The Outer Banks of North Carolina is my idea of heaven on earth. I love the beach, the history, the quaint communities, and the delightful seafood restaurants. It is my idea of the place to escape everything; to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.
There is a lot to do on the Outer Banks; so much so that I can’t cover it all in a single article. However, I will provide some of the highlights to visit. These will include historic sites, museums, parks, shopping meccas, and wonderful restaurants
A & A Atlantic Dolphin Watch
Like an unexpected gift, dolphins along the Outer Banks seem to make an appearance just for you. But the truth is, that dolphins were first documented to inhabit the sound and ocean waters by the original English explorerers even prior to the founding of the Lost Colony.
Take advantage of the opportunity to go dolphin watching aboard the Captain Johnny, the largest dolphin tour boat on the Outer Banks with a 97 percent success rate of finding dolphins. Open Monday through Friday, three tours daily. Call 252-480-9151 for reservations or information.
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
Over150, 000 acres of wetlands are a part of the refuge which is home to wood ducks, alligators, red wolves, and black bears. The refuge includes hiking trails, observation platforms, fishing sites, and kayak trails; which means just about something for everyone. Guided tours are available for a fee. Admission to the refuge itself is free. For more information, contact 252-473-1131.
Argyles Restaurant & Piano Bar
Home of the best martinis on the Outer Banks, this upscale restaurant is a favorite for tourists and islanders as well. Located on the main road into the Outer Banks region.
Big Al’s Soda Fountain and Grill
This wonderful throw back to the 50’s and 60’s provides both inside and outside dining of their delightful all American cuisine. Voted “best chili” on the beach and “Taste of the Beach” award winner for 2001, Big Al’s is located at the intersection of 64 and 264.
Bodie Island Marshes and Lighthouse
This is the perfect place to bird watch since many species of wildfowl actually make their home here during the winter months. Egret, heron, glassy ibis, and wading birds are but a few of the birds that can be found here. A self-guided nature trail is open year ’round. A visitor center and lighthouse exhibits are available. Admission is free.
Gifts, beach gear, gas, tobacco, hardware, and souvenirs galore. Everything you want or think you need can be found at the Border Station; on the border between Virginia and North Carolina headed toward Hatteras.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
This is the tallest brick lighthouse on an American Coast at 208 feet. It is also one of the most well known landmarks in our country. The lighthouse is open for climbing from March 25th through Columbus Day. The former keeper’s quarters serves as the visitor center and museum, which is open year round. For more information, call 252-995-4474.
Coastal Kayak Touring Company
The best in kayak touring is available right here. For more information call 252-261-6262.
Corolla & Nags Head Raceways
Try the ultimate in go kart speed racing with a unique track design that makes this ride a can’t miss experience. A state of the art video arcade and snack bar is also available for the kiddies. Call 252-453-9000 for more information.
Every room at this unique barn-like structure retail store tells a different story. From it’s rustic hand-carved decoys to the best in fine art to fun Hawaiian shirts and other beach clothing, the Cotton Gin has it all. Located on the main road into Kitty Hawk.
Enjoy offshore wreck fishing aboard the Country Girl. The boat departs at 7:00 a.m. and returns at 4:30 p.m. Call for reservations, 252-473-5577.
Come join in an exciting ½ day fishing trip on the inlet or the sound. Call 252-473-5577 for information.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Located in Corolla, the lighthouse stands at 158 feet. Visitors can climb the 214 steps to the top for a panoramic view. It is open daily from Easter through Thanksgiving. For more information, contact 252-453-4939.
Dirty Dicks Crab House
This restaurant offers seafood with a New Orleans accent. It has won the coveted “Taste of the Beach” award three years in a row. Located at MP 16 1/2.
Downeast Rovertall Ship SailingCruise
Offering two-hour tall ship sailing cruises three times per day from the Manteo Waterfront Marina, this is the place to go if you have a hankering for sailing. Daytime trips: $15, children, $25, adults. Sunset cruise: $30 per person. Call for reservations and information, 1-866-SAIL OBX.
Duck Pier Research Station
Located north of Duck, the research station is home to the Army Corps of Engineers. Gazebo visual displays, an amphibious buggy, walking and guided tours are all available to keep you entertained during your stay. The station is open Monday through Friday. It opens at 10:00 a.m. For more information, contact 252-261-6840.
Whether you want to do some souvenir shopping or you yearn to learn a new craft, Earthworks is the place to go. Here you can actually create your own pottery – – adult and children – – or purchase ready-made creations to remember your stay.
Located at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the garden’s seasonal kaleidoscopic changes bring an exciting array of flowering plants, shrubs, and trees that draw visitors to return again and again. Exquisite Italian marble statuary provides continuity to the constantly changing flora A gift shop and plant sales are available. Admission is free. Open year ’round. For more information, contact 252-473-3234.
This exquisite upscale restaurant offers a choice of 40 different wines nightly along with an fine dining cuisine. The Flying Fish is the winner of the Food Network’s “Best of Café Series” as well as the Wine Spectacular’s Award of Excellence” for 2000.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
On the north end of Roanoke Island, this site commemorates where Sir Walter Raleigh’s explorers and colonists established the first settlement in 1585. Virginia Dare was the first child of an English native born in America, just before the colony’s mysterious disappearance. Open year round. Admission is free. For more information, contact 252-473-5772.
This is the Outer Bank’s premier Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar.
Experience one of the most exciting attractions on the Outer Banks in two 18-hole championship miniature golf courses. Daytime (until 5:00 p.m.), unlimited play rates: adults $7, kids 11 and under, $5 or 3 and under, free. Call 252-441-5875 for more information.
GiGi’s doesn’t just offer Italian food. It offers food influenced by the passion of a grandmother’s kitchen and the tradition of life surrounding it, prepared especially with their guests in mind. Reservations are required.
Goose Creek Golf and Country Club
This 18-hole golf course is appropriate for for all levels of players. Call 252-453-4008 for more information.
Contemporary paintings, watercolors, and fine prints by professional artists from the region are just a few of the things that this gallery has to offer. The gallery also displays and sells a collection of functional and cultural ceramics, art glass, wood objects, and jewelry.
Hang Gliding and Jockey’s Ridge
For more than 30 years people have been flying their hang gliders off of these beautiful dunes. It has become one of the most popular spots along the East Coast for this uniquely fun sport.
Jewelry by Gail
Award winning designer and diamond expert Gail Kowealski crates fabulous jewelry designs in gold and platinum with pearls, colored gem stones, and the finest colorless and natural fancy color diamonds.
All on its own, Jockey’s Ridge is awe inspiring with its incredible views, gentle slopes, and soft ocean winds. It is the perfect place to simply sit and contemplate one’s place in the world. But thousands of people flock to the site every year to get a taste of what it felt like for the Wright brothers to take their first flight.
Short flights from the top of the hill to the bottom began in the early 70’s. In the beginning many people built their own gliders for just that purpose. Today, however, gliders have become too efficient that, with the right conditions, pilots can stay aloft for hours. The record is 5 ½ hours.
As hang glider performance has improved so has the issue of safety. This sport is noted to be safer than most other forms of personal recreation (e.g., SCUBA diving, downhill skiing, skydiving, and rock climbing).
Kitty Hawk Flight School, the largest hang gliding school in the world, offers training flights every day. Because of the dunes’ perfect conditions, people are often able to take their fledgling flights in record time.
Every year, thousands of people visit Jockey Ridge and experience a once-in-a-lifetime flight above the beautiful sands of Kitty Hawk.
Kitty Hawk Kites
With 22 adventures to choose from, Kitty Hawk Kites is the place to go. Learn to hang glide or just go fly a kite. Call 1-877-FLY-THIS for more information.
Kitty Hawk Watersports
This wonderful facility offers waverunners, parasailing, hobie cats, windsurfing, and bumper boats. Call 252-441-2756 for more information.
Relive the exciting story of The Lost Colony, America’s first and longest running outdoor drama, written by Pulitzer-Prize winner Paul Green and performed under the stars at the beautiful waterside theater.
Since 1937, the drama has told the story of a 400-year old mystery, each summer under the stars of Roanoke Island near Manteo. The production has provided a stage for hundreds of young actors, actresses, and theater technicians who have gone on to bigger and better things.
Andy Griffith played the role of Sir Walter Raleigh for two summers, early in his career. Four-time Tony Award winning costume designer William Ivey Long, first got a taste for the theater working on the play. Others include Eileen Fulton (soap opera star), Chris Elliott, and R.G. Armstrong (actors).
The play is presented nightly except Sundays from mid-June through late August. For ticket information, contact 866-468-7360.
Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant
Voted “Best on the Beach,” Miller’s house specialties include fresh local fish and shellfish, hand-cut beef, chicken, pasta, creative salads, and delicious desserts. Every table has a waterside view.
Museum of the Albermarle
Experience the diverse history of the surrounding 13-counties of the Albermarle region through exhibits at this wonderful museum and explore the hands-on science center.
Nags Head Bowling Center
Newly remodeled family arcade and bowling alley. Call 252-441-7077 for more information.
Nags Head Hammocks
Watch hammock weavers perfecting products right before you eyes or purchase one of their famous chairs, swings, or hammocks for your very own.
North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island
Sharks and alligators are among the creatures featured at this exhibit. Live animal exhibits, animal feeding programs, and field trips are available. Call for reservations, 252-473-3494. Open year round. Admission is free.
This picturesque fishing community is where the notorious pirate Blackbeard was slain in 1718. The Ocracoke Lighthouse was completed in 1823. The sturdy 75-foot wooden lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina and one of the oldest in the southeast. Open May through September.
Outer Banks Music Showcase
An exciting, live energetic show blending 50’s and 60’s pop, country, bluegrass, gospel, patriotic classics and more combined with side-splitting comedy.
Roanoke Island Festival Park
Celebrate history, education, and the arts. Climb aboard Elizabeth Ii, a sailing vessel representative of those that sailed to Roanoke in the New World in 1585.
Hear the costumed sailors’ tales of treacherous voyages and a strange new land. Explore 400 years of Outer Banks history through hands-on exhibits in the Roanoke adventure Museum.
Learn about the island’s Native Americans in the original dramatic film “The Legend of Two Paths” and enjoy dance, drama, and musical performances in the pavilion. Daydreamin the gallery where a new art exhibit appears each month. Take in children’s performance in the film theater.
Located across from the Manteo waterfront, the park is open daily although hours may vary. For admission information call 252-475-1506.
This upscale restaurant offers steak, seafood, wine and martini bar. Voted #1 steakhouse on the Outer Banks.
There are four working vineyards on the mainland with classic wine grapes of California and Europe. Sanctuary Vineyards is going into its fifth year and the first wines released with their own grapes came out this past spring. Come in for free wine tasting; take a guided or self-guided tour; and enjoy their large gourmet and kitchen selection as well as their wine.
Bargain hunting at its best with tons of outlet stores including:
- Polo Ralph Lauren,
- Gap Outlet,
- Tommy Hilfiger,
- Publisher’s Warehouse,
- Rack Room Shoes,
- Van Heusen,
- Kitchen Collection,
- Wilson’s Leather Outlet,
- Nine West,
- Sunglasses Hut, and
- Much More!
This German Restaurant and Brewery is a must see place to go.
Wright Brothers National Museum
The first flight, made by Orville Wright, lasted only 12 seconds and covered just 120 feet. But three more flights within the next couple of hours proved the first was no accident. In the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur flew 852 feet in 59 seconds.
At the time that the Wrights visited the Outer Banks, the town of Kill Devil Hills did not exist. Nags Head had a small number of year-round residents who lived in the wood to the north of Jockey’s Ridge, but it was basically a summer destination.
One would expect that the Wright brother’s success would have brought them immediate attention, but that was not the case. By the time, the brothers finally went public with their airplane in 1903, others were flying too. Although the Wrights became international celebrities as inventors and pilots of airplanes, it wasn’t until much later – – 1912 to be exact – – that credit was fully given to them.
A boulder making the appropriate takeoff point of the flight was put in place in 1928. After years of planning, a 61-foot Art Deco, wing-like pylon of granite was dedicated with Orville Wright in attendance. The “Kill Devil Hill Monument’ was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933. It was renamed the “Wright Brothers National Memorial” some 20 years later.
Semi-permanent pavilions constructed for the Centennial will remain at the park for the next several years, providing exhibit space and a large auditorium for special programming. A full-scale reproduction of the original plane along with other exhibits are available for viewing.
Admission is free. Open year round from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Call for more information, 252-441-7430.
This only touches on a few of the things that you can do in this beautiful vacattion paradise. See for yourself. Visit the Outer Banks.