Bodie Island, the northernmost of the three, is attached to the mainland at its northern tip, where you can rent a vacation home on the “off-road beaches”—no stores, restaurants, hotels, or even pavement. On southern Bodie, however, are Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills, some of the biggest tourist draws on the Outer Banks. Between these extremes are upscale Corolla and Duck, two of the prettiest villages on the islands. In general, if you like a lot of variety and traditional creature comforts, such as chain hotels, book on Bodie. A day trip to Roanoke Island (roanoke-island.com) is an easy drive from here (no ferry required).
Photo: Wild horses descended from Spanish mustangs