If you’re looking for more than just the typical beach experience, the Outer Banks in North Carolina is the place to visit.
One can do just about anything at the Outer Banks. There’s miniature golf; memorials to the Wright Brothers and their first flight; ocean fishing; nature trails that lead to secluded coves; nearby Roanoke Island; and high dunes great for flying kites. The stay is both relaxing and educational, and that’s what keeps many people coming back from year to year.
But it is the sands and the Atlantic Ocean that stand at the center of the Outer Banks and its appeal.
The shoreline is clean and pristine, with miles of wide-open space, and there are lifeguard stations every few hundred yards. The average temperature ranges from 77-86 degrees in the summer, and the breezes off the ocean are refreshing.
Most days, the surf is calm and relaxing, allowing young and old alike to enjoy the wonders of the ocean. However, when the wind picks up, the waves can get rather vicious, and it is on these days that lifeguards tend to close the beach.
The Outer Banks’ high dunes — where the Wright Brothers took their first flight — are another highlight of the area. Some of the dunes climb more than 100 feet high, and the more adventurous can learn to hang glide at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Kites are another prominent feature found on the dunes, as the wind between the ocean and the sound is fairly strong.
Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve, located just north of Jockey’s Ridge, offers an interesting alternative to a day at the beach. According to the Nature Conservancy, which owns the property, “Nags Head Woods is considered one of the best remaining examples of a mid-Atlantic maritime forest with deciduous hardwoods. This pine and hardwood forest harbors trees up to 500 years old and has an extensive system of dunes, interdune ponds and wetlands. The forest’s great natural diversity is due to the fact that it draws water from an extensive freshwater aquifer and is sheltered by ancient dunes.”
After a day of sunning, hiking or traipsing up and down dunes, a feast is in order. Seafood is at the top of most menus, with several locales providing excellent dishes.
One of the most well-known is Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar. The food is outstanding, and the service is efficient.
One of the few problems with the Outer Banks is the prevalence of rip tides along the coast. Also, because it is the coastline, storms are likely to come out of nowhere. There is nothing worse than sitting inside in July while it pours rain outside.
Another problem is the drive to get there. From the Wheeling area, one encounters two of the nation’s five worst traffic areas — Interstate 95 between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., and Interstate 64 between Williamsburg, Va., and Norfolk, Va. — along the route.
(Photo by John McCabe)
Books, umbrellas, beach chairs and sand pails are required accessories for these visitors to the Outer Banks. And, don’t forget the sunscreen.
Fact BoxThe Outer Banks, N.C.
According to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, the Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands midway on the Atlantic Seaboard, 90 miles south of Norfolk, Va., and 321 miles north of Myrtle Beach, S.C. The islands are more than 130 miles long that bow out into the Atlantic Ocean and cup the shoreline.
Surrounded by 900 square miles of water, the Outer Banks has the third largest estuary system in the world, wildlife refuges, maritime forests, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the highest sand dunes on the East Coast at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
The Outer Banks consists of the towns of Duck, Corolla, Kitty Hawk and Nags Head. Roanoke Island, Hatteras Island and the Dare Mainland also are popular spots.
For the most up-to-date information on the Outer Banks, visit the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau at www.outerbanks.org.