The main Outer Banks attraction: The BEACH! There are so many fun and relaxing ways to enjoy your beach time on the Outer Banks, and we’ve outlined some of our favorite activities below.
Beach Time On The Outer Banks
The main Outer Banks attraction: The BEACH!
So much makes the Outer Banks special, but miles and miles of pristine coastline are what brings visitors back year after year. There are so many fun and relaxing ways to enjoy your beach time on the Outer Banks, and we’ve outlined some of our favorite activities below.
Several different shells can be found on our shores, and the best time to look is low tide. Our beachcombing guide will help you identify your treasures from the sea.
Go for a long walk or beach run.
Hoping to fit in some exercise on vacation? Walking on sand is a workout! It can take more than twice the energy to walk or run on sand compared to hard surfaces. Plus, exercise with an ocean view isn’t so bad…
Catch the sunrise.
Set that alarm. We promise it’s worth it! Sunrises over the Atlantic are breathtaking. Plus, early mornings are one of the best times to spot pods of dolphins swimming parallel to the shoreline. (If you aren’t a morning person, sunset afterglows on the beach are truly beautiful too! Or you can catch the full sunset on the soundside. Check out our soundfront homes here.)
Go for a drive on the sand.
Most Outer Banks towns allow off-roading on the beach during certain times of the year. It’s a ton of fun to pack a lunch, some beach gear, and take a four-wheel-drive vehicle out to find the perfect spot to spend the day. Learn more about each town’s rules and off-road vehicle safety.
Have a beach bonfire.
Few things are more relaxing than the sound of a crackling fire next to waves lapping the shore. Beach fires are only allowed in Nags Head and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Learn more about the regulations and required permits.
Surf fishing from the beach is a pastime enjoyed by all ages. Learn more about the required fishing license and all the other ways to fish on the Outer Banks.
Build a castle.
Sandcastles are a classic beach day activity. Add some friendly competition to the mix by having a sandcastle-building contest with others in your vacation group! You don’t have to stick to castles – your imagination is the limit.
Take in a surfing lesson.
Surfing is a favorite local pastime, and there are great instructors on the Outer Banks ready to help you learn. No board? No problem – if the instructor doesn’t provide boards, they can be rented locally.
Give boogie boarding or skimboarding a try!
Boogie boards (also known as bodyboards) are great for riding shore break waves back to shore. Skimboards are used to glide on the water’s surface closer to shore. Boogie boarding tends to be the easier of the two. Both types of boards can be rented or purchased locally.
Our in-house Housekeeping Department will be taking extra precautions to properly sanitize the home prior to your arrival. We encourage you to continue following the CDC guidelines, including frequent hand-washing and sanitizing of high-touch areas.
We are adding to our already high cleaning standards, focusing additional attention on high-touch surfaces, including but not limited to: doorknobs, keyless entry pad, light switches, TV remotes, stair handrails, cabinet drawer pulls, appliance handles such as fridge, microwave, & oven, laundry machines, washer/dryer knobs, and thermostats. Cloth furniture will be misted with sanitizer. All hard surfaces, kitchens, and bathrooms will be thoroughly sanitized. Please note that throw pillows, decor items, board games, etc. may be removed from the home to cut down on items to be be sanitized between guests.
Check-In and Check-Out
In order to implement additional cleaning protocols, check-in time is now 5:00 p.m. However, you will be notified if your house is ready early. We will not be able to accommodate early check-in or late check-out requests.
Beds will be made with freshly laundered sheets and pillowcases. Pillows, mattress pads, and comforters will be misted with sanitizing product.
Sheets & Towels:
Our sheets and towels are cleaned at a commercial facility following the process below:
A.) Pre-Rinse and Soaking: This is achieved in the first module of the Continuous Batch Washer, later referred to as CBW. This water is a standing bath and is isolated from the rest of the CBW and is drained. The heaviest of soil is removed here.
B.) Conditioning and Washing: These are accomplished in the next four to five compartments. Proper water chemistry is achieved to remove and suspend solids. Counter flow or bath exchanges are used to separate the suspended soils from the cleaned products.
C.) Bleaching: Occurs immediately behind washing. This is accomplished with Sodium Hypochlorite and Hydrogen Peroxide at temperatures ranging from 150-160 F.
D.) Rinsing and pH Correction: The last step done in the cleanest of water to establish close to skin pH conditions.
E.) Drying/Ironing of all items are last steps of finishing process. During these processes, items are exposed to temperatures in excess of 350 F.
Pools and Spas
The Center for Disease Control states that “There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.” All of our pool vendors are certified, and chemical checks are performed regularly.
Our field staff has been advised to adhere to social distancing protocols and maintain a 6 ft distance at all times. If you require housekeeping or maintenance services, our staff will likely be wearing protective wear such as masks and gloves, and will maintain six feet distance at all times for everyone’s safety. Many of the vendors Carolina Designs Realty works with are following the same practices as our in-house staff. We encourage you to sanitize after each visiting technician and vendor. Our offices will be closed to all non-employees, but we will be happy to assist you over the phone.
Please note that community amenities such as pools and clubhouses that would usually be open during your stay may not be available or may have limited hours and occupancy due to their own increased protocols. These amenities are individually managed and their details are subject to change.
For the safety of both our guests and our staff, we do not perform mid-stay spruce cleans for multi-week stays. In lieu of a mid-stay clean, multi-week guests can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a mid-stay drop-off of fresh linens, towels, and a new welcome package. For each drop-off, we ask that guests strip the sheets off the beds and gather any used towels for pickup by our staff.
Free souvenirs from the sea! This guide provides images of shells and other items found on the beaches of Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head.
OBX Beachcombing & Shell Guide
Beachcombing is one of our favorite things to do.
Who doesn’t love free souvenirs from the sea? This guide provides images of shells and other items found on the beaches of Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head.
Where is the best place to find shells on the Outer Banks? Weather, currents, and our shoreline are constantly changing, so you never know quite where the best shell beds will be day-to-day. If you aren’t having luck at your nearest beach access, give a different one a try! There are many public beach accesses to choose from.
When is the best time to go shelling? Beachcombing is in-season all year round. If you’re an early riser, head to the shore for sunrise. Some great shells may have washed up overnight, plus there’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise over the Atlantic. (This is also a common time of day to spot dolphins swimming offshore!) It’s also helpful to follow the tides. Low tide is the ideal time to beachcomb, before the water rises to cover what the waves brought onto the sand.
Scotch Bonnets are the official North Carolina state seashell! The shell is grown by a type of sea snail and can be 2-4 inches on the longest side. They can be shades of brown, yellow, and orange.
Ocean Quahog shells are hinged clam shells, but it’s rare to find the two sides still attached once they wash up on the beach. These are thick shells that tend to have a white interior with a purple rim, but some have no purple coloring at all. The oldest living animal on the planet was a quahog at 507 years old!
Broken Pieces of Ocean Quahogs
When quahog shells break up into pieces, it can expose more of the purple coloring commonly found in the deeper layers of the shell. Over time these pieces become worn and smooth. White and purple quahog pieces were used by Native Americans to create wampum beads, which were used at currency.
Atlantic Giant Cockles
Cockles are radially-ribbed hinged clam shells, but it is uncommon to find the two sides still hinged together on Outer Banks beaches. Atlantic Giant Cockles range in size from about a half inch to six inches at their widest part. They are usually off-white with brown and red markings, and their interior is commonly smooth and pink.
Scallops are clam shells, and they can be found in a wide variety of colors on the Outer Banks. They are typically about three inches at their widest width and are radially-ribbed with “ears” sticking out slightly on either side of their base where the hinge would be. It isn’t common to find the two sides still hinged together on the beach.
Coquinas are small hinged clam shells that grow to be smaller than an inch. You can find these on Outer Banks beaches at the tide line with both sides still held together by the delicate hinge, which give them a butterfly-like shape. They are typically white on both sides. The interior can have tinges of purple and yellow.
A variety of Whelks are sea snails. A variety of whelk shells can be found on Outer Banks beaches, but the knobbed whelk and lightning whelk are the most common. Lightning whelk shells have their opening on the left side, and knobbed whelks have their opening on the right side. These sprial shells can be found in a variety of sizes.
Atlantic Surf Clams
Atlantic Surf Clams are hinged clam shells that are usually white, gray, yellow, and brown. They can grow to be nearly 9 inches, but it’s very rare to find them that large.
Mussel shells are wedge-shaped, hinged, and are typically black and dark blue or purple. It’s common to find these shells still hinged on the beach at the tide line.
Ark Clams are thick, hinged shells with radial ridges. They can be found in a wide variety of colors on the Outer Banks, but white and gray are the most common.
Oyster shells are usually teardrop-shaped but can be found in other more freeform shapes as well. They’re comprised of many layers depending on how old they are.
Sea Stars (or starfish) found on the Outer Banks have five tapered arms, also called rays, radiating out from their body. Sea stars are a wonderful beachcombing find, but they should not be taken out of the water or picked up from the sand if at all soft or limp — they could still be alive and are very fragile animals. Once dead, sea stars are dry and stiff.
Shark Eye Moon Snails
Shark Eye Moon Snail shells can be 5 inches at their widest point. They are smooth, spiral-shaped, spherical shells found in a variety of color ranging from brown to blue-gray.
Disk Dosinias are white, flat hinged clam shells. They can be about 3 inches wide.
Baby’s Ear Moon Snails
Baby’s Ear Moon Snails have thin and fragile shells. They have a flattened spiral shape that resembles…and ear! They are typically white, yellow, brown, or gray.
Razor Clam shells are smooth and delicate with a hinge on their long side. They can be up to 9 inches long and resemble the shape of a straight-razor.
Sand Dollars found on Outer Banks beaches are flat discs that can be about 1 to 4 inches at their widest point, and they have a flower-like shape in the center of their body. Sand dollars are brittle, fragile, and white from sun-bleaching. If you find a sand dollar that is a darker color and has fur-like growth on it, it may still be alive and should not be handled.
Driftwood is simply worn pieces of wood that have washed up on the shore. Salt water and wave action lighten and smooth the wood over time, removing any bark.
Sea glass comes from glass objects that made their way into the ocean, broke up, and eroded to small smooth pieces over time. The most common colors that wash up on the Outer Banks are white, amber, and green. Learn more about Outer Banks sea glass on our blog.
Fulgurite is sand and sediment fused together by lightning strikes! These pieces of petrified lightning are often mistaken for concrete because of their color (often gray on the Outer Banks) and odd shapes. Although they may not look like much from the outside, they’re usually hollow, and the inside is smooth glass.
Skate & Ray Egg Cases
Skate and Egg Cases, often called “mermaid purses” are black capsules with two skinny tendrils at the top and bottom.
We’d love to see your beachcombing finds!
Tag us in your shell photos on Instagram or send them to us on Facebook. If you’re feeling creative, we’re always sharing new shell display and DIY ideas on Pinterest.
There’s a reason Carolina Designs Realty was voted Best Place to Work on the Outer Banks in 2019! We’re always looking for new team members and we encourage you to apply to our available positions below.
It’s easy to apply:
Simply fill out this employment application, and we’ll be in touch! We are happy to accept resumes in addition to the application form, but you must complete the form to be considered for the position(s). If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com.
Needed: housekeepers, inspectors, maintenance technicians, and outdoor cleaners
All positions currently open require the following:
-Personality for customer service atmosphere -Working weekends -Eye for detail -Ability to follow a stringent routine in a fast-paced environment (work quickly and efficiently) -Reliable, insured vehicle and valid driver license -Willing to consent to a criminal background check -General good physical condition due to the nature of the work (lift up to 40lbs, bend frequently, maneuver stairs)
Clean vacation rental homes in the 6-hour window between guests
-Make beds with provided fresh linens -Clean and sanitize all room surfaces, appliances, and floors -Outdoor cleaning to include grills, sliding glass doors, and outdoor bathrooms -Maintain overall cleanliness -Carolina Designs Realty supplies all necessary tools for this position
Thoroughly inspect properties for damage and maintenance repair needs
-Ensure all cleaning guidelines and standards are being met and maintained -Change light bulbs and batteries -Ability to work with iPads required -Carolina Designs Realty supplies all necessary tools for this position
(2 Positions Available) Assess and repair items at vacation rental properties as instructed, and ensure the maintenance of the homes is kept up.
-Complete assigned work orders to the best of your ability -Communicate with coworkers if the work order should be escalated or more maintenance is needed -Complete reports electronically for each job (detailed description of work performed at the property, bill labor/material accordingly, submit receipts) -On-call duty on assigned day(s)
Advanced maintenance should be escalated to outside vendors (examples include most electrical work, siding/roof/advanced deck repairs, clogged septic line/septic pumping, and replacing wax plumbing seals and copper piping, and HVAC)
Outdoor Cleaning Crew
Tidy home exteriors between guests
-Clean grills -Arrange outdoor furniture -Clear carports, driveways, and entrances of sand, debris, and trash -Pick up trash and clear cobwebs from house perimeters -Remove trash and cobwebs from house perimeters -Carolina Designs Realty supplies all necessary tools for this position
Carolina Designs Realty, Inc. is committed to a policy of equal opportunity without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, ethnicity, sex, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age (40 or older), political affiliation, National Guard or veteran status, genetic information, or disability.