Most visitors to the Outer Banks and other beach areas rent vacation homes instead of motels or hotels. Thousands of rental properties are available. Small beach cottages can be had, but, increasingly, so-called sand castles—large multistory homes with every imaginable amenity (private pools, movie theaters, elevators, etc.)—suit families and large groups. These can cost up to $15,000 a week or more in summer, but prices off-season often are slashed by 75% or more. Motels and hotels clustered along the coast are usually the more affordable way to go for couples or small families.

Throughout the North Carolina coast, you have a choice of cottages, condos, and waterfront resorts. Chain hotels have a presence here, but you can also stay at a surprising number of small, family-run lodgings. You might also consider selecting from a variety of bed-and-breakfasts, usually owned and managed by resident hosts. Always ask about special packages (price breaks on multiple-night stays) and off-season rates. Most hotels, inns, and B&Bs on the coast offer free parking on their property. A few have street parking only, but you can expect not to pay parking fees even at the priciest hotels.

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