The Outer Banks of North Carolina is truly a waterman’s playground. It was impossibly hard to narrow down the “best” ways to play along the Cape, with so many amazing options…
Catch The Wind:
Kiteboarding has its roots at Cape Hatteras, with its steady constant winds, and flat calm shallow shoals its a dream location for this epic sport. People travel from all over the world to enjoy this high adrenaline wind powered activity. If you’ve never been before, no worries. Real Kiteboarding has a flag ship store in Salvo where they’ll set you up with gear and lessons from their world class instructors.
If Kiteboarding isn’t your thing, there’s tons of other wind activities to enjoy. From hang gliding lessons at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, to wind surfing, or just good ole’ fashioned kite flying there’s plenty of wind to go around!
Climb A Lighthouse:
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is one of the tallest lighthouse in America, and arguably one of the mostly widely recognized lights in the world- We’ll admit she’s definitely our favorite we’ve seen so far. For just $8 per person you can climb all 257 stairs to the top of the 193 foot lighthouse, the view from the top can’t be beat. One of the coolest things about the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the historic move it undertook in 1999. Yep you heard that right, it moved. Due to coastal erosion the lighthouse was under siege from an ever encroaching sea. So with a lot of very fancy engineering and serious ingenuity the lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet from the spot in which it stood from 1870-1999. Pretty amazing, you can learn more about the move here.
Traveler’s Tip: Go early, and avoid the crowds. Lighthouse climbs are regulated by group size, if you go early in the morning you’ll have a good chance of getting the whole climb to yourself, and if you’re visiting in the summer you’ll be able to avoid the heat!
If you want to make a whole day out of lighthouse exploring The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is home to 3 other lights as well; the Ocracoke Island light which is the second oldest working light in the US, and the twins Bodie Island and Currituck Island, named so for their similar construction styles and height, the only major differences you’ll find between the two is their day mark (exterior paint pattern).
Take A Hike:
It seems a bit of an odd thing to suggest “hiking” on what on an island that is no doubt designed for the beach lover, but there are a surprisingly number of fantastic options for those looking to stretch their legs and experience the banks from another point of view. Two of the absolute best places to hit the “trails” ( loosely used here) are Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Pea Island is a perfect spot for nature and wildlife lovers. Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest natural sand dune on the East Coast and is perfect for dune jumping, kite flying, and all sorts of shenanigans. A note on both these stops- while they’re great mind the heat! Theses are prefect alternatives of less than sunny days, in the middle of summer in the dead heat of the day they can be miserable!
Take To The Sea:
Let’s discuss… you’re on an island surrounded by water. Why not experience life on the high seas for yourself? There’s lots of ways to get out and experience the beauty of the Atlantic- probably one of the cheapest and easiest ways is by ferry. The NC DOT operates ferries to and from Ocracoke Island from Cape Hatteras, the best part? Its free!!!!! Back up your best beach wear and take a day trip over to Ocracoke. There’s tons to do and see on this little island, you’ll be glad you did!
If a day trip isn’t what you had in mind, thats ok! Hatteras Island happens to be one of the best sport fishing locations in the world, due to it geographic location. A quick Google search will give you a list of charters available. Get those reeling hands ready cause chances are you’re going to catch something big!
Get Off Road:
Ever dreamed of packing it all in, hopping in the car and driving along the beach to your very own patch of paradise. On OBX that dream can be a reality. ORV ( Off Road Vehicle) access points dot along Route 12 and on any given day in the summer you’ll see plenty of trucks and SUV’s coming and going from them. It used to be open access for anyone with four wheel drive and a sense of adventure but recent laws regarding nesting shore birds have added a few restrictions to this process. Nowadays you need a simple permit to drive along the beach, and of course a vehicle with 4 wheel drive. If you’re vehicle doesn’t have 4 wheel capabilities, no worries there are plenty of rentals available! Most companies will give you quick talk on proper beach driving and etiquette ( as in don’t run over people or fishing lines) and send you on your way for a day of adventure!
Eat, Drink, And Be Happy:
We touched on this in our earlier post, but its worth getting into a bit more detail here. The Outer Banks has a truly amazing growing food scene with some incredible and innovative foods and processes. Our two absolute favorite spots for grub on OBX is the Orange Blossom Cafe and The Outer Banks Brewing Station. One is old school and one is new school, its all about balance, eh?!
Let’s start with the old- The Orange Blossom Cafe, this is one of those places that just gets you. Even writing the name, kicked a craving into full gear somewhere deep in my psyche. We’ve been around the world and back, and eaten a lot of treats. Honestly the Orange Blossom Cafe might sell the best pastry in the world. Its called an Apple Uglie but it tastes like heaven. The best way to describe it is as a giant deep fried fritter with a surprise filling of apple pie hidden in the center. Its amazing. Ah-mazing!
*Travelers Tip: The Orange Blossom Cafe is located directly across from Cape Point/ The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Make your morning a twofer, go early and grab a warm apple uglie and then burn off alllllllll those calories climbing the 257 stairs to the top of the light!
Now for the new- The Outer Banks Brewing Station is the first wind powered brewery in the United States. The brain child of two friends who met during a stint serving in the Peace Corps this place serves up out of this world delicious beers, and tasty tasty pub fare! The standouts from our visit included, the Lemongrass Wheat Ale, the S.S. Porter, and the Yardbird ( a sandwich big enough to split)!
Catch Some Rays:
This one probably seems pretty obvious, given that OBX is basically a giant 200 mile long sand bar that juts out into the Atlantic from the East coast of the US. It’s nothing but one big beautiful beach! A wide open paradise for you to enjoy. No trip to OBX would be complete without a few lazy hours wasted away in the sand!
*Travelers Tip: A note of caution, the waters of Cape Hatteras are notorious for their unpredictable and incredibly strong currents. It’s always wise to be aware and cautious of changing currents and the presence of undertows!
As East Coast surf breaks go OBX has some of the best! Ask any local with a board and they’ll be happy to share their favorite spot with you. We’re partial to Lighthouse Beach. If you’re looking to learn, there is no better place, any one of the many surf shops that line Route 12 is likely to have both rental boards and lessons on offer to get you up and going!
Explore A Wreck:
The strip of the Atlantic that lines the Outer Banks has long been known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic an ode to the numerous ships of the years that have wrecked along this treacherous coastline. From time to time the shifting beach sands reveal secret treasures hidden beneath them- remnants of ship wrecks from years gone by. One of the most commonly spotted along the beach is the remains for the GA Kohler, this large 4 masted schooner was driven hard aground in 1933 during a massive hurricane. She was then subsequently burnt in 1945 to salvage her iron fittings for the war effort. Today if you’re lucky you can spot her remaining wooden timbers peeking out of the sand at the off Road vehicle ramp # 27 four miles South of Salvo.
If you want to learn more about the Graveyard of the Atlantic and its perils be sure to pop by the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras.
Get Cozy With A Beach Fire:
One of the greatest things about the Outer Banks is that instead of being filled with high rises, and high fashion its still one of those places full of wild wonder where you can reconnect to the land and the sea in a primal fashion, and whats more primal than a fire? Whats even better than a campfire? A campfire on the beach! Anywhere along the stretch of sand that is Cape Hatteras National Seashore you can pitch up a small beach fire, as long as it is below the high tide line ( this is an important rule to mitigate impacts), you abide by nesting guidelines if its turtle season, and you fill out this handy dandy permit! There is really nothing quite like the sound ocean waves and a crackling fire!
We could honestly not have asked for a better kick off to Summer 2017! If getting out and getting wild isn’t on your to-do list this summer, add it now! You’ll be so very happy you did!
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