Imagine sailing the open ocean, catching world-class Gulf Stream fish, wandering along seaside beaches, and paddling among water birds in calm, inland marshes - all in the same weekend. It's all possible in the Outer Banks. Few places offer such a variety of boating opportunities.
Formed by a chain of barrier islands and peninsulas along North Carolina's north coast, the Outer Banks create a unique marine environment. Miles of ocean beaches line the east side of the islands. To the west are inland estuaries and marshes protected from the surf. This East Coast boating destination is one well worth adding to your bucket list.
The Outer Banks
The Atlantic Ocean side of this 200-mile long string of islands is a playground for beachcombers, surfers, fishing enthusiasts, and adventurous swimmers who like to brave the rough water and currents of the sea.
You can find accommodations, restaurants, boat rentals, and fishing charters in the small towns on the islands. Bridges and ferries connect the islands with the mainland.
The Inner Banks
The Outer Banks island chain forms the eastern side of several large inland estuaries and lagoons that together make up the second largest estuary in the United States. Pamlico Sound is the largest lagoon on the East Coast. The brackish waters of Albemarle Sound are fed by several large regional rivers.
These shallow inshore sounds offer a peaceful marine experience quite different from the excitement of boating out on the open ocean. The warm waters are calm and excellent for boating, fishing, and swimming. You'll find many species of fish and birds here.
The Intracoastal Waterway
You can see more than just local boat traffic while traveling the inland sounds. Commercial barges and long-distance cruisers pass through this area from distant inshore ports.
The historic Intracoastal Waterway runs through the Albemarle-Pamlico sound system. This 3,000-mile inland waterway connects New Jersey with Texas via the tip of Florida. The system of estuaries, bays, rivers, and canals was developed in the late 1,700s as an inshore commercial shipping route. These days, mainly recreational boaters use the waterway, but you can still see working commercial barges passing through.
Boaters can stop along the way at the many restaurants and shops you'll find on the shore.
If you like to fish, you'll be thrilled with the fishing opportunities here in the Outer Banks. Offshore and inshore fishing delights visitors year round. You can fish from your own boat or take fishing charters led by local captains who know where the fish are.
If you're into deep-sea fishing and want to catch lots of fish, the Outer Banks is the place to go.
The deep Atlantic Ocean off the Outer Banks is home to many large ocean fish. The warm Gulf Stream current from Florida meets the cold Labrador Current here at Hatteras Island. The mixing currents provide nutrients for mahi mahi, yellow-fin tuna, wahoo, marlin, and sailfish.
Fleets of fishing charter boats await visitors all along the Outer Banks. You can take full-day charters out into the ocean to catch the big fish. If staying closer to shore is more your thing, take a half-day charter and catch bluefish, flounder, drum, spot, croaker, Spanish mackerel, pompano, and sea mullet. Plan on bringing a large ice chest to fill with your catch.
If you'd like to take a break from boating for a day, you can catch these same species while surf fishing from the beach or fishing off one of the seven public fishing piers on the ocean side of the islands.
For a quieter fishing experience away from the ocean surf, you can fish in the calmer waters of the inshore sounds. You can find half-day fishing charters here and numerous fishing piers. In addition to some ocean species, you can catch striped bass, sheepshead, and speckled trout.
Warm summer weather and the variety of activities available make the Outer Banks a water sports paradise. In summer, the air temperature is in the '80s and the water temperature is in the high '70s. That's perfect for most any water sport you can imagine.
Whether you bring your own boat, rent one, or take a charter, you'll find waters suitable for all experience levels and interests.
If you love the excitement of the ocean boating, spend your time on the Atlantic Ocean side. The waters here are best for sailors experienced in navigating ocean waves and currents. The inshore sounds offer a much more relaxed boating experience and can be enjoyed by all boaters, novice and experienced.
You'll find parasailing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, kayaking, and paddleboarding in many places in the Outer Banks. You can also enjoy pontoon boating, dolphin watching tours, crab and shrimp charters, and sunset boat tours.
Whatever your favorite type of boating, you'll find what you're looking for in the Outer Banks. Few places offer the variety of boating adventures you'll find here. Why not check the Outer Banks off your bucket list this summer?