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On a good day (read: no traffic), it takes about four hours to drive across the Outer Banks. That being said, you’ll want to make stops along the way to ensure that you see everything that these North Carolina barrier islands have to offer. Start your day in Corolla, where you’ll see wild horses roaming on the beach and sand as pure as can be. Continue your trip down to Kill Devil Hills to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. It’s hard to believe that the first powered flight in 1903 was just 12 seconds long. Needless to say, you can’t visit the Outer Banks without paying tribute to the history of aviation.
Hop back in the car and head down to Nags Head, the southernmost town of the first island. Turn into Jockey’s Ridge State Park and climb the giant sand dunes; or, if you’re a thrill-seeker, try hang-gliding off the dunes. By now, you’ve likely worked up an appetite — one that can only be sated with seafood. Make your way to The Brine and Bottle for an ingredient-driven lunch in the form of a pan-fried local soft-shell crab sandwich.
After lunch, continue south to the Bodie Island Lighthouse. The Outer Banks is home to some of the most picturesque lighthouses in the country — and this is a good place to start. Located within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Bodie Island Lighthouse sticks out with its black-and-white striped exterior. Though you can’t climb up to the top, you can certainly snap a few memorable photos at the base.
Next, head to Hatteras Island, where you’ll find charming towns like Rodanthe, Buxton and Hatteras. While the Northern Beaches — from Corolla to Nags Head — are more populated than Hatteras, the southern island provides a sense of calm and tranquility. Driving along the coast, you’ll see beautiful beaches and seemingly untouched nature. If you want to continue your drive to Ocracoke Island to see North Carolina’s oldest operating lighthouse, you’ll have to hop aboard the ferry. Or you can skip the trip and wrap up your day with dinner at Café Pamlico, which offers fresh seafood and close-up views of the Pamlico Sound.