Spending the Summer in Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras is a watersports paradise. Whether you like to surf or kite it’s one hell of a place to soak up the summer sun.

Every year many people choose to call Cape Hatteras home for several months so they can make the most of the conditions and sessions on offer. Here are some pointers to help you plan your summer…

Cape Hatteras “Best Family Beach in USA” by US News

Where to stay/live:

Rodanthe / Waves / Salvo (Tri Villages):
Pros: Amazing choice of kiteboarding spots; best summer surf on the island; close to the “big city” (Nag’s Head / KDH); great kiteboarding scene with lots of other people sessioning all the time

Cons: Less people than some other towns; limited grocery stores, bars and shops; can be tricky to find long term accommodation; 45 minute drive from the South Side for SW ocean kiteboarding.

Avon:
Pros: Bigger town with more people; big grocery store; several bars

Cons: Less choice of kiteboarding spots; doesn’t pick up as much swell on small days;

Buxton:
Pros: More of a permanent feel with lots of year round residents; the island is wider so there is more varied terrain (woods, hills etc); “the lighthouse” is a great kite and surf spot.

Cons: Longer drive to Nag’s Head (1 hr), not many good flat-water kiteboarding spots close by; surf can be crowded when it’s on.

Frisco:
Pros: Easy access to the South Side for ocean kiteboarding in SW wind and surf on big NE swells

Cons: Long way from good soundside kiteboarding in SW wind; even longer way to get to Nags Head for a big night out

Hatteras Village
Pros: Nice fishing community with bars, restaurants and lots of permanent residents

Cons: Furthest point on the Island so takes a long time to get off the island or go anywhere.

REAL Pro Tip: If you like to kite and surf, go out at night and be in the middle of the scene we recommend the Rodanthe/Waves/Salvo area during the Summer. That’s where REAL and Watermen’s Retreat are located and it’s a blast!

Jobs:

The main sources of employment on the island are:

Realty Companies:
Always hiring to keep up with the stream of tourists that vacation in Cape Hatteras every year.

Watersports:
There are plenty of kite and surf instructional jobs available. If you aren’t up to the level of a coach yet, lots of Watersports companies need people for retail and rental based jobs.

Have a look at REAL’s job section to see if there is an opening that interests you.

Restaurants / Bars:
Just like any community where tourism is a large part of the economy, many people earn their keep by waiting tables or bartending and there are plenty of restaurants and bars that need qualified staff.

Watermen’s Bar & Grill is hiring now for the summer season. Click here to view available jobs.

Nightlife:

After dark activities are generally what you make of them. Without access to a vibrant clubbing scene, it takes a little bit of input to have a great night. Nevertheless, there are plenty of young people around who are up for a good time so typical nights involve: beach bonfires, live music, sunset cocktails and late night house parties.

If you are looking for an easier night out that requires less organization – Kill Devil Hills has plenty of decent bars that rage every night of the week and lot’s of good live music to boot. It’s around a 40-minute drive from the tri-villages, which is easily doable with a dedicated driver.

Transport:

Cape Hatteras is long and thin, which makes living here without a mode of transport tricky. A car is ideal. A big 4×4 truck is even better.

If you are on a budget and don’t have a car – a bike will do but we really recommend investing in a decent scooter/moped. They usually cost around $1500 and you can sell them easily at the end of the season for at least $500. It sounds like a big investment but you don’t need a license or registration and most of them will do 100 miles to the gallon! These bikes generally will do around 35mph, which is the speed limit in all towns during the summer, and you can even ride around with a surfboard under your arm.

Budgeting:

To give you a guideline, most people are able to live very comfortably in Cape Hatteras for around $1000 / month for accommodation and food. This makes it a great place to spend the summer because unlike some places, you don’t need much money to get by!

When to Come:

Winter turns to summer really quickly so most people arrive between March 1st and April 31st.

The Surfing:

Surfing Cape Hatteras

Swell:
Early season (March / April / May / June) typically sees E/NE swells along with some early season S/SE swells.

Mid – late season (July / August / September / October) sees more ESE or SE swells (often from tropical activity) and range from glassy summer fun to pounding fall barrels.

There aren’t waves every day of the week, but with its unique bathymetry, small short period swells (e.g. 2ft @ 7 seconds) can yield punchy, chest high fun. Typically, we are surfing around 5 days per week.

Wind:
March – July: the prevailing wind direction is WSW in the morning and SW in the afternoon. The morning WSW is straight offshore and the afternoon SW is side off often strong. Because Hatteras Island doesn’t have cliffs, large hotels or mountains, strong side off winds can put some bump on the face of the waves so get on it early.

August – November: has more of a mix of wind directions – mostly SW or NE but there are plenty of nice glassy days on offer too.

Water temp:
A 3/2 should have you covered for most of the time but you may want a pair of booties for early April and late November. June – October is usually just trunks or a shorty.

REAL Pro Tip:
When it’s good in Cape Hatteras, it’s usually for a period of hours rather than days. If you are on it quick and don’t go out for breakfast before surfing, you will score many more epic sessions.

The Kiteboarding:

Kiteboarding in Cape Hatteras

Wind:
SW and NE are the two classic wind directions for kiteboarding in Cape Hatteras. Luckily for us, it’s windy almost all the time and we rarely get more than 24 hrs without kiteable wind.

During the first half of the season (March/April/May/June/July) the prevailing direction is SW. The wind can be really strong (think 200lb guys riding 5m kites) but is always steady. This is our favourite direction to ride in due to the warm, stable wind and soundside downwinders.

From August until Thanksgiving, the wind becomes more variable in direction with a good mix of NE and SW.

Riding Spots:
With SW winds, you can take your pick between soundside slicks/downwinders and waist/head high swell on the South Side. Downwinders are what make Cape Hatteras famous for kiteboarding and there is always someone heading out on a “planet run” that you can join in with.

Fall NE winds usually means riding the ocean for most kiteboarders. With the exception of Kite Point – most of the soundside slicks are side offshore and not ideal (because the wind can be gusty behind houses etc.). Luckily, Kite Point is a killer spot and the “pro pool” is an awesome place to dial in your latest tricks.

Water Temperature:
The sound get’s warm really quickly in the spring so expect to be in trunks from late April until Mid October. Outside those areas, it’s worth investing in a decent wetsuit to keep your session count high.

If you are riding in the Ocean – the North side can stay chilly until mid July but the south side is warm enough for trunks from May onwards.

REAL Pro Tip:
Take time to get to know other kiters on the island – that way you will always find out when the next downwinder leaves and where the best spot to ride is.

Other Activities:

Standup Paddle Boarding Cape Hatteras is Standup Paddle Boarding paradise due to its wide variety of conditions. Welcome Standup into your sessional quiver and you will very rarely find yourself sat inside wondering what to do.

Fishing Lots of travelling kiters and surfers overlook the fishing which can be world class. You don’t have to fork out for a full offshore charter to get involved – a $30 fishing license is good for a whole year and there are endless different setups for you to get your fish on. We highly recommend SUP fishing, which allows you to get deeper into the sound and search out those Drum.

Beach Time: don’t forget that the Outer Banks are a beach vacationers paradise. You can do a lot worse than kick back on the beach with some friends and enjoy yourself.

Have a question about spending the summer in Cape Hatteras? Post a comment so everyone can benefit from the answer.

Previous article Oliver Kurtz Surfing Cape Hatteras