One of the #1 questions for visitors to the Outer Banks: "whats traffic like on the weekend? How long is it taking to get to X? etc"
The only certainty about traffic in the summer is that its going to happen. The quiet residential roads, underdevelopment, and natural state of the OBX is the major part of its allure. Folks travel from the concrete jungles of the bigger cities to come to this slice of paradise. As such, we dont have as many broad, major roadways, bridges, and so forth. So just sit back, relax, roll the windows down, and know that wherever you're going on the OBX: its worth the wait.
Its inevitable. Just go with the flow and give yourself extra time. Locals go through this every weekend May through August just fine. Stick to the flow of traffic, many try to find shortcuts and alternative routes, but its honestly best to just stick with the majority, having cars turn on to 12 from other roadways disrupts the flow and leads to more back-ups.
Beat The Rush
Aside from making reservations, we recommend going for an early dinner. Obviously prime dinner time will be packed, but going early versus late is the best bet. If you go early instead of late, youll be able to guarantee youve got a place to eat. If you wait too long, you may be scrambling to find out that places have fully booked up. Furthermore, as the evening progresses, many restaurants may begin running out of favorite items. if you get there early, you can also secure those favorites before theyve sold out.
Pack it in (and out!)
Unless youre staying within walking distance of the beach, we recommend packing everything youll need. Once you get parked and situated, youre not going to want to leave and potentially risk losing your parking spot (if vacationing in the middle of summers busy season). Ensure you have plenty of water and sunscreen first and foremost. Travel battery-charging packs will positively come in handy! Nothing worse than a phone dying midway through your beach day. Pack snacks, and something more substantial for a lunch.
Just as important as packing it in is packing it out. Dont forget any belongings, especially trash. Remember: anything left on the beach at night will be removed, dont lose your expensive canopy because you didnt want to haul it out.
Another great way to ensure the best beach day is by going into it prepared. You can check SwellInfo.com for details on the ocean conditions: choppiness, wave size, ocean temps, currents, wind direction and much more. Checking the surf cam can give you similar insight, especially if visiting during the spring and fall. You can see if its warm enough to get in, or if most people are in sweatshirts, because we all know the temperature by the water is different than what it is when you walk out the front door.
Saturday and Sunday are going to be very popular for hitting up the grocery store, as thats when most people are arriving. Were not saying to not go on the weekends, we just want to you to bear in mind that you should allow yourself some extra time. We also recommend only sending 1-2 people from your party inside. Can you just imagine if everyone brought their whole family in? If everyone sent in just 1 designated shopper, things run much more smoothly.
Know the Limit
Keep your eye on speed limits. Traffic laws are strictly enforced to keep folks safe, especially given all the pedestrian traffic. You don't want to leave vacation with a ticket, so be mindful. Speed limits change through the seasons and towns. Duck in particular is an easy place to accidentally go too fast, as it drops down to 25mph and is strictly enforced. As always, watch for pedestrians.