Existing as it does on the edge of a continent, more than an hour’s drive from any major airport, the Outer Banks has a well-deserved reputation for being just a little bit isolated and refreshingly remote. Depending on where our visitors live, the Outer Banks may be a day trip on its own, but once here there are some really neat day trips that can be taken on the Outer Banks. The first of our day trip series focuses on the pristine beauty and activities that draw guests to our southern beaches.
Day Trip #1 – Northern end of Hatteras Island: There is a tendency to think of Hatteras Island as a monolithic town strung out along 45 miles of beach, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
Hatteras Island is linked to the rest of the world by the Bonner Bridge, which spans Oregon Inlet. NC 12, the road that crosses the bridge, exits onto the open beach, marsh and soundside waters of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Pea Island offers visitors everything from an easy hike around an impoundment to world renowned bird watching and memorable kayak adventures. The visitor’s center, located about 3-1/2 miles south of Oregon Inlet on the soundside, is always a good place to start your adventure.
At the southern end of the refuge, just north of Rodanthe, are the S Curves, a stretch of road that appears perilously close to the beach and a beach that is famous for the power and shape of its waves. Surfers should really stop to check out this area. You won’t be disappointed!
The first towns south of Pea Island, Rodanthe (of “Nights in Rodanthe” fame), Waves and Salvo, are collectively referred to as the Tri-Villages. Until recently, they seemed the forgotten towns of the Outer Banks, but in the past five to six years they have become the center of the kitesurfing world, with Kitty Hawk Kites and Real Watersports establishing major retail operations and schools in this area.
While there, take a little time to check out the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station, which is one of the best preserved lifesaving stations in the country. Located on Hatteras Island in the village of Rodanthe, their goal is to restore, preserve, protect and educate visitors on the U.S. Life-Saving Service. They are open from mid-April through November, and guests will enjoy tours and reenactments.
Day Trip #2 – Go to Ocracoke: Ocracoke is where Outer Banks locals travel for day trips and weekend excursions, so why shouldn’t you?
It is a bit of a drive from the northern beaches, but the scenery is spectacular, travelling alongside the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and through the villages of Hatteras Island.
The only way to travel to and from Ocracoke island is by ferry. Coming from Hatteras Village, the ferry is free, and during the summer months they run quite often, with more limited trips during the off season. Prior to firming up your travel plans, a complete and up-to-date ferry schedule can be found at www.ncdot.gov/ferry.
The village is nestled around Silver Lake, one of the most beautiful natural harbors imaginable. Quaint is the best description for the town, and you will find unique homes, galleries, gift shops and restaurants intertwined in this pedestrian and bike friendly village.
What draws many visitors to the island is the sixteen miles of pristine, undeveloped beaches. With a population of just under 1,000 year-round residents, the village is also known for bountiful fishing, recreational activities, abundant wildlife and charming gardens protected by picket fences.
Regardless of the season, it’s a sure bet that Howard’s Pub will be open. Wildly popular, they have great pub food with a wide variety of beer. While visiting, also check out the Ocracoke Seafood Company. Wholly owned by 30 watermen working from the village, they offer some of the freshest and best seafood on the Outer Banks.
When travelling through the southern beaches and Ocracoke Island, keep in mind that many shops and restaurants have seasonal hours. A few remain open year round, but several have shortened hours or are closed for specified months.