The Outer Banks consist of several islands near North Carolina’s ocean shores. This narrow archipelago spans more than 170 miles, and you can reach it by car or ferry. When someone mentions the area, many people think about lighthouses, sandy beaches, dolphins and horses. The islands attract countless vacationers during the summer, but it offers an assortment of recreational activities throughout the year. Anyone can find fun and interesting things to do in the Outer Banks. Here’s just 10 of the top things to do in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

1. Go Swimming

The area provides plenty of excellent swimming options, so you can choose a location that suits your skill level and personal preferences. If you’re looking for relatively warm water, swim at a beach in Hatteras or another town near the southern tip of the island chain. Pamlico Sound features particularly comfortable water. It’s also desirable for beginners and children who want to avoid big waves. You can find numerous public pools as well.

2. Ride the Waves

Thanks to predictably large waves, this archipelago attracts surfers from distant states and countries. The Eastern Surfing Association holds a yearly tournament in Nags Head. If you enjoy this activity, consider traveling to beaches in Rodanthe, Corolla, Kitty Hawk, Carova and Buxton. Novice surfers may prefer Frisco or Ocracoke Island. Try to find a beach with a lifeguard if you don’t have much experience.

3. Sunbathing

The Outer Banks’ shores provide plenty of appealing places to sunbathe. Fortunately, the region’s skies frequently remain free of clouds. High temperatures usually exceed 70 degrees throughout the summer and early autumn. They often approach 90 F during the hottest months. If you want to avoid strong breezes, consider sunbathing in the morning or early afternoon. Don’t forget to bring sunglasses and sunscreen.

4. Play Golf

The islands boast at least 10 sizable golf courses. You can find 18 holes in Kitty Hawk, Powells Point or Nags Head. If you travel to Southern Shores, you’ll see a country club with numerous amenities. Its customers may swim, play tennis or enjoy meals after finishing rounds of golf. The archipelago features multiple mini-golf courses as well.

5. Celebrate Flight

Many vacationers tour the Wright Brothers National Memorial when they visit Kill Devil Hills. Orville and Wilbur Wright experimented with “flying machines” for about four years before they became the first men to test a working airplane in December 1903. You can see aircraft and glider replicas at this popular museum. It also features the brothers’ home and airplane hangar.

6. Go Fishing

North Carolina’s vast archipelago draws fishing enthusiasts during every season. They fish in the sounds as well as Atlantic Ocean waters. Spring is an excellent time to hook striped bass. Anglers catch king mackerel, white marlin, flounder and speckled trout in the summer. Although piers usually shut down during the winter, you can still charter a boat. Tuna and rockfish become especially plentiful in cold weather.

7. Boating Adventures

Some travelers like to roam the Outer Banks in their boats. If you don’t own a vessel, you can easily rent a kayak, motorboat or personal watercraft. The area is home to a variety of marinas and public access sites. For example, a facility in Manteo offers nearly 200 slips. It sells fishing supplies, fuel, food and gifts.

8. Explore the Aquarium

If the weather turns inclement, you might look for an indoor activity. Think about spending a few hours at the North Carolina Aquarium. This amazing facility covers 68,000 square feet on Roanoke Island. You can see stingrays, sharks, sea stars, turtles, crabs, otters and even alligators. The aquarium has a special section known as “Close Encounters.” Visitors can touch certain creatures, such as bamboo sharks and hermit crabs.

9. Wildlife Tours

Dolphin cruises and wild horse tours represent another exciting way to see animals. A number of companies offer these group excursions. Customers ride in open cars or boats as guides inform them about the local area and identify animal species. People occasionally see whales in this region, but you have a much better chance of spotting a dolphin. A wildlife tour may also provide you with an extra chance to appreciate the Outer Banks’ scenery and sunsets.

10. Visit the Parks

The islands feature beautiful town, state and national parks. If you enjoy playing tennis, check out the local green space in Kill Devil Hills. You could hike woodland trails in Buxton or Kitty Hawk. The Outer Banks’ parks also supply great opportunities for bird watching, photography, picnics and relaxation. They sometimes host large public events, such as music concerts or exercise classes.

The bottom line is that this area offers exciting things to do for individuals and families of all ages. If none of these top 10 activities appeal to you, don’t give up on the Outer Banks. Other enjoyable pastimes range from bicycling to snorkeling. You could even scuba dive and explore centuries-old shipwrecks. Don’t take risks by waiting until the last minute; start planning your trip today.