A Place for All Seasons
There is so much to do on the Outer Banks that we can’t list it all. What is particularly nice is that it doesn’t really matter what season it is, there is always something happening or an activity that is special.
Because the Outer Banks is so close to our surrounding environment almost every activity is affected by the weather. But don’t let the chilly days of winter keep you away, or the in between times when it’s a bit too cold to jump in the ocean.
To help navigate what there is to do at any time of the year, we’ve put together our list of activities by season. And we admit it’s an incomplete list. Visit our OBX Vacation Guide for more ideas, or join us and discover for yourself all the Outer Banks has to offer.
Before we dive into what you can expect from each season related to the key activities visitors to the Outer Banks love, let’s take a look at the weather.
Monthly Weather On The Outer Banks
Winter On The Outer Banks
What to Expect
Winter is the slowest time of the year on the Outer Banks. Relax and enjoy it. Be aware that some restaurants close for the season and almost no one stays open late. Winter is the perfect time for anyone trying to decompress from the pressures of daily life.
Admittedly no one is jumping in the ocean in January. The average water temperature is in the mid 50s, and with a stiff breeze out of the northeast, somehow the ocean feels even colder.
But don’t despair, this is a wonderful time of the year for beach combing. Lots of rough surf to bring shells and the flotsam of the sea onto the beach. Hardly anyone around…just bundle up.
Surfers, grab your dry suit and your favorite board and head to the beach. The break can be really choppy at times. Ok, not rideable. But every once in a while the wind shifts just a bit and there is a beautiful 8’ shore break just waiting to be ridden.
The winter is no time for novices surfers though.
Probably the best winds of the year. Consistent and strong. It can get cold, so dress accordingly, but snow is a rare event on the Outer Banks. An amazing time for a ride on the sounds.
The surf fishing slows down, but it doesn’t stop. It may take some patience but there are speckled trout, puppy drum and an occasional blue.
Near shore and in shore, the rockfish is what everyone is hoping for. Out in the Gulf Stream, winter is when many of the big game fish show up.
The Outer Banks is a must stop place for migratory waterfowl. The range of species and the numbers that make this their winter home are mind boggling.
Bird watchers consider the the Outer Banks one of the finest winter areas in the world. And hunters have been making the journey to the sounds and estuaries since before the first European set foot on the beach.
Spring On The Outer Banks
What to Expect
Things are picking up a bit, especially toward the end of spring. Businesses are opening, restaurants and bars are staying open a bit later and the temperatures have moderated. Shorts and sandals are mandatory by May.
March is still pretty chilly, but by April and May, time on the beach is pleasant and relaxing. The water temperature is still pretty chilly though. By May, however, the air temperature can be warm enough to tempt a dip in the ocean. Go ahead, it won’t kill you, but it will get your attention.
Although things moderate considerably at this time of the year, the ocean is still very active, so there are some great waves to catch. An occasional spring nor’easter will push some great waves to shore, especially in March. Have a wet suit handy.
Air and water temperatures are moderating, there are some good steady breezes and the summer crowds have not gotten here yet. More experienced kiteboarder and windsurfers may want to head out to the ocean.
Out in the Gulf Stream blue fin tuna are running early in the season with yellowfin tuna and mahi-mahi. Closer to home the piers are opening up and speckled trout, Spanish mackerel and bluefish are around.
Surf fishing look for blues and speckled trout.
As the weather warms, the expect an outdoor music festival or two. Spring is also a great time to explore our maritime forests. Bird watchers—look for the return of migratory songbirds.
Summer On The Outer Banks
What to Expect
Warm weather and lots of sunshine—that pretty much defines the Outer Banks in the summer. Is it busy? Yes it is. There is so much to do that we cannot list everything. Live music, much of it outdoors. Restaurants are open and we have some of the finest chefs to be found anywhere.
The bottom line…there’s a reason why people return to the Outer Banks time and time again, and the summer is a large part of it.
Break out the sunblock, bring some water, a beach towel and maybe a book, there is no better time to enjoy the Outer Banks beaches. The sun is bright, air temperature vary between warm to hot, but the ocean water temperature is wonderful.
There is probably no better time or place to learn to surf than summer on the Outer Banks. The weather is dominated by a Bermuda high that keeps things warm and the ocean calm. Experienced surfers may be able to catch a few waves with a longboard.
Dead calm days are rare on the Outer Banks, but they do happen every once in a while and summer is the most likely time to encounter one. That being said, it’s a pretty rare occurrence. Look for fairly tame southwest breezes in July and August. It’s a great time to get out on the sounds, especially Pamlico Sound, which is one of the widest saltwater lagoons in the world.
The piers and surf are where it’s at in the summer. Cobia and Spanish mackerel off the piers and grey trout, an occasional flounder and blue fish among others in the surf.
Offshore the action is really happening with yellowfin and big-eye tuna and mahi-mahi. Look for marlin and wahoo late summer. Wahoo may be the best grill fish ever.
Everything…almost. Although there is lots of outdoor music, no festivals in the summer. Everyone is working so hard just to take care of all of our guests that no one has time to set up a music festival.
Fall On The Outer Banks
What to Expect
Ask almost anyone who lives on the Outer Banks what their favorite season is and the answer will be fall. The summer heat has moderated just a bit, the water is still wonderfully warm and there are just enough people here to keep everything open.
The fall beach experience is as good as it gets. Through Columbus Day weekend air temperatures are usually warm enough to sit out on the beach and jumping in the ocean is a refreshing but not shocking experience. Toward the end of fall, it does get colder and lonelier on the beach. Perfect for a long stroll with someone special.
Surf conditions are legendary in the fall on the Outer Banks. Offshore tropical systems push beautiful waves with nice even breaks to the beach. What makes the season particularly nice is the water temperatures, although by November it’s getting chilly.
The winds are picking up just a bit; September and October the air temperatures are still moderate—it’s a good time to send a day riding a board with wind filling a kite or sail.
Things can get a little crazy if a tropical system wanders close offshore. That’s when the best kitesurfer head to the ocean for a wild ride.
Fall is billfish time for offshore fishing. Blue and white marlin are two fish that put the Outer Banks on the game fishing map. Look for yellowfin tuna as well.
It’s just as exciting closer to shore and in the surf. The fish aren’t as big, but there are so many passing by. Flounder, red drum, black drum, bluefish…and maybe a cobia off the piers. And that’s just a partial list.
Fall is festival time on the Outer Banks. With summer heat behind us, there is nothing there is nothing quite as nice as listening to great music on a sunny afternoon. Some festivals do run into the evening. Bring a light jacket if that’s the case.
Migratory waterfowl also begin filling the waters of our Outer Banks sounds starting in September. Grab a camera and get some great pics. Or hunters, find a blind and maybe a local guide and see what’s out there.