When you think of deserts, Nevada or Arizona probably come to mind first. With all the heat and humidity in the South, you probably wouldn't expect to see sand outside of the beach, but prepare to be thrown for a loop. Roadtrips from Charlotte include these hidden sand dunes that will make you feel like you're in the Sahara.

Kitty Hawk sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park* sit on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in Nags Head. With hundreds of alluring islands along NC's coast, this hidden treasure is often overlooked. You don't have to venture across the world to get a taste of remote desert dunes because Jockey's Ridge State Park has got you.

The cluster of sandy hills are comprised of layers of sand collected from the Outer Banks over thousands of years, towering at 80 to 100 feet. 

The majestic mounds are actually part of a beach town so you'll essentially experience two diverse vacations in the same place. Parts of the dunes are surrounded by vibrant green brush and driftwood, creating a fairytale aesthetic that is super rare in the region.

As one of the most famous attractions of the park, the dunes provide a giant playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

Due to the wind patterns, the environment is ideal for flying kites and is a favorite among sand surfers and hang gliders. If any of these thrills strike your fancy, you can book excursions here.

Aside from the stunning mountainous hikes scattered throughout the state, this adventure offers something a bit different. Instead of rocky ridges, you can climb giant mounds of smooth sand to ultimately reach striking panoramic views of the island.

You may be wondering how hills of sand can endure the weight of humans, but beneath the surface lies a sturdy, wet foundation that is consistently solidified by precipitation.

If you're seeking something a bit more exciting than a basic beach trip, these desert gems may be just the answer.

Jockey's Ridge State Park Sand Dunes

Price: Free

Address: 300 W Carolista Dr., Nags Head, NC

Why You Need To Go: Find both serenity and adventure at these rare and fascinating dunes on the Carolina coast.


We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.


*This article has been updated


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