Aerial view of Jockey's Ridge Dune State Park

17+ Great Things to Do in Nags Head NC

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Planning a beach vacation for this summer? You may consider hopping down to the Outer Banks to give Nags Head a go! This beautiful beach town is one of the many on the Outer Banks and has risen in popularity over the years, making it one of the most visited towns in the Outer Banks area. 

Nags Head became known in the 1830s as one of North Carolina’s first tourist destinations and quickly became a summer attraction for people all over the world. Nags Head is home to the largest sand dune system on the East Coast, and that alone brings thousands of visitors each year. 

Besides the lush beaches and the tall dunes, Nags Head has many other wonderful attributes that make it the perfect place for a getaway. From dolphin cruises to adventure parks, shopping malls, and divine seafood restaurants, Nags Head is one of a kind and truly remarkable. Now let’s dive into the things to do in Nags Head.

Things to do in Nags Head NC

We created this thorough Nags Head guide for you and all those who are curious about learning more about Nags Head and everything it has to offer. We hope this helps you plan your next trip to the Outer Banks (OBX)! 

1. Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Address: 300 W Carolista Dr, Nags Head, NC 27959

Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the number one most visited state park in North Carolina and for a good reason! This 427-acre park contains the tallest active sand dune system on the East Coast and is the premier hang gliding spot in the Outer Banks.

Jockey's Ridge Dune State Park

Visitors can explore the mile of hiking trails, walk along the dunes, enjoy the kayak or boat launches, have a picnic, or try hang gliding, sandboarding, and kite surfing. 

Aerial view of Jockey's Ridge Dune State Park

2. Bodie Island Lighthouse

Address: 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd, Nags Head, NC 27959

Bodie Lighthouse is a 156-foot-tall lighthouse built in 1872. The unique black and white lighthouse can be easily accessed by car during the summer months. Tours run daily of the lighthouse, and visitors can walk the 214 steps to the top. Guests can even participate in the full moon climbs to the top of the lighthouse in June, July, August, and September. 

The Bodie Lighthouse is not only a fun experience but an interesting place to learn about as well. This historical lighthouse is one of the few brick tower lighthouses that remain in operation in the country. After your tour, there is a small gift shop with souvenirs. 

Bodie Lighthouse lit up

3. Jennette’s Pier / Fishing

Address: 7223 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Jennette’s Pier is notably the longest (and the oldest) pier in the Outer Banks, reaching out 1000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

Anyone is welcome to walk out onto the pier and enjoy sightseeing, panoramic ocean views, and excellent sunsets. Jennette’s Pier is arguably the best spot for fishing in the area and is open to the public (with a permit.) 

After recent renovations, the pier has also opened a fully educational area with historical plaques, maps, fish ID signs, a weather station, and more. 

Jennette's Pier

4. Whalebone Park

Address: 7300 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

This nautical-themed park is the perfect place to bring the kids for the afternoon.

Whalebone Park Sign

Whalebone Park is 16.5 acres and has a very exciting beachy-themed playground and shaded picnic area. The park also has bocce and volleyball courts and lots of areas to walk around. 

Whalebone Park

5. First Flight Adventure Park

Address: 6716 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

First Flight Adventure Park is the ultimate adventure park and obstacle course in the Outer Banks. This thrilling park offers 14 zip-line courses, 50 obstacle courses, and night climbing! This will be a unique adventure that the whole family can enjoy.

Things to do in Nags Head include Adventure Park

6. Dowdy Park/Farmers Market

Address: 3005 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

Dowdy Park is a popular family-friendly park in South Nags Head. The 5-acre park offers an exciting playground, exercise trail, sports courts, and fitness center. Popular summer events take place at Dowdy Park, such as the weekly farmers market every Thursday from 9 am to 1 pm, free yoga, and community movie nights. 

7. Go Shopping at Nags Head Outlet 

Address: 7100 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

Nags Head Outlet is a small outdoor mall featuring all your favorite brand names and designer stores at a lower price. If you forgot some important clothing for the trip, a quick stop at Nags Head Outlet will fix everything! 

Nags Head Outlets

8. More Shopping in Nags Head

Outlet stores aren’t the only good shopping in Nags Head. Let’s take a look at some of the best retail stores in the area. 

🛍️ Outer Banks Mall

Address: 5000 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

The Outer Banks Mall has everything from retail stores to popular restaurants (including a Ducks Donuts shop) grocery stores, and more. 

Outer Banks Mall

🛍️ TW’s Bait & Tackle

Address: 2230 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

TW’s Bait and Tackle is the number one outdoor gear and tackle shop in Nags Head. Visitors can purchase athletic, hunting, boating, hunting, and fishing gear along with accessories, tools, and knives. There are also a number of great gifts and souvenirs, and if you are in need of a fishing permit, TW’s is the place to go.  

🛍️ Farmers Daughter Nags Head

Address: 6803 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

Many might know Farmers Daughter as Coastal Lifestyle Outfitters; either way, this exciting retail store has been serving the Outer Banks since 1984. They have a wide selection of men’s, women, and children’s apparel, as well as accessories, gifts, and souvenirs. 

Farmer's Daughter

🛍️ Cavalier Surf Shop

Address: 4324 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Cavalier Surf Shop is a beloved shop and the best surfing resource around Nags Head. The little yellow shop has brand-name wet suits, bathing suits, clothing, and other beach accessories. They also offer wet suit and board rentals. Everyone that works at Cavalier Surf Shop is very knowledgeable and can give you all the info on surfing in the area. 

🛍️ The Cotton Gin

Address: 5151 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

The Cotton Gin is a must-do on any trip to Nags Head. The store is a hip, coastal gift shop with home decor, accessories, gifts, jewelry, and more.  

Cotton Gin

🛍️ Gulf Stream Gifts

Address: 2512 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Recently remodeled and with tons of new items, Gulf Stream Gifts is one of the best places in Nags Head to grab beach knick-knacks, unique gifts, and souvenirs. 

🛍️ The Salty Seahorse 

Address: 7100 S Croatan Hwy Suite 155, Nags Head, NC 27959

The Salty Seahorse is a lovely beach-themed gift shop with two locations in Nags Head. They sell several artisan soaps, bath bombs, handcrafted seaside gifts, jewelry, and more. 

9. Explore Nags Head Beaches

Of course, your summer vacation to Nags Head must consist of many relaxing days spent on the beach. Now is your time to pull up a comfortable beach chair, bring out the beach blankets, umbrellas, and bathing suits, and simply enjoy the sand and salty air. It’s a must for your things to do in Nags Head.

The beaches in Nags Head are dog friendly all year long as long as they remain on a leash. Alcohol is allowed as long as you are drinking from a can (glass is strictly prohibited,) and if you want to have a summer night beach bonfire, go right ahead! 

Bird on the beach in Nags Head NC

42 Public Beach Access Points

⛱️ Albatross St. – Parking, lifeguard
⛱️ Gallery Row- No parking, walk-in only
⛱️ Abalone St. – Parking, lifeguard, bathrooms, showers
⛱️ Admiral St. – Parking only
⛱️ Baltic St. – Parking, lifeguard, handicap accessible, bathrooms, showers
⛱️ Barnes St. – Parking, showers, bathrooms
⛱️ Blackman St. – Parking, handicap accessible, bathrooms, showers
⛱️ Bonnett St. – Parking, lifeguard, handicap accessible, showers, bathhouse
⛱️ Bittern St. – Parking, showers
⛱️ Bladen St. – Parking, showers, bathrooms
⛱️ Bainbridge St. – Parking, walkway
⛱️ Curlew St. – Parking, handicap accessible, showers, bathrooms
⛱️ Hollowell St. – Parking, lifeguard, showers, walkway
⛱️ Conch St. – Parking, handicap accessible, walkway
⛱️ Enterprise St. – Parking, lifeguard, handicap accessible, walkway, showers, bathrooms
⛱️ Loggerhead St. – Parking, walkway, showers
⛱️ Town Hall- Parking, handicap accessible, walkway, bathrooms
⛱️ Epstein St. – Parking, lifeguard, walkways, showers, bathhouse 
⛱️ Forrest St. – Parking, handicap accessible, lifeguard, walkway, showers, bathrooms
⛱️ Grouse St. – No parking, walk-in only
⛱️ Glidden St. – Parking, handicap accessible, walkway, showers
⛱️ Gull St. – Parking, handicap accessible 
⛱️ Gray Eagle St. – Parking, lifeguard, walkway, showers
⛱️ Jennette’s Pier- Fishing pier, parking, and sand access, handicap accessible, showers, bathhouse
⛱️ Gulfstream St. – Parking, handicap accessible, walkway, showers
⛱️ Governor St. – Parking, bathrooms
⛱️ Huron St. – Parking, lifeguard, walkways, bathrooms
⛱️ Holden St. – Parking, handicap accessible, walkway 
⛱️ Hargrove St. – Parking, lifeguard, handicap accessible, walkway, showers, bathhouse 
⛱️ Ida St. – Parking, lifeguard
⛱️ Isabella St. – Parking only
⛱️ OB Pier. – Fishing pier, parking, and sand access, tackle shop, boat rentals, restaurants, handicap-accessible 
⛱️ Islington St. – No parking, walk-in only
⛱️ Indigo St. – Parking, handicap accessible, lifeguard, walkway, showers, bathrooms
⛱️ Jay St. – No parking, walk-in only
⛱️ June St. – Parking, handicap accessible, walkway, showers, bathrooms
⛱️ James St. – No parking, walk-in only
⛱️ Jacobs St. – No parking, walk-in only
⛱️ Juncos St. – Parking, handicap accessible, lifeguard, walkway, showers, bathrooms
⛱️ Surfside St. – No parking, walk-in only
⛱️ Limulus Dr. – Parking, lifeguard
⛱️ Coquina St. – Parking, lifeguard, handicap accessible, walkway, showers, bathhouse

Coqunia Beach Bath House

10. Outer Banks Fishing Pier

Address: 8901 S Old Oregon Inlet Rd, Nags Head, NC 27959

The Outer Banks Fishing Pier spans 600 feet into the ocean and has been serving as a premier fishing spot for over 50 years. It is a great location for sightseeing, and the popular restaurant, Fish Heads Bar and Grill, is located on the pier.

11. Harvey Soundside Park

Address: 6912 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

Harvey Soundside Park is located near Jennette’s Pier and is a great place for an afternoon stroll or picnic. This area is usually quiet and a nice place to sit and enjoy looking at the water. 

12. Full Throttle Speedway

Address: 6504 Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

Full Throttle Speedway is the ultimate go-kart racing track in the Outer Banks. At Full Throttle, they have two tracks, so up to 20 gas-powered Indy-style go-karts can race at the same time!

There is even a Super Sea Track for junior racers to have their turn. The whole family will have a blast and, afterward, can stop by the concession stand for ice cream, cotton candy, and more. 

Full Throttle Speedway Sign

13. Nags Head Golf Links

Address: 5615 S Seachase Dr, Nags Head, NC 27959

Nags Head Golf Links is a beautiful 18-hole golf course by the sea. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a true Scottish links-style championship course amongst the dunes. 

14. Nags Head Dolphin Watch

Address: 7517 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

What’s a beach trip without an exciting dolphin watch? Nags Head Dolphin Watch is the premier dolphin boat tour and a great way to get out on the water.

The tours take place on a 40-foot pontoon boat that goes out on the Roanoke Sound to see the beautiful local dolphins. The tours usually take about two hours, and along the way, researchers talk about the area, give small history lessons, and teach guests more about the dolphins. 

15. Seaside Art Gallery

Address: 2716 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

The Seaside Art Gallery opened in 1961, the same year that Nags Head was officially incorporated as a town. The gallery has works representing the finest North Carolina artists, including painters, sculptors, potters, and more. 

Seaside Art Gallery

16. Play Volleyball at Tortugas Lie 

Address: 3016 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Tortugas Lie is a fun restaurant in Nags Head (more information in Drink and Restaurants section below.) Besides being an amazing restaurant, Tortugas Lie has been the spot for beach volleyball in the Outer Banks.

They have professional nets, and a turfed area for guests, and on most nights in the summer, visitors can find (and join) a competitive-level game of volleyball. 

Tortuga Lie

17. Booty Treats Ice Cream & Shave Ice

Address: 2600 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Booty Treats is something you don’t want to miss out on. They offer authentic Hawaiian-shaved ice, a unique blend of shaved ice and ice cream (something you won’t find anywhere else,) and mouthwatering ice cream bars, homemade cookie sandwiches, sundaes, and so many more tasty summer treats. 

Booty Treats Ice Cream and Shaved Ice

Drinks and Restaurants in Nags Head, NC

We certainly can’t fit all of the amazing restaurants in Nags Head into one article, but here are just some of our favorites. Here are some great options after exploring all things to do in Nags Head.

✅ Owen’s Restaurant

Address: 7114 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Owen’s Restaurant is a seafood culinary delight with fresh, locally caught seafood served each night. The eatery, dating back to 1946, is a local favorite to enjoy a very nice meal. Owen’s Restaurant also features the Station Keepers Lounge, a classy, low-key, full-service bar with handcrafted cocktails and live music. 

✅ Tale of the Whale

Address: 7575 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Tale of the Whale is an upscale eatery that has been family-owned and operated for over 44 years. They serve a variety of fresh, locally caught seafood plates, along with choice steaks, salads, pastas, and more. Guests can dine on their delicious meals while overlooking Roanoke Sound. Tale of the Whale Lounge also has live music all year long. 

✅ Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant

Address: 6916 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant is a classic seafood grill and bar with a nice variety of quality food and a beautiful view of the sound. The location is unbeatable, and the menu is simply perfect. Stop in and try their surf and turf or one-of-a-kind tuna nachos. 

Millers Waterfront

✅ The Dunes Restaurant

Address: 7013 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

For over 40 seasons, The Dunes has been serving the Outer Banks’ specialty Southern classics, breakfast spectaculars, seafood dishes, and more. This family-friendly restaurant is the perfect casual dining option and another fantastic breakfast option in Nags Head.  

Dunes Restaurant

✅ Fish Heads Bar & Grill

Address: 8901 S Old Oregon Inlet Rd, Nags Head, NC 27959

Fish Heads is one of the most popular bars & restaurants in all of the Outer Banks, let alone Nags Head! They are the self-proclaimed best tiki bar in the Outer Banks and the best place for late-night community and music in Nags Head. Fish Heads can be found on the Outer Banks Fishing Pier, giving it a prime location, and has everything you might need for a casual lunch or delicious dinner.

Fishheads Bar & Grill Sign

✅ Waveriders Coffee & Deli 

Address: 3022 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

Waveriders Coffee and & Deli is a fun, nautical-themed cafe right across the street from Dowdy Park. They have a large selection of all your favorite coffee drinks, smoothies, breakfast foods, and wine, beer, and lunch options. 

Inside Waveriders Coffee

✅ Blue Moon Beach Grill

Address: 102 E Dove St, Nags Head, NC 27959

This beachy-themed grill and restaurant is the perfect place to bring the family and get in the beach vacation mood! The spacious restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating serves the best Southern comfort food with its own flare at an affordable price. They have lots of options, a great kids’ menu, and a full bar. 

Inside Bar area of the Blue Moon Beach Grill

✅ Sam & Omie’s 

Address: 7228 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Sam & Omie’s has an Outer Banks history that dates back to the 1930s and is a MUST do while you are in the area. This early morning breakfast spot is the perfect little local fisherman hideaway serving the most classic Southern breakfast and great lunch and dinner meals. 

Sam & Omie's Restaurant

✅ Tortugas Lie 

Address: 3016 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Tortugas Lie is a humble little beachy restaurant with meals that will not only surprise you but keep you coming back. The laid-back, family-style restaurant serves great home-cooked seafood dishes, handcrafted margaritas, burgers, burritos, apps, and much more. 

✅ Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe

Address: 7623 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

Basnights is a large, comfortable restaurant that specializes in fresh, locally caught seafood. This family-friendly establishment serves all farm-to-table dishes in an upscale, affordable way. If you are craving some delicious Outer Banks seafood, you can’t go wrong at Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe. 

Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe

✅ Morning View Coffee House

Address: 2707 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

Morning View Coffee House is an upbeat, colorful coffee house owned and operated by a team of all women. They are constantly roasting their own fresh coffee throughout the day, and they serve delicious breakfast items, pastries, bagels, and more. Make sure to grab a bag of locally roasted beans on your way out! 

Morning View Coffee

Things to do near Nags Head, NC

Looking to get out of Nags Head for the day to explore someplace new? Here are some exciting places to visit nearby!

✅ North Carolina Aquarium

Address: 374 Airport Rd, Manteo, NC 27954

The North Carolina Aquarium is a beautiful 16-acre facility overlooking the Croatan Sound. Inside the aquarium are over 2,200 animals, including sharks, sea turtles, jellyfish, stingrays, otters, alligators, and lots more. Visitors are welcome to explore the aquarium at their own pace or join in a special indoor/outdoor program for special behind-the-scenes action! 

✅ Roanoke Island

Roanoke Island is a famous island and town with lots of fascinating history and other interesting attractions. You may have heard of the “Lost Colony,” the first English Colony that vanished without a trace on Roanoke Island.

Visitors can go to the spot where the colony was never found again, learn about the history, see artifacts, and more. Roanoke Island also has lots of lovely hiking, parks, maritime forests, lighthouses, and more. A trip to Roanoke Island is the perfect day trip from Nags Head. 

Roanoke Island Marshes Lighthouse

Annual Events in Nags Head NC 

✅ OBX Brewtag (October 28, 2023)

Address: 6800 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

This year, the seventh annual Brewtag Festival will take place at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head. It is a celebration of flight and beer, and the main event will be brewing contestants competing to see who can launch a ⅙ keg barrel the furthest. There will also be live music, food trucks, awards, and more games.

✅ Nags Head Firework Spectacular (July 4, 2023)

Address: 3335 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

The Nags Head Fourth of July firework show is always one of the biggest and best in the Outer Banks. The breathtaking firework show will begin at 9:25 pm from the Pier House Restaurant. However, as the pier fills with people, one of the best spots to watch the fireworks is from the top of the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. 

✅ ESA Eastern Surfing Championship (September 17-23, 2023) 

Address: Jennette’s Pier

The ESA is the largest amateur surfing association in the world and has been holding competitions for 55 years. The association currently holds activities all down the Eastern Coast from Maine to Florida, Alabama, and the Great Lakes.

This year, the Easterns will take in Nags Head and will be hosting amateur surfers as they compete for a spot in the World Surf League. It will be quite the event to witness, and visitors can watch the action from the beaches and from Jennette’s Pier. 

✅ Hang Gliding Spectacular (May 18 – May 21, 2023)

Address: Jockey’s Ridge State Park

For 51 years, professional hang gliders have been gathering in Nags Head to compete, put on hang gliding shows, showcase retro gliders, and more. This is the longest-running hang-gliding show in the world; last year brought more people together than ever before! This is a free event, and families can come down and watch the spectacular hang gliders fly around. 

​​Where To Stay in Nags Head, NC

📍Nags Head Beach Inn– Nags Head Beach Inn is an inexpensive, hassle-free way to spend your vacation. The fully decorated and comfortable rooms will be the perfect fit for your vacation needs, and the hotel is just minutes from things like Nags Head Town Park, Dowdy Park, beach access, and more. 

📍Comfort Inn South Oceanfront – This Comfort Inn is a great option if you want beachfront access, so guests can simply grab their continental hot breakfast and stroll right onto the beach. The rooms are clean and spacious, and other amenities include an outdoor pool, fitness center, and pet-friendly rooms. 

📍First Colony Inn– The First Colony Inn is a popular and delightful hotel with private beach access, a full bar, breakfast, and complimentary wine, cheese, and desserts. The rustic-style rooms are perfect for a couples’ beach getaway or a family trip to Nags Head. Guests will also enjoy the outdoor swimming pool, extraordinary room service, and overall location.

📍Beach Vacation Home– This charming beach vacation house will have you feeling right at home in Nags Head. The house has three bedrooms, sleeps up to eight, has four bathrooms, and is fully equipped with a full kitchen, full house decor, and comfortable rooms. The home is just minutes away from the beach, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, has a hot tub, and is pet-friendly. 

Nags Head NC: FAQs

📌 What is Nags Head, NC, known for?

Nags Head is known for having the largest sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and for being one of the leading vacation towns in the Outer Banks.  

📌 Does Nags Head have good beaches?

Nags Head has some of the best and most popular beaches in the Outer Banks. This is due to the beautiful sand dunes and immaculate shoreline. 

📌 Is the Outer Banks and Nags Head the same place?

Nags Head is a town located within the Outer Banks, a string of barrier islands and peninsulas separating the ocean from the mainland of North Carolina.  

📌 Does Nags Head have a boardwalk?

Nags Head does not have a boardwalk, but it does have the longest pier (Jennette’s Pier) in the Outer Banks. Popular boardwalks in the Outer Banks are in Duck and Manteo. 

📌 Does Nags Head have nightlife?

Nags Head isn’t particularly known for having a nightlife scene. Fish Heads Bar and Grill is about the only place in town that is open late at night with live music. 

📌 Does Nags Head get crowded?

Compared to other areas in the Outer Banks, Nags Head does see a lot of traffic along with Kitty Hawk and Duck. However, this doesn’t mean that Nags Head isn’t still a relaxing place to enjoy with family.  If you want a quieter location, head to Corolla or Hatteras area.

📌 Can you drink beer on the beaches of Nags Head?

As long as you are drinking beer from a can, it is allowed on the beaches of Nags Head. Glass containers are strictly prohibited. 

📌 What months are hurricane season in the Outer Banks?

Hurricane season is from June 1st through November. 

Final Thoughts

We hope after reading this article, you’ve definitely made up your mind about a trip to Nags Head! Whether you are looking for a family vacation, a romantic weekend getaway, or even just a solo beach trip, Nags Head will not disappoint. Be sure to break out your favorite swimwear, grab that book you’ve been putting off, a waterproof camera, and just enjoy that much-needed trip to the coast. 

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