20 free things to do Outer Banks SAGA

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a strand of barrier islands that are 100-miles long, which locals call a sandbar and it’s known for some of the most beautiful beaches along the eastern seaboard. 

When you visit the Outer Banks, you only have a set amount of time but there is so much to see and do! While you’re here for primarily fun in the sun and beach time, you will also need a couple of those non-beach days to venture out and explore. But what other fun things are there to do on the Outer Banks that won’t drain your pocketbook? Let’s explore some of these family friendly opportunities that we think your whole family will love!


blue crab family crabbing outer banks SAGA

Crabbing equals summer fun on the Outer Banks and it’s an activity the whole family will enjoy. A license is not required to catch crabs by hand, which is called “handline crabbing” or “chicken necking.” Blue crabs thrive in brackish water that is 70 to 76 degrees. All you will need is a rope and a leftover piece of chicken.

Visitob.com wrote in Outer Banks Crabbing:

You need a length of cord with suitable bait tied to one end. Chicken necks or fish heads work well for enticing the crabs onto your line. Throw the bait into the water, wait a few minutes, then pull gently on the line to see if you have a crab nibbling on the other end… Continued here.

You will need to know the difference between a male and female crab, you can learn that here.


Bodie Island Lighthouse SAGA

The OBX Lighthouses are iconic and one of visitors’ favorite things to see. These lighthouses have stood tall warning mariners of the dangers of running aground and getting shipwrecked for more than 200 years. Outer Banks historic lighthouses are super fun to explore, some even have ranger guided tours and talks.

You can see a listing for each lighthouse from North to South and what not to miss when you visit in this article “Top Things to See and Do on the Outer Banks: Lighthouses“.


Tundra swans pea island nwr birding outer banks nc SAGA

The Outer Banks is on the Atlantic Flyway, so wherever you look you’re going to see birds of a feather, and some not of the same feather… but plenty of them! Birds like to congregate on bodies of water that provides shelter and food. Consider a visit to see the thousands of snow geese and tundra swans gather on the compounds of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. There are photography and viewing blinds there that allow you to get close enough without disturbing the nesting birds. (No pets allowed on this NWR).

There  are so many fantastic places on these barrier islands to go birding, you will easily see waterfowl, sea birds, and songbirds. We’re sure the name of the “Town of Duck” hasn’t escaped you.

Where can you go birding for free? See this Outer Banks.com listing to get you started birding here.


Wild mustangs horses on Corolla Corova outer banks nc SAGA

The northernmost Outer Banks beaches are home to the Corolla Wild Horses. Just a little farther North of that is Corova (Corolla/Virginia border) which is an area that is only accessible via four wheel drive vehicles because you will be driving on the beach.  These horses are descendants of Spanish Mustangs, some say they were brought over by the Colonists, while some believe they arrived due to shipwrecks from early expeditions by the Spanish and English.

They are highly protected, so be sure to remain at least 0 feet away from the wild horses and never feed them. You will need a permit to drive on the beach, but if you know someone who has one, then you can do this for free, plus to cost of gas. Read up on beach driving rules here.

Learn more about these beautiful creatures from the Corolla Wild Horse Fund here, and visit their rehab facility and museum.


ocracoke island ferry outer banks nc SAGA

There is one sure way to reach Ocracoke Island and that’s by boat (unless of course you own a private plane). You can just hop on the free car ferry to visit this magical place that is South of Hatteras Island. Plan for a full day with plenty of fun instore on Ocracoke, discover some of these things here.

You’ll need to get to the ferry terminal early to get in line, so before you do that why not visit another family friendly free site – the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. By now you probably know that there are more than 2,000 shipwrecks off the Outer Banks? This is why it has been dubbed the Graveyard of the Atlantic.


grill clams outer banks nc SAGA

Ghost Crabs have 360 degree vision and are quite shy, and you will see them darting in and out of their holes in the sand when you are sunbathing.  But when beachgoers vacate the sand at night, the Atlantic Ghost Crabs make an appearance. Take the family down to the beach after sunset with flashlights and enjoy the excitement as the sand seems to come alive with crabs. It’s called Ghost Crab hunting, but it’s really just running around as they appear trying to hold in the shrieks and squeals.

Clamming is another way to enjoy the beach. If you’d like to catch some clams to throw straight onto the grill, you can do that for free as well. Read Clamming 101: How to Catch Clams on Hatteras Island.


If you have discovered there just wasn’t enough time to do all the things you want, and you really can’t bare to leave… then why leave? Live here! SAGA Realty and Construction has helped more clients build, buy, sell and invest in the Outer Banks than any other company over the last decade.

Call us any time 252.301.3090.

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