20 Things To Do In Duck, NC

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In North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the small town of Duck is a low-key coastal dream destination that turns into one of the busiest places in the Outer Banks when Tar Heels from across the state descent onto its shores to escape North Carolina’s warm summer months. Surrounded by miles upon miles of pristine white sandy beaches, large summer homes and shops, Duck treats visitors to food, fishing and wildlife-watching adventures, with a healthy dose of history and culture. Named after the region’s duck hunting roots, the town of Duck is just a stone’s throw away from where the Wright Brothers first took flight and where the first English colony was established on North American soil, making this popular East Coast vacation destination an Outer Banks favourite that’s got a lot more going for it than first meets the eye.

Duck, North Carolina

orange beach chairs and umbrellas on a beach in duck north carolina
Looking for things to do in Duck, NC?

20 Things To Do In Duck

1- See Where History Was Made At The Wright Brothers National Memorial

Situated just 11 miles (26 km) south of downtown Duck in nearby Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is the ultimate tribute to brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, who in 1903 became the first people to successfully take to the skies in a manned aircraft.

The entire memorial encompasses an area of more than 428 acres (173 ha) and was established in 1927 as the Kill Devil Hill Monument before being renamed in 1953 and awarded National Historic Landmark status in 2001.

Boasting the intact airfield and hangar used by the Wright Brothers to achieve their immortal feat, the landmark’s most striking attraction is its 60-foot-tall (18 m) granite memorial, which commemorates the brothers’ achievement and sits perched atop a 90-foot-tall (27 m) hill near the on-site visitor’s centre.

2- Stroll Along The Duck Town Park Boardwalk

One of Duck’s most popular outdoor attractions is the Duck Town Park Boardwalk, which treats visitors to stunning coastal and waterfront views along an easy-to-hike boardwalk.

The boardwalk connects the 11-acre (4.4 ha) Duck Town Park with downtown Duck’s top restaurants and shops, passing by a variety of scenery which includes swampland, the Currituck Sound’s shallow waters and wide open lawns dotted with everything from an amphitheatre to public picnic areas.


3- Take In The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse OBX Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
Exploring Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is one of the things to do from Duck, NC.

One of the most recognisable landmarks along the Outer Banks is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a 210-foot-tall (64 m) automated lighthouse which has been guiding ships safely along the treacherous waters of the Outer Banks barrier islands.

Easy to spot thanks to its black and white candy cane paint job, the lighthouse dates back to 1870 when it was completed and entered into service to guard the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and its notorious shifting sandbars.

Situated within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and right next door to the Hatteras Island Visitor Center and Museum of the Sea, the lighthouse is widely touted as one of the most recognisable in the United States and is well worth the 60-mile (96 km) drive from downtown Duck to visit.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is at 46379 Lighthouse Rd, Buxton, NC 27920.

4- Book A Sunset Cruise

Sailboats Silhouetted In The Sunset
Booking a sunset cruise is one of the fun things to do in Duck, NC.

With ocean views to the east and west of its city centre, Duck is a bucket list-worthy destination in North Carolina for enjoying incredible East Coast sunsets and sunrises which paint the skies in colourful hues of orange, purple, red and yellow.

Easy to enjoy from the white sandy shores of the Outer Banks, sunsets in Duck are best experienced aboard a charter boat, where passengers can experience the allure of an Outer Banks sunset in a way that’s simply not available to those stuck on dry land.

Several reputable cruise operators offer inclusive sunset tour packages catering to a variety of budgets aboard everything from lavish sail yachts to kayaks, which eager travellers can board from Duck’s waterfront shortly before the sun dips below the horizon for an unforgettable Outer Banks experience.

5- Spend An Afternoon Exploring Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Established in 1975, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a well-travelled 427-acre (173 ha) outdoor recreational space which boasts the tallest active sand dune system along the United States East Coast.

The most visited park in North Carolina, Jockey’s Ridge can be found in Nags Head roughly 16 miles (26 km) north of downtown Duck and is renowned for its biodiversity, great picnic spots and free admission.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park is at 300 W Carolista Dr, Nags Head, NC 27959.

6- Plan A Beach Trip To The Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Home to some of the best beaches along the East Coast, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the ultimate outdoor attraction in the Outer Banks and is conveniently just 28 miles (45 km) outside downtown Duck.

The 30,351-acre (12,283 ha) National Park Service-managed seashore was created in 1953 and protects an area of more than 70 miles (113 km) of unblemished Outer Banks nature between Ocracoke Island and Bodie Island.

Boasting popular North Carolina landmarks such as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in the United States, the seashore is the go-to destination in the Outer Banks for sizzling summertime fun such as picnicking, surfing or lounging on the beach.

7- Tour The North Carolina Aquarium On Roanoke Island

Arguably the finest aquatic centre in North Carolina, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is a spectacular 61,000-square-foot (5,667 m2) venue that serves as the home of more than 2,200 marine animals.

Sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, horseshoe crabs and even alligators are just some of the many animal species visitors can spot when strolling through the aquarium on Roanoke Island, with the centre dedicated to the conservation of its endangered marine inhabitants and teaching visitors of all ages more about them.

The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is at 374 Airport Rd, Manteo, NC 27954.

A cultural staple since first opening its doors to the public in 1969, the Yellowhouse Gallery merged with the SeaDragon Gallery in downtown Duck in 2001 to create one of the Outer Banks’ top art exhibition spaces.

The Yellowhouse Gallery is the oldest of the pair and showcases an extensive collection of visual art such as photographs, pottery pieces, glass and woodwork, and jewellery during the gallery’s open season from March until late December.

Housed inside the same downtown Duck venue as the Yellowhouse Gallery, the SeaDragon Gallery similarly boasts an extensive collection of glass, pottery and metal works crafted by talented artists from around the Outer Banks and North Carolina.

The SeaDragon and Yellowhouse Gallery is at 1240 Duck Road, Duck, NC 27949.

9- Head To The Bodie Island Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse OBX Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
Visiting Bodie Island Lighthouse is one of the things to do in Duck North Carolina.

Perched at the northernmost tip of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Bodie Island Lighthouse might not be the tallest or oldest lighthouse in the Outer Banks, but it may just be the most scenic.

Surrounded by marshland and tall pine trees, the lighthouse was completed in 1872, replacing the two previous lighthouses in the area which were abandoned and destroyed during the American Civil War.

Soaring more than 164 feet 50 m) into the air, the black and white conical-style lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still a crucial navigational tool for safely guiding ships around the treacherous waters of Bodie Island.

The Bodie Island Lighthouse is at 8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd, Nags Head, NC 27959.

10- Go Fishing Or Gift Shopping On Jennette’s Pier

Jennette's Pier In Nags Head
Exploring Jennette’s Pier is one of the things to do in Duck NC.

Open year-round as a popular fishing spot, Jennette’s Pier is the oldest in the Outer Banks and boasts everything from gift shops to an aquarium for visitors to stop at.

Rebuilt several times throughout its storied history due to the notorious storms which regularly pelt Outer Banks’ shores, the 1,000-foot (305 m) pier is the perfect place to visit following a fun day at the beach, with tons of awesome amenities available to beachgoers and anglers alike.

Jennette’s Pier is at 7223 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959.

11- Enjoy The White Sands Of Currituck Beach

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse And Boathouse Near Corolla
Chilling out on Currituck Beach is one of the things to do in Duck.

In Currituck County, Currituck Beach is a popular summertime destination in the Outer Banks that’s renowned for its pristine white sand, fantastic amenities and famous lighthouse.

The beach is among the most famous in the Outer Banks and lies less than 10 miles (16 km) from the nearby Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, making it both easy to access and conveniently near some of the Outer Banks’ most serene landscapes.

12- Indulge In Some Retail Therapy At The Waterfront Shops

The Waterfront Shops is downtown Duck’s premier shopping, dining and entertainment area and is home to several of the best restaurants and boutique stores in the Outer Banks.

Nestled on the scenic shores of the Currituck Sound, the district features roughly 18 distinct shops and eateries where tourists can browse the latest fashion trends, pick up quirky gifts or sample some of the Outer Banks’ local culinary scene.

Connected to the rest of Duck thanks to the Duck Town Park Boardwalk, the Waterfront Shops are always a lively place to be and are famous for their great seafood joints and spectacular coastal views.

The Waterfront Shops can be found at 1240 Duck Rd, Duck, NC 27949.

13- Go Wine Tasting At Sanctuary Vineyards

Clinking Glasses Of Wine In The Vineyard
Going wine tasting is things to do in Duck, NC this weekend.

A renowned winery situated in a part of the United States not exactly known for its fine wines, Sanctuary Vineyards produces a wide range of high-quality reds, whites, rosés and everything in between.

The family-owned and operated winery got its start in the early 2000s but has a winemaking legacy dating back several generations, producing classic Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Syrah wines as well as a long list of unique wine varieties.

Situated on 30 acres (12 ha) of sublime Outer Banks nature, the winery is a fully-fledged tourist attraction, hosting gatherings such as wine tastings and special events for curious travellers looking to sample some of the best wines cultivated in North Carolina.

Sanctuary Vineyards is at 7005 Caratoke Hwy, Jarvisburg, NC 27947.

14- Sit Down With A Captivating Novel At Duck’s Cottage

Duck’s Cottage is arguably the most popular hangout among locals and travellers in downtown Duck, conveniently along the city’s famous boardwalk in Duck’s busy Waterfront district.

Home to a cosy bookstore and trendy café under one roof, Duck’s Cottage is perfect for sitting down with a pastry or book while enjoying spectacular coastal views across the Currituck Sound.

Duck’s Cottage is at 1240 Duck Rd, Duck, NC 27949.

15- Go On A Wild Horse Tour

Horse On The Beach
Going horse riding is one of the cool things to do in Duck NC.

One of the most famous outdoor attractions in the Outer Banks island chain is the wild horses of Corolla, which can regularly be spotted roaming the white sandy beaches near Duck.

The Wild Spanish Mustangs of Corolla’s beaches can’t be found anywhere else in the world and are the only remaining population of the original untamed horses brought to the shores of North Carolina by early Spanish ships that sank in the shallow waters just off the Corolla coast.

Many local tour operators regularly take passengers to witness these majestic Outer Banks creatures freely roaming the quiet beaches of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”, much like their ancestors did more than four centuries ago.

16- Go Wildlife Watching Inside The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Alligator Laying Near A Pond
Visiting the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is one fo the best things to do from Duck NC.

For a slice of the Bayou right here in the heart of the Outer Banks, be sure to stop by the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, where wetlands and marshlands create the perfect habitat for hundreds of animal species.

Covering an area of more than 152,000 acres (61,512 ha), the refuge was created in 1984 and is named after the Alligator River, which serves as the refuge’s western border.

Just 40 miles (64 km) outside downtown Duck, the refuge is one of the wildest parts of the Outer Banks and is great for spotting alligators, black bears, otters, white-tailed deer, woodpeckers, quails and an impressive collection of plant life.

17- Hike The Scenic Duck Trail

Blurred Motion Of Biker Riding On Forest Trail
Hiking the Duck Trail is one of the fun things to do in Duck NC.

Running the entire length of Duck’s city centre, the Duck Trail is a multi-use, 6-mile-long (10 km) recreational trail which also doubles as a convenient link between the city’s shopping district and its residential zones.

Accessible to hikers, bikers and inline skaters, this pet-friendly trail shares access to the city’s popular boardwalk and is perfect for travellers looking to slow down a bit and enjoy the Outer Banks’ peaceful outdoors.

18- Catch A Movie Screening At The Pioneer Theater

Dating back to 1918, the Pioneer Theater in Manteo is the oldest movie theatre in the Outer Banks and one of the oldest independent theatres in the country, conveniently just 26 miles (42 km) outside Duck’s downtown area.

Famous for its compact and laid-back feel, the theatre shows a movie every night of the week and has been family-owned and operated since first opening its doors to the crowds of the Tar Heel State.

Having played host to concerts and theatrical productions throughout its history as well as showcasing Hollywood blockbuster films, the Pioneer Theater is always a memorable place to visit in Outer Banks that’s more than worth the short drive from Duck to experience with friends and family.

The Pioneer Theater is at 109 Budleigh St, Manteo, NC 27954.

19- Stop By The Outer Banks History Center

For an in-depth history lesson on the Outer Banks’ storied past, look no further than the Outer Banks History Center, a fascinating venue where visitors are treated to an ever-expanding collection of important artefacts and documents related to the region’s history.

Originally established in 1989, the centre doubles as the region’s historic archives and serves an important role in preserving Outer Banks’ history and culture, with all sorts of exhibits and interactive displays on hand to guide visitors through the most important moments throughout the region’s history.

The Outer Banks History Center is at 1 Festival Park, Manteo, NC 27954.

20- Learn About the Lost Colony At The Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

No other landmark is as important or as storied in the Tar Heel State than the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the setting of the first English colony on North American soil in 1585.

The historic site was established as an important landmark in 1941 and was famously the setting of the Roanoke Colony, the region’s first English settlers who became known as the “Lost Colony” when they mysteriously vanished without a trace just five years after the settlement’s founding.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the catalyst for future American expansion by Europeans, the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is also home to the stunning 10-acre (4 ha) Elizabethan Gardens and is situated just 28 miles (45 km) from the trendy shops of Duck’s city centre.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is at 1401 National Park Dr, Manteo, NC 27954.

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Jessica Shaw
Jessica Shaw is a storyteller who has lived in four U.S. states - Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois - and has visited many others. She loves history and nature and is a big fan of road tripping.