Life on the Outer Banks

Family at the beachMost every topic imaginable gets covered about the Outer Banks except the one that might be the most important, “What is it like to live on the Outer Banks?” There is a certain amount of logic to discussing this question, since ours is an economy dominated by tourism, so folks come down for a short visit and then head home. Since it’s a question that comes up consistently, maybe this is a good time to give my personal overview.

First of all, for those people asking about our schools, or whether we even have schools, the answer is, “Yes, we have an excellent school system.” Dare County Schools, which comprise most of the Outer Banks, are amongst the best in the state. First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills and Manteo High School were recently ranked in the top 10% of high schools in the nation by two national publications.

Corolla is a part of Currituck County, and although the county schools are not quite as highly rated as Dare County, their school system is also quite good. Particularly noteworthy is Waterside Charter School in Corolla. This K-6 school was started to keep primary school kids from spending 2-3 hours a day on a school bus to arrive to and depart from their mainland schools. This school is an excellent example of what can go right with the charter school concept.

When stuck in summer traffic with 150,000 cars, including 375,000 new visitors per week, it may be hard to imagine our simpler way of life. We have several incorporated towns; Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head and Manteo. For most, that may be a good indicator of where you live, but our real identity is within the community called the Outer Banks.

It’s true that once our guests depart, things do slow down considerably, but they certainly don’t stop. Although many local events are designed for our visitors, a majority of our off season gatherings are what makes small town America so wonderful.

For example, The Dare County Arts Council just finished up their Artrageous celebration, which is about blending the kids of our communities with art. During the holidays, there are numerous parades and tree lightings. Duck celebrations are completely unique and worth exploring. And, for those looking for an old time flavor, Manteo events appear as if they have come straight from a Currier & Ives print.

Like most small communities, we become friends with our neighbors and friendly with most everyone else. One remarkable trait of the Outer Banks is how that strong sense of community remains. There is a palpable feeling of “we are in this together,” so when a neighbor is in need, the outpouring of support is awe inspiring. That definitely doesn’t mean we march in lock step with one another. Most of us have pretty strong views on topics ranging from politics to religion. It’s just that we haven’t lost that strong understanding of how important each individual is to the overall community.