The Little Town that Bloomed
Back in the mid-70s, there was a bumper sticker that adorned some Outer Banks cars that read Stuck in Duck, alluding to the absence of development that characterized this community (which wasn’t incorporated until May of 2002). The Duck, NC, of that relatively recent era was quite different from today. There was a Winks convenience store, some tackle shops, a few houses and little more. Development started slowly, but very quickly the residents and loyal visitors realized that they would need to protect their little piece of Duck heaven from outside forces that wanted to pave paradise. After a particularly scary brush with a large grocery chain planning to build a 31,000-square-foot store in the middle of the village, representatives from the town sprang into action to do whatever was needed to grow yet preserve the essence of the place they loved. Most think they succeeded. The small seaside town of Duck, NC, today is a popular Outer Banks beach destination for good reason. Visitors and locals can roam 7 miles of beaches that are wide and uncrowded. A soundfront boardwalk makes getting around to Duck's many shops and restaurants very pleasant, not to mention safe. Duck is one of those places where you can ditch the car and get around on bike or foot. Duck consistently ranks high on the Travel Channel’s annual America’s Best Beaches list and has been somewhere on the best beaches list since 2000. This is what the Travel Channel has to say about Duck. “Duck’s relative solitude and its vast array of neatly constructed rental homes make it ideal for families. That is, unless your family likes to go bar hopping until the wee hours, in which case you may be out of luck. ... Still, while we admit Duck would never make the list for top spring break party spots, boredom is hardly a threat here.”
Duck, NC, Things to Do
Duck things to do have a lot of tie to the ocean and sound that sandwich the town. Watersports are big, especially on the Currituck Sound. Outfitters can get you out on the water on standup paddleboards, kayaks and sailboats, and there's just as much focus on getting into or onto the ocean on surf or body boards and probably anything else that floats. Duck things to do stay dry too, though: Trails and quiet side streets make biking, running and walking a preferred activity here (and the town sponsors several 5Ks every year). Duck is also a center for yoga and fishing. For some, the most enjoyable Duck activity might be visiting a spa and getting pampered. Several of the most highly regarded Outer Banks spas call Duck, NC, home. (Here’s a local’s hint: Book Early.)
Many of the things to do in Duck, NC, can be found in its soundfront Duck Town Park, complete with a playground, kayak launch, soundside boardwalk and amphitheater. This is the heart of the village, and the Town of Duck fills the park with activities in the summer. The popular Duck Jazz Festival is held here in October.
Duck, NC, Shopping
Let us fill you in on the Duck, NC, shopping scene ... how much energy do you have? Locals sometimes laughingly call Duck the Rodeo Drive of the Outer Banks due to the concentration of truly great stores. Some of the best clothes shopping is there, and the home outfitters shine too. Then there are the art galleries, jewelry stores, gift shops, specialty food shops, farm stands, bookstores, spas with great products, surf shops, pet-oriented stores and so much more. There's also an ABC store where you buy liquor and a small but well stocked grocery. It's all walkable too, connected by an amazing waterfront boardwalk and an expanding sidewalk that runs the length of Duck Road. Suffice it to say that visitors who know what the locals know spend part of their vacation either shopping in Duck, regardless of where they’re staying.
Duck, NC, Restaurants
The charming self-contained village is full of top-notch Duck, NC, restaurants that draw locals and guests from all over the Outer Banks for, probably, the biggest variety of culinary adventures of any town. Some of the area's top-notch eateries are found in this small town, and as with shopping it's worth the drive to experience them no matter where you're staying. Since many restaurants are situated to take in the amazing sunsets here, you'll also find outside bars and comfortable sitting areas at many of them.
Duck, NC, Hotels
There's only one Duck, NC, hotel, but it's an amazing place – Sanderling Resort. This is classic, gracious vacationing, and the property features a sumptuous spa and several highly regarded restaurants. The resort is a very popular place for weddings.
Other than Sanderling, thousands of the town's annual guests choose to stay in Duck, NC, vacation rental houses, that range from cozy to castles.
Frequently Asked Questions
How did Duck, NC, get its name?
There's no mystery about the origin of this town name, as there is with some of the others. In the early 1900s, duck hunting brought many to the area (so many, the population of the waterfowl was almost decimated). The thousands of ducks that considered the sound waters bordering the town their roost caused the postmaster to give the area its moniker.
Where is Duck, NC, situated on the Outer Banks?
Duck, NC, is the northernmost town in Dare County's Outer Banks. Remember that Corolla to the north is in Currituck County, though it's still considered part of the Outer Banks. Duck's town borders extend to the Currituck County line. To the south, Duck is neighbors with the Town of Southern Shores.
Are there lifeguards and public beach accesses in Duck?
Neighborhoods and HOAs have beach access points that are not maintained by the Town. Contact your rental company for directions to the access in your neighborhood. None of the accesses have showers. That said, there are 12 fixed lifeguard stands that are staffed Memorial Day through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. As in the other towns, the best piece of advice anyone could give you about your Outer Banks vacation is to always swim within sight of a lifeguard. The ocean here is often rougher than many vacationers are used to. And note that if red flags are flying at beach accesses, that means you're not allowed to swim that day. The decision to fly these flags is not made lightly, so please don't think you can second guess the safety factor.
The fixed lifeguard stands in Duck can be found at:
Barrier Island Station
Schooner Ridge Drive
Speckle Trout Drive
Duck also provides a handy sound access point at the Duck Town Park that provides a kayak launch and parking.
What's the best major airport to fly into if we're coming to Duck, NC?
If you're flying in with Duck as your destination, your best choice for airports is Norfolk International (ORF). From there to Duck the drive (and you will need to rent a car) is only about 1.5 hours. Some have started using the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport too (PHF). Even though it's across the peninsula, the drive time to Duck is almost the same, and the airport is very simple to negotiate since it's smaller than ORF.
How long will it take me to drive to other Outer Banks towns from Duck, NC?
These drive times factor in summer traffic delays.
Duck to Corolla – 15 minutes
Duck to Southern Shores – 10 minutes
Duck to Kitty Hawk – 12 minutes
Duck to Kill Devil Hills – 20 minutes
Duck to Nags Head – 25 minutes
Duck to Manteo – 45 minutes
Duck to Oregon Inlet – 55 minutes
Duck to Avon – 1 hour 25 minutes
Duck to Hatteras Village – 2 hours
Is Duck, NC, on an island?
Duck is located on the northern Outer Banks, a barrier island that's bordered by the sound on one side and the ocean on the other. You drive across the sounds to reach Duck, NC. Arriving from the north, you take the Wright Memorial Bridge (from Currituck County) then travel up N.C. Highway 12. From the west, you drive across the Virginia Dare Bridge from the North Carolina mainland then take U.S. Highway 158 (aka The Bypass or Croatan Highway) to the intersection of N.C. Highway 12 then into Duck. Should you be driving up from Hatteras, you will cross the Herbert Bonner Bridge to Nags Head then Highway 158 to Highway 12.