Colorful sunrise on a North Carolina beach, waves breaking on a sandy shore framed by dune grass. Duck, NC. Image credit Jeremy Tyree via Shutterstock.

9 Most Underrated Towns In the Outer Banks

From North Carolina, all the way to southeastern Virginia, lie many spectacular beaches, charming small towns and several cultural sites make up an area informally referred to as the Outer Banks. Also abbreviated as OBX, this ethereal stretch was popularized by the action-packed mystery teen drama acclaimed as one of Netflix’s most successful young adult series. And while screen lovers might have enjoyed the plot and storyline of this blockbuster, a sizeable crowd was blown away by its setting. The stunning string of barrier islands on which this series was shot—makes for an almost irresistible travel temptation. Featuring other historic places such as Roanoke Colony, the birthplace of the first English person, the Outer Banks should be on every vacationer’s bucket list. Read this article to discover the 9 most underrated towns in the Outer Banks.

Duck, North Carolina

Iconic soundside boardwalk on Currituck Sound under the moonlight in Duck, NC on the Outer Banks.
Iconic soundside boardwalk on Currituck Sound under the moonlight in Duck. Image credit Cvandyke via Shutterstock.

Named for one of the most beautiful two-footers on earth, Duck is a North Carolina charmer that often does not get the hype it deserves. Prevention Magazine, for instance, the American healthy-lifestyle magazine published by Hearst Corporation, names Duck the most underrated city in North Carolina. Sandwiched between two shimmering bodies of water; Currituck Sound to the west and the second-largest ocean in the world to the east, Duck’s location alone makes for a fairytale novel. Boasting a population of only about 700, Duck is just what small-town enthusiasts will never get enough of. While the town boasts an impressive shopping and dining scene, including The Blue Point, a popular eatery that features on-the-water outdoor seating, Duck’s spectacular beaches are its greatest attraction.

Nags Head

aerial view of beach and outer banks at nags head, north carolina
Aerial view of beach and Outer Banks at Nags Head, North Carolina. Image credit Florida Stock via Shutterstock.

Forget about what others may think of this North Carolina gem. Pack some sunscreen and make the Jockey's Ridge State Park a number one priority. Enjoy a stroll on the scenic boardwalk then proceed to the natural swelling dunes that will leave any first-time awestruck. Climb these wind-blown mountains of sand and enjoy views that no words can possibly do justice. For those who can, a sunset here cannot be missed. Yet, while the Jockey's Ridge State Park is Nags Head's number one draw, the town boasts several other attractions including its remarkable dining scene. Remember that from Nags Head, Roanoke Island and its mysterious Lost Colony is just ten minutes away. While there are many places to set camp, booking any spot at the Nags Head Beach Cottages Historic District, will be highly rewarding.


Wild mustang on an evening stroll in Corolla, NC
Wild mustang on an evening stroll in Corolla, NC. Image credit Simply Capture Photo via Shutterstock.

While many do not give Corolla even a passing glance, those who have set foot in this gorgeous town will make several repeat visits. Corolla is located about 15 miles north of Duck and shares the same gasp-inducing scenery Duck is famous for. If Corolla is underrated, the recently-restored Whalehead Club, located inside the Historic Corolla Park—which is another must-see—could be its most underrated attraction. Defined by views that are nothing but breathtaking for miles on end, this pristine waterfront property features a huge, magnificent residence that is supposedly haunted, and that displays some of the finest exhibits of human workmanship. Also, even if pressed for time, squeeze in some minutes to check out the nearby Currituck Beach Lighthouse.


Clouds over Avon Fishing Pier in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Clouds over Avon Fishing Pier in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Image credit Cvandyke via Shutterstock.

While many towns in the Outer Banks area often bustle with crowds, Avon is a quiet, secluded alternative that will appeal to those who may not want to roll with the crowds. Part town; part village, Avon is home to not more than 400 residents. This Outer Banks charmer is located right in the heart of Hatteras Island. This means Avon is a perfect base to explore the many pristine beaches on Cape Hatteras and soak in the spectacular scenery all around. If keen on shopping, however, Avon is home to Food Lion which offers the best grocery shopping on the island. Avon also plays host to several gift shops, a beautiful fishing pier, and one of only two wooden fishing piers on Hatteras Island.


Roanoke Marshes screw-pile lighthouse on Shallowbag Bay in Manteo, North Carolina in the Outer Banks at sunrise.
Roanoke Marshes screw-pile lighthouse on Shallowbag Bay in Manteo. Image credit Cvandyke via Shutterstock.

Manteo is nestled right in the heart of Roanoke Island. Its small-town allure and postcard beauty make it one of the most underrated towns in the Outer Banks. Curled up in the picturesque Shallowbag Bay, Manteo will easily leave a first-time visitor completely blown away. Located on the island where England established its first colony in the country, history lovers will have a feast exploring several historic sites and attractions. First-time visitors will want to take a stroll on the waterfront boardwalk and soak in the spectacular views at every turn of the eye. Besides, one will want to explore the museums on the island, have a glimpse of the historic lighthouse, or experience first-hand what life was like for the first English settlers in 1585 at the Roanoke Island Festival Park. Then again, goosebumps await at the ethereal Elizabethan Gardens, located at 1411 National Park Drive.


Ocracoke Village, Ocracoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA, fishing boats at dock,
Ocracoke Village, Ocracoke Island. Image credit Malachi Jacobs via Shutterstock.

Located on the beautiful Oracocke Island, this underrated Outer Banks charmer is only accessible by either air or water. While one will enjoy wandering the town by foot, as it is only about four square miles, and taking in its laid-back charm, Oracocke is more of a village, complete with trappings of a homely neighborhood, than a town. History buffs will want to check out the British Cemetery where four British Navy officers were murdered while helping defend the North Carolina coast against German U-boats. Also, it will be worthwhile looking up the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina that is still in operation—the second oldest in the United States. Then again, even those who fear horses will find it soothing watching the wild ponies at the Ocracoke Pony Pens while enjoying the amazing views of the area’s pristine beaches.


The sun sets behind a row of waterfront cottages on Hatteras Island Frisco, NC.
Frisco, NC. Image credit Xavier Ascanio via Shutterstock.

One of the reasons Frisco is underrated is because its beach is not just a typical beach. While it does have sparkling sand and natural beauty, here visitors have the chance to ride the beautiful, well-behaved horses along the beach and through the beautiful maritime forest. Many will enjoy galloping on the beach, often with the help of friendly and enthusiastic guides, on the backs of remarkably responsive horses. For history lovers, however, it will be a pleasure checking out the nice collection of Native American artifacts at the Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center. For outdoor lovers, a visit to this museum includes exploring its picturesque nature trails that meander through many acres of Sylvan maritime forest. In terms of Frisco’s water activities, windsurfers and kiteboarders alike will have a blast at the gentle Pamlico Sound, a world-famous watersports playground.


View of people and vacation homes on the beach as seen from the Rodanthe Pier in the Outer Banks
Rodanthe Pier. Image credit Kyle J Little via Shutterstock.

Nestled on the northernmost town on Hatteras Island between the town of Waves and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Rodanthe is another Outer Banks jewel that does not get the attention it deserves. The town’s convenient centralized location ensures a vacationer is less than an hour away from the town of Duck on one side and the ferry to Oracocke on the other. Those who enjoy the history of shipwreck rescues will have to squeeze in the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station into their itinerary! Regarded as the most completely restored Lifesaving Station in the United States, just about everyone will want to catch a glimpse of this underrated treasure. Besides, Rodanthe also boasts an amazing shopping and dining landscape. If remotely interested in conservation, or just nature in its most pristine, check out the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a habitat for several species of migratory birds, many of which are endangered.


Ocean fishing pier and fencing at daybreak in Rodanthe, North Carolina.
Ocean fishing pier and fencing at daybreak in Rodanthe, North Carolina. Image credit Cvandyke via Shutterstock.

The first thing one will want to do after landing in this North Carolina stunner—is to ask for directions to the Watermen's Bar & Grill. Those who will want to savor the taste of some finely grilled shrimp, delectable Veggie fajitas, a Buffalo Chicken Burrito, or just about any delicacy, will really not have a deserving alternative. If sated with the food or the views, prepare to enjoy first-class surfing in a town whose very name is a fitting hint to its surfing credentials. That is besides other water-based thrills such as kayaking, Standup paddleboarding, and good old ocean swimming. Sandwiched between Rodanthe and Salvo, and radiating a laid-back allure, the town of Waves is also delightfully walkable.

The Takeaway

Outer Banks has been in the limelight for its rise in sea levels, some of the worst on the East Coast, and its rapid rates of erosion. Yet, for its amazing scenery, this region of the United States comes off as one of the most underrated. If, as some scientists believe, its beauty is short-lived, what better way to enjoy it while it lasts? Fortunately, from Nags Head to Waves, Manteo to Rodanthe, the Outer Banks boasts a cornucopia of towns that still retain their much-acclaimed beauty. 

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