U.S. News & World Report recently named the Outer Banks the top family beach vacation in the USA, beating out more exotic locales of Maui and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The magazine lauded the OBX’s “consistent-yet-manageable waves and beautiful natural landscape,” also giving a nod to its historical charm and rugged sense of adventure.
“A cottage or condo rental will give you more space for family time and prime beach access.” -U.S. News & World Report.
Vacationing with children at OBX is a joy at any time of year. Here’s our list of recommendations.
For the wee ones
- Sound side beach. A favorite among locals is behind Jockey’s Ridge where the kids can play in the water with no waves. It’s around milepost 12 on Soundside Rd. — take a right at the Nags Head church. The entrance is down the road on the right. Here’s a map from the condo.
- Coquina Beach. This one is nice because it has wide beaches and a bath house with restrooms and changing stations. Our son was terrified of the ocean until he was about 3 so having a wide stretch between the sand and the waves was a big plus.
- Playgrounds. Hayman Park at MP 5.5 is the one we normally hit when we go down there. Perfect for the 1-3 year olds, the park set is set in the residential west side and surrounded by live oaks. Bonus: it’s not well known to tourists.
- Wright Brothers National Memorial. Lots of open space for the little ones to wear out. Be sure to keep to the trails and not the grass, which is full of prickly pears. Don’t miss the photo ops near the interactive sculpture of the first flight and at the top of the memorial!
- NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier (http://www.ncaquariums.com/). Be sure to check out the historic Roanoke Island waterfront after visiting the sharks!
- Pirates & Pixies toy shop. You’ll find tons of fun, well crafted gifts and the owner is usually the one behind the counters.
- Duck Soundside Boardwalk. An easy, picturesque walk lined with shops and restaurants.
- Outer Banks Children’s Museum. The museum recently re-opened in the Buccaneer’s Walk Center, expanding the already great play/learning space.
- Bouncing off the Walls. Inflatable bounce houses and other fun for children under 12.
- Extreme sports. Here’s a map showing The Lark in relation to kayaking, parasailing, sandboarding and hangliding locations. We keep a body board at the condo for those who want to enjoy the waves. First Street, our closest public beach access point, is also a historic surf break of the OBX. View the live cam. Kitty Hawk Park also has a 5,000 sq. ft. skate park (and covered picnic areas so you can watch your children under the shade).
- Mini Golf. These fun themed putt-putt courses are all throughout the Outer Banks. The closest one being Lost Treasure Golf 1/2 mile from The Lark!
- First Flight Adventure Park. Hello, ropes, zip lines and obstacle courses 10-50 feet above the Sound!
- Destination Funplex. Nearby The Lark is an indoor bounce house, arcade, mini golf and laser tag. Great for those rainy days.
- Arts and crafts. Paint your own pottery at Glazin’ Go Nuts or make jewelry at its sister store, Garden of Beadin’ or Cloud Nine in Pirate’s Quay shopping center. You can also tye dye a shirt at Island Dye.
- Hair wraps and temporary tattoos. No trip to the beach is complete unless you come home with your hair in corn rows and your arms covered in temporary tattoos. At least that was me growing up.
- Off-roading. See the wild horses, take a 4×4 adventure trip or a Segway tour in the Carova Beach region to the north. You can rent your own off-road vehicle or take a guided tour.
- Take a hike! We love the Nags Head Woods Preserve.
- Jockey’s Ridge. Climbing the dunes is a must. You may also buy a kite across the street at Kitty Hawk Kites or take a guided sunset tour.
- The Lost Colony. The historical reenactment is a 2013 Tony recipient for excellence in theatre. Not to mention a lot of fun.
- YMCA. The Y in OBX has all the regular fitness equipment and group fitness classes for Mom and Dad, as well as pools with a waterslide and a skate park.
- The Wright Brothers National Memorial. To mark the 99th anniversary of humans’ first flight in 2002, 99 aircraft flew over the memorial and parachuters glided to the earth near the granite statue that marks the location of the Wright Brothers’ historic flight. We likely won’t be treated to another such spectacle for another 100 years, but the memorial is still impressive. You can walk to the memorial from The Lark on the multi-use trail. Go south on the trail for about 1.5 miles and turn into the charming little airport at the rear of the memorial.
- Ghost Tours. I actually lead ghost tours in my hometown of Harrisonburg, VA, and was excited to find these tours at Whalehead in Historic Corolla. There’s a nighttime and daytime option as well as other tours of the non-spooky variety.
For more ideas and events, check out Outer Banks Child. Around The Lark, you can also make it a family day in by choosing a family-friendly selection from our DVD collection or hanging out by our pool.
Parents’ Night Out
Need a break from the little ones? You can hire a sitter to come to the condo. A quick search for “babysitting Outer Banks” will yield several results. We personally met the owner of At Your Service and found her to be professional and trustworthy.
Family Friendly Restaurants
Truly, though, there are many, many great options. Outer Banks Taco Bar has a box full of toddler toys to keep the littles entertained and Outer Banks Brewing Station has a playground on premises. We also enjoy American Pie, Rundown Cafe and Mama Kwans. If your child is a history buff, check out Black Pelican. The old life saving station is where the Wright Brothers sent their telegraph announcing they had successfully taken the world’s first flight.
Our Child Friendly Amenities
The Lark was designed with young children in mind. We have everything you need for a relaxing vacation.
- Pool located directly across our building with beach and pool toys
- First Street beach access is a mile down the same road and has a lifeguard station
- Low profile queen size bed for easy in and out access
- Sleep sound machines in both bedrooms
- Outlet covers, child cabinet locks and child proof option on the dishwasher
- Toys, books and board games
- Pack N’ Play, travel high chair and baby spoons
- Potty reducer seat
- Clutter-free decor! Nothing is more relaxing than chasing your child around putting dusty knick-knacks back in place right? Right? (Not.)
- Easy wipe furniture, extra towels for accidental spills and lots of soft or rounded furniture edges
- Open concept design so you can watch the little ones while cooking