What could be more fun than a dog friendly beach vacation to North Carolina’s Outer Banks? It’s one of the best places in the country for history and beauty.
If you love beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the water, and enjoy places where nearly everyone you’ll meet loves pets, a dog friendly trip to the Outer Banks could be the perfect vacation for you!
How Dog Friendly Is The Outer Banks?
We got a tiny taste of what the Outer Banks offers when a mechanical issue on our boat (also our home) caused us to hunker down there for repairs.
Since we weren’t going to be sailing for a while, we rented a car and did a whirlwind tour of the Outer Banks with our dog, Honey.
Outer Banks History and Mystery
What would we find when we arrived in the Outer Banks? Our travels through Beaufort, North Carolina had exposed us to tales of the state’s most famous pirate, Blackbeard (or Edward Teach, as his mother called him). His spirit (or at least his name) appears everywhere in the Outer Banks.
READ MORE ⇒ Visiting Beaufort, North Carolina With Pets
Aviation enthusiasts will remember the Outer Banks as the site of the Wright Brothers’ first flight.
And I remember being fascinated in middle school with tales of the lost English colony of Roanoke Island. The only clue to the disappearance of more than 100 colonists was the word “Croatoan” carved into the rock. Even today, there isn’t enough archaeological evidence to know what happened.
Some argue that the colonists assimilated into the indigenous Algonquin community. Others point to the poor relations the first colonists had with the original inhabitants in arguing that the colonists were killed or simply starved without outside support.
Four hundred years later, it’s possible we’ll never know.
Would the modern Outer Banks show any signs of its historical and mysterious past? Or would it look like other beach communities we had visited? It was time to find out!
Navigating the Outer Banks
The Outer Banks (or OBX) is a series of barrier islands. Well, not entirely islands. The Northern Outer Banks now connect to the mainland after years of storm damage. The northernmost peninsula lies just south of Virginia Beach and near the more-interesting-than-it-sounds Dismal Swamp.
North Carolina Route 12 connects most of the island settlements. It ends at the inlets where ferry service picks up until the road starts again on the next island. And yes, North Carolina ferries are all pet friendly!
Until the 1930s no bridges reached the Outer Banks. The only access was by boat. As a result, the accent of some of the natives is quite peculiar, sounding more like the British Isles than the rest of North Carolina.
One thing the Outer Banks does share with the rest of the South is a welcoming hospitality, especially if you’re accompanied by a furry friend.
Things to Do with Your Dog In the Outer Banks
There’s something for everyone in the Outer Banks. Let’s start with the biggest draw to the area … the beaches!
Dog Friendly Outer Banks Beaches
Most beaches in the Outer Banks are dog friendly at some point during the day with only a few restrictions. Of course, all beaches require you to clean up after your pet—bagged and removed, not buried in the sand.
Any restrictions mentioned below do not apply to service dogs who are trained to provide assistance to a disabled person.
Also note that wild horses live in the northernmost Outer Banks. So disobeying leash laws can be dangerous if your pup is curious about large creatures.
Here are the Outer Banks beaches, from the north to the south:
Corolla – Corolla beaches are pet friendly year round at all times of the day. But you must keep pets leashed at all times. Use the town’s handy guide to find all the public access points and amenities.
In addition, Heritage Park at the Whalehead Club on the Currituck Sound welcomes leashed dogs.
Duck – Your dog may frolic on Duck beach without a leash, as long as she is under your voice control and doesn’t harass wildlife or other beach goers. However, you won’t find any public beach access points in Duck. Stay in a pet friendly rental property here and you’ll have a great time on your nearly private beach.
Leashed dogs are welcome in town as long as they have proper identification and proof of rabies vaccination. This includes the boardwalk, Duck Trail, and Duck Park.
Southern Shores – Leashed dogs are welcome on the beach any time of day in the off-season and from 6pm to 9am during in-season (May 15th through September 15th).
Kitty Hawk – From the Friday before Memorial Day to the day after Labor Day dogs can go on the beach on a 6-foot leash from 10am to 6pm. From 6pm to 10am, dogs can be on the beach on a 12-foot leash.
The rest of the year you can bring Fido to the beach leash-free, as long as he stays within 30 feet of you, returns when called, and does not harass others.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safe At The Beach
Kill Devil Hills – Leashed dogs are welcome on the beach any time of day in the off-season. But, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, their time on the beach is limited to before 9am and after 6pm.
Nags Head – Your dog is welcome on the beach at any time, all year long. But pets must be leashed at all times. Horseback riding is allowed on Nags Head beach from October 1st through April 30th.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore – Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round if they are kept on a six-foot leash. But they cannot go on designated swimming beaches or inside the buildings.
The same rules apply for all towns on Hatteras Island which include Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Ocracoke.
During the middle of the day, the sand is scorching to naked paws. So maybe you want to visit a grassy spot instead. Why not check out the lighthouses or tour one of the area’s historic sites?
Although not technically part of the Outer Banks, Roanoke Island lies between the barrier islands and the mainland. And it’s well worth visiting — especially if you love history.
You can learn about the first English settlements in the Fort Raleigh Historic Site. While you’re there, explore the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens. There is an entrance fee for the gardens and a small fee for your dog as well.
While you’re on the island, the Victorian town of Manteo is a charming place to stop for lunch. The Lost Colony Brewery and the more upscale Avenue Waterfront Grille both have pet friendly outdoor seating.
The eateries are a short walk from the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. The current building is a replica of the more unusual screw-pile form of signal light in this area. You’re free to have a look around, although your pet must wait for you outside.
Another interesting dog friendly Outer Banks site is the Wright Brothers National Monument. Markers point out the starting and ending place of the most famous 12-second flight ever.
Finally, consider a trip to Ocracoke – the most remote of the islands. Reachable only by ferry, private boat, or small plane, for many years it served only as a pirate hideout.
What is now Ocrocoke’s Springer Point Nature Preserve was formerly known as Blackbeard’s Plantation. Watch for gold bullion while you’re searching for shells on the shores of the Pamlico Sound!
The Currituck Sound on the northern side of the Outer Banks is very shallow. In fact, it’s perfect for kayaking. And the historic Corolla Town Park has an excellent boat ramp from which to launch.
If you don’t have your own kayak, Outer Banks Kayak Adventure of Nags Head will allow you to bring your dog on a private, guided tour. Just be sure to call ahead to make the arrangements.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips For Canoeing Or Kayaking With Dogs
Jockey’s Ridge State Park has the tallest living sand dunes on the Atlantic coast. You must keep your dog on leash, but hiking through the sand will give you both quite a workout!
The sand gets hot, so plan your dune explorations for early or late in the day during the summer. Or enjoy the shady hiking trails on the sound side of the park any time of the day.
Planning Your Outer Banks Trip
Obviously, there no shortage of dog friendly outdoor fun in the Outer Banks! But it’s worth thinking about the weather before planning your vacation.
When to Go
The Outer Banks is called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for a reason. It lies in the path hurricanes tend to follow up the East Coast. And it is where most Nor’easters get their start before heading north to dump inches of rain or snow on the northern Atlantic coast.
Fall is a lovely time to see the Outer Banks, but get travel insurance and have a good back-up plan in case a hurricane is predicted to strike nearby. Even hurricanes out at sea can cause damage to these fragile islands.
Summer is definitely the most popular time to visit. But the beaches are crowded and the sand gets hot. Honey and I learned that the hard way when I left my shoes and we had to run for the surf to cool our burning feet!
Where to Stay
You’ll find no shortage of pet friendly accommodations in the Outer Banks, from family-owned beach motels to elegant inns. There are both private and public campgrounds where you can sleep right on the beach. And there are many pet friendly vacation homes for rent.
Where to Eat
We discovered that most restaurants have outdoor seating. And in our short visit, we didn’t find a single restaurant that turned us away with Honey. Fresh seafood is a huge draw and you can find it everywhere, from the modest ice cream and fried shrimp joints to high-end restaurants.
In a very short visit, we got a tantalizing taste of a fascinating area. I’ve already started planning our next trip there on our boat. If you haven’t been there yet, add it to your future vacation plans. Your dog will thank you!