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OBX on a Budget (Part 1)

Updated on August 17, 2011


This is part one of a multiple part hub. I will continue to update this as I have the time. With so many options to do wonderful things with a little bit of money, the Outer Banks is truly a frugal parents dream vacation. Hope you find something in here for your next vacation as well. Enjoy!

Waves at South Nags Head Beach
Waves at South Nags Head Beach

Find the "free"


It is easy to get caught up in the commerical aspect of vacations. With all the bright and colorful stores and all the signs for cheap t shirts and bathing suits it can be a shopping paradise. You wander through the sovenier shops and grab those items you could not live without, at least not until you saw them. No wonder people bring so much cash on vacation or end up with large credit debt to deal with when they get home.

If you are like me, all the best planning in the world will not help. No matter what I will be victim of Murphy's Law "anything that can go wrong will". So right before the trip there is usually some trama to the finances. Probably a unexpected car repair or a vet visit, this year it was actually both! So, what do you do if your hard earned vacation fund starts to dwindle before you even leave the driveway? You look for the "FREE" and I am going to give you some good places to start.

South Nags Head Fire Dept
South Nags Head Fire Dept
June 2011
June 2011
June 2010
June 2010

Pit Fires in Nags Head


Beach fires are romantic for adults and exciting for the kids. If you are staying in Nags Head on your trip this is a great alternative to an expensive evening out. In order to have a pit fire you will need a permit from one of the two Nags Head Firestations. The permit costs $10 and you will need your drivers license as well as the address to the place you are staying. The permits are applied for between 5 and 9 pm on the day that you plan to have your fire. The wind must be under 10 knots in order to obtain the permit so plan a back up day just in case. You must dig a pit in the sand away from the dunes and vegetation. The pit must be at least 1 foot deep and 3 feet across. I like to go a little deeper that way it is easier to reclaim when you are done with your fire. Be sure to bring your own wood since you are not allowed to burn driftwood. We buy kiln dried, emerald ash beetle free wood where we live and take it with us, but several of the grocery stores also have campfire wood for sale when you get there. Bring a bucket! This is very important. Your fire must be done at midnight and you will need to douse it with water and cover it over with sand. Add snacks, beach chairs and flashlights for an inexpensive family memory. Enjoy the sound of the surf as the kids chase the crabs in the sand with flashlights.

Feeling like you are the only people on earth at Pea Island
Feeling like you are the only people on earth at Pea Island

Pea Island

Ever wonder what the Outer Banks was supposed to look like? You know, before the hundreds of houses and sovenier shops invaded the islands? Well, you still can experience this for FREE. Ok, so it will still cost the amount you spend in gas, and possibly a picnic lunch but the cost to go to Pea Island is nominal compared to a day of shopping or putt putt golf. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers a day to collect seashells and take a nature walk. Be sure to stop the Visitors center to see the displays. There is a small gift shop there if you truly need a shopping fix. There are no lifeguards in this area so entering the water is done at your own risk, but the vast expanse of nature will help to keep you otherwise occupied. This is one of my favorite places to visit when we go and I always find a treasure or two walking the shoreline.

Hatteras to Ocracoke Ferry System
Hatteras to Ocracoke Ferry System

Take a Ferry Ride


Lets face it, the Outer Banks is a relatively large area. Spread out a bit. Try not to get stuck in a rut and go to the same places. You will find some unique and amazing things if you venture up or down the islands. Take a Ferry, they are free. Get there early in the morning so the lines are not long and enjoy the ride. While you are on the Ferry you can go up and sit on the upper deck in the airconditioned viewing area and even get a drink of water from the water fountain. There are bathrooms downstairs so no worries.

Beach access ramp on Ocracoke Island
Beach access ramp on Ocracoke Island
Chasing the next wave
Chasing the next wave

Take it Straight to the Beach


So you have a four wheel drive vehicle or one with some decent ground clearance. Why not take the action right to the shoreline? Pack the huge heavy cooler and the bulky umbrella and beach chair and take them all in one trip- in the vehicle. Check the local regulations to make sure you are able to drive on the beach because certain areas are closed at certain times of the year. Also be sure that you check my hub to find out HOW to drive on the sand. Otherwise you will make some family memories that you may rather forget. (I will include a link here to this Hub- once I get it completed)

Lets not forget the main reason we migrate to the OBX from our respective areas in the first place. The OCEAN!!! Yes, the waves crashing on the beach and the sand between our toes. The mountains of seashells to choose from and the memories that last a lifetime. A few dollars spent several years ago on a couple boogie boards for the kids has turned into a lasting investment. We pack the boards for the trip each year and sit on the beach watching the kids in the surf. The best part is the fact that they sleep really well at night after a full day in the waves.

Don't miss the next installment


I will continue this magical and less expensive journey in my next Hub. Until then ...

"may you always have a seashell in your pocket and sand between your toes..."

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    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      As someone who loves the Outer Banks and has vacationed there for 20 years I was glad to see this wonderful hub showing families how to take advantage of all the free activities that abound in this region. If you weren't already planning a Part II, I'd add a few gems in my comment but I'm sure you'll be addressing them in the future.

      Welcome to Hub Pages. Am voting this up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

    • Hreichel profile image
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      Heather Reichel 5 years ago from Northwestern Pennsylvania

      Wow! Thanks for the kind words :) I am glad someone read it!

      I am planning part 2 ( possibly 3&4)there are so many budget friendly and FUN things to do there it is hard to catch them all

    • profile image

      Kim Davison 5 years ago

      Great job, Heather! Hurry and write some more - My oldest is getting married next month and they are thinking of making an obx trip. Since they are young and broke, they need lots of free ideas!

    • Hreichel profile image
      Author

      Heather Reichel 5 years ago from Northwestern Pennsylvania

      Kim there are three other hubs that go over some money saving tips. Hopefully there will be something your newly weds can use! Fortunately the most romantic things in the OBX are free. The sunrise, sunsets, walking on the beach... Tell them to clip coupons- they are worth it

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