The North Carolina Outer Banks is dear to us since it’s where we met and married, where we built a home, and where we started our romance novel publishing business. We even renewed our wedding vows oceanfront.

Romantics at heart, we believe in promoting love. There’s no better place to embrace your amorous side than along the windswept, barrier islands of the Outer Banks, where romantic spots are plentiful.

N.C. 12 is considered the gateway to the Outer Banks

N.C. 12 is considered the gateway to the Outer Banks

Fill your days exploring beaches where you not only may swim but also enjoy the wildlife (think dolphins playing in the surf and pelicans flying overhead), visiting the lighthouses dotting the landscape, and ferrying to an island. And those are just the start of a perfect couple’s getaway.

Visit five scenic lighthouses at North Carolina Outer Banks

Young couple in front of one of the lighthouses at North Carolina Outer Banks

Young couple in front of one of the lighthouses

There are five lighthouses in all to visit. Traveling from Currituck Beach Lighthouse to Ocracoke Island Lighthouse takes about three-and-a-half hours, including a one-hour ferry ride from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island that must be timed with the ferry schedule. 

That said, if you want to attempt to see all five lighthouses during your Outer Banks vacation for two, consider Currituck Beach Lighthouse in the northern part, Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on Roanoke Island in the town of Manteo, and Bodie Island Lighthouse on one day. Save Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Ocracoke Island Lighthouse for the following day — or vice versa.

Cape Hattaras Lighthouse at North Carolina Outer Banks

Cape Hattaras Lighthouse at North Carolina Outer Banks

Nature’s bounty: Sandy beaches and more

Plenty of water activities at the North Carolina Outer Banks

Plenty of water activities at the North Carolina Outer Banks

Outdoor activities related to the area’s 100-plus miles of beaches are abundant. These include tours to see the wild horses at Corolla or hang-gliding above the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern United States.

The abundance of nature here makes social distancing still easy at spots such as Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods Preserve and Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, not to mention those seemingly endless miles of beaches.

If riding horses on the sand with the wind blowing through your hair is on your dream list, you can check that off here.

Corolla’s wild mustangs descended from a 16th-century Spanish herd (credit: Currituck Outer Banks Tourism)

Corolla’s wild mustangs descended from a 16th-century Spanish herd (credit: Currituck Outer Banks Tourism)

The many choices for kayaking a deux include a maritime forest excursion in Kitty Hawk and paddling the Alligator River in a national wildlife refuge. For getting away from it all, pack a picnic to enjoy on the shores of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore after you climb that lighthouse, and yes, there’s a kayak tour offered at Hatteras, too.

Sunset at Jockey's Ridge State Park

Sunset at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Other ideas for getting you both out on the water are dolphin- and whale-watching tours, privately chartered sailboats to cruise the waters of the sound and deep-sea fishing from either Pirate’s Cove on the causeway between Nags Head and Manteo or from the well-known Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.

Back on terra firma, you may opt for a tour and local rum tasting in Manteo at the popular Outer Banks Distilling. Or take an unusual wine tour by boat that starts from Duck and ends at Sanctuary Vineyard.

For history lovers, The Lost Colony outdoor drama on Roanoke Island (see note below) tells the dramatic story of the ill-fated first English settlement in North America. The colonists’ disappearance remains a mystery.

For national park enthusiasts like us, the Wright Brothers National Memorial commemorates the first flight exactly where it occurred.

You, too, may take to the air aboard a vintage biplane or Cessna for unforgettable views of the Outer Banks. For the adrenaline junkie, there’s skydiving.

When you’re ready to kick back over a meal to discuss your day or your next stops, plentiful fresh local seafood and fresh produce stands are easily accessible. 

A must is watching the sunrise over the ocean and witnessing spectacular sunsets on the soundside.

Romantic accommodations at North Carolina Outer Banks

Romantic Inn on Pamlico Sound at North Carolina Outer Banksi

Romantic Inn on Pamlico Sound

Here are a few choice spots for your OBX couples’ escape ranging from rustic to boutique:

  • “Nights in Rodanthe” House (The Inn at Rodanthe) is a must for fans of novelist Nicholas Sparks’ movie of the same name (2008) that was filmed here. It is available as a whole-home rental;
  • Roanoke Island Inn, also with free bikes, is located on a cozy street in downtown Manteo. The inn’s second-floor porch overlooks the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, and local shops are just steps away;
  • Sanderling Resort for its fabulous ocean-to-sound location in Duck, its Lifesaving Station restaurant and its spa;
  • Tranquil House Inn, styled after local inns of the 19th century, sits on Manteo’s waterfront and features stained glass, notable cuisine, plus afternoon wine-and-cheese;
  • See Sea Motel for a budget-friendly retro spot in the middle of Kill Devil Hill on the main drag just steps to the Atlantic.

Because it lures both romantics and families, it’s not surprising that during summer 2021, the Outer Banks of North Carolina experienced a rebound for its tourism-dependent economy, which is great news after the COVID-19 challenges of 2020.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • The North Carolina Outer Banks offer beaches, history, a national park, and nature in abundance
  • This is a place where visitors can enjoy nearly every water activity you can imagine, all tinged with romance
  • It holds unique appeals for couples, families and girlfriends.

Take note

  • Summer is the high season at the North Carolina Outer Banks, which makes it more crowded; autumn still offers good weather, fewer crowds and considerable savings on hotel and cottage stays. 
  • In winter, some restaurants and attractions are closed.
  • Due to COVID-19, some restaurants at the Outer Banks (like elsewhere) are still struggling with staffing needs.
  • The Lost Colony canceled the remainder of performances this season after a cast member tested positive for COVID-19.

Disclosure: The authors’ visit was sponsored by the Outer Banks Tourism office.

All photo credits: Outer Banks Visitors Bureau (unless otherwise noted)


Read more about the authors’ love for the Romantic Outer Banks

Romancing the OBX: Ideas for Memory-Making


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