Outer Banks Oyster Farms

By Molly Harrison | Wednesday, April 26, 2023

It used to be that as the month of April wrapped up, no one ate oysters anymore. We were committed to the old adage that we could only eat oysters in months that had an R in the name. But that’s because back then we only ate wild-harvested oysters.

Now, thanks to the practice of oyster farming, we can eat oysters all year round. We can fry a few oysters alongside our softshell crabs in May, slurp chilled oysters with a glass of Albarino in June, pop a few oyster shooters at Fourth of July cookouts and belly up to an oyster bar in August. Imagine that!

Photo: Devil Shoals Oysters from Ocracoke Mariculture

Farmed oyster shells are smoother and more polished than wild oysters on the outside, but the oysters themselves are just as tasty. Oyster farms are located in leased sound waters, and the flavor and size of the oysters varies depending on location of the farm and proximity to the ocean. In 2023 North Carolina had 220 shellfish growers with 448 leases on 1,828 acres of public waters, according to the Division of Marine Fisheries. Just like wild oysters, the farmed oysters contribute to improved water quality. One oyster can filter 50 to 60 gallons of water a day.

The Outer Banks is part of the NC Oyster Trail, which was launched in 2020. The trail links oyster farms, restaurants, educational centers and seafood markets all along the North Carolina coast and is administered by N.C. Coastal Federation and N.C. Sea Grant in partnership with the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association.

Photo: Katherine McGlade of Slash Creek Oysters in Hatteras. Photo by Baxter Miller for Slash Creek Oysters

Local Oyster Farms

The Outer Banks has numerous oyster farms, some of them on the trail and others not. Some of the farms offer boat tours to see their operations and some just sell their oysters to markets or restaurants directly. Local oyster farms include:

Ocracoke Mariculture/Devil Shoals Oyster Company, Ocracoke - tours available

Slash Creek Oyster Farm, Hatteras - tours available

Sticky Bottom Oyster Company, Hatteras 

Cape Hatteras Oyster Company/Hatteras Salts, Hatteras

Kinnakeet Oyster Company, Avon

Savage Inlet Oysters, Oregon Inlet

Little Star Oyster Farm – oysters coming soon, Hyde County

Currituck Oyster Company - Hyde County

Upcoming Oyster Event

Oysters Uncovered: The Kayak Edition

May 4 and 18, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Want to see an oyster farm? N.C. Coastal Federation (NCCF) is offering a farm-to-fork kayak experience to an oyster lease. You’ll join Outer Banks Kayak Adventures on a tour from Broad Creek in Wanchese to Coastal Federation’s demonstration oyster lease and living shoreline. You’ll explore marsh coastline in sit-on-top kayaks while NCCF’s Victoria Blakely will discuss oysters and everything you’re seeing along the way. After the kayak trip, head over to Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar for a sampling of a half-dozen North Carolina oysters and one of Blue Water’s famous Oyster Shooters. The cost is $75, and you need to register in advance. Register here.

Photo: N.C. Coastal Federation is offering a kayak trip to a demonstration oyster farm on May 4 and 18.

Where to Eat Oysters

There are many places to enjoy farm-raised oysters year-round on the Outer Banks. At these restaurants, you can have an oyster-tasting experience with oysters steamed or on the half-shell. I can’t guarantee that all of these restaurants will serve you Outer Banks-farmed oysters, but be sure to ask where they came from. If they're not from the Outer Banks, they might be from one of the other oyster farms in North Carolina.

Here are a few of the favorites for steamed or raw oysters, but look for local oysters on menus in other restaurants as well. Fried oysters are available in just about every restaurant that serves seafood, but with fried oysters you're not able to taste the subtleties of the oyster's merroir.

North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar, Corolla

Sundogs Raw Bar and Grill, Corolla

Village Table and Tavern, Duck

Black Pelican, Kitty Hawk

I Got Your Cabs, Kitty Hawk

Shipwrecks Taphouse and Grill, Kitty Hawk

Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar, Kill Devil Hills

Goombay’s Grill & Raw Bar, Kill Devil Hills

JK's Steaks and Seafood, Kill Devil Hills

Tortuga’s Lie Raw Bar and Grill, Nags Head

Blue Moon Beach Grill, Nags Head

Basnight’s Lone Cedar Café, Nags Head

Dunes Restaurant, Nags Head

Blue Water Grill and Raw Bar, Manteo

Good Winds Restaurant, Rodanthe

Froggy Dog Restaurant and Pub, Avon

Pop’s Raw Bar, Buxton

Diamond Shoals Restaurant and Seafood Market, Buxton

Breakwater Restaurant, Hatteras

Flying Melon Café, Ocracoke

Howard’s Pub and Raw Bar, Ocracoke

Ocracoke Oyster Company, Ocracoke

Photo: Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar in Manteo is known for its oyster shoots and oyster tasting bar. Photo courtesy Blue Water Grill.

For details on these and other Outer Banks restaurants, see our Restaurants section.

About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of OuterBanksThisWeek.com. She moved to Nags Head in 1994 and since then has made her living writing articles and creating publications about the people, places and culture of the Outer Banks. When not working she practices and teaches yoga and spends as much time as possible outside and in or on the water with her husband and two children.