Nags Head, N.C., is on the northern peninsula of the Outer Banks. Its unspoiled beaches are free, with plenty of parking available. The inimitable pink-blue sunsets and charming mom-and-pop establishments help it to sustain an unaffected, wholesome vibe.
Nags Head is about 325 miles from Baltimore. You can fly Southwest Airlines nonstop into Norfolk, then rent a car for the remaining 88 miles. Most folks contend it's easier, and cheaper, to make the trip by car, about a six-hour drive.
252-480-2224, villagerealtyobx.com. For expanded living spaces and picture-perfect sundecks, rent a beachfront condo or cottage from Maggie Sexton.
First Colony Inn B&B,
6715 South Croatan Highway, 252-441-2343, firstcolonyinn.com. With its ocean views and private boardwalk leading to the beach, the historic inn offers an upscale stay. Summer room rates are $189 to $289 per night.
South Beach Grille,
6806 S. Virginia Dare Trail, 252-449-9313, southbeachgrillemp16.com. offers fresh seafood with Caribbean and Asian accents — and stunning sea views from the outside deck upstairs. Entrees: $12.95-$22.95
2316 South Croatan Highway, 252-441-4116, kellysrestaurant.com. Year-round residents love Kelly's for its fresh flounder and sweet potato biscuits. Entrees: $18-$29.
Sam and Omies
, 7228 S Virginia Dare Trail, 252-441-7366, samandomies.net. This "barefoot and beachy," circa-1937 restaurant is a favorite spot for breakfast. Entrees: $2.50-$14.99
The Bridge at Whalehead Club,
1100 Club Road, Route 12, Corolla, 252-453-9040, whaleheadclub.org. Insiders say this is the ideal spot to pop the question. The bridge is within the gardens of a 1920s hunting club and mansion. Admission to park is free; audio house tours are $9.
The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama,
1409 National Park Drive, Manteo, 252-473-3414, thelostcolony.org. Performed outdoors nightly from June through August, this long-running outdoor symphonic drama tells the tale of an early British colony established in this area that simply vanished. Just one clue was left as to their whereabouts: the word "CROATOAN" carved on a palisade. Tickets: $24.
The Corolla Wild Horses
are protected in a dedicated wildlife sanctuary that features an interactive museum. 1126 Schoolhouse Lane, Corolla, 252- 453-8002. corollawildhorses.com
Jockey's Ridges State Park,
West Carolista Drive, Nags Head, 252-441-7132, jockeysridgestatepark.com. For the best beach vistas, check out the highest sand dune on the East Coast. The park also features trails, a boardwalk and beach activities.
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, 1 Visitors Center Cirtcle, Manteo, N.C., 877-629-4386, outerbanks.org.