Up until a few years ago, the thought of spending a week on a beach had no appeal to me. I am a lake girl-I like to swim, boat, waterski, kayak, and float- none of which I could do (or felt comfortable doing) in the ocean. As a result, being at the beach to me meant sitting on the sand getting bored after about 30 minutes. All that changed 2 years ago with a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My husband and I picked the Outer Banks for our first beach vacation in years because we wanted a location that wasn’t too commercial. My previous beach vacations had been to beach towns with too many condo buildings, not enough character.
The Outer Banks has both character and history. The first British colony was there, along with Sir Walter Raleigh. So were the pirates, including Blackbeard who terrorized ships up and down the coast. Civil War battles were fought and the Wright brothers flew there. There are also the wild horses that roam the northern towns and the lighthouses, including the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the tallest in the US. In other words, there was plenty to do and see outside of sitting on the beach.
That’s not to say that the beach isn’t worth the trip alone. I had been to the Outer Banks as a child, but the only thing I remembered were the Coquina shells-colorful little clams which wash ashore and then quickly burrow down into the sand. This memory was a powerful one though, as I envisioned our kids having just as much fun as I remembered scooping up the clams and feeling them burrowing down in their hands or watching them burrow down into their buckets. I was not disappointed on our trip to Coquina Beach.
Coquina Beach is beautiful and undeveloped. A part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, it is part of a 70-mile stretch of protected shoreline stretching from Ocracoke Island on the south to Bodie Island on the north. This large public beach is undeveloped and was crowd free, even during Fourth of July week. Just off the shore were dolphins and pelicans. On the beach were not only the coquina shells, but also ghost crabs and even snakes (ok, only one but that was enough for me!). These critters alone were plenty of entertainment for the kids.
Jockey Ridge State Park , home of the nation’s highest natural sand dunes, was the sight of the Wright Brothers’ test flights. Now it’s a great hike for a beautiful view from the ocean to the sound and a fantastic place to fly kites. The kids loved running along the dunes with their kites and watching the kite surfers out on the sound.
As a lover of lighthouses, the Outer Banks provides four lighthouses spread along its shores for visitors. All four are climbable for visitors and a hike to the top of one of the three climbable lighthouses along the Outer Banks also provides incredible views. Currituck lighthouse , is also closely located to the famous Banker horses which roam free on the northern end of the island. To experience these horses in their habitats, Wild Horse Adventures, in Corolla, was fantastic. Our guide took us through the horse’s territory where these horses unbelievably roam free next to houses and their inhabitants. The area is also accessible for free to anyone with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Don’t get me wrong-the beaches of the Outer Banks are great as well. Most locations have plenty of public access and are rarely crowded. The lack of condo buildings and high rise hotels help prevent the wall to wall people present at many other beaches we’ve visited.
This year’s trip was our second in as many years, and there are still things on our list to see and do. Another trip will be in our future- let Favorite Place Travel help you and your family experience the Outer Banks as well.