The 200-mile stretch of dune-backed barrier islands that make up North Carolina's Outer Banks is a favorite seaside vacation getaway for residents of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The laid-back, scenic region within a five-hour drive of Washington, DC has historically never cultivated more than a quite local and limited gay scene, but this has lately been changing - Gay Outer Banks of NC is an excellent resource for gay goings-on.
One event that's helped put the North Carolina coast on the gay travel map is OBX PrideFest, a three-day Outer Banks Gay Pride celebration held in Nags Head in late June. The festival takes place mostly on the grounds of the gay-friendly First Colony Inn but also includes a sunset cruise out of Mateo, gallery tours, music and comedy shows, and a Pride Party at the closest thing to a gay beach in the area, Coquina Beach. The event typically takes place in mid-June.
Even if you don't make it down for gay pride, you'll find much to see and do in the Outer Banks year-round, and especially from late spring through early fall. The area takes in a pair of stunning national seashores, Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout. Nearby towns like Manteo (on Roanoke Island, site of history's infamous "Lost Colony"), Nags Head, Beaufort, and Ocracoke are dotted with motels and airy, seaside B&Bs, as well as excellent seafood restaurants.
Cape Hatteras is the more commercially developed of the two parks and by far the most easily reached; it typically draws families and kids in high numbers all summer long. The above-mentioned Coquina Beach, which is especially popular with gay visitors on Sundays but typically has a "family" following daily throughout summer, is within Cape Hatteras near the Wright Brothers National Memorial off Hwy. 12, just south of Nags Head - (here's a map).
For a more peaceful and adult-oriented getaway you might want to focus on Cape Lookout, which consists of three islands and can be reached only by regularly scheduled passenger ferry service. Once across the sound, you can stroll the beach, go sea kayaking off Shackleford Banks, admire Cape Lookout Lighthouse, or investigate the ghost town of Portsmouth Village - a now-deserted colonial shipping community with a small museum tracing its history.
Several accommodations in the area extend a warm welcome to gay travelers, in addition to the above-mentioned 26-room First Colony Inn in Nags Head. These include the stately Castle at Silver Lake B&B, an 11-room contemporary mansion in Ocracoke; and the beautifully maintained Surf Side Hotel in Nags Head. Also, in historic New Bern, a couple of hours inland from the Outer Banks, the upscale Aerie Inn and romantic Harmony House Inn are very gay-friendly.
As a gay destination, the Outer Banks are geared more to couples of groups of friends than singles. There are no gay bars out this way, although a few spots - mostly in and around Nags Head - have a bit of a mixed gay following, including Kelly's Restaurant, Outer Banks Brewing Station and the Jolly Roger (both in Kill Devil Hills), and Dirty Dicks Crab House.