A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

You inherit all manner of family traditions when you marry. So when I said “I do,” I knew my in-laws’ fondness for fall on the coast would mean we’d pack

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

You inherit all manner of family traditions when you marry. So when I said “I do,” I knew my in-laws’ fondness for fall on the coast would mean we’d pack

Falling for Currituck

You inherit all manner of family traditions when you marry. So when I said “I do,” I knew my in-laws’ fondness for fall on the coast would mean we’d pack our bags as the weather turned. I learned pretty quickly that they were on to something.

While there’s practically no bad time to be at the beach, post-summer vacationers and longtime locals agree that the Outer Banks shores are at their prime in the fall. While the weather is milder, the water temperatures remain warm into October. Vacationers can spread out along the unspoiled coastline and enjoy the spacious beaches, while cooler sand pleases both bare feet and puppy paws. Even the skies put on a show, with sunrises and sunsets revealing a more vibrant palette that seems to rival the turning leaves in the western part of the state.

Considered the Outer Banks’ “shoulder season” — the period of time between an area’s peak and off-seasons — fall has long been a secret standout for vacationers looking to fill their days with more leisurely paced rest and recreation. Learn why autumn shines in Currituck, and then plan your own getaway so you can add to the list.


1. Local fall flavors

Try a cocktail from Buffalo City Distillery’s fall seasonal menu. Photography courtesy of Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism

Just over the bridge to the mainland in Point Harbor, Buffalo City Distillery is a maker of coastally crafted spirits, including classic and flavored whiskey and vodka. Regular tours include a full history of the storied pre-Prohibition-era Buffalo City, as well as a deep dive into the distilling process and a tasting of four spirits. Meanwhile, the calendar is dotted with live music, food trucks, trivia, yoga, art classes, and a monthly local vendor market. And although manager Kelly Glander says the farm-to-bottle experience is available year-round, autumn’s cooler temps increase the appeal of the distillery’s spacious outdoor area’s games, firepits, and lighting. Settle in with a cocktail or two from the fall seasonal menu, such as a warming whiskey sour made with the popular Honey Roasted Almond Whiskey.

Also making use of the fertile coastal harvest are the local, mostly family-owned farmers markets. Find (and often sample!) cider, apples, beans, pumpkins, and more at the many market stands: Morris Farm Market, Moyock Farm Market, Tarheel Produce, Roberts Ridge Farm, Powell’s Market, Grandy Farm Market, Seaside Market, and Indiantown Farms. Some stock fresh catch, as well.


2. Oyster season arrives

Speaking of fresh catch, September ushers in the start of oyster season. However you like yours — slurpably raw, succulently steamed, or lightly fried — restaurants like Mainland’s Coinjock Marina, Sundogs Raw Bar and Grill, and Frog Island, as well as Corolla’s North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar know how to shuck and serve ’em up right.

Tip: Traditionally months that contain an “R” (September through April) are known for the best harvest, but you can find these must-have mollusks in eateries and from seafood purveyors in other months, too.


Climb to the top of Currituck Beach Lighthouse for a beautiful view. Photography courtesy of Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism

3. Linger longer at historical sites

With fewer visitors in town, the region’s many historical and educational sites beckon you to slow down, take your time, and enjoy being immersed in natural and cultural heritage. In Historic Corolla Village, Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the last brick-and-mortar lighthouse built in North Carolina, has a self-guided climb. The 220 steps to the top are broken up by landings featuring informative displays.

Nearby, the Currituck Maritime Museum is a family-friendly showcase of restored boats, hands-on exhibits, and videography that shares the history of the region’s boat-building, decoy carving, lighthouses, fishing, lifesaving stations, and weather. Also in Historic Corolla Park, the lemon-yellow Whalehead is a 1920s-era Art Nouveau mansion-turned-museum. Book a tour to marvel at its meticulous restoration. Or stop in the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education for a short film and interactive exhibitions focused on the area’s wildlife, from waterfowl to wild mustangs.


4. It’s festival time

A slower season means it’s high time for signature events. At Sanctuary Vineyards, where hand-picked grapes produce everything from dry vinifera to sweet Muscadine wines, the Crabdaddy Seafood & Wine Festival draws October festivalgoers. Celebrating Currituck’s fresh seafood and local wine and beer, the event often sells out. In November, enjoy a petting zoo, ride a mechanical bull, compete in cornhole, shop the Anything Goes Craft Market, and feast on local barbecue as you settle in for the main event: a rollicking rodeo at the Currituck Bulls and BBQ Festival.


Practice your swing at The Currituck Club. Photography courtesy of Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism

5. The golf is grand

Some of North Carolina’s most desirable courses can be found in the Outer Banks. Variety delights here, as dunes, wetlands, maritime forests, and seascapes enhance the area’s six courses.

Doug Kinser, director of golf at The Pointe Golf Club, says that while the course is known for its year-round playability, the best time of year for northern Outer Banks golf is undoubtedly fall. “The temperatures are usually very comfortable, and the golf courses are still in great condition,” he says.

Minutes from Kitty Hawk beaches, the club has been an Outer Banks favorite since it opened in 1995. “We just celebrated our 28th year, and we’ve been fortunate to build a reputation as being the area’s most player-friendly design, with some of the best course conditions in the entire region,” he says.

Just 10 minutes north is The Pointe’s sister property, The Carolina Club. “Our two courses complement each other well because they have similar conditioning and playability, which appeals to golfers of all skill levels,” he says. “Our goal is to provide fun, well-maintained, and playable layouts, which hopefully results in lower scores and faster rounds.”

Other area courses include The Currituck Club, Kilmarlic Golf Club, The Golf Club at Eagle Creek, and Holly Ridge Golf Course, and while each has distinct features, they all play best with a light autumn breeze.

Whether you spread out in the sand, sample spirits with locals, browse museums, take a crack at a raw bar, or book a breezy 18, in the Currituck Outer Banks, the shoulder season may just reign supreme.

This story was published on Aug 08, 2023

Lauren Eberle

Lauren Eberle is a writer and editor based in Winston-Salem.