In This Post: This breakdown of my 5 day Outer Banks itinerary covers all kinds of things to do in the Outer Banks as you explore the scenic coast of North Carolina.
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Almost every year, my family takes a trip down to the Outer Banks in August. It’s the perfect way to cap off summer and spend some quality time together before the craziness of fall schedules picks up… Okay, mostly quality time. Our vacations are never perfect. With a house full of strong-willed, opinionated women, vacations are never without their trying moments, but no matter what, we always walk away with memories, laughs, and photos (thanks to me begging everyone to take them) since there are plenty of things to do in the Outer Banks.
This year was extra special because it’s the first family vacation we’ve had with my niece, who was 4 months old at the time! In fact, it was when we were on our Outer Banks vacation last year that my sister told me she was pregnant and I had to keep it a secret for the entire vacation (more on that story here, lol). The part-time job I have is remote, so I still have to put some hours in while on vacation. Every morning, my niece would wake up around 7 am. I’d put her in the carrier and we’d go out to the deck where I’d work and she’d be all snuggly, talking to me in her baby babbles. I think those quiet moments with her were my favorite moments of the whole vacation.
Where we stayed in the Outer Banks
My sister Alyssa (that’s the middle one) and I drove down a few days after the rest of my family got there, so we were eager to get to the beach! We usually stay in Corolla and my mom typically rents a house from Brindley Beach Vacations. Our house was part of the Corolla Light Resort Community, which is nice because it has oceanfront pools and a restaurant right next to where you access the beach.
My 5 Day Outer Banks Itinerary:
Day 1: The first day, we spent the day lounging next to the ocean (and even saw some dolphins!) before heading back to the house to get cleaned up for dinner. I had been SO excited about this purple Gal Meets Glam Collection dress from Stitch Fix (get a $25 credit to Stitch Fix here!) that I tried it on the second it got to my doorstep and could not wait to wear it. There was no question that I was going to put it on at the first chance I got on vacation! I knew the pier and outdoor scenery at Sunset Grille would make the perfect backdrop to snap a few photos in it. Everything was aligning until 5 minutes before we got there. The sky started to get dark and the wind was crazy! But, a blogger’s gotta blog, so my sister snapped some breezy shots anyway. I thought they were turning out cute until I realized that I didn’t zip the dress all the way up and it had been halfway undone the entire time, haha. Truthfully, I don’t know how I didn’t realize this (and why no one in my family told me).
Day 2: After putting in some work hours and writing a bit, day 2 started with another afternoon at the beach. I was thrilled to pull out my new Summersalt bathing suit, which really was as soft, comfortable, and flattering as everyone hypes it up to be on the internet. I was looking forward to my outfit I planned to wear for dinner just as much – a leopard print dress from London Times (featured here). I’m normally the only one who dresses up just because I’ll take any excuse to wear a pretty dress! However, on this night, my whole family looked cute. Unfortunately, no one mentioned getting a photo of all of us until it was too dark for my camera to handle it, so the only picture I have of my entire family on vacation is blurry and pixelated. If only everyone could’ve been on board for a photo in the beautiful earlier evening light! That night, we ate at Cravings, which has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. They have a great outdoor area and bar to hang out at, complete with giant Jenga and twinkle lights where there’s often live music in the evenings. Afterward, we went across the street to watch the sunset on the boardwalk before grabbing ice cream at Donutz On a Stick and Ice Cream. I’ve never had one of their donuts on a stick, but I do love their delicious homemade ice cream!
Day 3: Just a short one hour drive from Corolla is a quaint little town called Manteo that we love to visit when we’re in the Outer Banks. It has everything I love about small towns – cute shops with unique finds in them, local restaurants, a great ice cream shop (Big Buck’s Homemade Ice Cream), and a one of a kind charm. Manteo wraps around Shallowbag Bay on Roanoke Island, so it’s right on the water. There are well-kept boat docks, a wooden boardwalk to walk along, and I always love seeing the blooming flowers. We booked one of Captain Johnny’s Dolphin Tours and were not disappointed. It was the second time we’ve done one of their tours, and they always do a great job at making sure you see dolphins (we saw SO many throughout the entire course of the tour!). The captain and staff were not only knowledgable but also entertaining. They have drinks and snacks you can purchase onboard, and once you see dolphins, Snickers become one dollar instead of two, haha.
After the dolphin cruise, we hopped over to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, which was just a few minutes away. There are multiple North Carolina Aquariums that are part of the same system, so none of them are huge, which makes it a great activity to add onto the day rather than setting a whole day aside for it. This waterside location is particularly known for its extensive 285,000-gallon shark tank, Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center, and Wild Wetlands exhibit which features river otters, alligators, and turtles. We stopped for dinner at Big Al’s Soda Fountain & Grill, which has a fun retro atmosphere inspired by the ’50s.
Day 4: One of my favorite things about the Outer Banks is the 4×4 beach. It’s at the end of Corolla, and if you have the right kind of 4×4 or AWD vehicle, you can drive right on the beach. Now, I’ve never done this as this is the first year I’ve even owned an AWD vehicle, and I was not about to take any chances, but I do love to park and walk to it. During the day it seems less crowded than the others, but I almost always go in the morning. I also notice that it’s flatter than the other beaches, which makes it the perfect spot for an oceanside run to kick the day off with. I always find the best shells when I’m down there, and this year my sister was excited to find some, too, which was convenient because I needed some pictures in my Summersalt Sidestroke one-piece (which is honestly my favorite bathing suit that I’ve ever owned). I *just so happened* to buy my niece and I bathing suits that coordinated, so of course, I needed photos to document that! I also absolutely need to tell you about Malvados footwear. They make the slide sandals I’m wearing in this post, and they are such great quality and so comfortable. I took the Icon Keko Reptile, Icon Adele, and Icon Taylor Plush styles on vacation with me – and my sister loved pairing the Icon Tori with her floral London Times Dress. Each of these styles adds a more polished look to my outfit compared to a traditional flip flop without sacrificing easy and comfort, which I appreciate!
ICON NEKO REPTILE
After photos on the beach, we went back to the house to gather up the rest of the family before heading to the beach at the resort again. In the evening, we had intended to have a nice sit-down dinner, but every restaurant around the Timbuck II Shopping Village we were hanging out at had crazy wait times, and we were hungry! We ended up just grabbing a pizza. Next, my littlest sister (who thinks I’m really uncool and rarely wants to spend time with me) pleaded for me to do the go-karts with her. I was happy to sign up for the task until it started pouring down rain while we were in line for our turn. I told her I was opting out, but her big sad eyes filled me with guilt, so I went go-karting while wearing a white linen jumpsuit in the rain just to make my sister happy.
Day 5: Okay, so maybe this itinerary only counts as like 4 and a half days. On the last day, I got up early to run on the 4×4 beach since I chose photos over running the day before. I spent some extra time strolling in the sand, soaking in how calm being next to the ocean makes me feel. Most of my family was gone by the time I got back, so my sister and I finished packing up before heading to our next destination. I always forget something, though, and had to turn around to get my camera charger, whoops. Having left the house for real this time, it was off to The Jarvis at 220 in New Bern, NC to explore a new-to-me quaint town. Keep an eye out for my New Bern post soon!
Check out my Exploring the Outer Banks post from last year for more on this beautiful vacation spot!