10 Reasons to Visit North Carolina’s Outer Banks This Fall

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The Outer Banks (known to all who have been there simply as “the OBX”) are a 320-kilometer long stretch of barrier islands along the North Carolina and Virginia coastlines.  The gorgeous islands — wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck, Albemarle and Pamlico sounds — are a summer hot spot for tourists around the world. Colorful umbrellas and blankets dot the beaches up and down the coast from the beginning of June through the end of August.

But when the summer crowds have vanished and kids have gone back to school, the warm weather and high ocean temperatures hang around in the Outer Banks. And the following are 10 reasons why the locals say it’s the best time to be there.

#1. Mild Fall Temperatures

Although early fall days can still be downright hot at times, the Outer Banks boast mild temperatures most times of the year. Warm fall weather typically continues all the way through November, and the cooler evenings are ideal for building a bonfire in the sand.

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#2. The Water’s Still Warm

The Atlantic Ocean stays in the low 20s all the way through September and lingers between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius through November, so you can still take a dip in the ocean or even swim around for a while depending on the time of fall you choose.

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#3. Cheaper Accommodations

Like most tourist towns, the nightly rates for motels, hotels and vacation rentals skyrocket in the busy summer months, but they drop drastically once the summer season has passed. In many areas, you can rent a home for your entire family for less than $600 a week.

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#4. Your Stay Can Be Flexible

The summertime regulations of Saturday-to-Saturday vacation rentals and minimum stays are much more lenient (or often forgotten about) in fall. Plan your stay for a weekend, three weeks or as long as you’d like, because homeowners and rental companies are far more flexible in the off-season.

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#5. Skip the Crowds

Searching for a spot underneath your favorite Outer Banks Pier or finding an uncrowded place to park your four-wheel-drive vehicle on the beach can be frustrating in the crowded summer season. But you can enjoy your own secluded piece of paradise in the fall, when crowds on and off the beach are minimal.

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#6. Forget About Reservations

Fresh caught seafood without a wait? You won’t have to stand in line or even call ahead to your favorite restaurants in the off season. The North Carolina Aquarium, area lighthouses, museums and nature reserves are also much more enjoyable to visit without the summer crowds.

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#7. Catch Some Waves

Travelers who intend on catching waves in the Outer Banks will be pleasantly surprised by the consistent fall surf. And the warm water temperatures mean you can surf with a thin wetsuit or often no wetsuit at all.

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#8. Reel in Your Dinner

Fall is also the best time to fish in the Outer Banks, and you can cast a line from the shore, a fishing pier or catch a charter boat out to sea. Make sure you head out to the water early to catch one of those unforgettable OBX sunrises over the Atlantic.

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#9. Do Some Discount Shopping

End-of-summer sales are abundant at Outer Banks souvenir shops, surf shops, outlet malls and other retail stores. Bring your wallet and find amazing deals on unique Outer Banks gifts and artwork or do your Christmas shopping at the Tanger Outlet Center in Nags Head.

Photo credit: Rocky A
Photo credit: Rocky A

#10. Affordable OBX Adventures

Prices for outdoor OBX activities likes rounds of golf, horseback riding, kiteboarding lessons, surf lessons and kayak rentals are discounted drastically in the fall, so you can enjoy all aspects of your vacation — from your accommodations to meals and activities — at a fraction of the cost you’d pay in summer.

Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue
Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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