The Outer Banks of North Carolina are famous for many different reasons: beautiful coastline, shipwrecks, hurricanes, seafood, and among many other things mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets. Visitors and locals alike are stunned at the beauty both dawn and dusk bring along the ocean and sound.
Whether you love the deep bold colors of the immediate sunrise or the soft pastels of a distant sunset, we are here to recommend the best places to catch both here along the Outer Banks.
The Best Spots for Sunsets on the Outer Banks
You will find that the sound side of the Outer Banks is where you want to look for the best spots to watch the sun set into the water in real time. The sun sets in the west along these calm waters and shows off its bold yellows, oranges, and reds.
However, if you are a lover of cotton candy pinks and softer pastels, then you will enjoy the sunset from the beach as the sunset reflects into the distant sky over the ocean.
Below are five of our favorite spots for sunsets on the Outer Banks.
#1: Kitty Hawk Pier
Arguably our favorite place to view the soft pinks, purples, and yellows from a distant sunset isÂ the Kitty Hawk Pier. You can sit and enjoy the sky from the sand or walk up to the pier house itself.
Kitty Hawk Pier typically boasts wildlife to compliment the beauty of the sky. Birds flock to and from the roof of the pier as crabs start to dart around for their nighttime haul. Weâ€™ve spent plenty of time admiring the sky from this pier near the Hilton Hotel.
#2: Bay Drive in Kill Devil Hills
If you are looking to exercise while viewing the sunset or do a quick driveby, Bay Drive in Kill Devil Hills is your best bet! Lined with sidewalks and a few public viewing areas, Bay Drive is alive with bike riders, dog walkers, and casual walkers looking to take in the beauty of the sun as it falls down behind the line of sound.
If you want to sit and enjoy the sunset from Bay Drive you can visit the Hayman Boulevard Gazebo or the Avalon Beach Boat Ramp.
#3: Town of Duck Boardwalk
Want to enjoy a sunset while dining at some of Duckâ€™s best restaurants or browse stores among one of the most scenic shopping centers of the Outer Banks? We suggest the Town of Duck Boardwalk!
Even if youâ€™re not shopping or dining, the Town Park is over 11 acres and worth checking out. We also mention this well-known boardwalk in our scenic Outer Banks hiking and nature trails blog.
The Duck Boardwalk has prime sound side views of the Currituck Sound perfect to catch a sunset. With over 3,000 ft of the pier, this sunset viewing spot is also accessible by boat!
#4: Jockeyâ€™s Ridge
Located in Nags Head, the famous sand dunes of Jockeyâ€™s Ridge State Park offer a family-friendly environment for enjoying the sunset from the simultaneous perspective of Roanoke Sound and the Atlantic Ocean! The North Carolina state park is the tallest living sand dune system on the East Coast.
Kids and adults alike love to climb the ever-shifting dunes to fly kites, try hangliding, boogie board down the dunes, enjoy sunsets, and simply just run free. View from across the top of Jockey’s Ridge will allow you to see some of the most famous, historic Outer Banks cottages, the unpainted Aristocracy.
Be prepared to get extra sandy in this location, although we find it totally worth it especially if you seek a beautiful sunset.
#5: Outer Banks Marinas
What is more true to the Outer Banks than watching the sunset between the striking white of the off-shore fishing ships docked in the marinas? The most famous of the Outer Banks marinas are Oregon Inlet and Pirates Cove.
These two marinas are often buzzing in the summer with the captain, crew, and guests bringing in the dayâ€™s catch. Smaller boats might also be returning to their dock space from their inshore fishing adventures causing ripples in the waters as they reflect the beautiful colors of the sunset.
There are also smaller marinas and dockyards located all the way from the Northern Beaches to the Southern Beaches and Ocracoke! If you decide to visit Ocracoke, you might get a bonus sunset from the Ferry that delivers you.
The Best Places to Watch the Sunrise on the OBX
As the saying goes, â€œThe early bird gets the wormâ€. Here on the Outer Banks, the early bird gets to find the best places to watch a beautiful sunrise; and if youâ€™re extra lucky a dolphin show!
While it may be early, the calm peacefulness of the morning is worth capturing from various locations. Before the bustle of the traffic and beachgoers, the sun greets its viewers by seemingly rising out of the ocean or slowly painting the sky along the sound.
We highly recommend grabbing a cup of coffee from a local coffee shop (such as Duckâ€™s Cottage, Front Porch, Ashleyâ€™s Espresso Parlor, Morning View, or Waveriders) before heading to one of the five places below to watch the day come to life.
#1: Carova 4×4 Beach
Want an off-the-grid, OBX sunrise experience? We suggest a drive on the 4×4 beach of Carova!
Located north of Corolla, this beach requires you to air down your tires and use a 4-wheel drive to access the beach. If youâ€™re really lucky you might even be graced by the presence of their wild horse population â€“ but be sure to stay far back if they do appear while watching the sunrise here.
There are also some good Outer Banks shell hunting spots along this stretch as is the most untouched part of the Outer Banks beaches.Â Â
#2: Bodie Island Lighthouse
The iconic Bodie Island Lighthouse offers a great sunrise experience around an Outer Banks icon. The bright colors juxtaposed against the famous black-and-white landmark make for beautiful photos.
To the left of the lighthouse is a boardwalk that allows you to safely walk out a distance for a better perspective.
#3: Avalon Fishing Pier
Located in Kill Devil Hills, Avalon Fishing Pier is a great place to catch the sunrise and fish! Typically scattered with early morning anglers, Avalon offers possible excitement with its sunrise experience.
If youâ€™re going to catch the sunrise at this centrally located, Outer Banks pier, bring a fishing pole with you and try surf fishing until the pier opens for the day. Every pier on the OBX offers you a great location to sit and watch the sunrise or even set depending on how long you stay.
#4: Ocracoke Island
Ocracoke Island is an Outer Banks gem accessible only by ferry and known for its quaint village and rustic campgrounds. If you are into camping, we highly recommend doing so on this island.
Rising early from your tent to walk over the dune for an amazing sunrise is a true treat. Not much of a camper? You can rent a golf cart or ride a bike to find a great sunrise location in Ocracoke Village.
#5: Off-Shore Fishing
If you have the money, there is no better sunrise experience than being miles out on the ocean aboard an off-shore fishing expedition. Off-shore fishing boats leave the dock when it is still dark out. By the time the sun rises (if you can stay awake), you will have a front-row view of an amazing show.
The colors of sunrise are bold and bright and reflected off the glistening Atlantic. Itâ€™s truly a one-of-a-kind way to experience an Outer Banks sunrise.Â
How to Watch OBX Sunrises and Sunsets
There are not many locations on the OBX where you will not find a beautiful sunrise or sunset if you are there are the right time. You can use local information from Outer Banks fishing reports or Google what time the sun will rise and set the day you want to watch.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to arrive and get settled. A beautiful array of sunrises and sunsets await you on the Outer Banks.
Kimber Smith is the creative founder of The Outer Banks Candle Company. With a degree in art, she has dabbled in many art forms from oil painting to calligraphy to furniture refinishing. And when she’s not busy making candles or managing the high energy (chaos) of life with five kids, she enjoys writing about the journey of it all!