Nags Head, NC, ranks as one of the most popular vacation sites on the Outer Banks (OBX). It lies at the southern tip of the Outer Banks’ northernmost island. With only 3,000 residents, Nags Head is a quiet place ideal for visitors looking to enjoy the great outdoors or nearby historical sites.
For over 100 years, people have flocked to Nags Head, North Carolina, to enjoy its nature and climate year-round. With its beaches of towering sand dunes and crisp ocean air, Nags Head draws vacationers from near and far. Nowadays, visitors can experience a taste of old Nags Head alongside today’s modern luxuries.
The area features:
- Beachfront motels, rental homes, and historic cottages
- Natural sand dunes and beautiful beaches
- High-end shops, restaurants, and bars
- Plenty of outdoor activities and sites to see
Those looking for an all-inclusive experience visit the area for its variety. Whether you plan to move to the area or bring your family for summer vacation, you’ll find many things to do, unique restaurants and boutiques, and more to enjoy.
In addition to being a standard North Carolina vacation spot, Nags Head serves as a popular wedding destination with its beautiful, calm environment and many beachfront properties. Couples and families will enjoy the town’s free-spirited yet traditional atmosphere.
No matter where you go in Nags Head Outer Banks, you’ll find nostalgia and beauty around every corner. Between the area’s historical locations and modern amenities, you’ll fall for its charm and varied attractions.
Popular Things To Do in Nags Head
Nags Head OBX has everything you need for a fun, comfortable stay, no matter what you like to do. You can stay on or seconds away from the beach, go fishing or surfing, and more. Spend time shopping at one of the local malls or dine at one of the best restaurants in the area.
Nags Head’s variety of activities means you don’t have to leave the area to have a fun vacation. There are nearby attractions everywhere. However, if you’re interested in the surrounding area’s offerings, such as historical buildings or protected sites, they’re a short drive away.
Nags Head is rich in wildlife and has a diverse geographical area. You can see dolphins from the beach or walk-through Nags Head Woods to enjoy the local flora or find ruins of long-abandoned cottages. Easily the most significant outdoor attraction is Jockey’s Ridge State Park, home to the largest dunes in the Eastern U.S., where you can make sandcastles, go hang-gliding, or watch the sunset.
Experience Local Attractions
Historic attractions make up a significant portion of Nags Head. The Bodie Island Lighthouse is a notable attraction in Nags Head the famous lighthouse was built in 1872 and gives visitors an impressive view from the ocean to Nags Head Woods.
Another famous landmark is Jennette’s Pier, the largest pier on the Outer Banks. Along with an aquarium, visitors can rent rods and purchase bait in the gift shop.
Take The Fun Outside
Outdoor adventurers have no shortage of activities in Nags Head. Take a kayaking or paddle boarding tour or rent your own and see the area’s nature from the water. Three fishing piers and a 12-mile stretch of public beach access will keep you entertained.
Those looking to spend less energy will still find plenty to do:
- Sunbathe or look for seashells on the beach
- Walk or bike the Nags Head bike path
- Shop at the local outlet mall
- Enjoy a bite to eat or grab a brew
- Hike through Nags Head Woods
Enjoy The Town
Nags Head is home to several top eateries, bars, and stores. Families and individuals have a wide selection to choose from between vacationers’ favorite restaurants or gift shops. Whether you’re on a tight budget or have loads of money to spend, you’ll find something you can afford.
Those who enjoy shopping have several clothing stores, gift shops, art galleries, and more at their disposal. You’ll find sporting goods shops, popular store chains, and specialty boutiques. With a multitude of restaurants and bars, you’ll get top-rated, ethically and freshly sourced foods from several different cultures.
What Makes Nags Head Unique
Nags Head is a unique area for many reasons. The area is a local treasure trove with its rich history, beautiful environment and wildlife, outstanding attractions and amenities, and excellent lodging and dining options. Despite being a popular vacation spot, it still has a charming, quaint atmosphere.
Nags Head’s longstanding dining attractions make it one of the most unique vacationing towns in North Carolina. You get access to delicious cuisines, including Japanese, American, Southern, Mexican, and more. Several restaurants, bars, and shops have been around for years.
Some of the best restaurants in Nags Head include Sam and Omie’s and Owen’s Restaurant. Each has decades-old recipes and uses the freshest local ingredients. Other popular places to eat include Tortugas’ Lie for Caribbean cuisine and Sooey’s BBQ & Rib Shack for the tastiest Carolina BBQ around.
Enjoy a craft brew, wine, or cocktails at the Outer Banks Brewing Station. Fish Heads Bar & Grill offers an impressive selection of beers and makes a great place to wind down after a long day. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more relaxing and varied place to dine than Nags Head.
What Else Makes Nags Head Unique?
Nags Head beaches feature:
- Relatively calm waters: Typically, Nags Head’s waters are calm in the mornings and evenings; otherwise, they provide excellent waves for surfers and extreme anglers.
- Little to no trash or sea debris: Nags Head beaches are immaculate, and the current brings little seaweed and other natural debris. They’re perfect for sunbathing or playing beach volleyball.
- Ocean Rescue and lifeguard patrols: Safety remains a priority here. With Ocean Rescue teams and lifeguards monitoring all beach activity, you can rest knowing you and your family are safe during an emergency.
- Dog-friendliness: Bring your furry friend along with you. All dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.
Nags Head hotels also provide a unique aspect to the area. Whether you want to experience the traditional history of Outer Banks or trade in your loyalty points, the area’s hotels allow you to do both. With modern, luxurious, and quaint family-owned hotels, you can choose the experience you get.
The area’s other lodging options include Airbnbs, vacation rentals, and other accommodations. See the beach from your room at one of the local beachfront hotels, consider a historic inn such as First Colony Inn, or stay at an oceanfront cottage.
The beauty of Nags Head lies in its balance between old and new. With decades-old restaurants and modern dishes, and historic cottages alongside luxurious hotels, Nags Head provides the perfect blend of yesteryear and today. Its pristine wildlife and tourist attractions show that humans and nature can interact peacefully.
Despite being popular, Nags Head’s location on the Outer Banks also serves as a central point for visitors looking to spend time elsewhere on the islands. Compared to other areas of the Outer Banks, Nags Head is busier and offers more lodging and things to do than towns like Corolla or Kill Devil Hills.
Nags Head History
Nags Head’s history begins in the 1830s as it became a popular tourist location soon after its inception. Merchants and other locals flocked to the Outer Banks area from mainland North Carolina. By 1838, hotels were appearing to accommodate the growing tourist crowd.
Many theories about how Nags Head, North Carolina, got its unusual name continue to swirl. The most famous legend is rather dark. Locals tied lanterns around their horses’ (nags) heads to lure incoming ships toward the dunes near Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Bobbing horses’ heads mimicked the appearance of docked ships. This encouraged sailors to approach without a second thought.
Whether Nags Head comes from a legend of land pirates or another story, the area bustles with history and things to do. The next thing to do is experience it yourself.
Today, Nags Head stands out as a modern-day beachfront resort town that still maintains its old charm. Those looking for a diverse small town centrally located to the Outer Banks’ other attractions will enjoy their visit to Nags Head. Whether you adventure alone or with family, Nags Head makes an ideal location to visit.