The best vacation rentals in the Outer Banks on Airbnb and Vrbo

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • The Outer Banks is a 130-mile-long string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, easily reachable by car. 
  • Dotted with quaint beach towns, sleepy fishing villages, and 75 miles of protected coastline, the Outer Banks is ideal for travelers looking to book a private home and practice social distancing.
  • We selected highly-rated vacation homes across the Outer Banks on Vrbo and Airbnb that range from $90 to $242 per night to start.
  • Read more: Are Airbnbs safe? We spoke to experts, a company representative, and an Airbnb host to share everything you should know before booking someone's home.

When the hit Netflix series "Outer Banks" debuted in April 2020, it introduced many people to this string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina.

But I've known about them for decades, having vacationed every year in the Outer Banks — often shortened to OBX — since I was a teenager. This once low-key destination has since boomed in popularity thanks to wide, white-sand beaches, relatively affordable rental homes, and proximity to many large East Coast cities. Ramshackle single-story beach cottages have given way to sprawling, multi-level houses and fancy restaurants, gourmet stores, and kitschy shops have all moved in. 

Yet even with this explosive growth — and the persistent snarl of summer traffic — the Outer Banks still manages to retain its natural beauty and charm. The centrally-located beach towns of Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Kill Devil Hills tend to be more crowded, but offer family-friendly amenities, while if you head farther north to Corolla, or south to Hatteras, you'll be rewarded with miles of pristine beaches, rugged dunes, lighthouses, and the occasional wild horse.

As people continue to look for safe travel options where outdoor activities are plentiful amid the ongoing pandemic, all that coastal scenery and space make the Outer Banks especially appealing. Not to mention even the winter temperatures stay in the high 50s and low 60s. when Of course, safety cannot be guaranteed without a vaccine, and it's important to follow guidelines from the CDC and WHO, consider your own risk, and confirm rules mandated by states for visitors. Additionally, follow safety tactics such as washing your hands, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing.

However, it's reassuring to know that experts and the CDC consider renting a vacation home to be one of the safer options, especially compared to hotels. Airbnb and Vrbo homes are primarily private accommodations, which lowers the potential risks and many offer contactless check-in and are implementing stringent new cleaning measures.

The Airbnb Enhanced Clean was developed with medical and hospitality experts and includes upgraded cleaning standards for all hosts. 

Vrbo has implemented enhanced cleaning guidelines for its owners, and guests can use a search filter to view homes that have been "Highly Rated for Cleanliness," and those that have been awarded a "Cleanliness Rating" badge for the highest cleanliness reviews. Here's a handy guide understanding the differences between the platforms so you can decide which is best for you. 

In the Outer Banks, you'll find everything from cozy vintage cottages to massive new-builds on both Airbnb and Vrbo.

We selected top homes from each platform based on the following criteria:

  1. Listings are for the entire home, cottage, or stand-alone apartment to avoid interaction with owners or other guests, in line with recommended COVID-19 precautions.
  2. Each property is priced between $90 and $242 per night to start, depending on the season.
  3. All are top-rated Airbnb and Vrbo listings located throughout the Outer Banks with a review score of 4.6 or higher.
  4. Each property has a variety of appealing amenities including private pools, hot tubs, and decks with water views, and many are within walking distance of the beach. 

While nightly rates start under $258, these are average prices, and rates fluctuate by the season. Rentals near the beach are generally more expensive and homes often come with minimum stays and cleaning and service fees, which are not included in nightly rates. Finally, some amenities or facilities may be closed as a result of COVID, so be sure to contact the host for more information prior to booking. 

These are the best vacation rentals in the Outer Banks on Airbnb and Vrbo, sorted by price from low to high.

A secluded stay in Kitty Hawk, $90

Book this cottage starting at $90 per night on Vrbo

Much of the Kitty Hawk rental market is focused on beach access, which means houses are often packed closely together, on small lots, and with little privacy. For a more serene stay, head to the opposite side and the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve. This 1,890-acre maritime forest comes with great opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, and bird-watching.  

Nestled among tall trees, with a sprawling deck overlooking the reserve, this two-bedroom Franklin's Tower cottage feels like a more like a nature retreat than a beach house. It's 2 miles to the closest beach, but walking and biking paths are just outside the door and the host offers free use of bikes and kayaks. 

The recently-built, townhouse-style cottage features 12-foot ceilings, a 700-square foot living room, and wood floors and custom tile work throughout. Multiple guests praised the home's decor, the spacious deck, and the cozy outdoor fire pit.

While it can sleep up to five people, with two Queen-sized beds and an air mattress, the owner notes that it "may not be large enough for families with multiple kids." A recent reviewer said, "The little house was so accommodating … It's not too far off the beaten path but isolated enough to give you your own privacy."

This home has plenty of availability throughout November and December. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: Enhanced cleaning practices, cleaned with disinfectant, check-in and check-out with no person-to-person contact, a minimum one-day vacancy between guest stays.

Cozy Ocracoke Island cottage, $99

Book this cottage starting at $99 per night on Airbnb

Yes, Ocracoke Island is far — a long drive, plus a ferry ride (or about three hours' travel time from Kitty Hawk) to reach this southern tip of the Outer Banks. But once you're here, it feels world's away from the bustling beaches of the central Outer Banks. Most of the island is national seashore, which means miles of protected, undeveloped coastline and pristine, uncrowded stretches of sand. 

This quaint, quiet one-bedroom cottage, dubbed Charlotte's Daughter, is within walking distance of the island's only village, which is a charming hub of local restaurants, bars, and shops. The split-level home features hardwood floors with an open-plan living/dining room and kitchen downstairs, and the bedroom (with a King-sized bed) and bathroom upstairs. Skylights keep things bright, while a screened-in front porch is great for relaxing. It's a short drive or bike ride to the beach.

Guests praised the cottage welcoming vibe. "From the table of collected shells on the front porch to the cozy living area to the large upstairs bedroom, Charlotte's Daughter has everything you need to relax and enjoy your stay on Ocracoke," said a recent review.

This Airbnb has availability from December on.

Rating: 4.94 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: The house is part of the Enhanced Clean initiative. The owner is a Superhost and notes on the listing that there is a full day buffer between guests. 

Mid-century modern bungalow in Kill Devil Hills, $126

Book this bungalow starting at $126 per night on Airbnb

The oldest town on the Outer Banks, Kill Devil Hills is the busiest and most populous area on this stretch of barrier islands. It's here you'll find a high concentration of hotels, restaurants, shopping, and family-friendly attractions like miniature golf and the multiplex. It's also home to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which commemorates the world's first controlled flights in 1903.

Just a few minutes' walk from the beach is this chic one-bedroom bungalow featuring a classic post-and-beam structure and soaring, wood-paneled ceilings. Unlike many OBX rentals that lean toward beachy vibes, this one is pure mid-century modern with sleek retro furnishings and eclectic touches like a vinyl library. 

"The place was extremely clean and stylish. We enjoyed the extra touches like the record player and the hanging chair," said one recent guest.

This bungalow is popular but still has a few scattered dates open in December with more days opening up in January.

Rating: 4.99 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Cute cottage in historic Manteo, $145

Book this cottage apartment starting at $145 per night on Vrbo

Most visitors come to the Outer Banks for the beach, but the charming bay-front village of Manteo offers great dining, shopping, and fishing, as well as access to all the historical attractions of 400-year-old Roanoke Island. 

Located near the historic waterfront district, the newly built cottage apartment is ideal for couples, featuring a light-filled den outfitted with contemporary furnishings, a full modern kitchen, and one bedroom overlooking the pretty neighboring gardens.

It's a short walk to Manteo's boardwalk, marina, and its many restaurants, galleries, and antique shops. The beaches of Nags Head are about a 10-minute drive away.

Reviewers love the apartment and its owner's taste level. "It was very clean and beautifully decorated, and had everything needed to make it a great stay," said one reviewer.

Dates are wide open for November and December.

Rating: 4.9 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: No specific cleaning guidelines are outlined but the owner is a Premier Partner, which means they provide great traveler experiences by maintaining a low cancellation rate, receiving high review scores, and accepting and honoring bookings through Vrbo's secure checkout.

Canal-front home in Southern Shores, $150

Book this canal-front home starting at $150 per night on Airbnb 

Set along the Currituck Sound, Southern Shores is a quiet residential community laced with shaded canals for tranquil paddling experiences. It's also the closest neighborhood to the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge, connecting the Outer Banks to the mainland, which means you can avoid traffic headaches and get a jump start on your vacation. 

This four-bedroom home sits right on a canal, surrounded by lovely landscaping, with a spacious dock and a large private pool. Guests have access to community amenities including basketball and tennis courts, and the owner provides a parking pass for Hillcrest beach access, which is less than a 10-minute drive away. It's also a short walk to the Sound, where you can enjoy fantastic sunsets, and kayak rentals are available upon request. 

Inside, the decor may seem a bit dated and old-fashioned, but the home boasts plenty of space, with two living rooms, a big kitchen, dining area, home office, and upstairs bedrooms.

A recent review notes, "the space was great for our big family. The outdoor space is fantastic! We loved the pool and deck space, and the dock/canal access was super convenient for putting in the kayaks and paddleboard." 

This Airbnb has limited availability until the end of December when most days become available.

Rating: 4.87 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Vintage Nags Head beach bungalow, $155

Book this bungalow starting at $155 per night on Airbnb

Nags Head is a bustling spot best known for the towering sand dunes of Jockey's Ridge State Park where you can hike, fly kites, catch incredible sunsets, and even learn how to hang glide. Nags Head also has the longest stretch of oceanfront, spanning 11 miles, making it an extremely popular destination for beachgoers.

While you'll find newly-built mega-mansions in the northern areas of the Outer Banks, Nags Head is mainly populated with small, funky bungalows, many of which date back to the 1940s and 50s. This cottage is a prime example, a vintage-style one-bedroom that is across from the beach and within walking distance of Nags Head Fishing Pier. 

Ideal for adventurous couples, the bungalow comes equipped with surfboards, his and hers electric beach cruisers, a tandem bike, and everything you need for the beach such as chairs, an umbrella, and a cooler. 

Reviews praised the cozy atmosphere and thoughtful amenities. "The cottage itself was plenty big for 2 people. The amenities were perfect and the decorations were so unique," wrote one recent guest. 

This Airbnb has availability over the next few months, but availability is subject to change.

Rating: 4.88 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

Beach retreat in Kitty Hawk, $167

Book this beach house starting at $167 per night on Vrbo

The town of Kitty Hawk is one of the Outer Banks' most popular year-round destinations, teeming with local bars and restaurants and attractions like the bustling Kitty Hawk Pier. In the heart of the action and just across the street from the beach sits this recently updated three-bedroom home with superb ocean views. 

Catch the sunrise and ocean breezes from the front patio, while the large back deck — complete with hot tub and grill — has plenty of space to entertain. The modern 1,150-square-foot home features large windows with views of the ocean from nearly every room and can sleep up to nine people, with a third bedroom equipped with two bunk beds that are ideal for kids. However, towels and linens are not provided, so you'll need to bring your own.

A recent guest praised the "comfortable furnishings, up-to-date technology, and beautiful views of the ocean," while another noted that "the house had wonderful amenities and the main room was a great place to relax." 

This Vrbo is currently available for bookings all through November and December.

Rating: 5 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: Enhanced cleaning practices, cleaned with disinfectant.

Stylish beach house in Rodanthe, $214

Book this Rodanthe retreat starting at $214 per night on Airbnb

If you've read Nicholas Spark's best-selling novel, "Nights in Rodanthe," or seen the movie starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, you know all about this small, romantic coastal town. Surrounded by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, quiet Rodanthe feels wonderfully removed from the busier, more easily reachable Outer Banks destinations to the north. 

The narrowness of Hatteras Island means it's easy to venture from the beach to the sound and experience both spectacular sunrises and sunsets. That's also true of this three-bedroom semi-oceanfront home, which features a spacious crow's nest with panoramic vistas.

Recently renovated, the home has a modern kitchen with custom counters and a farm sink, and wide-plank wood floors, contemporary furnishings, and tasteful beach-inspired artwork throughout. Said one reviewer, "the place is a perfect getaway; extremely clean, well-furnished and very close to the beach."

This Airbnb has some availability left in November and most of December is wide open.

Rating: 5 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: No specific cleaning guidelines are outlined, but the host is a Superhost and recent guests said this place was sparkling clean.

Big beach house with pool in Duck, $242

Book this beach house starting at $242 per night on Vrbo

Duck is known for its quaint village feel, local shops, restaurants, and bars clustered along the mile-long boardwalk on the Currituck Sound. On the Atlantic side, grassy dunes protect the wide, white-sand beaches, where you'll find fewer beachgoers since street parking is only available by permit. 

Ideally situated a five-minute walk from both the Duck town center and the beach, this five-bedroom home is perfect for families or groups with bright, airy interiors, comfy furnishings, and typical beachy decor. Outside, there's plenty of space to gather, with two communal decks, an eight-person hot tub, a double hammock swing, and a screened-in porch with a dining table and ocean views. 

There's a private backyard pool (with an extra fee if you want it heated) or guests have access to all the amenities that the Schooner Ridge community offers, including two outdoor pools, an oceanfront pool, a playground, tennis courts, and clubhouse with a gym and indoor pool.  

Reviewers had great things to say about this house, which has a nearly perfect score. "Playing outside on the decks, a dip in the hot tub or pool, or reading in the loft; there was plenty of room for everyone to do as they please," wrote a recent guest.

This Vrbo has plenty of available dates in November and December.

Rating: 5 out of 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedures: No specific cleaning guidelines are outlined, but many guests have praised the home's cleanliness.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

You can purchase syndication rights to this story here.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.

Source: Read Full Article