January 25, 2023
The Outer Banks has long been on my bucket list of places to travel. I was stationed in North Carolina decades ago, but never made the time to make the journey. On a road trip in 2016, we briefly traveled through and saw the Wright Brothers on a day trip.
So when the chance to go in the Fall of last year came up while on a trip to see family, we decided to jump on it.
November is off peak season, so cold weather, storms and many things closed are things to factor in, but we didn’t mind. It’s dark sky area and we managed to get there during New Moon, so we could see the Milky Way. It did not disappoint.
We chose to stay at Oregon Inlet, a part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore located on Nags Head, NC. Booking was through recreation.gov, and there are great maps and satellite views of the campground to get an idea of what spot you want to be in, or could fit into if you are a larger rig. There were many small ones, a few larger than us, and several about our size. This campground has many spaces that could accommodate our 37 foot 5th wheel without issue. There are electric and water hook ups at the RV sites and I believe the tent sites loop had them at several, as well. While there are no dumps at the sites, there is a dump station about a half mile away across the street at the marina at no cost.
Some of the spots back up to the dunes and you can easily walk out to the beach. The other side of the campground backs up to the highway and, during peak commuter times and during the day, there can be a lot of road noise, but it was pretty quiet from late evening to around 7AM. Bathhouses are onsite, but the showers are outdoor stalls and the hot water isn’t really hot, so be prepared if you plan to stay when it is very cold. There’s no laundry facility in the campground, but there were some in town. We didn’t use any, so none to recommend.
Driving on the beach as well as campfires are allowed as long as you get a permit, and there are other parts of the Outer Banks this applies to, as well. Be sure you to check the area. We didn’t opt for this since we wouldn’t get our money’s worth since it was windy and cold.
Since it is an island, many of the local attractions are going to be a drive, but all are worth it. There are 5 lighthouses along the Outer Banks and one, Bodie Lighthouse, is visible from the campground and easily drivable. While we were there in the off season, they were all closed for climbing, but the grounds were open, as were the visitor’s center, and are free to visit, so it was a great way to spend some time. There are museums and information centers with so much history and information about the area, as well as Roanoke Island with it’s history of lost settlements, Civil War battles and settlements.
While many restaurants close for the season, there are several local restaurants to try for meals and treats. If you visit, find a Duck Donuts–custom order donuts made while you wait! Seafood restaurants abound, as well as fast food, sit down, and options for breweries and taphouses.
If you venture south of Cape Hatteras, there are ferries to get around. Ocracoke Island does have a ferry on both the north end and south end. The ferry on the north end is free, whether a vehicle or RV, but the southern end ferry does have a cost, depending on the size of your vehicles, so research ahead of time. Some may need a reservation, but it’s mostly first come, first serve. In peak season, be prepared to wait a while. You can use this to connect all the way back to the mainland, and there are other campgrounds along the way to check out.
To the south you will find the wild ponies, more lighthouses, and a bit more of the island life charm since it isn’t as easy to reach due to ferry travel required.
We have visited in the heat of the summer and during a very cold snap in late fall. I recommend being prepared for the weather and researching and planning the indoor options to rotate into your visit to get a break from the sun and heat of summer, as well as the windy chill of Winter.
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