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The Outer Banks of North Carolina, also known as the “OBX” by veteran visitors, draw people from all over the world to its barrier islands for family fun. At the heart of this popular beach lies the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, home to eight historic villages immersed among some of the largest spans of undeveloped natural beaches on the East Coast accessible by car. Two-lane coastal route NC 12, part of the nationally recognized Outer Banks Scenic Byway, threads the entire span and links the islands via a network of bridges and free ferries. You can even take the family SUV off-road in designated areas for convenient access to the beaches. Parking and access to the beach are always free.

The entire 130-mile-long island chain enjoys a devoutly loyal following, partially due to the uncompromising authenticity that permeates the destination and the variety of ways in which the OBX connects with varied visitors. The northern beach towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head offer a little more in convenience, year-round dining options and lots of activities for children. Roanoke Island and the town of Manteo have an Elizabethan flavor, inspired by the first English settlers who landed here in 1587, only to have disappeared into history as The Lost Colony.

You’ll find lots of boutique shops and attractions like Fort Raleigh and the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island here. South of Oregon Inlet, on Hatteras Island, enjoy beach activities, water sports and exposure to the natural landscape, with rustic coastal fare to enhance the experience. You’ll find a mix of people, from those taking the classic seven-day vacation with extended family and friends in a vacation rental home to couples looking for a romantic getaway in a cozy bed and breakfast or weekend warriors following the fishing seasons or surf.

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