Kiteboarding Travel Guide: Hatteras, NC, USA - Destinations EP 06
Get a behind the scenes look on our trip to Hatteras with Danny.
WIND BY SEASON
Kite season in Hatteras goes from about April to October, but the wind blows year round. The kiter with a complete quiver of kites and boards will be able to get a session on any windy day. Most windy days will see wind blowing 10mph or more, with the best wind direction being SW on the slicks on NE on the ocean. Strong windy days are few and far between and typically accompanied by storms. If you don't have big kites or board options like directional or foil, you may miss out on some sessions here in Hatteras!
It's all about watersports on Hatteras Island, with kiteboarding and surfing being the main draws. The rest of the visitors to this spot come for a classic American beach holiday. For vacationers, Hatteras is a pretty easy holiday spot and the island has plenty to offer except nightlife. Towns with the most shops and activities are Avon and Nags Head. The area is known for surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, and 4x4ing. Hatteras is a great family friendly destination with plenty to do for all ages.
- Kiteboarding lessons - OceanAir Sports, Kite Club Hatteras
- Vacation rentals - Koru Village, Outer Beaches Realty
Hatteras has some of the best waves on the east coast of the USA, both for surfing and kitesurfing. The best wave conditions are in the fall. Watch the swell forecast to see what the swell is looking like during your visit. Some of the best surf spots are near Buxton Lighthouse and in the town of Kitty Hawk.
The claim to fame in this spot are the flatwater slicks, though the best flatwater is typically only accessible to advanced riders who can upwind or downwind from one of the launch spots. The flattest water can be found on the Planet of the Apes downwinder in the outlets and channels, with a few slicks out near Buxton and in the Salvo/Waves area.
The sound side in Hatteras is known for being very beginner friendly, due to it's shallow semi-flat water. Water is knee to waist deep across most of the sound, and the water conditions range from semi-flat to small chop depending on the wind. The launch spots can be a bit challenging, but once on the water, there is lots of room for beginners to practice.
- Surf, Kayak, and SUP - Rentals available at Ride Hatteras
- Fishing - Charter trips or local fishing (license required)
- 4x4ing - BYO vehicle ( Permit required)
- Kayak & 4x4 tour - with Back Country Safari Tours
- Activities for families via Visit OB
The nearest airport to Hatteras Island is Norfolk (ORF). Other nearby airports are Raleigh (RDU) and Richmond (RIC). It is about a 3-4 hour drive from the airports to the island. A rental car or your own vehicle is absolutley essential in Hatteras. Some of the smaller towns in Hatteras do not have many resources, so be sure to pick up your groceries in Nags Head or Avon. If there are storms in the forecast, allow extra time for travel days. Budget accommodation is difficult to find in Hatteras, but those traveling in groups will have the most options when it comes to planning a trip.
Kiteboarding Spot Guide
Sleepy beach vibes, sand dunes, and warm, breezy summers. This hotspot in North Carolina’s Outer Banks brings kiteboarders and beachgoers from all over the USA and Canada to come claim their picture perfect beach vacation. This is a spot you’ve definitely heard about… Cape Hatteras.
Hatteras Island is a beautiful barrier island off North Carolinas’ coast. This long, narrow island divides the Pacific Ocean from the infamous Pamlico Sound – known for it’s semi-flat shallow water that stretches for miles. Whether you’re looking for a classic beach holiday or a family friendly kiteboarding destination, the towns scattered along Hatteras Island have a whole lot to offer!
With so much water both on the surf side and the sound side, Hatteras has plenty of kiteboarding hotspots and hidden gems. We’ll give you the run down on everything you need to know about kiteboarding in Hatteras, and some travel tips to get you started.
Kite season in Hatteras goes from about April to October, though it can be windy year round. Winter is not a recommended time for kiting in Hatteras, and most of the shops and restaurants shut down for winter season. Spring and summer are the ideal time for kiteboarders that want warm weather and chilled sessions. If wave riding is your priority, fall is the best time of year to go to Hatteras.
Wind conditions here can be all over the map, and the wind direction can differ by the day. The kiters that will have the most fun in this spot are those with a complete quiver of kites and/or boards. Bigger kites will serve you better here, though you will occasionally get some stronger wind and storms.
Weather / Temperature
Summers in Hatteras are hot and humid! You can leave your sweaters and long pants at home. Even when it’s raining, you’ll still feel the heat and humidity. Expect temperatures up to 90°F/30°C. If you’re visiting in early spring or late fall, you may run into some winter leftovers with temps as low as 50°F/10°C.
Water conditions are seasonal, with summer being very warm and comfortable in the sound. Most days you won’t even need a wetsuit, though a shorty or spring suit may come in handy for stormy days. The surf side calls for a 3/2 wetsuit. In spring or fall, the water is much colder and riders will often be in a 5/4 wetsuit. On colder days, you’ll see kiters and surfers wearing boots, gloves, and hoods over on the surf side.
Hatteras has kite spots all along it’s coastline, both on the surf side and the slick side. Your spot choice will typically come down to which way the wind is blowing, as the best spots on one wind direction can be the worst spots on the other.
Here’s a few of our favorite spots from North to South…
- Planet of the apes is a soundside downwinder that is well known for having super flat water in some of the channels and outlets along the waters edge. This is probably the most popular downwinder in the US. On a SW wind, advanced riders should definitely put a Planet session on the top of their list. We recommend this spot for advanced riders because there is a large section of the run where there are no exit points, so a rider that runs into trouble or gets stuck in a storm or a no wind situation is in for a pretty boring hike through the water. First timers should start their downwinder at Mile Marker 46 and exit on the small beach at Salvo Day Use Area, just before the docks and houses in the town of Salvo. Those with more experience who are familiar with the other exit points can continue along to exit at KOA Campground in Waves or one of the beaches further north in Rodanthe. If it’s really a perfect day and you want to extend your downwinder, you can double down and start way south at Chimney House near Mile Marker 51.
- Kite Point is a great starting point for first time visitors to the island. This spot is friendly for every level of kiteboarder. It’s located south of Avon, and works best in SW or NW winds. The spot is just south of the popular Canadian Hole launch spot, and they both get very busy. On a windy day, the launch area will be easy to find and you can park your car along the side of the highway and walk your gear down to the beach to set up. The water here is relatively flat to small chop and the water is shallow, which makes it perfect for kiteboarders who are still in their beginner stages.
- Buxton Slick is a little further south of Kite Point, just before the town of Buxton. You can see this spot from Kite Point, and even just do a quick downwinder to escape the crowds at Kite Point if you’re a more advanced rider. The little grass islands around here make for some epic slicks on the right wind direction, preferably a NW. Wind coming from the S that’s blowing over the land is very gusty. You can park next to this spot and launch on the tiny beachfront here, but there’s only room for about 2-3 riders at a time on this beach and beginner kiters should avoid launching here as it is very close to the powerline and highway.
- The Cove is a spot for advanced and adventurous kiteboarders. We don't recommend this spot to average kite boarders. As its not the safest loction to ride.
- Frisco is southwest of Buxton and has several kite spots both on the surf side and sound side. This a great place to head to if you’re not really sure what you want. You can pull up and park anywhere along the highway and head to the beach to pump up. On SW winds, the Frisco area is known for having some epic ocean side downwinders. Ferry Docks to Frisco Pier is a downwinder that wave riders will definitely want to check out.
- The Washout is a soundside spot located past Frisco. This spot is friendly for all levels, and the conditions here are usually pretty good when the wind direction at Kite Point isn’t quite lining up. This spot is popular amongst beginners or those looking for shallow flat water. There’s plenty of parking here, but the spot does get quite crowded on windy days.
There are dozens more kite spots all over Hatteras Island, and half the fun is just getting out there and discovering them! If you’re not sure where to start, just look for kites up in the air and head that way.
Riding level & Style
Level: Kiteboarders of every level will find something to love about Hatteras when the wind is blowing. The shallow water here makes this spot perfect for beginner riders that need to get some more time on the water. That said, beginner launch spots are few and far between here, so beginner riders should make sure to be accompanied by a more experienced kiter for assistance with launching and landing. Intermediate and advanced kiteboarders will appreciate the wide swathe of water where they can practice their skills and trick progression. Professional kiteboarders can make the most of all that this spot has to offer, and explore (or jump over!) all of the natural features in this area.
Style: Hatteras is popular amongst freeriders, especially those in the early beginner stages that are looking for easy water to ride. Freestylers flock to the flatwater slicks to practice their unhooked tricks. Those looking for big air sessions will be waiting for a ripping storm session or big winds so they can send it over the islands. Beginner kiteboarders on directional boards can get comfortable on the surfboard over in the flatwater, then take it out to the waves once they’re feeling ready. Kitesurfers who are all about wave riding will be stoked on the surf side sessions and downwinders. Foilers will have the most fun on light wind days which are frequent here – though a short mast is essential. Hatteras also has a slider park in Waves, so those who are interested in park style riding will absolutely want to check that out.
Facilities & Cautions
Facilities: The towns and kite centers on Hatteras Island are well equipped with everything you would need to kiteboard, especially the bigger towns of Avon and Nags Head. Many of the kite beaches however have absolutely 0 facilities or services, but these are often the best places to ride because you don’t have to worry about resident or guest only restrictions or fees. Don’t forget to bring your pump and all the water and snacks you’ll need to get through the day!
Cautions: There are several hazards here in Hatteras. One that affects the most people is the sharp shells in the water and on some of the beaches and grassy spots. These are hazardous both to your feet and your gear. To avoid cuts on your feet, wear booties or avoid putting your feet down in the water or walking in the grass. Be sure to check your launching and landing spots carefully for sharp objects.
Always be careful launching here in Hatteras, as wind conditions on shore can be gusty and unpredictable on the sound side. Depending on where you’re launching, there may be obstacles like piers, rocks, and trees around you so take your time and ask for assistance if needed.
Pay attention to signage on the beaches – there are many nature reserves and areas that are protected during nesting seasons where kiteboarders are not allowed. Avoid walking on the islands out in the sound to protect these natural spots… and to avoid the snakes!
Some of the southside kite spots are quite close to the powerline which services the island. Naturally, you don’t want to be the one that knocks out power on the island.. so keep your kite away from it! Avoid launching your kite near the highway or the powerline.
If you’re riding on the surfside, be sure to ride in only sideshore, side onshore, or onshore winds so you don’t end up out to sea. There are no safety boats here. On the sound side, the water can be a bit dirty, so be sure to wash off after your session and take extra care of any cuts or injuries. Don’t forget to keep sunscreen and bug spray in your car, the mosquitos can get gnarly after it rains.
Cape Hatteras is the perfect spot for a classic beach vacation, and this spot works great for families with children and for group travel. Here’s a quick start guide on traveling to Cape Hatteras. For a detailed travel guide – and one you can share with non-kiting travel companions - check out this article by Crystal Veness.
How to get there
The closest major airport to Hatteras is Norfolk (ORF). If you’re staying in Avon, that’s less than 3 hours drive. Other major airports are Richmond (RIC) and Raleigh (RDU) which are about 4 hours away. Many travelers to this spot experience delayed flights, so be sure to leave yourself some buffer time when traveling.
A vehicle is absolutely essential in Cape Hatteras, so bring your own or rent a car. Traffic laws are strictly enforced in Hatteras, so be sure to respect the rules of the road.
Rygo making his way to kite point
Where to stay
If you’re traveling with young family and non-kiters, Nags Head has the most alternative activities for no-wind days. They also have the most choices for shops and restaurants. For those who want a more kiteboarding focused trip, Avon and Buxton are quiet seaside towns where kiters will be in heaven. Avon has more amenities like a complete grocery store and restaurants.
Traveling with a group is the most fun way to do a trip to Hatteras. Vacation rentals are the way to go here, and there are several managed rental properties available on websites like Koru Village, Outer Beaches Realty or Surf or Sound. Shared amongst a large group, these homes can be incredibly affordable. You’ll find multi-bedroom homes as low as $1,000 a week or less and bigger and more luxurious or waterfront properties can be several thousand per week.
Individuals or couples traveling will likely spend a bit more on accommodation, though there are several hotel options in the Avon area in the $100-200 per night price range. Kite Club Hatteras is one of the few options for solo travelers on a budget and offer a high end hostel style experience. Camping is another popular option on Hatteras Island – there’s loads of campgrounds in Waves and Frisco, and some have the option to rent cabins if you don’t have your own trailer or tent.
What to eat & drink
If you’re looking for nightlife, Hatteras is not the kite spot for you. This place is all about day vibes – all of the action happens on the water or in your vocational rental! Those traveling in groups will very likely end up barbecuing or cooking at home a lot of the time. There are fully equipped grocery stores in the towns of Nags Head and Avon. There are liquor stores in Nags Head and Buxton. If you’re heading to one of the smaller towns south on the island, a stop in Nags Head to collect supplies is highly recommended.
- Everybody needs a night out – we loved
Pangea Tavern in Avon. This spot has a solid bar, great vibes, and their menu is full of tasty southern cooking and fresh seafood. Also in Avon are some other favorites like Oceana’s Bistro for seafood and Ugly Mugs for coffee and pastries.
- Speaking of pastries,
Orange Blossom Bakery in Buxton is known for it’s Apple Uglies – worth a stop if you have a sweet tooth! For a lunchtime snack, kiters hitting the Frisco area will definitely want to pull in to the Frisco Sandwich Co.
- Up in the Waves and Rodanthe area, don’t miss out on a burrito or sandwich at
Waves Market & Deli. Lisa’s Pizzeria has good vibes for a sit down dinner, and The Dough Shack will deliver locally and makes a delightful pizza. On some nights, Waterman’s Bar has live music and its a great place for a sunset dinner and drinks.
There’s tons of restaurants on the island and many are serving up fresh seafood and some of that famous Southern charm – it’s hard to go wrong here!
Hopefully you’ll be spending most of your time in Hatteras kiting, but when the wind isn’t blowing or if it’s still building in the morning, there’s still plenty to do.
Surfing is the other main sport in Hatteras, so bring a surfboard or rent one… there should be swell pretty much every day, though some days are pretty small. When there’s some big swell in the forecast, these waves are some of the best on America’s east coast. You can check the swell online at Magic Seaweed and rent a board at Ride Hatteras in Avon. You can also rent a SUP or kayak at Ride Hatteras, and there’s plenty of channels and waterways to explore on the sound side when the wind isn’t blowing.
For the outdoor enthusiast, there’s plenty of nature to explore. 4x4ing on the beach is a great time if you have the right equipment and permits. For 4x4ing, you can pick up a permit online if you have your own vehicle or join an organized tour like the Back Country Safari Tours kayak & 4x4 experience.
Fishing is very popular out here in the Outer Banks, where you can fish from beach or the docks with your own equipment and a fishing license. You can also charter a boat from one of many charter services.
Sometimes, you just want to stay inside. If you encounter some rainy days or you’re looking for kid friendly activities, check out this comprehensive list which includes activities like mini golf, go karting, laser tag, rock climbing, rope parks, escape rooms, movie theaters, and plenty more!
Hatteras Island is on the map as a kiteboarding destination for a reason, and definitely one worth checking out. Whether you’re riding in one of the islands many hotspots or seeking out kite adventures in the Hatteras hidden gems, well equipped kiters will have an amazing time in this spot!
Don’t forget to check out the Cape Hatteras video spot guide and the Hatteras Travel Guide for some stories about Crystal’s experiences in Hatteras. If you have any questions about the kite spot, please send us a message or reach out to Crystal on Facebook or Instagram.
Crystals 2018 Gear picks.
North Kites USA team rider and a MACkite team rider. Originally from Canada, she now calls the entire world her home, playground, and her workplace. She goes where the wind blows - so if you see her at a kite beach somewhere in the world, say hello! Her primary goal is to share her love of kiteboarding and travel and all the lessons learned along the way with the world.
Written and produced by Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic and Crystal Venese