breakfast items and fresh coffee and an outdoor swimming pool beckons in the hot summer months. Children will delight in the on-site playground at the Inn, which provides hours of fun and a short walk leads to North Topsail Beach, where you can enjoy swimming, boogie boarding, beachcombing and stunning sunsets.

Guest Accommodations

Topsail Shore Inn features simple accommodations in the form of Double and King rooms with en-suite bathrooms and modern amenities. Decorated with contemporary furnishings and laminate vinyl flooring, double rooms have two double beds, and King Rooms have one king-size bed with clean linens and pillows, en-suite bathrooms with shower-over-bath combinations, fresh towels, and deluxe bath products. Guest rooms have fully equipped kitchenettes with stainless steel sinks, breakfast counters, coffee makers, microwaves, and refrigerators, and modern amenities include air conditioning and heating, flat screen televisions with cable channels, MP3 docking stations and complimentary wireless Internet, as well as hair dryers, and irons and ironing boards.

Dining

A complimentary snack bar provides an array of delicious breakfast items and fresh coffee throughout the day. Breakfast items include fresh rolls, muffins, and other baked goods, fruit juice and fruit, cereals, and hot coffee and tea.

Amenities and Recreation

Amenities include a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, an on-site playground for children, and a snack bar for coffee and light fare. Topsail Shore Inn has easy access to North Topsail Beach, which offers swimming, boogie boarding, beachcombing and stunning sunsets. The family-friendly hotel is a short walk from Stone Bay and Camp Lejeune, and there are many restaurants and bars within walking distance of the hotel.

The Town of Topsail Beach offers a variety of activities and attractions to enjoy for the whole family. The beautiful Topsail Beach is ideal for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and fishing, and there is a pretty beachfront which overlooks the ocean and has access to Intercoastal Waterway and nearby Lea Island. Serenity Point boasts breathtaking views of the sound and waterway. The town of Topsail Beach is home to a variety of restaurants that serves all sorts of cuisine, as well as shops, cafés, bars, and family-friendly attractions such as the Topsail Island Skating Rink, the Patio Playground with putt-putt, and the Missiles and More Museum, which delves into the history of Topsail Beach during World War Two.

1325 NC-210, Sneads Ferry, NC 28460, Phone: 910-685-0969

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More Ideas: Oasis Suites Hotel in Nags Head

Set on Roanoke Sound, the Oasis Suites Hotel is an all-suite boutique hotel located in Nags Head on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Gracious hospitality and comfortable charm greet guests on arrival at this welcoming hotel, which has been transformed from a 1950s restaurant into a charming hotel that features 16 well-appointed suites for all types of traveler from honeymooners to business executives.

Combining comfort and style, accommodations feature modern fully equipped kitchens, spacious living areas, upscale bathrooms and private balconies with lovely views. Other hotel facilities include a seasonal swimming pool, a sunken hot tub and children’s pool for having fun in the sun, as well as picnic areas with barbecue grills, tables and shady gazebo for outdoor gatherings.

The Oasis Suites Hotel is ideally located just minutes from the lovely beaches of the Outer Banks, the historic Roanoke Island, and an array of excellent restaurants, cafés, and bars. Just a few miles from the hotel is the beautiful island of Roanoke Island, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Tanger Outlets Nags Head, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and the Nags Head Golf Links.

Oasis Suites Hotel offers 16 well-appointed and individually decorated suites that can accommodate between two and six guests with spacious living areas and comfortable contemporary furnishings. Suites are smoke- and pet-free and feature queen and king-size beds with fresh, clean linens, private en-suite bathrooms with walk-in showers, spa tubs and Papaya organic bath products and spacious living areas with stylish leather furniture and draped silk curtains.

Suites also have fully equipped kitchens with granite counter tops, convection ovens, full-size refrigerators and open plan dining areas with a table and chairs for easy entertaining and family meals. Private balconies afford beautiful views of the Nag’s Head Bay and the Outer Banks, and complimentary wireless Internet access can be found throughout the property.

The Oasis Suites Hotel offers an array of guest amenities to ensure a hassle-free holiday. Amenities include a state-of-the-art fitness room with cardio machines, free weights, treadmills, and stationary bikes against a backdrop of beautiful views and a seasonal outdoor swimming pool. An in-ground hot tub is a great spot to unwind and watch the sun sink over the bay, while a kiddie’s pool will keep the little one occupied.

The pool area has separate changing rooms and large sun chairs for soaking up some sun, and there is grassy lawn with a gazebo overlooking the waterfront for special occasions, or relaxing with a drink. The hotel is located on the waterfront with access to a boat dock and boardwalks for strolling or fishing for crab, and there are a specially designated fish cleaning area, gas grills and picnic tables for enjoying your catch of the day.

Special Packages

The Oasis Suites Hotel offers a variety of packages. The Now & Forever Wedding Package includes a beautiful gazebo venue, four white wedding chairs, an official North Carolina wedding officiate, and customized bridal bouquet and boutonniere. Additional goodies include a personalized round wedding cake, boxed anniversary cake, silk rose petals and candles in the honeymoon suite on arrival, fruit, and cheese tray and a chilled bottle of champagne for bride and groom on arrival in their honeymoon suite. Romantic Packages can include in-suite couple’s massages, a chilled bottle of champagne, silk rose petals, candles, and a chilled bottle of champagne in the honeymoon suite on arrival, fruit and cheese platters, chocolate covered strawberries and customized cakes.

Nags Head is packed with things to see and do from outdoor activities to cultural pursuits. Renowned for being a fantastic water sports location, activities include surfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, and deep sea fishing off the Outer Banks. Shoppers will delight in the choice of unique boutiques and shops in Nags Head selling art, crafts, jewelry, candles, pottery and souvenirs. Don’t miss Gallery Row around Mile Post 10, which is packed with great spots to shop.

Soak up some culture and history with a visit to the Bodie Island Light Station, which is located Cape Hatteras National Seashore and explore the stunning shores of the Coquina Beach opposite the lighthouse. Head to the row of historic cottages along the Nags Head oceanfront known as the Unpainted Aristocracy or grab a kite and hike up to Jockey's Ridge to fly your charge or simply soak up the views. Explore the wreck of the USS Huron, which lies north of the Nags Head Pier and is a beautiful diving site.

Back to: Romantic Weekend Getaways in North Carolina and Things to Do in NC

7721 South Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959, Phone: 252-441-5211

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