20 Great Things to Do in Duck (for Your Best Vacation!)

Last Updated on May 27, 2022

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Whether you planned a trip there or not, we know you’re going to love these things to do in Duck, North Carolina. Because of all the towns along the Outer Banks, Duck is one that feels most like a beach getaway.

The town has about everything you need to escape, including a beautiful beach strand, unforgettable restaurants, and fun things to do throughout. Our guide covers it all, including some background to help you understand the origins of this unique town.

Here’s how we’ve organized the guide:

  • Duck Location Info and Fun Facts
  • How to Visit Duck Today
  • Where to Stay
  • Annual Events
  • (Mostly) Year-Round Things to Do in Duck
  • Beyond the Water (Shopping, Wellness Activities, and More)
  • Places Nearby

Scroll ahead to any of the above sections, visually plan via our Eastern North Carolina Map, or keep reading about where Duck is located on the Outer Banks and some interesting facts about the town!

Read More: The Best Things to Do in the Outer Banks

Where is Duck? (Location and Fun Facts)

Map of Dare County North Carolina incorporated and unincorporated areas Duck highlighted
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Image Credit: Rcsprinter123, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before we share the best things to do in Duck, we think you should know a little bit about the town and its location.

  • If you look at a map, you’ll notice that Duck is one of the northernmost Outer Banks towns.
  • The town sits at the northern end of Dare County, bordering Currituck County and Corolla. The town of Southern Shores is the closest town to the south.
  • The beautiful Currituck Sound is to the west and the Atlantic Ocean borders to eastern edge of Duck.
  • The name “Duck” comes from the area’s waterfowl that hunters have been coming to bag since the 1800s.
  • Duck was a largely undeveloped fishing and hunting community until the 1970s, when development began.
  • In fact, Duck was once the scene of a commercial fowl industry.
  • According to the 2020 census, Duck’s population is about 400. However, that number exponentially increases during the busy summer months.

Read More: 125+ Important Facts About North Carolina You Should Know (History, Geography, and More!)

How to Visit Duck Today

Things to Do in Duck NC
  • Today, Duck is one of the most popular places to visit on the Outer Banks.
  • Like its neighbors, the town is easier to reach for travelers from the North or those who live closer to I-95. You’ll sometimes see more out-of-state license plates here than our wonderful “First in Flight” ones in some parts of OBX.
  • On the North Carolina side, Duck is about 1 hour from Elizabeth City, 1-1/2 hours from Edenton, and 2-1/2 hours from Greenville.
  • Raleigh is about 3-1/2 hours from Duck if you have no traffic during any stage of the trip. That’s why we’d rate Duck and the Outer Banks as a weekend getaway instead of a day trip from Raleigh or from Durham.
  • NC-12 is the road that leads into Duck from the mainland.
  • Weekends are a busy time to arrive in Duck, as many rentals turn over here on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Once you get settled in, though, you’ll see why so many people want to come and stay in Duck.

Read More: NC Tripping’s Eastern North Carolina Map

Where to Stay

Sanderling Resort in Duck NC

Speaking of where to stay, we think Duck might be blessed with one of the best. You can choose from a variety of rentals but the Sanderling Resort in Duck is hard to beat.

We were hosted by Sanderling but all of these opinions (and more below) are our own.

Stay at the Sanderling and you’ll be within steps of the beach, and that’s just one of many things we love about this place. Hard-to-beat amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, on-site restaurants (including the Lifesaving Station), and of course, their spa.

We’ll never forget the Sanderling when thinking of places to stay in Duck (or the entire Outer Banks) and think you won’t either!

Read More: Amazing Hotels in North Carolina (+ Inns, Resorts, & Rentals)

Annual Events

Before we dig into things to do in Duck throughout the year, here are some annual events that should be on your calendar!

  • Taste of the Beach (March): This is a great way to enjoy shoulder season on the Outer Banks. Duck usually has at least a couple of entrants into Taste of the Beach, which is brings together restaurants throughout the Outer Banks.
  • Town of Duck 4th of July Parade: The annual one-mile Town of Duck 4th of July Parade is one of the summer months’ best events.
  • Duck Jazz Festival (October): The annual Duck Jazz Festival is typically held at Duck Town Park on Columbus Day weekend. No tickets are required for this free event. Food, drinks, and jazz-themed events surround the music that comes to town for the festival.
  • Duck Yuletide Celebration (December): The Yuletide Celebration is a wonderful Christmas event. It brings together Holiday music, Santa, family-friendly activities, and food with the lighting of the town’s crab pot tree!

Read More: Summer in North Carolina

(Mostly) Year-Round Things to Do in Duck

You should keep those events on your annual calendar, but rejoice in being able to enjoy many of these things throughout the year.

Duck Town Park

Duck NC Maritime Forest

Duck Town Park is the place to be throughout the year. Open from dawn to dusk, there are more than 11 acres of maritime forest to explore.

With a deciduous forest, maritime evergreen forest, a willow swamp, and the marshes, this park has a natural habitat for North Carolinas rare plants. The deciduous forest and willow swamp are located in the park’s Southern portion, while the evergreen forest is found in the North park region, and the marshes are located on the town park’s sound side.

There’s also a playground for the little ones, picnic spots, an amphitheater for performances (including the Duck Jazz Festival), and more. Considering all this fun in one spot, you can see why this is one of the best things to do in Duck.

Duck Town Park offers two parking areas in case you want to get out and stretch your legs!

Duck Boardwalk

Duck Town Boardwalk Outer Banks NC

The Boardwalk is technically part of Duck Town Park, but we think it deserves a spot on its own. Unlike the rest of the park, the Duck Boardwalk stays open from dawn until 11:00 pm.

Access to shopping areas, boat launches, and beautiful views of the Currituck Sound are enough to keep us coming back for more walks along the Duck Boardwalk. Stop any time for a look at birds, waterfowl, and other wildlife that’s also enjoying their days in Duck.

Read More: 10+ Great Outer Banks Hiking Trails for Kids (and Adults, Too!)

Sunset

Duck NC Outer Banks Sunsets

We put the sunset above sunrise because it’s much easier to do. Also, the Duck Boardwalk is one of the best spots to catch the sunset on the Outer Banks.

You can also watch the sun go down from your table at NC Coast and Grill, as long as you got a good spot by the window. We’ll share more about them below.

Duck Trail

The Duck Trail runs alongside Duck Road (NC-12) throughout town. You can run, walk, and ride bikes on this trail.

This trail uses markers for every half-mile, crosswalks, and other notable signs. While much of the Duck Trail is separated from traffic, non-motorized users are required to ride on Duck Road/NC-12 from the Post Office to Marlin Drive.

You can find parking for the trail around the post office at 1245 Duck Road.

Please note that in the areas with more shops and restaurants, you can expect denser trail traffic.

The Beach

Duck NC Beach Outer Banks

Duck is one of the most family-friendly beaches in North Carolina if not all of the US. Duck’s beach access points do not have public parking, so you’ll need to book a place close by.

Once you make it to the beach, you’ll be greeted by a serene patch of sand and gorgeous water. If you plan to swim, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Like many beaches along the North Carolina coast, the water can be rough with rip tides and strong currents.
  • Please be safe if you do venture into the water.
  • Be mindful of flags indicating danger levels. Red flags mean no swimming.
  • Never swim alone and always swim near a lifeguard. They are posted throughout the summer season.
  • Avoid swimming if you’ve been drinking alcohol.

Beach Sunrise

Outer Banks Sunrise Duck NC Beach

There is one thing that never gets old and that’s sunrise on the Outer Banks.

While getting up after a late-night might be one of the toughest things to do in Duck, seeing the sun come up is truly the most rewarding.

When you arrive to watch the sunrise, you won’t be alone. Others have long been in on the fact that an Outer Banks sunrise is one of the best things to do in North Carolina.

Read More: The North Carolina Bucket List Book

Shell Collecting

Shell Collecting Duck NC Outer Banks Beach
Not a Scotch Bonnet but still cool!

Duck is one of the best spots for shell collecting. Without any effort, you’ll come across a variety of shells, including the Scotch Bonnet, which is the official North Carolina State Shell.

If you don’t find one the first time, keep trying and make sure you take plenty of breaks staring out at the beach and surrounding water!

Watersports

Duck NC Dock and Boat Kayak Launch

Duck is known for watersports. You can get up above the water by parasailing, or stay on the water in a jet ski or boat.

Paddling is a popular activity in Duck, and you get out on the water from the Duck Boardwalk and other spots. Enjoy the beautiful Currituck Sound from your kayak or SUP.

Before you launch, keep in mind that wind conditions can make paddling difficult. It is more of a concern than the current.

Guided Tours

Paddling Currituck Sound from Duck NC

If you want a guided tour, Kitty Hawk Kites (1226 Duck Rd) is your go-to company. They also offer rentals throughout the Outer Banks.

Whether it’s kayaking, canoeing, or (SUP) stand-up paddleboarding, it’s a great feeling to paddle the open waters.

We’ve gone out with them on a guided tour in Duck and can’t wait for the next one. Tours go out all over the Outer Banks and include sunset and night-time kayak rides.

Their expert paddlers want you to have a good time, but they keep safety at the forefront. That could delay or cancel your tour, but I think that caution is worth appreciating!

More Tours and Rentals

Kitty Hawk Kites offer fishing tours, sailing cruises, and tubing. They’re not the only tour operator in Duck, though. Here are a couple of other options:

Do you know of any other operators based in Duck, specifically? Feel free to kindly let us know by email!

Fishing and Crabbing

Duck has some of the best fishing and crabbing in North Carolina. Whether you’re fishing from the beach or the boardwalk (in designated areas), you’re bound to catch something.

Note that Fishing licenses are required to fish from the Boardwalk’s fishing and crabbing platform for anyone over the age of 15. Fishing throughout NC is regulated by the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources Division of Marine Fisheries.

Bird Watching

Given the name Duck, it’s no surprise that this is an avid bird-watching community. In fact, each year, there are hundreds of bird species passing through the area.

The most frequent visiting birds are terns, oyster skimmers, geese, pelicans, and of course, ducks. Thanks to this abundance of birds and waterfowl, the Town of Duck is designated as a bird sanctuary.

Just north of town is the Donal C. O’Brien Sanctuary and Audubon Center at Pine Island. The Pine Island Audubon Center here works hard to educate the public about preservation efforts.

You can also join them on eco-friendly kayak tours or walk along their 2.5-mile nature trail.

Read More: The Best Things to Do in Corolla (A Lighthouse, Wild Horses, and More!)

Beyond the Water (More Things to Do in Duck)

It’s hard to avoid the water, as most of these things to do in Duck are near either the Currituck Sound or the Atlantic Ocean. We just want to highlight them beyond the town’s most popular activities.

Shopping in Duck

Waterfront Shops Duck NC
The Waterfront Shops.

Even on not-rainy days in Duck, you’ll find the town’s shops flooded with people browsing and buying local. Rainy days are the busiest, of course.

Here are a few of the locally-owned shops that you’ll find in Duck. They’re either a part of the town’s shopping villages or stand on their own.

You can also base your shopping adventure in Duck along the Duck Boardwalk (even-numbered address), across Duck Road (odd-numbered address), or any of the specific addresses we provide.

  • Shopping Villages
    • The Waterfront Shops (1240 Duck Rd): Duck’s Cottage Coffee & Books, BARR-EE Station, Islands the Shop, and more!
    • Scarborough Faire Shopping Village (1177 Duck Rd): Island Bookstore, Treehouse Coffee, Tar Heel Trading Co, and more!
    • Osprey Landing Sound Front Shops (1190 Duck Rd): Duck Donuts, OBX Sugar Shack, Discount T-Shirt Outlet, and more!
  • Standalone Shops
    • Growlers to Go Craft Beer (1187 Duck Rd and 3723 N Croatan Highway, Kitty Hawk): Pints, flights, growler fills, and a huge selection of bottles.
    • The Cottage Shop (1201 Duck Rd): Home accents, souvenirs, gifts, and 2 more locations in Corolla and Nags Head.
    • Duck Village Outfitters (1207 Duck Rd): Equipment to rent or buy, kayak tours, surf lessons, and more.

Do you have a favorite place to go shopping in Duck? We’d love to read more about it!

Read More: Independent Bookstores in North Carolina (25+ of the Best!)

Wellness

Traveling to Duck alone is enough of an escape, but you can take even more care of yourself at one of these wellness spots.

  • For mobility, Village Yoga (Waterfront Shops) specializes in beginner to advanced yoga training.
  • Treat yourself to a spa day with massages, facials, mani-pedis, and more at AQUA Spa (1174 Duck Rd Upper Level).
  • Sanderling Resort (1461 Duck Rd) also offers a variety of spa services and seasonal yoga classes. Can you tell that we liked our stay there?

Read More: 25+ of the Most Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

Where to Eat in Duck

We start your Duck NC food adventure with one of the biggest names on the east coast before moving on to more local favorites.

Duck Donuts

Outer Banks Restaurants Duck Donuts

Duck Donuts is now a franchise on the East Coast, but the original location (Osprey Landing Sound Front Shops) was established in Duck around 2007.

Still standing today, Duck Donuts offers fan-favorited baked goods, espressos, coffees, hot teas, ice cream, and tons of delicious treats.

Duck Donuts take care of your sweet and caffeinated needs. In addition, the company has also raised more than $200,000 for the Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program, which supports children undergoing chemotherapy.

More Duck Restaurants

Outer Banks Restaurants NC Coast and Grill Duck
NC Coast and Grill.

Start your day with Duck Donuts but don’t forget that Duck is packed with some amazing local restaurants! Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • Breakfast (or any time)
    • Donuts on a Stick (1216 Duck Rd): donuts, ice cream, and more.
    • Duck’s Cottage Coffee & Books (The Waterfront Shops): Great coffee and a nice selection of books both local and from afar. Also situated in Duck’s only hunt club, with an historical marker out front.
    • Tulio’s Bakery (1187 Duck Rd): Fresh baked goods, cakes, and more.
  • Lunch and Dinner
    • Duck Pizza (Scarborough Lane Shoppes): A great alternative to seafood is Duck Pizza. They have a few seats inside but this pizza travels well back to your place.
    • Cravings (1209 Duck Rd): Cravings is the perfect spot to chill inside or on the patio with a seafood pot. Their drive-thru window is the only one in Duck, perfect for grabbing some take-out for the family back at your rental!
    • NC Coast and Grill (1184 Duck Rd): We mentioned Duck being famous for its sunsets, and NC Coast and Grill is one of the best places enjoy one. Ask about the Chef’s Board, which is a sampling of the menu and truly a foodie’s dream!
    • Red Sky Cafe (1197 Duck Rd): Owned and operated by the same chef as NC Coast and Grill (Wes Stepp), Red Sky Cafe is a long-time favorite. Seafood, burgers, and southern options are just a few of the tasty finds available here.
    • The Roadside Bar & Grill (1193 Duck Rd): Tucked away and in a renovated cedar-shaped house, this is one of the most popular restaurants in town! The menu is packed with delicious southern fare, which adds to the fun décor and ambiance.
    • Sunset Grille (1264 Duck Rd): With a massive sunset deck, you might primarily come to Sunset Grille for the views. Come for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you’ll recognize that this place’s menu should not be overlooked. Seafood, burgers, and more deliciousness awaits!
    • The Village Cafe and Tavern (1314 Duck Rd): Overlook the Currituck Sound and enjoy this Duck restaurant’s expansive beer and wine list and delectable menu options. This is a great spot for lunch or dinner.

Stay tuned for more restaurants in Duck!

Read More: 30 Amazing Outer Banks Restaurants for Your Next Beach Trip!

Ready to Enjoy These Things to Do in Duck?

As you see, there are so many wonderful things to do in Duck from end to end! We can’t wait for our next trip to the area and hope you find this guide helpful for yours.

If you know the town, what are your favorite things to do in Duck? You can let us know in the comments below or by email.

Don’t forget to share your Duck vacation adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.

Things to Do in Duck’s Surroundings (Day Trips)

Things to do in Corolla wild horses

Duck might be tucked away in the north, but it’s still within a short drive from some amazing places on the Outer Banks.

The bottom end of Hatteras Island is a bit further away and Ocracoke Island requires a ferry from Hatteras. However, here are some things to do in Duck’s surroundings, all within an hour of the town:

Travel times can vary when traveling during busy days and peak vacation seasons.

Read More: 20 of the Best North Carolina Road Trips (Scenic Byways and Highways)

More Things to Do in Duck (and the Outer Banks!)

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