North Carolina

Outer Banks

Outer Banks NC Lighthouse
Published on September 11, 2013

Looking for a lifestyle with an enticing change of pace? Then the dégagé, breezy living so many Baby Boomers from around the country find on the pristine beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina might just be the one of the ideal North Carolina beach cities for you. A beach and nature lover’s paradise, with vistas as colorful and serene as its town’s names are picturesque, this quaint string of island hamlets that explodes with aquatic, as well as landlubber activities, has enough artistic pursuits and exhibitions to keep any art enthusiast more than content.

Yet, perhaps the biggest advantage of living on the Outer Banks, arguably, second only to its year-round, temperate climate, is its offering of quality, locally owned restaurants that could make even the most discerning of epicureans delighted. The area has a reputation as a popular tourist destination for owning a second home has attracted many fine restaurateurs, affording diners the local catch of the day, chef- prepared, as well as all-you-can-eat buffets with the freshest seafood offered any day on the calendar. 

The Outer Banks (also known as OBX) is a 200-mile string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and a small section of Virginia. Thanks in part to its temperate climate and wide expanse of open beachfront, the barrier islands are a major tourist destination. In addition to its attractive climate, its place in aviation history was cemented by the Wright brothers who made their first flight in a powered vehicle on the OBX on December 17, 1903 near the seafront town of Kitty Hawk at Kill Devil Hills. Tourists can visit The Wright Brothers National Monument, located near First Flight Airport.

Although Outer Banks real estate prices vary drastically, with prices on the west side of the islands, off course, being less expensive, housing on the OBX can be less expensive than many southern barrier islands. And the abundance of varied, seasonal employment, combined with a growing need of skilled professionals in specialized fields make the islands even more attractive.

The most popular Outer Banks cities to find homes are:

COROLLA - Located on the northern end of the Outer Banks, Corolla is a charming beach town with narrow winding street lined with sidewalks filled with  people bicycling, jogging and walking during the summer months. The U.S. Route 158 East bridge connects Corolla to the mainland. Corolla is famous for the wild mustang horses which roam the beach and its Currituck Beach Lighthouse. The area is home to gated golf communities and beachfront condominiums. Corolla average home prices range in the mid $500K's. 

KITTY HAWK AND NAGS HEAD - Mountain size sand dunes and strong ocean breezes are what this area is known for. This popular vacation hot spot is home to t-shirt shops, ice cream stores and a variety of restaurants. The Wright Memorial Bridge connects the barrier island to the mainland. Beachfront condominiums and multi-level homes are common. Kitty Hawk average home prices range in the low $400K's. Nags Head average home prices are higher and are in the mid $500K's. 

CAPE HATTERAS - This middle section of the Outer Banks is a thin stretch of beaches with limited beachfront homes and neighborhoods. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in North Carolina. Surfing and sandbars are popular in the area because of the way two major currents collide. 

OCRACOKE - Located on the southern end of the OBX, this small seaside island can only be accessed by ferries. Charming Bed & Breakfast's, seafood restaurants and beach boutiques are common on the island. Most businesses close during the winter months. Ocracoke has been named a Best Beach in America. Ocracoke average home prices exceed $1.5 million.

If you’re searching for the best North Carolina beach cities, here are reasons to consider Outer Banks real estate:


The Dare County Arts Council is dedicated to encouraging the Arts in Dare County. Each year, thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds participate in DCAC sponsored Arts programs as performers, artists, audience members, students, visitors, and volunteers.

The local arts councils sponsor a number of special performances throughout the year such as the North Carolina and Virginia Symphonies, Frank Holder Dance Group, Graciela Mime Theater, Shady Grove Band, Carolina Players, African American Dance Ensemble, Terrance Simien, and the New York Chinese Folk Dance Company.

The Dare County Arts Council sponsors what has become the oldest and largest fine arts exhibition in Dare County, the Frank Stick Memorial Art Show. Over 100 artists, local and national, participate in the show each year.


The Outer Banks has unusual weather patterns due to its unique geographical location. As the islands are jutted out from the eastern seaboard into the Atlantic Gulf stream, the Outer Banks has a predisposition to be affected by hurricanes, Nor'easters (usually in the form of rain, and rarely snow or mixed precipitation), and other ocean driven storms.

The summer months average lows from the mid 70's to highs in the upper 80's, depending on the time of the summer. The spring and fall are typically milder seasons. The fall and winter are usually warmer than areas inland, while the spring and the summer are often slightly cooler due to the moderating effects of being surrounded by water.

Although snow is possible, averaging from 3 inches in the north to less than 1/2 inch per year in the south, there are many times when years pass between snowfalls. The majority of nor'easters are "born" off the coasts of the OBX.


Two universities directly serve the area. Elizabeth City State University and East Carolina University are both located within commuting distance from the Outer Banks cities. Other universities located in nearby Hampton Roads Virginia, as well as throughout eastern North Carolina also provide a diverse array of services to area residents.

College of the Albemarle (COA) Community College COA offers something for everyone-from young children to retirees-programs are offered throughout the year to meet the lifelong learning needs of all citizens.  The college boasts a state-of-the-art pottery studio. Students may earn certificates or a two-year degree focusing on the art of pottery making, as well as the business skills to establish a business. 

In addition to the on-campus curriculum programs, the college offers on-going adult continuing education classes at locations throughout the Outer Banks. Classes are available for continuing education credits, as well as in personal enrichment subjects from computer classes to marine captain license classes. Newest course offerings include jewelry making.


The Outer Banks Hospital offers the best in emergency, surgery, birthing, imaging, diagnostic and therapeutic services. Hospital medical specialties include: anesthesia, cardiology, cardiopulmonary, chemotherapy, endoscopy, family practice, internal medicine, laboratory with blood bank, nuclear medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics (including total joint replacement surgery), pathology, pediatrics, rehabilitation (including occupational, physical and speech therapies) radiology, surgery and urology. The hospital has two state-of-the-art operating rooms.


Looking for exercise, fun or adventure? The Outer Banks cities have a number of offerings for both the novice, experienced and even professional athlete. The natural beauty and winds that always range at least 5 to 15 miles per hour, the flat lands, miles of beaches, and wide open waters make the Outer Banks region a haven for sports and recreation with 409 square miles of water. This makes the area perfect for a variety of water activities including jet skiing, ocean and sound kayaking, diving, surfing, parasailing, wind surfing, kite surfing, kite boarding, skim boarding, sailing, boating, and of course, swimming.

Running has become a popular OBX sport over the last few years. The Outer Banks Marathon is the premier annual event occurring annually in November. Numerous side races and events compliment that race including a Pirate Half-Marathon, Family Fun Run, and Race Expo.The Outer Banks Running Club and Outer Banks Running Company sponsor a number of group runs and races throughout the year centered around holidays and special events. Races such as the Leprechauns 8K, Nags Head Woods 5K and Sweetheart 5K are popular with locals and visitors. 

Bicycling is also a popular activity. When owning a second home here, you’ll find many bike paths and wide paved shoulders. For both leisure riders and serious cyclists, the OBX provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the seashore, and beyond, on two wheels. In April of each year, motorcyclists from around the world gather on North Carolina’s Outer Banks for Bike Week. Vendors set up at various locations, restaurants host a number of special celebrations, and bikers compete in the Outer Banks cities. 

The historical ties to the Wright Brothers First Flight make air tours popular along the OBX. A number of local companies provide airplane and helicopter services in the area. Participants of all skill levels and ages participate in Outer Banks kite boarding, hang gliding, surfing, fishing and windsurfing events. Events such as the Outer Banks Stunt Kite Competition, Hang gliding Spectacular, Triple S International, Manteo Rockfish Rodeo, Nags Head Surf Fishing Tournament, and the Hatteras Village Offshore Open bring visitors from around the world to the area to enjoy state, regional and international competitions at the best beaches in America.


The Outer Banks is known for its unique shops scattered along our shoreline and for the recreational opportunities available to residents and visitors alike. There are over 200 retail shops in Dare and Currituck Counties and one outlet mall. The Tanger Outlet Center is a brand name outlet center offering factory direct savings on quality merchandise. TimBuckII in Corolla is the largest shopping center in the north beach area.

In addition to the traditional Belks Department Store, Wal-Mart & Kmart, many local stores offer traditional business clothing and specialty items, as well as tourism related items such as t-shirts, surf boards, lighthouse replicas, nautical items, jewelry, local photography, Christmas ornaments, artist prints, and much more.


The median home price on Outer Banks is $360,000 with an estimated property tax base rate of .69 per $100 of value. Visit our library to find help and to learn how to calculate property taxes in North Carolina. 

Most would agree, owning a second home on the Outer Banks would be ideal for improving our quality of life. Prices have fallen enough that buyers who couldn’t afford oceanfront homes in the past, are now able to purchase property on or near the ocean.

Population: 58,000
Median State Property Tax: 0.78%
State Sales Tax: 4.75%
State Income Tax: 4.99%
  • Hatteras Airport (HNC)
  • Billy Mitchell Airport (HSC)
Arts & Culture
  • Elizabethan Gardens
  • Frisco Native American Museum
  • Lost Colony Theater
  • The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
Events & Festivals
  • OBX Taste of the Beach - MAR
  • St. Patrick's Day Parade - MAR
  • Outer Banks Bike Week - APR
  • OBX Pridefest - SEP
  • Duck Jazz Festival - OCT
  • Outer Banks Seafood Festival - OCT
  • Duck's Yuletide Celebration - DEC
  • Hatteras Island Holiday Parade - DEC
Hospitals & Healthcare
  • The Outer Banks Hospital
Colleges & Universities
  • College of the Albemarle
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • East Carolina University - Outer Banks Campus
Shopping & Retail
  • Ocracoke Village
  • Tanger Outlet Center
  • The Shops at Currituck Club
State & National Parks
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  • Jockey's Ridge State Park