Things to do in the Outer Banks — besides go to the beach

When you need a break from the sun and sand, visit one of these nearby attractions:

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

There may be alligators here. Or not. It’s a bit north of their range. Regardless, the 152,000-acre habitat of bogs and marshes harbors a vast array of plants, birds, trees and critters like the black bear and otter. Explore the nature, canoe and kayak trails, or stop in the visitor center. Free.

100 Conservation Way, Manteo. 252-473-1131. fws.gov/refuge/Alligator_River.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

It’s no easy task, climbing the 257 stairs inside the spiral-cased 208-foot structure. But more than 175,000 visitors come annually to see the tallest brick lighthouse in the U.S. If the trek to the top doesn’t take your breath away, the view once you get there will. $8 adults, $4 children and seniors.

46379 Lighthouse Road, Buxton. 252-995-4474. nps.gov/caha.

Elizabethan Gardens

Enjoy English gardens as they likely looked in the 16th century when colonists settled here. Stroll leafy paths past sunken gardens, lots of birds and a statue of the Virgin Queen. Pet friendly; handicap accessible. $9 adults, $7 youths, $2 kids under 5.

1411 National Park Drive, Manteo. 252-473-3234. elizabethangardens.org.

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

Explore displays of the evolution of diving, the Civil War Battle of the Ironclads and artifacts salvaged from shipwrecks off the Outer Banks. Kids can take part in daily scavenger hunts. Weekly programs include all things maritime, among them seafood cooking and duck decoy carving. Free.

59200 Museum Drive, Hatteras. 252-986-0720. graveyardoftheatlantic.com

H2OBX Waterpark

More than 30 soaking rides, from “Riptide” for thrill seekers to “The Lazy River” for calmer types. The park has two wave pools, plus tube and body slides. Open May 25 to Sept. 2. $26.99 to $36.99 (priced by height).

8526 Caratoke Highway, Powells Point. 252-491-3000. h2obxwaterpark.com

‘The Lost Colony’

For 82 years, the outdoor Waterside Theater has staged the historic play celebrating the lives of the first 117 English colonists in America — and speculating on their ultimate disappearance from Roanoke Island. $20 and up; kids under 5 are free.

1409 National Park Drive, Manteo. 252-473-6000. thelostcolony.org.

North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island

There are sharks and stingrays, alligators and river otters. In different tanks, of course. You’ll leave with a healthy and heartfelt respect for them all, as well as for conservation. Adults $12.95, kids $10.95.

374 Airport Road, Manteo. 252-475-2300. ncaquariums.com.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Explore the site where Orville and Wilber Wright made aviation history in 1903. Museum features a replica of that fragile plane and the actual tools used by the brothers. Adults $10, kids under 16 free.

1000 S. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills. 252-473-2111. nps.gov/wrbr.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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