Southern Shores, North Carolina – Outer Banks Beach Vacation

By Tee1

Southern Shore North Carolina Beach Vacation

Southern Shores is a small pleasant beach town in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This beach spot only has a population of slightly more than 2,700 as of the last census. The total area of Southern Shores is 4.2 sq. miles including water.

This beach community is nestled between Duck to the north and Kitty Hark to the south. With very little commercial development, Southern Shores is a gorgeous place with a great stretch of beach. The town mostly has single family houses. Behind the protective dune line, Southern Shores has one of the lowest density waterfront houses. Lacking some of the acclaim of its neighbors possibly, it has outpaced them by keeping it slow.

Off the coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks is stretch of barrier islands and spits for approximately 200 miles of Atlantic beaches.  The Atlantic Ocean is separated from the Pamlico Sound, Currituck Sound as well as the Albemarle Sound by the Outer Banks. Known globally as a major beach destination, the Outer Banks covers most of the North Carolina shoreline. The subtropical climate and beautiful open beaches are worth the nightmare required to get there.

Southern Shores has no motels or beach resorts, but holiday makers will find plenty of vacation rental homes, for all family sizes, to choose from. Visitors are welcome to stay in four campgrounds at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It is a much cheaper alternative than renting one of the massive beach houses for the week.

The waters off the Outer Banks have been nicknamed the Graveyard of the Atlantic because of the number of shipwrecks.

Where is Southern Shores?  36°7′N 75°44′W

Plan your Beach Vacation to Southern Shores

The beaches of the Outer Banks are some of the best in the world. Found along a string of peninsulas and barrier islands that separate the Atlantic Ocean from mainland North Carolina, the Outer Banks is quite simply a really nice place to spend a few days.

No dogs allowed

The largest of these peninsulas or islands starting at the top (north) are Bodie Island,  Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island, Portsmouth Island, and the Core Banks. In violent storms, occasionally new inlets are created which changes the number of islands. This is part of the natural beach evolution as older inlets get closed up by moving sands.

There is no agreed upon southern end point for the Outer Banks. However, the area starts in Sandbridge  in Virginia Beach and goes down the North Carolina coastline. Historically, its been thought that the Outer Banks comprises the 3 capes: Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout and Cape Fear.

Get your OBX bumper sticker!

By now, you have encountered OBX or SOBX bumper stickers somewhere in your life if you live east of the Mississippi. In case you haven’t guessed, these modern terms are marketed to tourists to sell t-shirts and shot glasses. OBX refers to the northern Outer Banks, while SOBX is for the Chrystal Coast.

Susceptible to massive erosion, the barrier islands of the Outer Banks are not anchored to coral reefs. Combined with sticking out into the Atlantic, the geography here is constantly changing as it is continually battered by hurricanes.

The US Army Corps of Engineers had to repair a 2,000 foot wide channel that was cut through the beach community of Hatteras Village in September 2003 by Hurricane Isabel.

Southern Shores Beaches Guide

Southern Shores does not have any public beach accesses. However, there are numerous neighborhood Southern Shores beach access locations and wooden walk-overs for town residents, renters and their guests only.

If you are lucky enough to get on the beach in Southern Shores, you will find a lot of space, and peace and quiet. It is ideal to get away for a while and refresh. Expect to find some unique or even quaint rules for this beach town. However silly these may seem, it is precisely the reason why you want to visit the villages of the central and northern Outer Banks.

In the summer, between 9am and 6pm, dogs are not allowed on the beach. At the end of the day, your beach stuff needs to be broken down. No tents over night is a good idea, no? No volleyball nets? Sort of a hassle, but it doesn’t seem like a deal breaker to me. There are lifeguards on the Southern Shores beaches. Don’t go in the water if there are red flags.

To stay close to the Outer Banks action, yet still enjoy miles of seclusion, little development, and a wide selection of vacation rental homes and quiet, open beaches, Southern Shores may just be the perfect vacation destination to enjoy the serenity of the OBX, as well as all the attractions.

Southern Shores – Driving on the beach is prohibited

Accents: They speak funny in the Outer Banks

First settled by the English in colonial times, the islands in the Outer Banks still has some descendants today. Some of the islands were isolated from the rest of society until bridges were built in the 1930s. As a result, the people tend to have more of a English accent or brogue than an American one. As you travel south on the Outer Banks, this becomes more distinctive.

In times gone by, like off Smathers Beach in Key West, some of the population made their living as “wreckers”. They scavenged wrecked ships or lured them to their destruction. It has been said that horses with lanterns would be walked along the beaches. “The lanterns’ up and down motion would appear to ships to represent clear water and a ship ahead; the unsuspecting captain would then drive his ship ashore following this false light.”

Wild Horses in the Outer Banks

Herds of feral horses, known as “banker ponies” can be found on a few of the islands. Like the horses that live on the beaches of Assateague Island, legends claim these are descended from Spanish mustangs that came from shipwrecks. These are spurious claims at best. If you are interested in seeing the ponies head to Currituck Banks, Ocracoke Island, Shackleford Banks, or the Rachel Carson Estuarine Sanctuary.

Keep it Clean, please

In an effort to keep Cape Hatteras National Seashore looking beautiful and safe for both humans and wildlife, the Seashore has partnered with the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA) in a pack it in, pack it out program that encourages all beachgoers to reduce impacts during their visits by remembering that what is brought onto the beach should be brought off the beach at the end of each visit. Thanks to the partnership with OBPA, pack it in, pack it out informational signs have been installed at numerous locations throughout the Seashore.

Pack it in, pack it out is part of the Seven Principles of the Leave No Trace program. The principles provide guidance to enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts.

The below information is adapted from the Leave No Trace: Center for Outdoor Ethics website.


  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
    • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit
    • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies
    • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
    • Pack it in, pack it out. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
  4. Leave What You Find
    • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
    • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
    • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
    • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
    • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
    • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
    • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
    • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
    • Be courteous.

A special thanks to a fellow Hoya, John S. for sharing these images. John is a smart guy from the mid-west, plays with satellites and roots for the Cubs.