Nags Head is located north of Oregon Inlet and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, and south of the Town of Kill Devil Hills. The town is an immensely popular area for vacationers from the United States as well as around the world. Many major travel publications have regarded Nags Head as one of the very best places for a family vacation in America.
Nags Head is most known for its beaches, so naturally a visit to this coastal town is not complete without visiting the beach at least once. There are numerous public beach accesses in Nags Head, and it’s fairly easy to secure a parking spot, so long as you arrive early or late if you’re visiting between June and August.
If you decide to vacation in the spring or fall, you won’t have any trouble finding a peaceful spot in the sand to hang out under an umbrella. The ocean water in Nags Head (and other areas of the Outer Banks) is generally warm enough for swimming between May through October. If the water is too cold for swimming, there are plenty of other things to do, like shopping, putt-putt golf, restaurants and attractions like the First Flight Adventure Park.
Facts About Nags Head NC
- Nags Head was named the #1 family-friendly beach by TripAdvisor® in 2007. The town usually receives numerous awards from different travel publications throughout each year.
- Located in south Nags Head, Bodie Island Lighthouse is one of the most well-kept lighthouses in the United States. The structure underwent a three year renovation project that was completed in 2013.
- Nags Head is home to some of the very best restaurants on the barrier island including Tortugas’ Lie, a restaurant that the Food Network’s Guy Fieri once deemed the “hot spot” on the Outer Banks.
- Nags Head is one of the largest town in terms of square footage on the Outer Banks.
- The first cottages along the Nags Head oceanfront were established in the 1880s, and were constructed using mostly salvaged materials.
- About 2,800 people call Nags Head home year-round. There are typically anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 people staying in the town during the busy summer months of June, July and August.
- Located in Nags Head, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the tallest active sand dune system in the Eastern United States.
- Jockey’s Ridge is considered by many experts to be one of the very best places in the United States to learn how to hang glide. The area is so great for learning because the sand is very soft and there is a constant wind when you’re on the dunes.
- Destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, Jennette’s Pier was later rebuilt and at 1,000 feet, Jennette’s Pier is one of the longest piers in all of North Carolina.
- According to the Nature Conservancy organization, the Nags Head Woods Preserve is one of the best remaining examples of a mid-Atlantic maritime forest. The area is made up of 640 acres of protected wetland, dune and hardwood forest and is a national natural landmark.
Notable Nags Head NC Restaurants
There are a plethora of restaurants located in the town of Nags Head, somewhere around five dozen locally-owned establishments. Every restaurant in the town is located along either the bypass or beach road, which makes it easy to find a place to eat when you’re starving.
Below is a list of a few of our favorite restaurants in Nags Head.
(Disclaimer: These are not advertisers, we have dined at the establishments below and are truly blow away by the food quality, service and ambiance!)
Pier House Restaurant
Waveriders Coffee & Deli
Things to do in Nags Head
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
The tallest natural sand dune system on the East Coast, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is hard to miss while driving along the bypass in Nags Head. Hike up the dunes, fly a kite, go sand boarding or learn how to hang glide; there are numerous reasons why you’ll want to visit this OBX landmark!
First Flight Adventure Park
Climb and zip your way through the strenuous ropes course at the soundside First Flight Adventure Park. Suitable for youth and adults, this Nags Head attraction is great fun, and a unique attraction to enjoy during your stay.
When Jennette’s Pier was destroyed during Hurricane Isabel in 2003, it was uncertain whether or not the structure would be rebuilt. Fortunately, Jennette’s Pier was reconstructed, and is the only pier on the Outer Banks with concrete pillars. On a sunny summer day, it’s difficult to find a spot for your car in the parking lot. Jennette’s Pier is a terrific spot to spend the day at the beach. There’s a bath house located just off the beach and a small aquarium and gift/tackle shop in the pier house.
Seaside Art Gallery
Located at milepost 11 on beach road, the Seaside Art Gallery is a wonderful place to view and purchase one-of-a-kind artwork pieces. Unique paintings and drawings line the gallery walls from local and international artists.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
With its distinct black and white stripes, this iconic structure can be spotted from miles away. Bodie Island Lighthouse is visited by tens of thousands of vacationers each year, and is an absolute must-see if you haven’t visited already. Self-guided tours are available most days during the summer, and the gift shop stays open year-round. The most recent, multi-million dollar restoration of the lighthouse was completed in 2013 – a project that brought the structure back to its old glory.
Please be advised that if the temperature is too warm or the wind is too strong, you will not be permitted to scale the lighthouse. There is a small nominal fee to climb the lighthouse. Its free to park and walk around. Bodie Island Lighthouse is operated and maintained by the US National Park Service, and most of the people that work at the landmark are seasonal park rangers.
Full Throttle Speedway
With go karts and much more, Full Throttle Speedway is a perfect place to spend an evening in Nags Head. Head over to where all of the action is at off the bypass at milepost 16, and challenge your family and friends to a competitive race around the track. During the summer, there are additional carnival rides that fill the parking lot of Full Throttle Speedway, providing hours of fun and entertainment that’s best enjoyed during the evenings. This attraction is typically open from late spring to early autumn.
Jockey’s Ridge Crossing
One of the very best shopping complexes on the Outer Banks, Jockey’s Ridge Crossing is located directly across the street from the tallest natural sand dune system in the eastern United States. Kitty Hawk Kites’ flagship store is located here, along with Kitty Hawk Surf Company, Scoop’s Ice Cream, Life on a Sandbar, Kitty Hawk Hammocks, The Fudgery, and several other eclectic shops. Several events take place at Jockey’s Ridge Crossing during the year, check out the Nags Head events section below to learn more!
Nags Head Events
Each year, the town of Nags Head plays host to an array of annual events. In fact, Nags Head is probably the headquarters for more events each year than any other town on the Outer Banks! From flying kegs and flying kites to surfing and seafood, it seems like there’s at least one major event in Nags Head each month.
Below are some of the most notable annual events that take place in the town of Nags Head. Be sure to check a few of them out during the year if you have the opportunity to!
Kelly’s St Patrick’s Day Parade (March)
Every March, nearly 10,000 spectators line the streets of NC 12 in Nags Head to watch the Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, one of the largest (if not THE largest) St. Patrick’s Day parade in all of North Carolina! Come out and see the floats, catch a handful of candy, and cheer on the local emergency response personnel. After the event, head over to Kelly’s Restaurant to enjoy hot dogs, live music, and green beer! This annual event is always a good time.
Hang Gliding Spectacular (May)
A true example of what hang gliding is all about! The event takes place at Jockey’s Ridge State Park each year, and is the longest running hang gliding competition in the world. Participants of the Hang Gliding Spectacular can pay a small nominal fee to participate, and spectators can enjoy the show for FREE!
OBX Brewfest (May)
If you are 21+ and you LOVE craft beer, this is the event for you! Held at the Outer Banks Event Site in Nags Head, the OBX Brewfest is a celebration of hops and barley that you won’t want to miss. Enjoy live music, fun games, food trucks, and even a craft soda garden! Beverages from over 15 breweries are available at this growing annual event.
Rogallo Kite Festival (June)
This annual kite festival is named after Francis Rogallo, a NASA scientist and inventor of the flexible wing. His inventions created the sport of hang gliding and his designs have carried over into the production and development of stunt kites and power kites that are flown up and down the Outer Banks today. Check out the Rogallo Kite Festival and enjoy a dazzling display as 30 – 100 foot kites fly above the dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park at this very popular (and free) annual event.
Outer Banks Watermelon Festival (August)
Lots of fun and plenty of watermelon! Enjoy games, food, face painting, tie-dye shirt making, arts and crafts activities, an inflatable waterslide and more. All proceeds from the event benefit the local Outer Banks Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Coalition. Parking is scarce so be sure to arrive as close to the start time of the event as possible. Taking place at Jockey’s Ridge Crossing Shopping Center, the Outer Banks Watermelon Festival is a must if you’re in Nags Head in August!
Outer Banks Pirate Festival (August)
Ahoy matey! Get ready for a swashbucklin’ good time as a group of pirates occupy Jockey’s Ridge Crossing Shopping Center during the annual Outer Banks Pirate Festival. Hosted by Kitty Hawk Kites, the event is typically two to three days in length, and involves a little bit of cannon firing, sword waving and eye patch wearing. FREE to the public!
WRV Outer Banks Pro Surfing Competition (September)
The largest surfing competition of the year on the Outer Banks takes place at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Surfers from many different states travel to the area to face off head-to-head to see who can win the annual WRV Outer Banks Pro. This is a great event for spectators, as you can enjoy a great view of the competitors from the deck of the pier. Parking can be difficult to secure near the event, so consider parking at a public beach access a half mile north of the event and walking down to the competition.
Outer Banks Triathlon (September)
Triathletes train for months to achieve their dream! Choose from either the Sprint Triathlon (great for beginners), the Olympic Triathlon distance, or choose the Half Triathlon distance to see if you have what it takes! Two days of inspiration, excitement, relationships and achievements. You can either participate in one of the events, or just go to the Outer Banks Triathlon to cheer on the athletes!
Outer Banks Seafood Festival (October)
An event that’s held each year at the Outer Banks Event Site in Nags Head to honor the area’s rich fishing heritage. Come enjoy an array of fresh local seafood entrees prepared by chefs from some of the area’s finest restaurants. Check out seafood cooking demonstrations, fishing boat and gear displays, fishing industry skills contests and competitions, local seafood cooking competitions, music, author readings, a chowder cook-off contest, activities for children and more. The Outer Banks Seafood Festival is THE biggest event of the year in Nags Head!
OBX Brewtag (October)
Flying kegs, plenty of craft beer and tons of energy and fun! Watch as teams toss their homemade flying machines (with kegs attached) off the top of a 20-foot flight deck to see who’s creation can make it the furthest. Sample beers from most all of the local breweries and savor food from some of the Outer Banks’ best restaurants. Founded in 2015, the OBX Brewtag is one of the most unique events in the entire United States. There are NO other competitions in the WORLD like this one held at the Outer Banks Event Site in Nags Head. If you love craft beer, or just want to watch some kegs fly… be sure to check out the OBX Brewtag in October.
Outer Banks Marathon (November)
Dash through the village of Kitty Hawk, the historical Kill Devil Hills (home of the Wright brothers First Flight), through the incredible maritime forest of Nags Head, and conclude your journey on the downtown Manteo waterfront on Roanoke Island. One of the most scenic marathons in the United States, the Outer Banks Marathon is a must for anyone who is willing and able to complete the 26.2 mile race!
Kites with Lights and Hangin’ with Santa (November)
Spread holiday cheer with Kitty Hawk Kites and the Jockey’s Ridge Crossing crew! Take advantage of FREE pictures with Santa, cocoa and cookies, and a unique light show with kites at Jockey’s Ridge State Park (across the street). Get started on your holiday shopping at the complex and take advantage of great deals on gifts for every one on your list. Hangin with Santa and Kites with Lights is a holiday event in Nags Head that you won’t want to miss!
Nags Head Average Ocean Water Temperatures
Spring: 50°- 60° | Summer: 70° | Fall: 50°- 60° | Winter: 30°- 40°
|Month||Water Temps||Month||Water Temps|
|Early Jan.||Mid 30’s||Late Jan.||High 30’s|
|Early Feb.||High 30’s||Late Feb.||Mid 30’s|
|Early March||Mid 40’s||Late March||Low 50’s|
|Early April||Mid 50’s||Late April||Low 60’s|
|Early May||Low 60’s||Late May||High 60’s|
|Early June||Low 70’s||Late June||Mid 70’s|
|Early July||Mid 70’s||Late July||High 70’s|
|Early Aug.||High 70’s||Late Aug.||Mid 70’s|
|Early Sept.||Mid 70’s||Late Sept.||High 60’s|
|Early Oct.||Mid 60’s||Late Oct.||Mid 50’s|
|Early Nov.||Low 50’s||Late Nov.||High 40’s|
|Early Dec.||Mid 40’s||Late Dec.||Low 40’s|