10 reasons to pack your bags for the North Carolina coast.
By Hope S. Philbrick
A 130-mile stretch of barrier islands off the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks—or OBX for short—is a place of inspiration, quiet reflection, adventure, isolation, community, history and discovery.
It feels like the edge of the world. And you’ll be glad to have arrived.
Here are just ten reasons why we think it deserves a reservation on your travel calendar…
Albatross Fleet at Fosters Quay has led charter fishing excursions since 1937. “We catch a great variety of fish,” says owner Captain Ernie Foster, whose father started the business. Book a half- or full-day charter and enjoy the view, time out at sea, and the challenge of the catch. With any luck you’ll reel in a big one and set a new marlin record.
Bodie Island Lighthouse, built in 1872, is now open for climbing (from the third Friday in April through Columbus Day in October) for the third year ever, and the first time as a self-guided tour. So you can scale the 214 steps at your own pace. The 170-foot structure is one of only a dozen remaining brick tower lighthouses in the U.S.—and one of the few with an original first-order Fresnel lens. The restored Double Keeper’s Quarters contains exhibits and a bookshop. Also nearby is a self-guided nature trail for bird watching.
Burrus Red & White Supermarket has been serving Hatteras villagers and visitors since 1866 and is the oldest grocery store on the island. The family-owned business offers fresh deli selections, a salad bar, fresh ready-to-eat hot dogs, fresh meats, produce, and other specialty items. Friendly folks and a leisurely pace may have you wondering if you stepped back in time when you crossed the threshold.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America, standing at 208 feet tall. Built in 1870, it bears an iconic black and white spiral-stripe pattern. Open for climbing from the third Friday in April through Columbus Day in October, the keeper’s quarters visitor center and museum are open year-round.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the nation’s first National Seashore was established in 1953 “to preserve significant segments of unspoiled barrier islands along North Carolina’s stretch of the Atlantic Coast,” according to the National Park Service. It extends more than 70 miles from Nags Head to Ocracoke Inlet. Its 30,000 acres boasts natural and historic attractions.
The OBX is one of the few places in the U.S. where it’s legal to go horseback riding on the beach. Try it with Equine Adventures.
The OBX is one of the best places in the world to go kiteboarding and you can do it for seven miles down the island on either the sound or ocean side. “This is one of two of the best places to learn kiteboarding,” says Christopher Nygard, general manager of Waves Village Resort in Rodanthe on Hatteras Island, who previously worked in Hawaii. “The sound has shallows so you can walk out far into the water,” a natural feature that comes in handy and also helps mitigate some students’ timidity.
The Outer Banks Scenic Byway is a picturesque drive packed with worthy stops, especially if you’ve got a camera and a fondness for sea vistas. With a total distance of 142.5 driving miles—plus two ferries to cross some waterways without roads—it’s a route worth meandering along.
The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 “to provide nesting, resting, and wintering habitat for migratory birds, including the greater snow geese and other migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, and neotropical migrants; to provide habitat and protection for endangered and threatened species, such as Loggerhead sea turtles; and to provide opportunities for public enjoyment of wildlife and wildlands resources,” according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It hosts over 365 bird species in its 5,834 acres. Among the options available to explore the refuge are two short, universally accessible wildlife trails.
Roanoke Island Maritime Museum conveys the craft and history of boat building on Roanoke Island. Located in a working boat shop at Roanoke Island Festival Park, the museum has several boats on exhibit plus offers workshops and sailing lessons. On exhibit is the North Carolina Shad boat Ella View, which was built in 1883. Also on the museum grounds is the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, an exterior reconstruction of the square cottage-style screw-pile lighthouse which stood at the southern entrance to Croatan Sound, near Wanchese.
Where To Stay…
– Photo Credits: kiteboarding courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau; remainder © HSP Media LLC
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