If you’re looking for a waterfront campsite close to the action in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but still quiet enough to relax I recommend checking out the Refuge Campground in Wanchese, North Carolina on Roanoke Island. The 15 back in style campsites at Refuge are located directly on water. These nightly rentals are part of a larger campground community that has yearly residents/owners. This was our first trip of the year camping and we were at Refuge during the off season (March) so there were not a lot of people moving about.
The campground at Refuge has beautiful walkways around the water, areas to fish (catch and release), a seasonal pool, picnic area and a climate controlled bathhouse. Next door to Refuge is a convenience store with fuel, basic foods and camping essentials. The campground and facilities were very clean and the camp host was friendly.
The wifi was pretty slow, so if that is important bring your own hotspot. The tv channels we picked up from our antenna were also, limited in this area so bring a dish or a DVD player. Most importantly though for us there were many things within a short drive from the campground to do and see.
Things to Do in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Not far up the road to the right from the campground is the quaint town of Manteo, North Carolina famous for the wonderful outdoor drama the Lost Colony. If you’re a nature lover definitely take time to visit the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens on the picturesque sound of Roanoke Island while you’re in town. There is plenty for the history buffs too like visiting Festival Park to see a replica Elizabeth II ship and historical artifacts from the area.
While you’re in the area consider a visit the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island to see some cool ocean life and a ship wreck where an immersed model of the the SS Monitor is in one of their exhibits. The North Carolina Aquariums are one of my favorite places to visit and two are on the Outer Banks area.
The Bodie Lighthouse is nearby over the Washington Baum Bridge and then right on rt12 toward the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Here you’ll find one of my favorite North Carolina beaches Coquina beach and another camping spot Oregon Inlet Campground. If you’re into fishing you can book a fishing charter out of Oregon Inlet (across from the OI campground).
Tour the Outer Banks by Plane
If you’re looking to explore I highly suggest booking a flight over the islands through OBX Air Planes which is at the Manteo Airport right behind the North Carolina Aquarium. You’ll definitely get a better appreciation for how the beautiful outer banks is laid out and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to see a few shipwrecks and maybe even some dolphins. There is just something extra special about flying over the Wright Brother’s memorial area knowing it is the site of the birth of flight itself! If flying isn’t your thing you can also, choose to drive to the Wright Brother’s Memorial and walk the grounds on foot.
Ride the Dunes or See Wild Horses in Corolla
For a day trip I suggest visiting the quaint town of Duck, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse or even go see the wild horses of Corolla on a horse adventure or hop on an atv and ride the dunes. Some areas of the Outer Banks allow you to get an off road permit to drive your own 4×4 vehicle on the beach or you can rent one while you’re at the beach and have a unique driving experience you’ll never forget. Don’t forget to bring your GoPro!
Cool off at H2OBX Waterpark
Not that you will, but if you get tired of the beach and like water fun you can also, drive north to check out the new H2OBX water park too while you’re in town. H2OBX has plenty to offer for the whole family from a huge lazy river, water rides the whole family can fit on, single and double tubing rides, delicious food and fun apparel shopping. From sitting back in a lounge chair and watching everyone else, to speeding down tubes into the warm blue water or eating fish tacos and enjoying a watermelon milkshake you’ll find it all at H2OBX. Spending a day at H2OBX definitely is a great addition to any trip to the beach.
Go for a Walk or Run
Besides the tourist attractions get out and go for a run or walk on the beach or the many other places to venture. Walking on the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge is a local favorite. Visiting the Nags Head Woods Preserve is another great place to go for a run or walk. There are several well marked trails to follow including one that goes out to the Roanoke Sound and a picture perfect skeleton tree beach.
Trails 4/5 goes by small ruins of an old homestead and has a family graveyard with some graves dating back to the 1800s. The area seemed safe and we saw both families and single runners out on the trails. The area was very peaceful and filled with birds and wildlife. The visitor center had trail maps and area information and I would recommend going there first.
Where to Eat in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
The area near the campground Wanchese, North Carolina is known for seafood and has several areas in season to buy fresh fish and seafood. Another place to buy fresh seafood is few miles over the Washington Baum Bridge at Sugar Shack Fish Market Oyster Bar and Grill. North Carolina shrimp purchased fresh from the Sugar Shack Fish Market are hard to beat in the OBX!
Cooking up fresh, local seafood at your campsite makes a wonderful addition to any beach camping experience. The Sugar Shack also, will steam and cook your seafood for you and has an extensive menu for takeout and dine in. There are too many great restaurants in the area to name here. I suggest exploring the area and trying new places. Avoid chain restaurants while on vacation and get something you can’t get at home.
In the near by towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills you will also, find many stores and restaurants to choose from as well as plenty of shopping. If you’re looking for some of the freshest all you can eat seafood in the OBX give Captain George’s a try. This is a local favorite for all you can eat seafood and includes crab legs on the buffet.
Another one of my favorites located in Kill Devil, North Carolina is Mama Kwan’s Tiki Bar & Grill. I love the island vibe and all the tropical inspired dishes. They have a excellent drink menu too with many of their drinks coming in unique take home cups (they can make non alcoholic too). Visiting here always gets me in a vacation mood.
Back on Roanoke Island you will find that it is home to many restaurants and shops too. After dinner I recommend a stop at Scuppernong Vineyards in the shops of Downtown Manteo. The scuppernong grape is native to North Carolina and has a delicious sweet taste and fragrance. If you love wine do yourself a favor and go try some scuppernong wine while you are in the area.
From wild horses, the birth of flight, fresh seafood and breathtaking beaches the the area surrounding the Refuge Campground doesn’t disappoint. Camping near the water was a big perk of this campground and the close proximity to everything we wanted to see. I would highly recommend camping here on a trip to the OBX!
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