For many North Carolina residents and out of state tourists, summer vacation isn’t complete without a trip to one of North Carolina’s beaches. In 2013, there were nearly 38 million overnight person-trips in North Carolina, the sixth highest number of visits among all states; 19% of these visitors went to the beach during their trip. And although North Carolina has many beautiful beaches—from the Brunswick Islands in the South to Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach on the Crystal Coast—the Outer Banks is a leading destination.
The Outer Banks are a thin string of barrier islands along the eastern shore. Although Currituck, Dare, and Hyde counties all contain a portion of the Outer Banks, the bulk of the region—from Kitty Hawk in the north to Hatteras Island in the south—lays in Dare County. The impact of tourism to this region is significant. In 2013, Dare received an estimated $953 million in direct revenue from visitor expenditures, the 4th largest amount of any county in the state.
Between 2012 and 2014, Dare had an average of $400 million in gross occupancy receipts each year. The monthly revenue graph highlights how tourism into Dare is concentrated between May and September, with the bulk of visitors coming in June, July, and August. More than 70% of receipts occurred in these three summer months (June-August).
Dare’s popularity as a tourism destination brings in many temporary residents with those dollars. This is visible in local housing and population estimates.
First, Dare is the only county in the state to have about as many housing units as it does people. In the 2013 population estimates, they had nearly 35,000 permanent residents. At the same time, they had about 34,000 housing units. To put this in perspective: statewide, there is about one housing unit for every 2.2 people. In Dare, there is about one housing unit for every person.
The high ratio of housing units is because a large portion of county housing is dedicated to seasonal or vacation use. In the 2010 Census, 44% of Dare’s housing units were seasonal housing, the highest proportion of any county in the state.
Dare County estimates that its daily population increases by more than 225,000 additional residents during peak summer months.
The seasonal population is highly concentrated in a small geographic area of the county. Seasonal units represent over half of all housing in much of the Northern Beaches. This area contains only 10% of Dare County’s land, but 80% of all seasonal units in the county.