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Virginia’s Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is the closest airport to the Outer Banks at 115 miles from Rodanthe. Rent a car in Norfolk so you can travel freely to Rodanthe and the neighboring isles. The 16-mile Route 168 Chesapeake Expressway links Interstate 64 in Chesapeake to North Carolina and the Outer Banks; there is a toll for the expressway, so be sure you have cash on hand, or request an EZ-Pass transponder from your rental car company. Once you’re on the Outer Banks, the area is easy to navigate, as there’s just one major road — North Carolina Highway 12 — that runs north to south through the barrier islands. With flat terrain, wide roads, and many paved paths, the area is extremely bike-friendly, so consider renting a bicycle to get around once you’re headquartered in Rodanthe. There are local taxi companies and rideshare services, as well as passenger ferries that travel seasonally between Hatteras and Ocracoke.
The best time to visit the Outer Banks is March through May or September through November. Spring and fall are best to avoid crowds and get the best prices on vacation rentals. However, know that the earlier in spring you plan your trip, the more likely it is that the beach will be too cold to enjoy to its fullest. Also worth noting: Peak hurricane season in the Atlantic runs August through November, and the possibility of trip interruption is something you should consider when planning your visit to Rodanthe. While temperatures can be chilly, winter travel to Outer Banks has its perks, like an increase in wildlife to spot.
America’s first designated national seashore, Cape Hatteras is home to myriad wildlife like wild mustangs and the various species of sea turtles that make their nests on the beach each year. Enjoy wildlife sightings from afar, but don’t disturb their space.
The first Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was lit in 1803, then demolished when the current black-and-white-striped version opened in 1870. Standing nearly 200 feet tall, it’s the tallest brick lighthouse in the country and is open seasonally for visitors to climb the 257 steps from the ground to the balcony.
Take the free hour-long Hatteras Ferry ride to Ocracoke Island, where you can spot 400 species of birds and 16 miles of undeveloped coastline. Getting around Ocracoke is a breeze, with no shortage of golf carts, bicycles, and even parasails to rent.