I’ve been vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina for over 20 years now, and my favorite area is the quaint village of Duck. Duck combines the laid-back attitude of the beach with the cozy feeling of a small town.
Our recent trip reminded me why I love this village so much.
If you don’t know about the Outer Banks (affectionately dubbed the OBX) it’s worth orienting you here. The Outer Banks are the barrier islands that stretch along the northeast coast of the state. They are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and various sounds to the west.
The OBX have become increasingly popular, and the busiest areas are where Hwy 64 dumps all visitors onto the island at Nags Head. No matter whether you go north or south on Hwy 12 from there, the farther you go, the fewer the people and the greater the solitude. Yummmm.
Duck, one of the northernmost villages, is named for its abundance of waterfowl. Positioned on a narrow strip of the OBX (see red marker on map), you can see water in either direction from most parts of Duck.
It has a population of about 500 beachy souls in the winter and upwards of 20,000+ sun-seeking visitors in the summer.
Now that you’ve met Duck (in all of its wondrous glory), here are our must-do’s when you visit:
Walk the Duck boardwalk
The boardwalk extends over a half a mile (~1km) along the sound side of Duck. You can’t see it easily from the main street (Hwy 12), but there are many entrances, including at the Town Park and through various nearby shops.
If you can’t find it, just ask. The locals are super friendly!
One thing I love about the boardwalk is that its creators were environmentally conscious (or seemingly so).
Lights along the boardwalk are powered by solar energy, and the walk meanders just offshore, careful to not disrupt the marshland, while still allowing visitors to view both marsh life and sound activities (kayaking, fishing/crabbing, parasailing, etc.)
Morning walks on the boardwalk are wonderfully peaceful and provide gorgeous views…
…but evenings on the boardwalk are simply spectacular. Eating at one of the restaurants or listening to live music with friends as the sun sets is pure bliss.
Which leads me to my next must-do …
Watch the sun set, rise, or both each day
There aren’t many places in the States where you can watch the sun both rise and set over water. Duck (and much of the OBX) is one of these special places. I could watch the sunset from the Duck boardwalk every day and die happy. Every sunset is magnificent and unique. Purrrrr.
Equally magnificent is watching the sunset from a widow’s walk with family or friends. And after the sun sets, don’t forget to marvel in the constellations. Unlike much of the neighboring OBX, Duck is small enough that there is little ambient light to mask the stars. So…climb to the highest point you can find and dance among the Milky Way. One’s perspective on life is altered when a galaxy is at your fingertips.
And once you’ve been sufficiently enamored by Mother Nature, change course and…
There are a million things to do in Duck if you want to be active and surrounded by nature, and not much to do if you want to be “entertained” by commercial activities (i.e., no putt-putt, movie theaters or the like). (Yay!)
When driving up from Nags Head, it’s easy to see how Duck is different from the rest. With traffic slowed to 25 mph (~40 kmph), and bordered by a wide path full of runners, cyclists, and parents pushing their kids in strollers, you immediately feel the buzz of activity that Duck exudes.
This “activity” can also be called “congestion” by those who don’t fully appreciate a small beach town—so make sure you’re in the right place or Duck might not be for you!
Almost any water activity can be found in Duck, whether it is the zenlike class of yoga on paddleboards…
Or kayaking in the ocean…
But if sporting activities aren’t your style, the next must-do in Duck (and my personal favorite) is…
Enjoy the beach!
Jeff favors the idyllic tropical waters, but for me, my heart is tied to the East Coast beaches of my childhood. Hearing the waves crash powerfully against the sand soothes me as though I’m being rocked by Mother Nature herself.
Of the OBX, Duck has some of the least crowded beaches, which not only provides time and space to breathe and relax, but it also provides enough room to play in the waves with childlike abandon. [Those specks in the water are my friends and I frolicking in the waves, as another friend looks on.]
There aren’t too many places that can equally inspire play and relaxation…but the beach is certainly one of them. And Duck has a vast beach to choose from.
And last, but certainly not least, a must-do in Duck is…
Savor a sinfully delicious donut at Duck Donuts
Ok, this one may seem silly, but seriously you have to try these donuts. They melt in your mouth and make you yearn for more. Neither sickeningly sweet, nor overpowered by the many flavors they offer, these donuts are sure to satisfy.
And their quick service also ensures you get to eat them while they’re still warm…Score!
[Tip: And if you want to combine several must-do’s at once, definitely grab a donut (or 2!) before heading out to the boardwalk...I'm just sayin']
We hope you enjoyed this quick trip through Duck, and that you’ll get to take a trip there soon.
And for those of you who helped us celebrate Jeff’s birthday at Duck–thank you!!! We had a great time!!!