Duck, North Carolina, is in Dare County in the northern part of the Outer Banks. It is nationally recognized as one of the “Top 15 Family-Friendly Beaches in America.” It got its name for the abundant waterfowl found in the area marshes and maritime forests. Duck’s beautiful beaches are wide, stretching 7 miles along the Atlantic Ocean. The charming town is a favorite destination because the Currituck Sound also borders the west side. The shallow water there offers many ways to play during the day and stunning sunsets at night.
The Duck boardwalk extends for over a mile on the Sound. The raised wooden walkway is a favorite for joggers to exercise and connects walkers to the eclectic shops and restaurants. Everyone enjoys the crabbing docks and kayak launches that offer easy entry into the Sound. The beach is peaceful, and there’s the activity of a walkable downtown — plenty for every age group to do. Duck Donuts was created here in 2006, and the flagship store is still on the unique boardwalk.
Here are some fantastic things to experience while in Duck, in any order you might choose to enjoy them. You can commute to Duck from the east coast in your own car or fly into Norfolk International Airport, rent a car, and drive 82 miles south to the town center. Accommodations range from rental homes to The Sanderling Resort located right on the beach. September and October are terrific times to visit Duck. The water is still warm, and the crowds are gone.
I was a guest of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau in Duck, but all opinions are my own.
1. Learn About The Wrights’ First Flight
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is a fascinating indoor /outdoor historic site run by the National Park Service. It’s the location where both Wilbur and Orville Wright took off and landed to achieve flight for the first time (and then a few more attempts), making history on December 17, 1903. There is so much to explore there. Park Rangers expertly guide tours, and self-guided exhibits inside give more detailed information, including a replica of the glider. The site is large, so your ticket is reusable for an entire week. Located in Kill Devil Hills, this is the first stop on your way to Duck.
2. Stand Up Paddle Board On Currituck Sound
Stand Up Paddle Boarding or SUP is a fast-growing sport that is an excellent form of exercise. It’s easy to learn and was a precursor to surfing. In fact, the board is much like an oversized surfboard with a paddle. You can paddle board on either the Sound, which offers calm water or the challenging ocean, with waves. Either way, you can rent everything you need from Kitty Hawk Kites that supply rentals or rentals plus lessons at their three locations. I tried it at the Sanderling Resort, and it was so much fun. The water was clear, and I could see fish swimming below me.
Pro Tip: Wear sunscreen, a hat, swimsuit, and a light shirt to prevent sunburn.
3. Kayak In A Maritime Forest
Kitty Hawk Maritime Forest Tour is a peaceful way to explore the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Preserve. Paddle with a small group as you learn about the maritime forest, the different biomes, and enjoy the Live Oaks and Red Maples that shade a portion of the paddle. Every skill level is welcome for this leisurely excursion in calm water. The guide will share the area’s history and discuss the diverse birds you might observe as you glide along. The tour will take two hours to travel back and forth to the dock at Kitty Hawk Kayaks.
Pro Tips: Hats, sunglasses, shorts, and tee-shirts or bathing suits topped with a light shirt that offers sun coverage are recommended for sunny warm days. Water bottles are also a good idea. Cameras and other loose items that cannot be secured should be placed in a waterproof bag if you have one (Ziplocs bags are perfect). There’s always the danger of losing valuables if the kayak tips over. Leave items you cannot secure in your car to be sure they will remain safe and dry.
4. Sip Award-Winning Wines At Sanctuary Vineyards
Sanctuary Vineyards is part of the Wright family farm. They have owned the land in Currituck County as a farm first and later as a vineyard for seven generations. Ten acres of grapes produce world-class, award-winning wines such as syrah, tempranillo, viognier, Norton, and muscadine. Muscadine originally grew on the property. They craft 7,000 cases seasonally. You can visit the winery by driving to the vineyard or enjoy the Sanctuary Vineyard Voyage. This boat tour leaves from the dock at the Duck boardwalk. It includes a boat ride across the Sound, an overland tour in a safari truck, a vineyard and winery tour, and a tasting. You’ll learn about the grape to glass process and meet the winemakers. It’s an exciting tour that’s perfect for couples or groups of friends.
5. Shop Along The Duck Boardwalk
The Waterfront Shops In Duck have over 27 different stores, restaurants, eateries, and galleries. It’s unique because you can still enjoy nature as you meander in and out of the stores. After all, it winds around the Sound. There are ice cream and candy shops, a yoga studio, clothing for the entire family, and places to eat. The boardwalk connects to the town boardwalk, allowing walkers and joggers space to exercise in nature, kayakers and SUPs to launch, and crabbing off designated docks. This is a showplace of the town which allows for the retail but overall experience of the area. It’s also a dock where plenty of activities like Parasailing and Jet skis are rented, and the Sanctuary Vineyard tour boat is located. It’s a lovely shopping experience.
6. Catch A Crab Off The Dock
Bob’s Bait and Tackle is your one-stop-shop for crabbing or fishing supplies. Bob’s rents tackle for crabbing, fishing, and also sells bait so you can crab or fish off designated spots on the boardwalk or beach. You can also hire a fishing charter for half or full-day offshore fishing trips. Boasting the best prices in the Outer Banks, you can purchase your own gear, hats, shirts, or any other fishing needs inside the oldest standing building in Duck.
7. Hang Ten At The Sanderling Resort
Have you ever wanted to learn how to surf? If you have, you can book either a small group or individual lesson on the beautiful beaches in front of the Sanderling Resort. Duck is the perfect place to learn how to surf, as the waves are active but not so huge that beginners would be overwhelmed. The lessons begin with stretches, classes on the beach, and then an hour in the water. Everything you need is provided but the sunscreen.
8. Sip A Sunset Cocktail Before Dinner
The restaurant scene is fantastic in Duck and showcases local seafood caught fresh from the Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. There are casual and upscale dining choices on both sides. If you want to sip cocktails while the sun sets, make a reservation at a Soundside restaurant (west) for dinner. In season, reservations are required. Your seating time might be later than sunset, so enjoy a cocktail while you wait. If you want to just have a drink, several restaurants have outdoor outposts where you can order refreshments and enjoy the views. Aqua Restaurant has Adirondack chairs, live music, and games while you wait to be seated. You can watch the glorious orange ball dip into the water right from the lawn. The Blue Point has a back bar on the Sound, and the Sunset Grille has a Tiki Bar with a long dock behind its restaurant; no reservations are required. Here’s more on the fabulous restaurants of Duck.
9. Collect Shells On Duck Beach At Sunrise
Duck regularly appears on national “Best Beaches” lists and is a well-known shell collecting mecca. Not only is sunrise on Duck magical, but it’s also the perfect time to go shelling. Low tide and an empty beach are the best times to find whelks, calico scallops, sea stars, and pieces of colorful sea glass. The ocean shifts the shell beds all night, and the morning presents a new opportunity to gather perfect specimens. Rise before the sun and bring a bag to hold your unique finds. You’ll also get some exercise and a beautiful welcome to the start of your vacation.
10. Fly A Kite Or Glider At Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Jockey’s Ridge is in Nags Head, and it’s a 25-minute ride from Duck. It’s a must-visit when in the Outer Banks because it’s the tallest natural existing sand dune on the Atlantic coast. At this free park, you can learn how to fly a stunt kite, how to hang glide, photograph the dune, or experience one of the most stunning sunsets in the Outer Banks. From the height of the dune, you can see from the ocean to Roanoke Sound. Visitors with mobility issues can request a ride (check the website). On the Soundside, you can sunbathe, paddle, and walk along a nature trail.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks is a mecca for vacationers looking for that unique destination that offers everything from watersports to historic attractions: