With the opening of the Marc Basnight Bridge, the new bridge over Oregon Inlet, the bicycling possibilities on the Outer Banks just increased dramatically. For the really hardcore bicyclist, it is now possible to do a true lighthouse to lighthouse to lighthouse ride.
In other words, for the really fit, a ride could begin at Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla and go all the way to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton. Actually, it’s possible to ride all the way to the Hatteras Ferry Dock now—a 94 mile ride.
The ride has always been possible, but crossing the old Bonner Bridge (which did not have a shoulder), would have taken nerves of steel.
Unlike the Bonner Bridge, the new Basnight Bridge has a six foot shoulder that can be used to ride across the bridge.
The ride may get even better soon. Late in March, Dare County unveiled plans to build a multi use path between Frisco and Buxton on Hatteras Island. Hatteras Island already has some very nice multi use paths, especially in the Tri-Villages area on the north end of the island.
On the north end, Currituck County has a multi use path from Corolla Village almost to the South Currituck Beach Bath House. The county is planning on extending that path all the way to the Dare County line, but the last report we have is there are some right of way issues that have to be resolved.
The road, however, does have a shoulder that is suitable for biker riders.
Northern Dare County has one of the most complete bike or multi-use trails networks on the Outer Banks. There are a number of routes available, all of them with very minimal time riding beside busy thoroughfares. In fact, take some time to study the bike path maps of Dare County and you’ll find that routes that consist entirely of trails that avoid major roads are available almost to Bodie Island Lighthouse in South Nags Head.
There is an important caveat in all of this that we should add. A ride from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse to the Hatteras Lighthouse is not a loop trail that can be done in one day. Taking the most direct route, it’s 84 miles between the lighthouses.
If the plan is to ride from Corolla to Buxton, that’s an all day ride. Stay in Buxton and come back the next day.
A more manageable ride might be to bike from Corolla to the Bodie Island Lighthouse, a distance of 43 miles. Of course, it is not necessary to immediately hop on a bike and push through a 45 mile ride. The Outer Banks is one of the best locations anywhere for a nice leisurely ride. The terrain is mostly flat and most of the trails are fairly protected so wind is that much of a problem.
For the really long rides—wind will be a factor, so be aware of that.
The riding world may get even a bit more exciting soon. Construction on the passenger only ferry service that NCDOT hopes to put in place between Hatteras and Ocracoke is running behind, but at some point it will be available. The ferry is designed with bikers in mind and will dock in the heart of Ocracoke Village.
A quick historic footnote on the distances between the lighthouses: a little math shows they are all 42-44 miles apart. That was by design. By building the lighthouses at fairly equal distances from each other, early mariners had an easy reference point to know where they were along the coast.