Tips for Dolphin Watching on Hatteras Island

Dolphin Watching on Hatteras Island

Whether you’re on the comfortable deck of your oceanfront rental, or on the bow of a local tour boat, you’ll discover that there are plenty of opportunities to spot one of Hatteras Islands’ most popular residents – the local dolphins and porpoises. Frequently spotted cruising along the breakers or just off the island’s inlets, these playful and very friendly creatures are a fun surprise encounter during a vacation, and can provide some exciting photos and memories to take back home and share.

So how do you make a dolphin encounter part of your upcoming vacation? While luck plays a major role, there are some tips and tricks for dolphin-loving visitors who want to meet and greet with these friendly Hatteras Island locals.

What to Look for: Dolphins vs. Porpoises

Sometimes those dolphins you see cruising along the ocean or Pamlico Sound waters aren’t dolphins at all – they’re actually porpoises, which also have a large local population within the Outer Banks waters. So how do you tell the difference? Look at the fins!

A porpoise’s fin looks is triangular, while a dolphin fin is curved, or hooked, on the center of its back. If you get close enough, you can also tell by their faces – dolphins tend to have long noses or “beaks” as opposed to a porpoise’s smaller mouth and spade-shaped teeth.

Where to Go: A Dolphin Tour or Your Own Backyard

As interest in the local dolphins has skyrocketed, a number of local inshore and nearshore charter businesses have started to offer special “dolphin tours” which will take visitors out to the inlets, as well as the waters just off the island, in search of these friendly creatures. These tours are a great way to get close to the critters, as they often bump against the boat as a curious greeting, and can be a family-friendly activity that everyone in the party will find simply unforgettable. Try a cruise aboard the Miss Hatteras out of Hatteras Village.

Visitors who want to see the dolphins without any effort other than stepping outside or looking out the window can also consider renting an oceanfront home. Often, dolphins can be spotted just past the breakers on a clear day, and can be especially prevalent in the morning and evening hours when the beaches are uncrowded, and the feeding is at its best. For a chance to spot dozens of dolphins at once, aim for a fall, winter or spring vacation. One of the best surprises of wintertime on Hatteras Island is that the dolphins and porpoises are in full force along the beaches, and it’s not unusual to spot 6, 10, or even a dozen cruising past the beach in a single speedy pack.

What to Do: Appreciate from Afar and Break Out the Camera 

While porpoises can get angry if they feel threatened, dolphins are seemingly curious about the other critters that share their waters. This is why inshore tour companies often have close encounters with the local dolphins, who will circle and cruise around the passengers, providing some excellent photo ops. Keep your distance, and keep your hands to yourself, but be ready to start snapping once the dolphins appear. Gregarious, friendly, and almost always traveling in groups, a pod of dolphins can be one of the best photo ops you’ll find along Hatteras Island.

The best tip for spotting dolphins? Keep your eyes on the water. Because a dolphin or porpoise fin can peek out of the blue horizon at any time – often for just a couple seconds – staying vigilant will go a long way. And after a day of looking, if the only thing you see in the miles of ocean waters are gulls, pelicans, and endless blue terrain, then you can still rest easy knowing that, at the very least, you enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach.



Hatteras Island Bars and Nightlife

Turner’s High Moon Bar Handcrafted Cocktail

Bars on Hatteras Island

A good beach bar can set the stage for an unforgettable night on the town in this Southern Outer Banks vacation destination. And despite having a reputation as a refreshingly low-key collection of beach towns, the Hatteras Island nightlife scene is surprisingly varied, unexpected, and always fun.

In the prime summer months when the island is hopping, visitors can expect to find plenty of options to cater to any after-hours cravings. From big name and nationally recognized bands playing at oceanfront venues, to local musicians that have been charming island bar patrons for decades, the combination of great drinks and great music is more or less inherent in this Outer Banks region.

Koru Villages’ Beach Klub

The big bands can be found at the Papawack Theatre at the Koru Villages’ Beach Klub in Avon. This oceanfront venue has been host to a wide array of music, from the Wailers to the renowned beach music stylings of The Embers, and the site continues to draw in big names through local arts and music festivals as well as their regular Thursday night summer performances. In short, if you’re in the mood for a big-name concert that coincides with lots of dancing, ice-cold drinks, and a prime oceanfront view, this is the place to go.

Watermen’s Bar and Grill

With some of the freshest food on the island, you’ll find the casual Watermen’s Bar and Grill right behind REAL Watersports on the sound in Waves. This venue offers spectacular sunsets and great live music. Their Sky Blue Concert series brings local and regional acts Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays and during REAL Watersports’ festivals and events you’ll find big name national acts like Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys and Method Man (of the Wu-Tang Clan) and Redman.

Smaller Settings

If you love music but prefer a smaller scene, then you’ll be delighted to discover that Hatteras Island covers this small-scale beach vibe, and covers it well. On any given summer night, multiple restaurants and local bars host talented musicians that specialize in a wide range of styles, while attracting customers through drink specials, limited or no cover fees, and an all-around fun atmosphere.

If you’re brand new to the Hatteras Island bar scene, try Turner’s High Moon in Avon Village. This relatively new establishment has a number of great microbrews on tap and is known for their craft cocktails and regular live music in the summer months. There’s even a shuffleboard table, and ample room for locals and visitors to dance meet and mingle.

If you like a more subdued scene, then head to your favorite local restaurant – like the Froggy Dog, Dinky’s, or Hatteras Sol Waterside Grill – find a prime seat, and settle in for a good time. The bars on Hatteras Island have embraced the latest craft beer craze – as well as somewhat recent ability to serve mixed drinks, courtesy of popular local vote – and as a result, have a fine assortment of adult beverages to whet your whistle.

Find Your Favorite

The Hatteras Island bar scene can be as intimate or as outgoing as you want it to be. With a clever mix of local watering holes, upscale establishments, and please-the-masses venues, you can essentially plan your ideal night out while on a Hatteras Island vacation.

Of course, there’s always your premier vacation home. It’s hard to beat sunset cocktails with panoramic views of the Pamlico Sound, or happy hour at your private tiki bar.


Boating on Hatteras Island

boating girls

You would expect that a vacation destination that’s surrounded by hundreds of miles of water would have a booming boating culture, and when it comes to Hatteras Island, you’d be exactly right. The island’s roots have long been tied to boating, from the first wave of tourists in the 1930s who would commission locals to take them on fishing and duck hunting trips, to the charter and tour companies that provide more modern expeditions today. And as a result, all a visitor has to do to join in the fun is to contact a local marina or charter boat, step aboard, and dive right into the scene.

So where can you go, and what can you do while you’re on board one of the countless vessels that call Hatteras Island home? There are plenty of options for exploring the seemingly endless waters, ensuring that vacationers of all tastes can craft an Outer Banks boating experience that exceeds all expectations.

Charter Fishing

As any seasoned visitor knows, Hatteras Island is one of the best destinations in the world for fishing, and with a fleet of inshore and offshore charter fishing businesses at multiple marinas, it’s easy to dedicate a half or full day to enjoying island fishing at its very best.

Offshore vessels venture out to the Gulf Stream — a warm water major current that’s found roughly 15 miles off the island shoreline. In these deep and clear blue waters, anglers can target the big prize catches, including marlin, Mahi, tuna, and sailfish, depending on the season. For a fishing adventure on a smaller scale, visitors can also embark on an inshore fishing trip. These boating excursions target the ocean, sound, and inlet waters that are closer to the island in search of tasty species like cobia, trout, bluefish, flounder, and sheepshead, and can even veer off course for a little clamming or island-hopping while en route.

Boat Tours

Boat fans who’d prefer a more relaxed and thorough exploration of the island will also find a wide range of boat tours available at multiple Hatteras Island areas. Often offering different themes, (like dolphin cruises, sunset cruises, or eco-tours), these adventures present the island landscape in an entirely new perspective — from the vantage point of the wide Atlantic Ocean or Pamlico Sound waters. A must for kids and families alike, a boat tour is a truly inspiring way to see all the highlights of Hatteras Island.

Commandeering your Own Vessel

Vacationers who come to Hatteras Island with their own vessel in tow will find plenty of opportunities to explore on their own steam as well. The village of Hatteras has more than a half dozen marinas to load up on supplies and fuel, and virtually every major community on the island has a public or private boat ramp for visiting mariners’ use. With nice wide channels that connect with the open water within minutes, mariners are always a quick and easy trek away from endless on-the-water adventures.

Ready to discover your inner island mariner? Then get your crew down to Hatteras Island. With a centuries-old and inherent love of the water, the island-wide boating scene of Hatteras Island is genuinely the best on the Outer Banks.

Bringing Your Own Boat

What if you’re already an avid boater and you have a boat of your own? A number of our vacation homes have private docks. Just be sure to check the description as the drafts vary.

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#1 Island in the South – the Outer Banks


Southern Living magazine asked their audience to choose their favorite island in the south. Their #1 choice? The Outer Banks, of course!

Accessible by car or ferry, but still giving you “a wonderful sense of ‘away'” – an escape to the Outer Banks can’t be beat.

Southern Living  says:

“This narrow spit of sand looks as if it were tugged out into the ocean from North Carolina’s mainland, leaving Pamlico, Currituck, and Roanoke Sounds behind. Rent a house and stay for a week to explore Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke Islands.”

We must say we do agree – find the perfect vacation home for an island escape today!


Hatteras Island Parks and Playgrounds


Tried and true Hatteras Island vacationers will certainly attest that the best “park” within Hatteras Island is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore — the  National Park that extends 70  miles along its shoreline. We have to agree that  you’ll undoubtedly  spend quality  time soaking up some  oceanfront fun. Maybe reclining in a beach chair with the latest summer read, or watching the kids as they furiously dig for sand fiddlers and coquina clams. There  is always ample entertainment to be found at the  beach.

When you are ready to expand your horizons — check out these cool Hatteras Island parks and playground  options, just off the beaten path, that are great for family members of all ages to stretch their legs and have a lot of fun.

Fessenden Center, Buxton  

The Fessenden Center is a pinnacle of community activity. From fitness classes that are nicely priced to an on-site playground, baseball fields, and a brand new skate park, many active interests can be pursued at this local community center. Regular fitness classes are held throughout the day, year-round, and everyday visitors can always pop into this central destination to enjoy the slides, swing sets, and other traditional playground equipment that keep young vacationers and locals alike smiling.

Avon Community Playground, Avon Village

One of the newest attractions on Hatteras Island for the young local and visiting public is the family-friendly Avon playground that’s found on the outskirts of Avon Village, directly across the street from the Avon Fire Station. Featuring a secure area that boasts all the play equipment young guests love — including slides, swings, and everything in between — this destination is a great place for moms and dads to let their kids let loose while watching from an on-site bench or picnic table.

Rodanthe  Waves Salvo Community Center, Rodanthe

At the north end of Hatteras Island across from the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, you’ll find the Rodanthe Community Center. This center has an on-site playground with restrooms available inside. The playground includes a play center with slides, tunnels and climbing bars, a merry go round, swing set and picnic tables where you can enjoy a picnic lunch while little ones run off some energy.

Salvo Day Use Area, South of Salvo

Young vacationers who might not be up to the task of tackling the ocean waves will adore the shallow waters and splashing areas of the Salvo Day Use Area. This National Park Service (NPS) maintained site that’s found on the southern outskirts of Salvo boasts lots of parking, seasonal restroom facilities, and plenty of shallow waters for kids to splash, wade, and play to their hearts’ content.

Wading in the warm waters of the Pamlico Sound at the Salvo Day Use Area

Wading in the warm waters of the Pamlico Sound at the Salvo Day Use Area

Canadian Hole, South of Avon

Vacationers who are staying further south will find an equally inviting soundside oasis at Canadian Hole or Haulover Day Use Area between Avon and Buxton — an iconic NPS managed soundside site that’s popular with windsurfers, kiteboarders, and young families in search of a calm place to play. With no waves and water depths that average around 3’ ft., visitors will effortlessly enjoy their own on-the-water natural playground, with seasonal restrooms and ample parking located just a short stroll away.

No matter where you land on Hatteras Island, it will soon become crystal clear that the surrounding world is your playground. From the vast beaches of the National Seashore to the cool community parks that have become favorite destinations for locals and visitors alike, there are plenty of reasons to get out, grin, and go wild during a Hatteras Island vacation.


Top Five Reasons to LOVE Hatteras Island


Top-rated, Pristine, Uncrowded Beaches

Anyone who has visited falls in love with  the Outer Banks, and anyone who  has discovered Hatteras Island’s beaches has a whole new level of love and appreciation. Hatteras Island consists of 70 miles of national seashore. Comb pristine beaches for an array of unique shells, scan the horizon for a pod of dolphin or take a refreshing dip in the warm, salty waters of the Atlantic. However you choose to enjoy it, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out, take in the beautiful views and breathe the fresh salt air.

7 Unique, Charming Villages

Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras –   each has special activities, restaurants, markets, shops, history and character. Locally-owned restaurants offer unique menus and an inviting atmosphere, no chain restaurants here. From seafood and sandwiches in a casual setting to creative entrees and  southern coastal cuisine served with a smile, village restaurants  won’t disappoint. Whether you’re into fishing, boating, kiteboarding, horseback riding or a spa experience – there’s a village on Hatteras Island that’s waiting to serve you.

Beach Houses

A great majority of  accommodations on Hatteras Island are vacation rental homes. Typically rented by the week, they offer family and friends the fun of living together at the beach in a fully-equipped house! With room to spread out many of these homes offer fun amenities  like hot tubs, private swimming pools, theater rooms, gourmet kitchens and beautifully-appointed great rooms with big flat screen  televisions, gas fireplaces and panoramic ocean, sound  and village views. What’s even better, divided among family members, these amenity-filled homes can be less expensive than an ordinary hotel room.

Dog  Friendly Beaches and Homes

Dogs love to stretch their legs in the sand enjoying walks (and runs) along our miles of coastline. Some dogs even love swimming, in the Atlantic or the calmer waters of the Pamlico Sound. Many local restaurants allow dogs on their patios and porches and there are hundreds of dog-friendly vacation rentals to accommodate your favorite pet!


The Outer Banks is consistently lauded as one of America’s top beaches for families. Besides the beach, the ocean, and the shallow warm waters of the Pamlico Sound – there are tons of activities  that make Hatteras Island family-friendly. Weekly events and kids days in season at Kitty Hawk Kites stores,  Luaus at Koru Village, ice cream shops, putt putt golf, arcades and tons fun casual dining spots, families find plenty to do together on vacation. Have fun fishing together at the Rodanthe Pier or  Avon Fishing Pier or take  a stand-up paddleboarding lesson at REAL Watersports.  Vacation rental homes are the perfect place for gathering the whole family together to prepare dinner, play board games, swim in your private pool, have fun in the game room or watch a family movie on the big screen in a real  theater room.

What are you waiting for? Check out our  selection of 440  premier vacation rental homes and start counting down to a vacation your whole family is sure to LOVE!


Surf or Sound Realty Donates to Hatteras Island Food Pantries


Surf or Sound Realty President and CFO Melvin Stone with Ray and Claire Schaaf who run the Hatteras Island Food Pantry

After Hurricane Matthew, many Hatteras Island residents relied on donations from the local food pantries. This, added to the fact that some residents have a harder time finding employment during the winter months,  and  food pantries are in still in need of supplies and donations. Surf or Sound Realty   collected 308 pounds of food to donate to the local pantries and matched the food donation, dollar for pound,   with a check for $308 to the Hatteras Island food pantry to help residents in need get through the winter months.

Hatteras Island Food Pantry is a community-wide organization that helps families on Hatteras Island with emergency assistance. 100% of donations are used for this purpose.

“We wanted to do everything we could to help the community and thought that by announcing our matched monetary donation we might increase participation this year, it worked!” said Ann Wood, Vice President of Marketing for Surf or Sound Realty. Surf or Sound Realty’s Avon and Salvo offices also serve as year round drop-off locations for local food pantries. Weekly rental guests are encouraged to donate any unopened non-perishable food at the end of their stay, and many are more than happy to help.

Monetary donations for the Hatteras Island Food Pantry can be made payable by check to United Methodist Men and mailed to Hatteras Island Food Pantry, PO Box 1591, Buxton, NC 27920.


Travel Channel’s Destination of the Month is the Outer Banks


The Outer Banks of North Carolina is January’s destination of the month on the Travel Channel. Broadcast internationally, this means viewers from all over the world are getting a glimpse into the secret many loyal visitors have known for generations — a vacation on the Outer Banks is one of the best ways to make lasting memories. From early morning walks along the un-crowded sandy shoreline as the sun makes its first appearance over the horizon, to staying up late into the night for  deep conversations, breathing the salt air and gazing into the star filled skies, few places can match the beauty of the Outer Banks.

Recent press for the Outer Banks is as hot as the July sun with another recent mention in Travel and Leisure as one of the 18 best cities in America for solo traveling. Add this to the annual awards typically bestowed like U.S. News and World Report’s “#1 Family Beach Vacation” and the Outer Banks – Hatteras Island especially – is a sure bet for vacation fun! Don’t wait – book your family vacation today and start your countdown to fun-filled days in the sun.


Surf or Sound Realty Announces $1 Food Pantry Donation for Every Pound of Food Collected in Their Offices Through December 31

Thanksgiving Food

The smell of turkey roasting, the sound of the football game playing in the background and the chatter of family that hasn’t gathered for many seasons, this time of year brings many warm memories. Like many places, some Hatteras Island residents have a hard time putting food on the table, especially this time of year as tourism slows. This year in particular saw residents suffering losses from Hurricane Matthew, many losing almost everything and working to rebuild their lives from the ground up. Local food pantries relying solely on donations, are working hard to successfully meet the demands of residents throughout the winter months.

In response to this need,  Surf or Sound Realty’s  offices in Avon and Salvo are  not only  serving as community collection  points  for the Hatteras Island  food drive  as they have done for many years, but this year they are upping the ante.  To  help encourage donations, Surf or Sound Realty has announced that it will donate $1 for every pound of food donations  received  at their offices  from November  21 through December 31,  up to  $500.  All donations will go directly to a Hatteras Island food bank to support the local residents.

“I’ve lived here for 18   years and I know how appreciative the community is  of  these donations. Many residents go unemployed through the winter and can use every bit of help they can get,” explains Marcia Laricos, Event Coordinator  and Assistant to the Property Manager  at Surf or Sound Realty.  “We are hoping that we receive more food donations this year by rallying for the cause.”

Monetary donations for the Hatteras Island Food Pantry can be made payable by check to United Methodist Men and mailed to Hatteras Island Food Pantry, P.O. Box 1591, Buxton, NC 27920. Monetary donations for Lifeboat Community Church can be dropped off at 27563 Highway 12 in Salvo, or by mailing checks to Lifeboat Community Church, P.O. Box 84, Salvo, NC 27972.


Hatteras Island is Becoming a Popular Wellness Destination

Hatteras Yoga, Warrior Two at Sunrise - photograph by Daniel Pullen

Hatteras Yoga, Warrior Two at Sunrise – photograph by Daniel Pullen

A healing seashore atmosphere, two new yoga studios, professional massage therapists, and fresh local food markets in most of its seven villages are allowing vacationing guests to escape the hustle and bustle of their urban and suburban lives and nourish their mind and body on island time. “The island has a very calm, relaxed energy. Our clean air and water, bright, starry skies and vibrant sunsets set us apart from other commercial wellness resorts.” explains Cena Jennette, who returned to her native Hatteras to raise a family after years living, and teaching yoga in cities all over the East Coast and California. She opened Hatteras Yoga Studio in 2015 and has been overwhelmed by support from both the local yoga community and visiting yogis from all over the world. Vacationers don’t just stumble upon the studio while they’re here; they get away with the intention of practicing; bringing with them their favorite yoga mats, open minds and infectious energy. The influx of health-focused visitors allows for international guest instructors at the studio, who in-turn energize the local community. One of Hatteras Yoga’s most popular offerings is private yoga sessions on the beach or in a guest’s private vacation home. “They’re a great way to celebrate upcoming weddings, milestone birthdays or to just spend time really connecting with loved ones in a peaceful place.”, said Jennette.

Hatteras Saltworks

Another newly forged business on the island, Hatteras Saltworks, creates local sea salt by gathering clean, nutrient-dense sea water at the intersection of the Labrador and Gulf Stream currents just offshore. While most sea salt manufacturers bake or boil their water, Hatteras Saltworks’ unique solar evaporation technique may take over 45 days, but it allows for optimal nutrient retention. The result is a soft, flakey product. “Clean air, solitude, salt water everywhere — and a natural beauty that can only be found on an isolated sand bar…” are all reasons to appreciate life on Hatteras Island, according to Hatteras Saltworks co-owner and operator Brian McMahon.

There’s something nourishing about eating food raised in the wild, and local seafood markets are the place to get just that. A true family affair, Harbor House Seafood Market in Hatteras is run by Vicki Harrison and her husband Robert. Their passion for seafood and the culinary arts is evidenced in the carefully prepared meals and sides you can purchase alongside the local fresh-caught seafood in their market. Their children Graham and Alana both work in the market preparing food, helping customers and fishing inshore and offshore to provide the store’s inventory. If you don’t know how to cook something, don’t worry, just ask Vicki. She will describe preparation in such mouth-watering detail, you’ll rush out with your stomach rumbling (if that hasn’t already happened from the rich smell of crab cakes cooking when you walk in the door).

A week-long stay in a premier vacation home offers access to amenities like hot tubs, private swimming pools, saunas, and outdoor gathering spaces for taking in the sea air, sunrises and sunsets. Surf or Sound Realty has the largest number of oceanfront homes on Hatteras Island and has been providing premier vacation homes for wellness-seeking vacationers since 1978.