As a homeschooling mom of two, I’m always looking for fun and educational experiences for my kids…it’s even better when those experiences turn out to be FREE. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and it was a fantastic experience that we will never forget. Here are a few of my favorite FREE things to do with kids in The Outer Banks of North Carolina!
The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a popular vacation spot for families. With its gorgeous beaches and rich history, it offers a wealth of activities for all ages. However, not all family activities need to be costly. In this blog post, we will explore free things to do with kids in The Outer Banks, NC.
Roanoke Island Maritime Museum
One of the first places we visited was the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum. This museum is dedicated to the maritime history of the Outer Banks and has an extensive collection of artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays.
One of the most exciting exhibits at the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum is seeing the junior sailor sailboats. The Roanoke Island Maritime Museum hosts a summer camp where children as young as 5 learn how to sail. The boats used for junior sailors are so cute and small…the kids really connected with the idea of being able to learn how to sail. The entire museum is full of different sailboats through time and has lots of information about sailing. It’s a fun little stop that’s completely free.
@melissa.llado Downtown Manteo is a favorite spot when visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina! #thingstodoinncwithkids #obxnc #travelingwithkids #learningallthetime #homeschooltravel #kidswhoexplore ♬ original sound – Melissa
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
Right next to the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum is the the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. This lighthouse was originally built in 1877 and was used to guide boats through the Roanoke Sound. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1955, but it was eventually restored and reopened as a museum in 2004.
Visiting the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was an incredible experience. We were able to go inside the lighthouse and learn how lighthouses keepers lived and worked. We also learned about the history of the lighthouse and the important role it played in the maritime history of the Outer Banks. Visiting the Lighthouse and grounds is free.
Follow the pathway around the sound and you’ll get an amazing view of a replica of the Queen Mary II. Want to climb aboard? You can by visiting the Roanoke Adventure Museum.
@melissa.llado The Outer Banks are full of free, fun, and educational experiences… check out the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse #outerbanksnc #roanokeisland #homeschoolersoftiktok #kidswhoexplore #travelingwithkids #educationaltravel @Melissa ♬ original sound – Melissa
Roanoke Adventure Museum
Although, the Roanoke Adventure Museum isn’t free, it’s not something to be missed if you’re looking for educational experiences in The Outer Banks! At just $10 per person for admission, this museum was a FAVORITE among our group!
We spent a good 3-4 hours taking in everything the Roanoke Adventure Museum had to offer. From climbing aboard a replica of the Queen Elizabeth II that brought the original colonizers to North Carolina, to exploring an indigenous village, to interacting with actors in the colonists’ settlement…the kids (and adults) loved every minute of this museum! Check out my full review of the Roanoke Adventure Museum.
Lindsay Warren Visitors Center
Next, we visited the Lindsay Warren Visitors Center, which is located on the northern end of Roanoke Island. Of all the free things we did with kids in the Outer Banks, this one definitely in my top 3! This visitors center is a great place to start your visit to Roanoke Island, as it provides information about all of the local attractions and activities.
The Lindsay Warren Visitors Center also has an excellent exhibit on the history of the island, including the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. For a free activity, we spent almost 2 hours touring all of the amazing exhibits found inside. You start off entering a replica of Sir Walter Raleigh’s study in England…all the way down to the elaborate ceiling tiles to the stunning wooden walls. There’s a short video presentation about WHY England wanted to send explorers and colonizers to North Carolina. I must say, the presentation was superb and kept the children entertained.
Next, there’s several interactive exhibits dealing with colonization, cartography, discovering natural resources, etc. All of these exhibits feature hands on activities and technology to engage children to learn new skills. There’s even an in depth section featuring the indigenous people of the area.
The final part of the museum dives into The Lost Colony of Roanoke and encourages visitors to think critically about what happened to all of those people. There’s a short video and then a notebook for kids to share their theories with other museum visitors. It’s quite interesting to read through some of the past theories and contemplate what really happened to the colonists.
@melissa.llado just one of the many free, fun, and educational activities in The Outer Banks NC!! #outerbanksnc #travelingwithkids #worldschoolmom #learningallthetime #kidswhoexplore #homeschoolersoftiktok #manteonc ♬ Little Things – Adrian Berenguer
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
This historic site is located right next to the Lindsay Warren Visitors Center and is the location of the first English settlement in North America.
There are also several hiking trails at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, including the Eleanor Dare Trail. This trail is named after one of the members of the Lost Colony who gave birth to the first English child born in North America. The trail is a scenic hike that takes you through the forest and provides excellent views of the sound. It’s quite incredible to walk through this area and think about how it must have been for those first settlers coming to this area.
During the summer months, there’s a theatrical presentation of The Lost Colony which I hear is fantastic! We weren’t able to catch a showing since we travelled to The Outer Banks during the “off” season. There is a fee for the show, but it’s located right on the sound at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
The Wright Brother’s National Memorial
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is located in Kill Devil Hills, and it commemorates the first successful flight of the Wright brothers in 1903. The park has a visitor center, museum, and a reproduction of the Wright brothers’ airplane.
The admission fee to the park is $10 per person, but as long as one of your children is in 4th grade, your entire family can enter for free. Simply sign up for the Every Kid Outdoors Program before visiting. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the history of flight and explore the park’s walking trails. Check out my full review on The Wright Brother’s National Memorial.
@melissa.llado Learn how to get fr33 admission #killdevilhillsnc #travelingwithkids #educationaltravel #travelinghomeschoolers #outerbanksnc #interestbasedlearning @Melissa @Melissa ♬ original sound – Melissa
Bodie Island Lighthouse
The Bodie Island Lighthouse is a historic landmark located on the Outer Banks. It’s open to the public for free, and visitors can climb the lighthouse’s 214 steps for a breathtaking view of the surrounding area during certain times of the year.
Take a walk along the beautiful nature preserve and let the kids run free along the long pier that leads out to the middle of the marshes. Inside the museum kids can learn about the history of the lighthouse and take a fun, educational tour.
@melissa.llado Bodie Island Lighthouse was absolutely breathtaking! #outerbanksnc #travelingwithkids #thingstodoinncwithkids #homeschoolmom #learningallthetime @Melissa ♬ original sound – Melissa
Visit One of the Many Nature Preserves
The Outer Banks is home to a variety of wildlife, and going on a nature walk is a great way to explore it. The Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve is a great place to start. The preserve has several hiking trails that wind through a diverse ecosystem of maritime forest and wetlands. Admission to the preserve is free, and guided tours are available for a small fee. Another great option is the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuge Gateway Visitor Center, located in Manteo. Visitors can learn about the local wildlife and conservation efforts, and kids can participate in interactive exhibits and scavenger hunts. Admission to the visitor center is free.
Search for Wild Horses in Corolla
No visit to The Outer Banks, NC is complete without a visit to Corolla to catch a glimpse of the wild horses! The wild horses of Corolla are believed to be descendants of Spanish mustangs that were brought to the Americas in the 16th century. These horses were left to roam free on the barrier islands along the eastern seaboard, including the Outer Banks.
There are many tour companies that offer excursions, but just remember, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see them. We did one of these excursions and only saw 1 horse munching on a bush in someone’s yard…not the thrilling experience I was expecting.
But, you can look for the wild horses without needing to book an expensive excursion! Just visit Corolla Beach and spend time exploring the area on your own….you never know when you may stumble across a few of these beautiful creatures. But even if you don’t see any wild horses, you’ll still get to experience the amazing beaches of Corolla. Learn more about how to see the wild horses of Corolla.
@melissa.llado I would definitely go back and spend the day walking along this beach! it was incredible!! #corollabeach #corollawildhorses #kidswhoexplore #homeschooltravel #outerbanksnc #visitnc #whywehomeschool ♬ original sound – Melissa
Historic Corolla Park
Historic Corolla Park in the Outer Banks of North Carolina is a must-visit destination for history and nature lovers. The park features the beautifully restored Whalehead Club mansion, the Center for Wildlife Education showcasing native wildlife and preservation efforts, and the Maritime Museum celebrating the area’s maritime history. Visitors can also enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Currituck Sound or rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the waterways.
Also located in Historic Corolla Park is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, which is unique to other Outer Banks lighthouses. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse was left unpainted to showcase the incredible bricks used to build the lighthouse. Even though there is a fee to climb the lighthouse, visiting the grounds and exploring all there is to offer throughout Historic Corolla Park is completely free.
Free Things to Do With Kids in The Outer Banks
Overall, our trip to The Outer Banks was an incredible experience that we will never forget. We were able to learn about the rich history of the Outer Banks and have fun exploring all of the local attractions. There were so many free things to do with kids in The Outer Banks…I know we didn’t get to everything! If you’re looking for a fun and educational experience for your family, I highly recommend visiting The Outer Banks. These were just the freebies that we did in The Outer Banks…check out all the fun we had on our educational trip to the Outer Banks, NC.