Taking on the Outer Banks: A Family Vacation Review


Where’s Oaks, you ask. He’s sleeping in his seat right next to us. NEVER wake a sleeping baby…no matter how many wild horses are behind you


Three families. 10 Kids. One house. A WHOLE WEEK


Sounds awful, right? Like who would actually willingly do this for enjoyment?

Well, we finally took on OBX. We made the 10 hour trek and to see for ourselves what all the fuss was about. We ended up in Corolla, which is at the topside of the island and a little quieter than other areas in OBX. Here’s what I thought…

Travel and Traffic

First, let me start be saying we’ve heard horror stories about the traffic getting to and from the island. There is one main bridge that takes you in and out so it can get a bit busy. Like sitting in traffic for 5 hours to go 30 miles busy. So in true Shawn fashion, my husband decides that we need to drive all night so we can get there early and beat all the traffic. In theory, this is a wonderful idea. In reality, yes, we missed any traffic because every normal person was tucked snuggly in their beds and we made record time (so my husband can feel like a real man because he won bragging rights) but we also arrived at 6am. YES, 6 in the morning, when there’s not a soul in sight, nothing is open, and we can’t check into our house until 3pm. So thank you honey, you are amazing. Bottom line, get in before 9am and get out before 7am so you are not stuck in the massive line down Route 12.


OBX is different than any place I’ve been to before. It is literally an island comprised of rental homes. All the houses are built with that in mind and are set up to accommodate renters and groups of families. Most have a pool, which in my mind, is a must have. We pretty much ended every day in the pool. Other than that, just choose the right home for your group size. We went with 2 other families so our house had 3 master suites each with its own bathroom and then a bunk room for boys and a bunk room for girls. We weren’t directly on the beach. Instead, just a short walk away and that was perfectly fine by me. Honestly, the homes on the beach don’t have much of a view because of the dunes anyways so if you’re looking to save money, than pick one a few houses away. The walk was fun. We brought some scooters and a beach cart and did it with 10 kids each day with minimal, if any, complaining.

The Beach

Obviously you go to OBX with the beach in mind so it’s no surprise that they were some of the nicest I’ve seen (& I’m a bit of a beach snob). Up in Corolla, they lived up to their expectations. The sand is like powder. The water temp was mild on most days, between 70-78 F. They were really wide beaches, weren’t overly crowded, and the waves were perfect when we were there. Just big enough for the our crew of mainly 6-15 year olds to feel comfortable. But when they were in the water, they definitely needed an adult right there in the waves with them. It wasn’t the type of sit on your ass vacation that you’d get at a quieter beach. The waves were strong but we spend hours in the water. The beach was where we spent most of our time and is the main attraction. I also like how the beach seemed removed from the overdeveloped neighborhoods. The dunes blocked any views of the buildings and homes and it felt like you were in a more remote destination than you actually were.

4 Wheel Beach and Wild Horses

I drove 10 hours to see horses when I have 4 in my front yard…was it worth it? DEFINITELY Β 

This was by far my favorite part. Am I a biased? A little. But it was still awesome. Driving down a beautiful beach (on the sand, mind you) seeing herds of wild horses was amazing. Found at the topside of Corolla, the only access is to drive on the beach to get there. It was a little more developed than I had pictured, with quite a few houses only accessible from the beach path, but still very cool. You can park and tailgate on the beach and hang out or head up over the dunes on the dirt trails and search for the horses. We took my suburban up there (you definitely need 4 wheel drive) and the kids had a blast all piled in the back on a search for the horses. The guided tours were a little expensive, but another option if you don’t have 4×4 is to rent a jeep for around $180. Or you can wait until we go again and hitch a ride in the ‘burb with us πŸ˜‰

A Few Other ‘Must Dos’ in OBX

Jockey’s Ridge State Park- The tallest sand dune system in the eastern US,Β  this state park in Nags Head is definitely something to see. Self guided nature trails, dune climbing, kite flying, awesome sunsets. We were actually lucky enough to watch the eclipse from there.

Duck Donuts- An amazing, made to order donut chain out on the island. Freshly made donuts, toppings of your choice, nuff said

The only thing I thought OBX was lacking was that quaint, cozy feel with little cottages and local hangouts. It seemed to me more of a rental geared island. I missed the gorgeous hydrangea hedges that you see in most seaside villages and the cute little cedar shingled cottages (think Block Island and Cape Cod). The closest to that would have been down in Duck, where they had some local shops on the water connected by a pretty cool boardwalk and yoga on the green. But literally, between that and the traffic, those were my only complaints. We had a great time. And I don’t think I would have wanted to go solo on this trip. It was nice having a bunch of kids to entertain each other on long days at the beach and then putting them all to bed early because they were exhausted and then hanging out with friends that would normally require a babysitter to do.

So would we do it again? Definitely. Awesome vacation and amazing company. See you next year OBX!

For a free official travel guide to OBX, visit the Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau website at outerbanks.org or call 1-877-629-4386


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