13 of the best Outer Banks vacation rentals for ocean views, beach access, and private pools

FAQ: Outer Banks vacation rentals

Where are the Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks is a 130-mile-long string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, reachable by car by crossing one of several bridges linking it to the mainland. If you’re flying here, the closest airport is in Norfolk, Virginia; from there it’s about an 80-mile drive. 

With the ocean on one side and the Sound on the other, the narrow strip of land is dotted with quaint towns and villages, plus miles of pristine, protected National Seashore. 

What towns and villages make up the Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks is made up of 10 major towns plus many smaller villages. Those in the area known as the Northern Beaches are the most popular given their central location: Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Kill Devil Hills, and a bit farther north are Duck and Corolla.

As you head south, there’s historic Manteo (located on Roanoke Island), then the more remote Hatteras Island, where you’ll find Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras Village. 

At the southernmost tip (and reachable only by ferry) is Ocracoke Island and its namesake town of Ocracoke.

What is there to do in the Outer Banks?

A visit to OBX is all about the ocean, whether it’s swimming, surfing, or sunbathing on the wide, sandy beaches. It’s also a top fishing destination, with charters running year-round and several piers that are fun for anglers of all ages. Other attractions include climbing the sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, seeing the islands’ many historic lighthouses, and spotting the wild horses of Corolla. 

Where should I vacation in the Outer Banks?

The centrally located beach towns of Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Kill Devil Hills tend to be more crowded, but they also offer the most amenities, from miniature golf and movie theaters to major shopping and plentiful restaurant choices.

Southern Shores, on the Sound side, is more residential and home to year-round locals; farther north are the upscale towns of Duck and Corolla, which have less congested beaches, as parking is restricted to those with passes (which most rentals provide).

The charming town Manteo on Roanoke Island sits on the Sound side — not ideal for beach-goers but great for those seeking a tranquil waterfront stay with lots of history (it’s one of the first English settlements in the New World).

If you’re willing to drive farther south to Hatteras Island, you’ll be rewarded with miles of pristine beaches flanked by rugged dunes, and small, laidback towns and villages. Those really wanting to get away from it all can hop the ferry from Hatteras Village to remote Ocracoke Island.

How much does it cost to rent a vacation house in the Outer Banks?

Much of the housing stock in the Outer Banks is devoted to vacation rentals and there’s a huge variety in terms of price, location, size, amenities, and design. Rentals on or near the beach are generally more expensive than those on the Sound side, and properties near the swanky towns of Duck and Corolla tend to skew higher. Most importantly, prices fluctuate depending on the time of year; summer (from Memorial Day through Labor Day) is peak season, while fall, spring, and winter (except around the holidays) see far lower rates. Generally, it makes little difference in cost whether you book mid-week or weekends, especially in summer.

Smaller properties are more affordable and generally have greater availability, as the Outer Banks leans towards vacationers with families or larger groups.

For example, a studio apartment in the off-season runs $75 per night, doubling to $150 in summer. But a 5-bedroom home on the Sound side that goes for $340 nightly in the low season surges to nearly $1,000 per night in July. And that’s if the property is available — many homes currently listed are already fully booked for the summer. 

Be sure to also budget extra fees for cleaning, service fees, and other additional costs imposed by vacation rentals such as Airbnb.

What should I look for in an Airbnb or Vrbo?

Consider criteria like the items we use to select homes to recommend to readers. This includes positive recent reviews (often with a minimum review score), Superhost status, homes that participate in the Enhanced Clean program, affordable price ranges, as well as proximity to the beach, and amenities such as pools, outdoor seating, and water views.

Be aware that many properties — especially larger homes — have minimum-stay requirements.

What is Airbnb’s cancellation policy?

Cancellation policies on Airbnb differ for each home and are set by each individual host. For a full breakdown of Airbnb’s cancellation policies, click here.

How do I book a home in the Outer Banks on Airbnb?

You may search for rentals in the Outer Banks based on location, price, date, the number of bedrooms or bathrooms, amenities, and more. Once you’ve found a home, check for cancellation policies, and review your price in full. For more information, click here.

Is it safe to stay in an Airbnb?

According to experts, yes. The CDC says fully vaccinated people can safely travel in the US.

And if you’re wondering if Airbnb is safe, private home rentals are thought to offer a higher level of safety compared to hotels. They minimize interactions with others, and Airbnb hosts are required to follow enhanced cleaning procedures.

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