This post may contain affiliate links and ads. Read our disclosure policy here.
Cape Hatteras KOA Campground Review
We spent a week at the Cape Hatteras KOA campground in June. It was our first time camping in the Outer Banks, NC. Check out our review to see what we thought of this resort-like campground located in Rodanthe!
It has been three years since we last visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We have filled those years away with some incredible family trips, including our epic road trip last year to Little House on the Prairie homesites and Yellowstone! Yet even though we had a great time on those other trips, we have been seriously missing our time in OBX. The last trips that we took to the Outer Banks we stayed in a beach house in Nags Head, NC. We loved our stays in that rental house, but now we have a camper so were were interested in checking out one of the many campgrounds in OBX. After some internet searching over the winter, we settled on the Cape Hatteras KOA and booked a 7 night stay in one of their full-hookup sites close to the beach. There are so many free and cheap kid friendly things to do in the Outer Banks – it’s a great family destination!
Campground Location: Rodanthe, NC
Yes, the very same town from the Nicholas Sparks’ book-turned-movie, Nights in Rodanthe. When you cross the bridge from the mainland (Currituck County) onto the Outer Banks, Rodanthe is about an hour south. There is only one highway (Highway 12!) that runs the length of the Outer Banks. The towns immediately south of the bridge (Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head) are quite populated and offer many restaurants, shops and other activities. The further south you drive, the more remote the individual towns start to feel. Rodanthe is a great example of a classic, slower-paced shore town where you can focus on lots of beach time. Yes, there are some restaurants and other activities, but not a ton.
It took us about 9 hours to get from our home in the Philadelphia suburbs to the KOA in Rodanthe, NC. That included some ridiculous traffic just trying to get out of Philadelphia. We broke our drive up into two days. We left home mid-afternoon and drove to a campground by the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge where we camped for the night. The next morning, we were only about 3 hours from our Cape Hatteras destination and arrived by lunchtime.
Cape Hatteras KOA has a variety of campsites to choose from depending on your needs and what amenities you’d like to be close to. They have full hookup sites, primitive sites, sites close to the dunes, sites closer to the pool, etc. They have camping cabins which are 2-room primitive shelters with no bathrooms. They also have fairly deluxe accommodations by way of suites in the main building and elevated deluxe cabins. I believe many of those deluxe accommodations include a bedroom or two, a bathroom, some have kitchens and many have views of the ocean or the bay.
We booked our campsite about 6 months in advance of our stay. We had a full hookup site that was located 1 row off the dunes and located very close to one of the walkways onto the beach. Our site number was 117. You can check out a campground map to see where everything is situated.
Check-in time for campsites at Cape Hatteras is 1 pm. We arrived a little bit early, closer to noon. Within minutes, we were all checked in and they even honored the “kids stay free for Father’s Day weekend” promo that they announced after we had booked our trip. An employee in a golf cart met us at the registration building and led us to our site. We had a pull-through site so within minutes, we were at our site and unhitching the trailer.
Campground Amenities and Facilities
As I said before, we had never camped in the Outer Banks before. There are many campgrounds on the island, some are privately owned and then there are a few that are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. (The latter are super duper cheap in price but I believe they are all primitive sites, no water, electric or sewer.)
We were really pleased with the resort-like feel and atmosphere of the Cape Hatteras KOA. They had two walkways onto the beach, showers to rinse sand off at each walkway. One of the walkways had golf cart parking and bathroom facilities. At campsite 117, we were so close to one of the beach walkways, we didn’t even need to drive our golf cart there. Walking was just as easy. Don’t forget to pick up a collapsible wagon to hold all of your beach gear!
During our week at this KOA, the kids had a great time riding their bikes around our “block” a least an hour or two every day. The family atmosphere meant there were a lot of kids staying nearby, so there were lots of new friends to make and play with. We spent two different afternoons at the pool, which was large and had zero entry at the one end and 2 small water slides on the other end.
Next to the pool are the playground, basketball court and giant inflatable jumping pillow. The kids LOVED the jumping pillow! Unfortunately during almost our entire week at the KOA, the pillow was being replaced with a new one so the kids only got to jump on it a couple of times. They loved it and said that it was one of their favorite features of the campground.
The main building houses a general store with everything from sundries to branded shirts to campfire supplies. There is a small restaurant off to the side and we enjoyed breakfast there one day and lunch another day. (Though we were disappointed when we arrived on Father’s Day morning for the “free pancakes for dad” that was advertised on a flyer on the wall to be told that they weren’t available?)
Throughout the campground you’ll find various bathhouses with bathrooms and showers. There were also a few coin-operated laundry machines which we used during our stay.
The youth staff had daily activities for kids, some of which cost a few dollars for materials. During our stay they had a little carnival set up with games and food. We rode our bikes down and let the kids try their hand at a few games. Other activities during the week included craft time and tie dyeing shirts.
A few things to know about the beach at the Cape Hatteras KOA:
* Very clean, plenty of room
* Many people bring radios… if you don’t want to hear their music, bring your own
* Tents and umbrellas are allowed
* Beach is free, no beach tags required
* No lifeguards (though the fire/ocean rescue does patrol the beach throughout the day)
* Outer Banks notoriously has strong riptide currents. Know the risks and heed the warnings.
* You can have a campfire on the beach, but you must have a (free) beach campfire permit filled out and with you.
As I mentioned above, Rodanthe, NC is fairly quiet and remote when it comes to beach towns. There are several places to eat (we enjoyed donuts and pizza from The Dough Shack and a seafood feast from Austin’s). There are ice cream shops (we loved the Village Conery) and a bunch of places to rent kite boards, paddle boards, kayaks, etc. The Rodanthe Pier is about a mile up the road, easily accessible by car or a quick bike ride.
If you drive north for about 20 minutes, you’ll be in Nags Head. LOTS to do in Nags Head (shops, mini golf, restaurants, etc). You will pass the Bodie Island Lighthouse which is a neat stop if you have the time. Drive a little further north of Nags Head and you can see Wright Brothers National Memorial and watch the hang gliders off the massive sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
Drive south of Rodanthe and within 20 minutes, you’ll cruise through the town of Avon, followed by Buxton. You can take the ferry over to Ocracoke Island or drop in to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Shipwreck Museum (admission is free!). A MUST stop is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse!
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Cape Hatteras KOA! We stayed in mid-June and for our full-hookup, pull-through site located extremely close to the dunes, we paid $106.99/night. There’s no way that we could have come close to that price for a beachfront house in June unless we split the house with other families. This was a great, affordable way for our family of 4 to go to the Outer Banks without having to coordinate sharing a house with others.
We agreed that the resort-like atmosphere of this campground added a fun element to our trip (especially for our kids) that a typical beach house lacks. The campground was extremely family friendly and the kids made new friends around every turn. It was awesome to be in a place where Bob and I could sit and enjoy our morning coffee while the kids rode lap after lap around our campsite block with friends. We came up with a list of beach camping must-haves on our camping site, so make sure you take a look at that BEFORE you head down.
More fun you might enjoy…