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How to Avoid Traffic on the Outer Banks

26 Mar 2019
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If you’ve ever arrived on the Outer Banks on a Saturday during July or August, you probably got stuck in traffic. Here’s why… During the prime Summer weeks, the Outer Banks is close to 100% occupied. Most Outer Banks vacationers come from the North and there is only one road/bridge leading to the beach.  There are over 20,000 vacation rentals on the Outer Banks and the majority of them turnover on a Saturday. So… If each home sleeps an average of 10 people, 150,000 people are heading to the Outer Banks on any given Saturday during the summer. If every car has at least 4 people in it there will be 35,000 cars crossing the eastbound Wright Memorial Bridge during the day.

Since we’ve been stuck in traffic many times before, we know how awesome it would be to avoid it. We’ve compiled a list below on the best tips and tricks to avoid traffic on the Outer Banks. 

Photo: These wine glasses can be found at Tommy's Market in Duck, NC!

1. Consider Sunday-Sunday or even Partial-Week Vacation Rentals.

If you’ve already booked your Summer vacation, skip this one. While the majority of rentals are Saturday – Saturday, there is still a great selection of vacation rentals that turnover on a Sunday! Traffic is usually much smoother on Sunday vs. Saturday. Rarely do we see back-ups over the bridge on Sunday (incoming or outgoing). View our Sunday – Sunday Rentals. Partial week vacation rentals are a great way to go too! You can stay for 3 or 4 nights and avoid heavy turnover days like Saturday! View our Partial-Week Homes.

2. Be across the bridge before 11 am.

(11 am: July & 1st 2 weeks in August or 12 pm: June & late August – early September). All other times of year traffic is not an issue.

If you can time it so you are across the Wright Memorial Bridge bridge and onto the Outer Banks BEFORE 11 am, you will miss the majority of the traffic. If you have problems getting stuck on HWY 64 in Virginia, there are plenty of alternate routes. Take a look at Google Maps. 

The problem with coming early is you can’t check in until your house is ready, which can be anytime between 4 to 6 pm. You’ve been stuck in a car for a while and you have no place to unload.

Here are some practical ideas to kill time:

  • Stay Cool at the H2OBX Waterpark
  • Go souvenir shopping! This is the best time to go to local shops and buy souvenirs! Here are some recommendations for shopping:
    • Corolla,  Tim Buck Too Shopping center.
    • Duck, Scarborough Faire Shopping Center.
    • Kitty Hawk/Southern Shores, Buccaneer Village Shops at MP 4 (Children’s Museum is awesome).
    • Nags Head/South Nags Head, Kitty Hawk Kites at Jockey’s Ridge, Tanger Outlets or Outer Banks Mall.
  • Putt-Putt or YMCA – stretch your legs for a round of putt-putt or visit the family YMCA in Nags Head.
  • Go to the beach. Find a public beach access close to your check-in office and soak up the sun until your rental home is ready. 

3. Request Early Check-In

Early check-in does not let you skip the traffic (wouldn’t that be great!?), but if you purchase early check-in AND you arrive before 11 am (or 12 pm), you can grab a bite to eat and start off on your vacation! A limited number of early check-ins are available for a fee. If available, you’ll be able to get into your home by 1 pm. If the home isn't larger than 6 bedrooms, you can request this on your vacation rental agreement. Once you submit it back we will email you a confirmation to let you know if it is available or not.

4. Arrive after 6 pm

The Saturday Summer traffic is at it’s worst from 12 pm – 4 pm but it will occasionally linger on until after 5 pm. If you need to kill time on your drive down, check out some of these great places to stop on your way to the beach

Keep in mind traffic is only an issue on Saturdays (and some Sundays) during the prime Summer months (mid-June through mid-August). Any other day/time, you can sail across the bridge in either direction going the normal speed limit!

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