Hatteras Island On a Budget

I’m one of the lucky ones who live within a day’s drive of the ocean. Our country’s east coast provides some fabulous beaches, but my favorite are the ones on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, especially Hatteras Island. We vacation there often and always try to stay conscious of how we can vacation in Hatteras Island on a budget. This is how we made this year’s trip a budget-friendly success!

Hatteras Island on a Budget


Our family is huge, and the cost of accommodation is easily the most extravagant spending item for our vacation. Since our target location is Hatteras Island, especially the towns of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo, we usually choose a beach house from the extensive catalog of homes offered at Surf or Sound Realty, which specializes in the area. They have homes that range from small, sound-side delights to massive ocean-front mansions.

There are several factors that increase the cost of accommodations in the Outer banks. First, the size of the space you need. Next, you’ll need to consider how far you want to be from the beach. Third, the time of year for your vacation.

Our preferences ended up costing us about $2000.00 to $3000.00 for the week. For us, this amount is split with extended family. The max our immediate family pays is $2000. We usually vacation in August and September. The weather is still nice and we don’t mind taking the chance that a hurricane will force us to change plans last minute. The housing costs are significantly lower this time of year.


For our latest excursion to the beach, we piled into our 15 passenger van and headed down the road. This van has little cargo space, so we rented a U-haul trailer to tow behind with all of our beach gear and food. We had to spend about $320.00 for gas for the round trip. The trailer was around $200.00, and we eat one fast food meal each way, which is close to $100.00 total.


One of our favorite things about vacation is the food. We prefer to eat most of our meals in the beach house. This saves our food budget. We still splurge for a couple of visits to local restaurants. For example, we like to take trips to the ice cream shop after the beach. We also enjoy novelty local foods like local fudge and donuts. For this reason, the bulk of our food makes the trip with us. Last time, I spent about $300.00 for the groceries we’d need in the house for the week. We eat two dinners out, and the combined cost of these two meals is a max of $250.00.


Hatteras Island allows a low activity cost for our family. We love the beach, so most sunny days are spent there and in the pool at the house. In Rodanthe, the farthest houses from the beach are a ten-minute walk, so we don’t have to worry about parking. We usually plan one day to drive south and see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, and catch the ferry to Ocracoke. In Ocracoke, we generally have our family dinner at Howard’s Pub, catch sight of the Ocracoke Light Stationand do a little shopping in the sensational boutiques before heading back north. Since the drive from Rodanthe to the ferry is about an hour, we plan the whole day for this excursion. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is under $35.00 for everyone interested in climbing, and everything else is free. The grounds of the lighthouse are beautiful and packed with information, so even the non-climbers have a great time.

We typically spend a little on novelty treats like fudge at Scotch Bonnet, or maybe a small souvenir or donation for entry to the museum. For under $100.00, with gas and food already considered, everyone arrives back at the beach house ready for a soak in the hot tub or a splash in the pool and a much-needed night’s sleep. We have found that with the beach items available at our local warehouse store, and our own bikes, we save a significant amount over renting those things when we arrive, and we can use them for many years. The roads around the beach houses are perfect for a nice bike ride to watch the kiteboarders on the sound, so there is something fun to do even when you’re not hanging out on the beach or enjoying the pool.

Can’t Miss Tourist Stops

On the last day of vacation, we almost always take a small detour to Roanoke Island on our way back north and visit the aquarium. Over the years, this has become one of our favorite detours. For $89.00, our entire family enjoyed the touch pool, an electrifying jellyfish area, and a sea turtle interactive exhibit. These are just a few of the really cool things this place offers. Other favorite stops include Kitty Hawk Kites, Brew Thru for a t-shirt, and a few of the local beach shops. Every few years we add the Wright Brother’s Memorial or Jockey’s Ridge State Park to the list too, especially if it turns out to be a rainy week.

For under $3500.00, we fill a week full of memories and leave every year wishing we lived there.