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Outer Banks FAQ: When to go, what to do and more

Everything you need to know to have a successful trip to the Outer Banks, N.C.

Best time to go: During the hurricane season, "temperatures remain pleasant enough for beach-lovers into October, but there are great bargains on rental properties, restaurants and shops," says Aaron Tuell of Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

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Worst time to go: OBX's near-freezing temperatures and biting coastal winds in January and February make playing outdoors much more challenging.

Beach rules: OBX's 100-mile coastline accommodates many beaches with varying rules, so check the beach website for the town you are visiting.

No nudity, glass containers, wine, liquor, disturbing the dunes, picking wild sea oats on the beach.

Beer OK on many beaches. Dogs OK on most beaches, but check regulations. Beach fires OK with permit in Nags Head and Cape Hatteras National Seashore. You may drive on designated sections of Cape Hatteras National Seashore with an ORV permit.

Rules on recreational watercraft vary, though all towns stipulate that kids under age 13 must wear a safety vest.

What to do if you're ...

A young family: Salvo Day-Use Area on Hatteras Island's Pamlico Sound is a perfect calm and shallow beach for small kids, according to the OBX Visitors Bureau.

In need of personal space: Carova Beach, a quiet barrier island where you'll need a four-wheeler to traverse its unpaved roads, and catch sight of the native wild horses (carovabeach.info). Or take the Hatteras ferry over to rustic Ocracoke Island.

A history buff: Dare County Civil War Trail contains 15 miles of markers depicting important Civil War locations and events. Don't miss the freedman's colony of Roanoke Island.

Into beach sports/adventure: Kitty Hawk Kites gives you kite wings, or take an aerial tour of the entire OBX coastline with Above the Coast.

Into marine life: On Topsail Island, STAR, the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center, provides tour visitors close-up views of recuperating sea turtles.

Into fishing: A Coastal Recreational Fishing License is required except on licensed private charters and does not cover inland freshwater or inland fishing; a Unified Fishing License is required to fish all of North Carolina's waterways. Oregon Inlet Fishing Center offers surf, pier and charter fishing. "We've got the largest fleet around. We started it all around here," says manager Minta Meekins.

Into surfing: Locals love Irene's Inlet and the S-Curves, named for the twists and turns along NC Highway 12.

Into craft brewing: Kill Devil Hills' Brew Station was the nation's first windmill-powered brewery. Weeping Radish, in Grandy is North Carolina's oldest microbrewery.

A foodie: "It's a summertime family tradition everybody does: Choose your doughnut, then decorate it with a topping," says Keith Exton, owner of Duck Donuts. Food Network's Guy Fieri prefers the brined rosemary chicken at Kitty Hawk's Black Pelican.

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Doing as the locals do: Mama Kwan's fish tacos are a staple for locals in Kill Devil Hills. For epic sunsets, head to Hatteras Island's Cape Point.

Looking for fresh, local seafood to cook where you're staying: Local shrimp, blue crab, deep sea and inshore fish, and ocean scallops; it's all fresh and available daily at O'Neal's Seafood Harvest on Roanoke Island.

Into nightlife: Want to rock out? There's live music everywhere. Try Kelly's Restaurant and Tavern, Nags Head. Pool shark? Lucky 12. Cornhole? Bonzer Shack.

Looking to go upscale: Avon's Koru Village is an oceanfront resort with swanky amenities. Boutique-y Inn on Pamlico Sounds, offers beach-chic seaside rooms and gourmet dining.

In need of a rainy-day diversion: Shop for booty after exploring Ocracoke's Blackbeard Pirate's Exhibit. Grownups can shop and gallery hop at Nags Head's Gallery Arts District.

New for 2016

Outer Banks Distilling, 510 Budley St., Manteo, 252-423-3011. Local lore alleges the town of Kill Devil Hills is named for 16th-century rum so strong and distasteful that it could "kill the devil." Owners of this new distillery have resurrected the name Kill Devil for their more palatable rum. Visitors are encouraged to partake in samples and tours.

Eastside, 1711 Duck Road, Duck, 252-715-4768. The menu at this new eatery changes to accommodate the freshest ingredients. Indigenous provisions are prepared in novel ways: fried olives stuffed with local sausage, and shrimp pancakes. Beverages like the Caesar Bloody Mary are mixed, stirred or shaken with inimitable creativity.

NC Aquarium, 374 Airport Road, Manteo, 252-475-2300. Delicate Drifters, an exhibit of sea jellies, and Ironclad Sanctuary, featuring the ill fate of the USS Monitor, are just two of the many new exhibits, habitats and interactive activities premiering when the aquarium reopens after renovation this summer.

Big events

Outer Banks Craft Beer Week: Not simply an imbibing fest for brewheads, this weeklong (May 31-June 5) beer-arts event hosts culinary demonstrations, a film fest, a craft beer art show, a multi-sport race, educational retreats to learn about brewing, and big-named musical acts. 6800 S Croatan Highway, 252-489-092.

Triple-S Invitational: 32 of the world's most prestigious kiteboarders compete, performing epic surfs, slicks and slider feats in wake-style riding, June 4-10. For spectators, there are also a variety of open-to-the-public parties, meet and greets, concert performances and vendors of food and gear. 25706 NC-12, Waves, 252-987-6000, triplesinvitational.com

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Duck's 4th of July Parade: Known as one of the top small-town Fourth of July celebrations," this local tradition features nostalgic and farcical floats with riders donning patriotic attire, marching bands, pets and local townsfolk.

Afterward, the town gathers at the park for Dixieland music, refreshments and parade awards. 1200 Duck Road, Duck, 252-255-1286.

Bluegrass Island Festival: Thousands come to revel in three days, Sept. 21-24, of live performances by some of the world's top bluegrass musicians, band competitions, Southern-style-food vendors and dazzling fireworks show. 1 Festival Park, Manteo, 252-423-3039.

Outer Banks Seafood Festival: Celebrates local fishermen, seafood heritage and preparation, showcasing a wide array of food vendors and events, including cooking demonstrations, storytelling and tour boats. Oct. 15. 6800 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, 252-441-8144.

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