A July 2003 trip
to Outer Banks by hersplash
Quote: For a relaxing vacation, I highly recommend the Outer Banks. Take the time to drive the entire length to experience incredible views and adorable little villages. Whether it’s 2 days or 2 weeks, you won’t get bored with the beauty, history, and charm of the Outer Banks.
There is no shortage of places to stay and eat. I stayed at the Comfort Inn in Kill Devil Hills. It was right on the beach and nearly across the street from the Wright Brothers Museum. I had no complaints with the hotel and was thrilled with the location. I had dinner one night at Quagmires. It was a restaurant/bar on the beach just a short ride from my hotel. It was very crowded and difficult to get any seating. I listened to a guitarist while I shared a long table outside with other people of all ages. Everyone was having a great time.
Another great resource I had was the National Park Services Newspaper, In the Park. It also gives an overview of the area and suggestions for things to do. For something different, they offer programs sponsored by the park services. For example, in Ocracoke, you can learn how to catch crabs, go on a crosstown walk, enjoy a ranger talk on pirate times, or spend an evening around a campfire. Each island has a number of unusual events that seem both fun and educational.
There are bike paths in many of the towns, and I saw quite a few people out and about. Taxis, limos, and tours are available, but I highly suggest bringing your own car to see everything.
Attraction | "Ocracoke and Lighthouse"
Actually, the ferry arrives in the village area, so you can practically walk to all of the shopping and even to the lighthouse. The island was very charming. There were lots of delightful little stores and tourists walking around. This island certainly does not have any fast-food restaurants, and I was dying for a McDonalds. It was reminiscent of Martha’s Vineyard. Some of the homes were quite beautiful, but mainly being a fishing village, the houses were pretty modest.
I don’t recall seeing any traffic lights, and the speed limit around the town was about 20mph. At one of the shops, I learned that Ocracoke is famous for Blackbeard the pirate. The name of the island came from Blackbeard saying something like "Oh crow, cawk" or something like that. I also learned that the governor from Virginia was the one who ended Blackbeard’s pirating, and he was slain there in 1718.
Located right near the shopping was the Ocracoke lighthouse. It was raining, so I didn’t go much further than my car--just enough to get a glimpse and a few photos of my very first lighthouse! It was really neat to see, but it actually looked a lot smaller than I had imagined one would look. I realized after seeing other lighthouses that they are all quite different in size and color. I didn’t see anyone there answering questions, so I couldn’t get any information on the lighthouse except what I read. And that was that--it was built in 1823, and it is the oldest beacon still operating in North Carolina.
I had lunch at Howard’s Pub, which happened to be their only year-round restaurant. It was very busy and served lots of seafood. I don’t recall what I ate or how I really felt about the place, but it was conveniently located on the way to the ferry to take me to the next island, Cape Hatteras. That drive to the ferry was beautiful, with water on both sides of the road, but naturally, it was still raining. Fifteen of the 18 miles of the island are part of the Hatteras National Seashore, so I felt good that I can come back here years from now, and it will still be beautiful.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 22, 2005
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Attraction | "Cape Hatteras and Lighthouse"
Like Ocracoke, Cape Hatteras was another beautiful area. I headed out of town and made my first stop at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It was absolutely magnificent as I pulled up.
The lighthouse is the tallest in North America, at 208 feet. It was built in 1870 and is one of the most recognized national landmarks. Called the Sentinel of the Shoals, the lighthouse offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Tours occur from 9am until 5pm (until 6pm in the summer), and they have three tours of 60 people per hour. The cost is $4. Because of the rain, tours to the top were closed when I arrived. But they did have a small museum where I got some history of the lighthouse and the area. In 1999, the lighthouse was moved to its new location in 23 days, due to land erosion.
The area of the Outer Banks gets hit with some serious weather. Because of that (and sandbars), many ships have been lost around here, including many war ships. Hence, the Outer Banks is called the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
The seashore is the most extensive stretch of undeveloped seashore on the Atlantic Coast; 30,000 acres of the Outer Banks has been preserved. It was also the first National Seashore in the nation. Some of the special things about Hatteras are the environmentally friendly recreation activities, the seashore’s protected ecosystem, and that 400 species of birds have been sighted here.
What I found to be so amusing as I drove through the island were the names of the streets. I wasn’t looking at them purposely, but then I just started noticing a few. It appeared to me that everyone got to name his or her own street. They were goofy, like "Lover’s Lane", "Wilson’s Way", " Judy Anders Avenue", etc. (these not being exact names). It was so funny! I tried to get more information on the Internet but couldn’t find any.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
1401 National Park Drive
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina 27954
Attraction | "Bodie Island and Lighthouse"
While passing through Bodie Island, I stopped at the Bodie lighthouse. It was also picturesque, but because it was a hard downpour at the time, I didn’t get much farther from the car. This lighthouse is 156 feet high and has horizontal black-and-white stripes. I thought it looked just like Hatteras because of the stripes. It was built in 1872, and like Ocracoke, it is not open for climbing. It is managed by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and is in need of preservation. Funds and grants received are now being used to prepare for a complete restoration of the tower.
Next to the lighthouse is the Double Keeper’s Quarters that contains lighthouse exhibits and a bookstore. Due to the rain, I didn’t visit either. But it seemed like it would be pretty quiet because the island doesn’t offer much else besides the beaches.
On a side note, I stopped in this little village of Salvo just north of Bodie because I had read that they had the second smallest post office. I was so looking forward to seeing this little oddity after I read about it in my Roadside America book. Sadly, when I arrived, the postal clerk told me that three villages had built this new one and that the old one was gone. How disappointing! So if you were looking forward to seeing it, I’m sorry to say it is no longer.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 22, 2005
Bodie Island & Lighthouse
On the soundside of Highway 12
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Attraction | "Currituck Lighthouse"
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse was built in 1875 and the last one to be built on the Outer Banks. It made of unpainted red brick, to distinguish it from other regional lighthouses. When viewing the exterior, you can see the enormous number of bricks it took to create this structure (1 million). It still functions today, flashing at 20-second intervals, and like other lighthouses, it is used to aid in navigation.
The lighthouse was opened to the public in 1990, offering people the opportunity to walk to the top. Although I was hesitant because it seemed so tall, I decided that I was going to make the trek. It wasn’t easy, but I think if you are going to walk up one, this has a fantastic view.
After walking 214 steps, or 158 feet, I made it to the top. The sun was out and the view was spectacular. However, it was extremely windy up top, so I was a bit too anxious to walk around. Actually, I was frightened to death and hung on to a rail and only walked a few feet in both directions. There was a woman at the top of the lighthouse who offered assistance, and I took it. She gladly took my camera to the other side and photographed the landscape for me (I’m guessing I wasn’t the first to make that request). That way I wouldn’t miss anything!
You can look out at the beautiful communities, water on both sides, and the Whalehead Club, which used to be a private residence. It was absolutely beautiful up there, but I was happy to get down on the ground.
Next to the lighthouse is the Keepers’ House, which was restored in 1980. Next to that is a smaller Keepers’ House, which serves as a museum shop with lighthouse models and other gift items. Personally, none of these items interested me.
The lighthouse and museum shop are open daily from 10am to 6pm (5pm in November), Easter through Thanksgiving. They may be closed during thunderstorms and high winds. Trust me…you don’t want to be at the top with high winds! Call 252/453-4939 for more information.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse (Historic Corolla)
Outer Banks, North Carolina 27927
Located at the North end of the island, this is the site of the first English attempt at colonization in the New World. There were three expeditions set forth by Sir Walter Raleigh. The first, in 1584, was a scouting attempt. The exploration expedition was from 1585-86. The final was in 1587, which included women and children to establish a sustainable colony.
The first woman born here was named Virginia Dare, and the annual Elizabeth Renaissance Faire on August 18th marks her birth. This is called the Lost Colony because everyone oddly disappeared from this place. There are many theories as to why they disappeared, and historians still try to answer that question today.
This place is a unique garden with wildflowers and indigenous shrubs and trees. It’s a self-guided , mile-long tour along a trail that takes you around the property. I was there in July, and one mile here will get you soaking wet with sweat. There is an area that overlooks the water (too bad I couldn't jump in) that seemed to be a great spot for family photos. Nearby stands a 16th-century thatched gazebo.
There are countless flowers in many varieties. It’s too bad that I wasn’t here a few months back, because I would have loved to see the magnolias or camellias. But hydrangeas and lilies were plentiful, and they were absolutely beautiful. I discovered my favorite tree in the south, the Crepe Myrtle. Look for it anywhere in the south--the flowers are amazing.
The NC Garden Club created the garden as a memorial to the first colonists. Included is the Queen’s Rose Garden, the Sunken Garden, a stone fountain surrounded by classical statuary, and a period gatehouse. They have a small gift shop that I adored because they had so many gifts with floral motifs. The property took less than an hour to walk.
On Tuesdays in the summer, there is a performance of Elizabeth R, a one-woman play about Elizabeth I that is held in the gardens. Next to the gardens is the Lost Colony theatre, which houses the famed outdoor drama The Lost Colony. America’s longest-running outdoor symphonic drama uses song, dance, drama, comedy, and special effects to bring the colonists’ story to life.
The Elizabethan Gardens are open year round from 9am to 5pm. In the summer, they close at 7pm when The Lost Colony is playing. For more information, visit Elizabethan Gardens or call 252/474-3234.
3 miles north of Manteo on highway 64/264
Outer Banks, North Carolina 27954
At the museum you will get an introduction to Orville and Wilbur Wright, two brothers from Ohio who changed history by being the first to successfully achieve flight with an airplane. The museum gave detailed history of the first flights that day on December 17, 1903. I got a good understanding of the process these men used to design and fly the airplanes. In addition, there was a replica of the actual planes they used, including a 1902 glider and 1903 flying machine.
On display was an exhibit featuring Women in Flight. I found it fascinating as I viewed pictures, biographies, and quotes of women who worked in flight, from astronauts, crop dusters, aerial show flyers, skywriters, hot air balloon pilots, helicopter pilots, a captain with UPS, to so much more. I just loved this exhibit and felt very proud of these women.
Next door was a reconstructed 1903 camp building and hangar. Because the museum was celebrating the 100th anniversary of flight, there were extra exhibits that included the Navy and NASA. You were able to see how the brothers lived during that time.
Here you can ask the park rangers questions, which I did. They are very knowledgeable and excited to share information with you. I spoke with some very nice rangers who told me that Wilbur died in 1912 at 45 from typhoid fever from some oysters at a Boston restaurant. Orville died in 1948 at 76 while repairing his doorbell, having previously suffered multiple heart attacks. I was fascinated with these tidbits of information, as if I was getting a firsthand account. Because of the risks involved in flying, neither got married because they knew they would need to put their family first. They had two brothers with children and their sister married at 52 but sadly died at 55.
Most of their skills were acquired from their mother. She taught them to sew, which they used when putting together the wings! And when they built their own sleds, she told them to lie flat because of wind resistance. Hence, they were flat when they were flying!
The memorial requires a bit of walking, so I didn’t see the monument or walk the paths. Wheelchairs are limited and you’d probably have to be pushed. But I still felt I got a solid grasp of what went on 100 years ago seeing just the museum and camp and thought what I saw was just phenomenal.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 22, 2005
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Mile Post 7.5 On U.s. Hwy 158
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948