Outer Banks vs. Hilton Head

The gems of South and North Carolina, Outer Banks and Hilton Head best represent the US continental island charm. Big on culture and outdoor leisures, these destinations are listed as some of the best spots in the US Atlantic front.
Outer Banks vs. Hilton Head

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If you’re looking for a bit of an outdoor adventure, curious history, and diverse quirky towns, head to Outer Banks. But if you love good wine and a great putt, Hilton Head is the best for families.

Outer Banks

You would be familiar with the Outer Banks if you’ve scrolled enough on Netflix. This chain of islands in North Carolina is a treasure, thanks to the plethora of exciting things it offers. Surfing, a rich history, and vibrant villages, it has everything.

The Outer Banks provide both relaxing and exciting activities for everyone. The area’s tranquil beaches are its main draw, it is perfect for families with little kids. However, there are towns where surfing is the culture. And for the history buffs, the islands also serve as a witness to the very first unfolding of US history.

What Makes Outer Banks Unique?

A Line of Barrier Islands

The Outer Banks, unlike many of the US coastal wonders, isn’t made up of one resort city. It is actually a line of islands and historic towns each having twists of its own. The famous coastal region is perhaps South Carolina’s jam-packed waterfront gems. This string of islands begins at the border that separates Southeast Virginia and South Carolina.

If you want to conquer all of the Outer Banks, it’s best to start around the biggest islands first. These islands are Bodie Island, Pea Island, Hatteras Island, the Ocracoke Islands, Portsmouth Island, and the Core Banks.

There are also several smaller islands and isles around these islands as well. You can’t really pinpoint how many islands the region has thanks to the many powerful storms breaching the island. Over time, it formed new inlets, and the precise number of islands in the vicinity altered.

The Outer Banks is made up of numerous islands and inlets, hence there is more than one main town there. Each island consists of fascinating and distinctive towns, some have more than one.

Because of how distinct and diverse they are, you can travel from north to south. You can travel through communities that have a resort-like atmosphere. There are even some that might make you feel at home and some that are even crammed with history. Some are so shrouded in mystery and spook that urban legends have developed around them.

Watersports Galore

You can expect a wide selection of watersports and activities all over the Outer Banks. This is largely thanks to the accessibility to the coasts of its many settlements.

It boasts hundreds of kilometers of beaches. You can practically find unlimited chances for activities. Any of the barrier islands will provide you with an amazing experience, whether you choose to kayak or go surfing.


The Outer Banks is one of the best surfing locations on the East Coast, if not the entire country. If you’re in the area, surfing is a must-do because there are so many beaches around that offer great surf breaks and waves. Head to popular spots such as Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills to catch the best waves.


Many kiteboarding enthusiasts will surely love the scene on the Outer Banks. The region offers several spots and beaches offering the best kiteboarding experience on the East Coast.

If you are an experienced kiteboarder, you can rent equipment from Kitty Hawk Kites or one of the numerous nearby watersports firms. But if you are just starting, you may sign up for a class at the kiteboarding school at Kitty Hawk Kites as well.

Jet Skiing

The best waves for Jet Skiing are in the vicinity of Roanoke Sound, just off Roanoke Island. One or two units are rented from one of the several rental businesses nearby. However, Kitty Hawk Watersports comes highly recommended for having the greatest gear.


As long as the sun is up, you can enjoy the best parasailing adventures on the Outer Banks. Many of these tours can accommodate guests of all ages. This popular water activity allows you to soar above the ocean and provides breathtaking views of the entire coast for miles.


Not a watersport per se, but kayaking is one of the most popular water activities on the Outer Banks. With the proper guide, you can row and venture around the sounds, inlets, creeks, and streams that border North Carolina’s coastline. It is also perfect and safe for all adventurous spirits, young and old. There are several places to rent kayaks in Nags Head and on Manteo.

Historically Rich

The Outer Banks region saw the first wave of colonialism. It is accessible to ships coming from Europe as it also fronts the great Atlantic. The coastlines have seen 400 years of history play out in front of them. The Outer Banks are rich with history just as much as it is rich in seas and surf. Thanks to centuries worth of history, there are many monumental events and even mysteries that riddle the area.

The infamous disappearance of the first English colony in America perhaps comes as the eeriest tale. Three years after the colony’s founding, the initial residents of Roanoke Island abruptly vanished. Nobody was able to determine how they vanished, and the case is still unsolved. Because of the ongoing mystery surrounding the Roanoke colony, it is now known as the Lost Colony.

When it comes to historical events, the Outer Banks is also quite the destination. In December 1903, the iconic Wright Brothers first took flight. The brothers’ first attempt to fly was successful, which historically took place in the town of Kill Devil Hills.

They decided to take their daring attempt here because of the region’s consistent breezes and friendly locals. Today, you can go to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in the same city and relive the historic moment.

Even though this group of islands may seem simple and modest, it is packed with so much history. On Hatteras Island’s Hatteras Weather Station, the Titanic’s first distress call was picked up. The sinking of Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, happened around the waters close to the Outer Banks. This makes it one of the most intriguing stories.

If you want to learn more bits of history in the Outer Banks, visit the famous Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. This 355-acre (136 hectares) national park remembers and preserves its history. It is where the early English colony in America in the late 1500s first settled. It is a lovely place to visit and is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about American history.

The Beaches

You can have quite the selection of beaches on the Outer Banks thanks to its more than 100 miles (161 km) of swimmable white-sand coastline. From picturesque tranquil beaches to strips full of activities on offer. The beaches, in addition to the several towns nearby, each have unique qualities and traits. Whatever your inclination, there is something out there for everyone.

These lovely white-sand stretches are famous for their cleanliness and family-friendly environment. And that’s on top of its natural beauty. This North Carolina treasure is home to numerous gorgeous beaches, from Corolla Island to Ocracoke Island.

Nags Head

Nags Head is renowned for its pristine beach and shoreline as well as its abundance of other characteristics. It boasts several natural draws, making it one of the most popular beaches in the Outer Banks. You’ll undoubtedly take pleasure in some of what the beach has to offer. You can explore the Bodie Lighthouse and nature paths, and encounter interesting wildlife as well.

Additionally, Nags Head is situated near Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The park contains sand dunes that are ideal for adrenaline enthusiasts because of their exciting landscape. It even boasts a small golf course and go-kart circuits. Additionally, there are dining establishments and ice cream parlors for some post-beach relaxation.

Rodanthe Beach

Rodanthe Beach has its flair for history adding to its allure. Back in the days of the Second Worl War, A British tanker once showed up severely damaged on the coasts. 47 individuals on board were saved at the time by some residents.

It is ideal for individuals seeking ultimate relaxation, thanks to its slower waves and peaceful surroundings.

Rodanthe Beach can seem like a retreat for the tired in body and spirit because of its rich past. It is advisable to go to Rodanthe Beach with no plans because of its peace and quiet. Small campgrounds are available for tourists who want to spend the night close to the beach.

Kitty Hawk

With all of its vibrant drawings and energizing sceneries, Kitty Hawk might be the complete opposite of Rodanthe Beach. Since there are 12 boardwalks on the beach, each one unique in its own way, it is long and wide and crowded with people. With a variety of activities and games open to everyone, Kitty Hawk exudes the summertime spirit.

The Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve is one of the best locations to go near the beach for nature walks and wildlife viewing. Numerous beaches and fishing spots, such as Kitty Hawk Pier, Sandy Run Park, and Avalon Fishing Pier, are close by.

Hilton Head

Hilton Head Island is one of South Carolina’s most picturesque communities. It is well known for its immaculate beaches and championship golf courses. While it may not make a lot of noise compared to its many bigger Atlantic-tourism counterparts. It is perfect for the slow traveler and quiet vacationing family.

The perfect location for a weekend of leisure and entertainment is Hilton Head. The island was crowned America’s Best Island by Travel Pulse and ranked number 10 on Golf Digest’s list of the Best Golf Resorts in the World. This recognition is enough reason for a visit.

What Makes Hilton Head Unique?

Wine and Food Festival

Every March, Hilton Head Island’s wine and food lovers host a week-long celebration. This is to welcome the island’s popular spring season. The island has celebrated this unique festival for more than 30 years.

The event highlights the products of international wine partnerships and distinctive Lowcountry cuisine. It also celebrates grassroots cultural events, and the genuine fabric of a special community.

This must-attend festival is one that visitors to Hilton Head in the spring won’t want to miss. Visitors can choose from a variety of events happening all across the island. This includes food-focused talks, wine tastings, and possibly several wine dinners. Several culinary contests are held throughout the festival. This also includes the eagerly anticipated International Wine Competition.

The Beaches and Coligny Beach Park

Gifted with over 12 miles (19.3 km) of pristine white-sand coasts, you can expect to find quite an ensemble of beaches in Hilton Head. Beach access sites may be found all over the place. And, they often include free public parking and a wooden boardwalk or sand walkway that leads through the dunes to the water.

One of the island’s most beautiful and popular go-to beaches is the beautiful Coligny Beach Park. Coligny Beach is one of the top reasons to travel to Hilton Head Island because of its fine white sand and stunning coastal surroundings. Coligny is popular with both locals and tourists even though there are seven beaches on the island in total.

The landmark on Hilton Head Island is well-equipped with amenities. You can have restrooms and seating options like chairs and umbrellas. If you’re seeking shade along the water, you can even find swings and gazebos there.

It is also friendly to wheelchair users. Plus, the beach even provides free Wi-Fi for those who need to keep connected while traveling. From Coligny Beach, you may access the bike trails on Hilton Head Island and enjoy nearby food and shopping options.

Golf Courses

If it’s not for the beaches, you should definitely go to Hilton Head for the golf courses. One of the best ways to appreciate Hilton Head Island’s calm natural beauty is to play golf there. There are many different golf courses around with big well-kept greens that are ideal for a leisurely afternoon.

It has more than two dozen courses and 400 holes. The island is consistently ranked as one of the finest golf destinations in the state and the entire country. Facilities at Hilton Head are immaculately maintained and surrounded by stunning Lowcountry scenery.

Even better, several of the courses are situated right next to the lake, giving you beautiful views of the water while you play.

Of course, the top courses in the area also include places where you can get food and drinks. Hilton Head’s golf courses are simple to reach in the winter when many national resorts close for the year. This is because it has a mild year-round temperature.

Bicycle Island

Visiting Hilton Head Island on vacation is a welcome diversion in a world dominated by cars. Cars are completely unnecessary on this lovely island. It is a little island. It is just five miles wide and twelve miles long (8 km × 19.3 km). It also lacks any challenging slopes to climb. There is actually nowhere you can’t get to on a bike.

Smart islanders began creating a vast network of bike routes in 1960 and are still working on it now. These in turn promote biking and deter gas-guzzlers and smoke-belching autos. The majority of the roads leading to and around the island are lined with bike lanes.

There are also bike trails that branch off into the trees or toward the beach. This makes it simple to avoid the snarl-up, clamor, and exhaust of ordinary traffic, and instead explore at your own pace.

On Hilton Head Island, riding a bike along the neighborhood pathways is a gratifying experience. The paths can take you through a range of habitats and are astonishingly well-kept.

It is possible to visit vibrant parkland with lots of vegetation, although some routes also lead through more forested areas. If not onto the beaches themselves, you can locate bike trails that carry you right to the sand beaches or across bridges over swampland.

Which Is Better – Outer Banks or Hilton Head?

If you’re looking for the perfect blend of nature, outdoor activities, and history, then Outer Banks is the best option. While it is the best bet for an eventful holiday, it is also perfect for nature adventures and a dive into the US’ deepest histories.

Outer Banks consists of many islands and towns making it diverse and brimming with charm and draws. Hilton Head is laid-back and chill, it is, however, perfect for the slow-living traveler, who loves golf and the beach.


Hilton Head vs. Outer Banks for Families

Hilton Head can be perfect for families with little kids, thanks to its resorts and golfing scene. However, Outer Banks has the advantage of having not just one family-friendly town but a few. Roanoke Island and Kitty Hawk are just some of the family-perfect towns in the island string.

Is Hilton Head the Same as Outer Banks?

Hilton Head is a town situated on an island in South Carolina known for its beaches, golf, and wine. Outer Banks, on the other hand, is a chain of islands that form a barrier across the coast of North Carolina.

How Far Away Are Hilton Head and Outer Banks?

The distance between Hilton Head and Outer Banks is approximately 381 miles or 614 kilometers, directly.

Hilton Head to Outer Banks

You can get to Outer Banks from Hilton Head in three common ways. You can opt to take a ferry or drive a car, which takes the longest. Or, you can fly which takes less time but is a bit more expensive.