Bird Watching and Nature Activities

Outer Banks Nature and Natural Attractions

The main attraction of Hatteras Island is its miles of unspoiled natural beauty, and there are countless ways to enjoy this stunning barrier island at its finest. Take an excursion off the beach, and you’ll discover that there’s a lot to love about the Outer Banks, both on and off the shore.

Whether you decide to enjoy a typical day at the beach, or explore Hatteras Island away from the shore, with miles of wild and unspoiled terrain to enjoy, it’s obvious why visitors will always be naturally attracted to the Outer Banks.

Quick Natural Attractions Guide

  • Bring along insect repellant when exploring nature.
  • There are beautiful flowers and stunning photo ops in amongst the dune grass but beware of the small cactus. They will attach to your shoes and have inch-long spears.
  • Please only cross sand dunes on established paths. Our dune system is fragile.
  • The soundside areas of the National Seashore accessible by vehicle require the beach driving permits. Please call the park service at (252) 473-2111 or visit for the most current information.
  • Always stay hydrated when off on an adventure, even in shaded areas.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Located on both the east and west sides of NC Highway 12 from the Bonner Bridge to the village of Rodanthe is the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 13 mile long eco-system with over 360 species of birds that flock to this gorgeous stretch of North Carolina shoreline every year. With 5,834 acres of land and 25,700 acres of water, and marshy areas, ponds, beaches, and maritime forests in between, the refuge offers multiple opportunities to explore the coastal eco-system up close and personal. Be sure to bring along a pair of binoculars and a camera to document your wildlife sightings. 

Hatteras Island by Kayak

One of the best ways to explore the intricate saltwater canals and miles of Pamlico Sound is by kayak, and there are a number of local shops that offer kayak rentals for an hour, or for the duration of your Outer Banks stay. Some local watersports companies, like Kitty Hawk Kites, also offer guided tours around some of the most scenic stretches of water. Book a family excursion around sunset for a truly exceptional view of Hatteras Island.

Maritime Forest Trails

Outer Banks wildlife on Hatteras Island

Home to one of the largest unspoiled maritime forests on the East Coast, the little trails that intertwine around the island are definitely worth exploring. Start with a nature hike along the 3/4 mile trail adjacent to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, or take a self-guided tour along a scenic soundside area, like the Salvo Day Use Area just south of Salvo. With plenty of birding opportunities, and countless species of beautiful local flora and fauna, a camera is definitely handy to capture your trail blazing adventures.

Paddleboard the Pamlico Sound

Paddleboarders flock to Hatteras Island, attracted by the miles of sound beaches that provide easy launching points for a quiet adventure paddling across the sound waters. There are many access points to the sound, and a couple even have bathrooms and changing facilities, like Canadian Hole in between Avon and Buxton, or the Salvo Day Use Area. Take a long walk along the sound, and you’ll discover a new kind of beach, with live scallops buried in the shoreline, egrets and pelicans diving for their dinner, and leatherback turtles out for a swim.