Its been 35 years since I’ve been to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Back when I was in my late teens and a fresh green Coastie, I drove down from my duty station in Washington D.C. to visit a shipmate. Dan has never been to OBX, so this was a real treat for both of us. And, boy, has it changed!!
Of course, when I traveled through the “OBX”, it was really nothing but beach, sand dunes and sparsely-placed wealthy summer homes along the long stretch of outer bank peninsula.
How Outer Banks has changed
Today, Outer Banks is much different. Quite populated and commercialized, the Outer Banks has become a vacation Mecca for the inlanders. We noticed by the license plates that most visitors were from Virginia which was kind of funny because ‘don’t they have their own beaches?’. I guess they all have their own reasons.
Our visit was for purpose; a family reunion. We all congregated at Dan’s brother’s home in Kitty Hawk. It’s become a gathering place for our big family to unite for a week in the summer when all the kids are out of school. Being some of our nieces and nephews are school teachers, this was prime time for them to get away to catch their breaths too.
So, when the dates of our family reunion were announced, immediately we set forth in finding a place nearby to bring our RV to join in on the fun. We found one and made our reservations. Boy, was it a gem!
Where we stayed at Outer Banks
If any of you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you would have noticed we had a primo spot backed up to the water. It was fabulous to sit at my workspace in the rear of our coach and look out at the serene setting.
Our secret place which was no more the minute I posted it on social media was OBX Campground in Kill Devil Hills. When we made our reservations, Judy was cordial and very accommodating in meeting our request. We expressed our desire to be on the water since we had a fifth wheel with a big picture window off the back. Luckily, the site we wanted was open for us during the dates we needed.
Though the sites were gravel, there were quite level and spaced nicely. The grounds were manicured with beautiful gardens and a fountain pond. We stayed there for a week; wishing we would have stayed longer. We will blog our campground review soon!
Aside from spending time with the family, we planned out a few things to do while we were there.
Cool places we visited
Wright Brothers National Monument
We toured the Wright Brothers National Monument on two different days. On the first day, we checked in, got our National Park Passport stamped, bought a post card (75cents!?!?) and made way over to the stone marker and the replica hangars.
We ended up cutting it short the first day because I wore the wrong shoes (stupid flip flops!) and it was 90freakingsomething degrees! It was quite crowded so we decided to come back another day when it wasn’t so hot and crowded. Oh, and we weren’t very smart not bringing a bottle or two of water with us.
We returned back a couple days later early in the morning before the Park even opened to tourist traffic. Dan dropped me off at the roadway and I walked over to the life-size outdoor static exhibit.
Why we went early in the morning was so I could take photos without a hundred people climbing on it (Yeah, people actually DID THAT!). It was beautiful as the morning sun highlighted the sculptures making for perfect photography. Although I only had my smartphone, I still got some great shots.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Bodie Island Lighthouse was our first stop on our big day trip to Cape Hatteras. Located on South NC Highway 12 in Nags Head, this is one of the only lighthouses still maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. It’s been recently restored and reopened to the public for climbing in 2013. Though we decided not to climb this one, it surely will be a return venture for us. Its setting is gorgeous amongst the manicured property.
This black and white horizontally striped light is 165′ tall and overlooks all around it’s perimeter. A visitor center in the old keeper’s quarters features exhibits. It’s open March through December. There is a self-guided nature trail with parking area off NC 12 for bird watching. May species of waterfowl cab seen seasonally such as the egrets, glossy ibis and herons.
Chicamacomico U.S. Lifesaving Station and Museum
When you’re a Coastie, either Active Duty or Veteran, it’s a misnomer that we just ‘have to’ indulge in a little Coast Guard history. This was actually an unplanned stop and seriously, this was one of our best OBX experiences.
Located at Mile Post 39 on NC Highway 12 in the village of Rodanthe between Bodie Island Light and Cape Hatteras Light.
This magnificent exhibit features two stations from 1874 and 1911. It’s open from April to November. There is an admission fee but because we are Coasties, we were privileged a free tour. The museum of artifacts was very well displayed and educational. There’s also a series of videos to learn about not only the Lifesaving Station but also the prominent generational Midgett family.
If you’ve never seen what our Coast Guard lifesaving predecessors did before our era, this is the place to visit. It puts to light the Coast Guard mantra ‘you have to go out but you don’t have to come back’ to life. Our Coasties were sturdy men who put the sea before their own lives.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Visiting one of the most visited lighthouses was the highlight of our tourism part of our Outer Banks experience. Needless to say, it was everything we thought it would be.
Cape Hatteras Light is located at Mile Post 60 on the corner bank between Buxton and Frisco. Its purpose was and still is to signal to mariners the dangers of shoreline known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic’ where….ships have sunk.
The light is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America towering at 208 feet high. Built in 1870, the signature black and white spiral-striped lighthouse is the international symbol of North Carolina’s coast. It’s open for tours April through November. There is an $8 admission fee to climb the inside of the light with discounts for the disabled and seniors who possess National Park Passes.
After taking a few photos of this majestic sentinel, we paid to go up in her to get a view from the top. We climbed a few steps shy of 300 of the spiral staircase that led to the outdoor circular banister that provided a wonderfully cool 360 degree view of the southern most portion of the Banks.
After we descended down the steps (oh, it was so much easier going down!), we made way over to the Keeper’s Quarters where the museum was located. We learned about they relocated the lighthouse back in 1999 because of beach erosion.
If you’re ever planning a trip down to the Outer Banks, this is a must-see-must do!!
PLACES WE DINED AT…
We to Captain George’s based on recommendation from our friends John and Christine who told us all about their all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. We looked it up on Yelp for location and hours of operation. The reviews advised us to go shortly after they open at 2:30 pm.
We were quickly seated and drink orders taken by Robin, our server. We were eager to get started on our visit to the buffet.
If you love seafood, this is where you want to die. It was utterly amazing with soft shell crabs, snow crabs, king grabs, mussels, cherrystone clams, salmon, trout, chowders, and desserts out the ying yang!
Did I mention there was also a salad bar? Of course not!
Dirty Dick’s Crab House
OH! Now THIS PLACE, holy moly! On our way back from Cape Hatteras, we stopped her for vittles, even though we responsibly packed a lunch. (When in Rome? Or is that ROAM?) We stuffed our guts with no room to spare! I ordered the Monster Fish Sandwich that was almost bigger than my plate and Dan ordered the Drum PoBoy with a brewski each.
If you’re on a special weightloss diet, THIS IS NOT THE PLACE FOR YOU! It will totally bombard ANY good-decision-making food choices!
We dined to Hurricane Moe’s, also recommended by our RV friends a few sites down from us, John and Christine, the night before we left OBX. When we arrived, it was right as Happy Hour was ending, so we had to wait about only 10 minutes to get seated. Our order came promptly after ordering. Dan had the Fish PoBoy and I had the Seafood Combo; all local catch. Our food was delicious and time spent there was great. Unfortunately, we were so hungry, we forgot to take photos of our plates.
THINGS WE DID…
We were blessed to have two RV friends we met the previous January in Quartzsite park a few sites down from us! They let us borrow their two kayaks to try them as we are contemplating which ones to buy for ourselves. They had a ‘sit on’ and a ‘sit in’ which gave us experience in each. I think we have figured out which one we’d prefer.
Our RV abutted the water, so it was so nice to just drag them to the water’s edge. This was our first real kayaking experience and we loved it.
We didn’t do much shopping in the Outer Banks because it’s just not on our list of important things to do anymore since living in tight quarters. We have to be mindful of our RV’s weight and storage space. However, we did make our way to the one of many, Super Wings; a massive chainstore of beach everything…swim suits, boogie boards, mugs, hats, t-shirts, and souvenirs. Our main purpose of shopping there was to pick up a few goodies for our son, his wife and our grandson.
If you’re ever down in Outer Banks, this is one of the places to shop at if you’ve forgotten your suit or beach towel or want to pick up your own souvenirs.
We also stopped at the Life is Good store. Not well marked from the roadway, we did manage to find it via Google Maps. This small shop housed their notorious Life is Good apparel. I found a cool t-shirt that tripped my trigger but that’s all we came out of there with. Dan didn’t seem to find anything that spoke to him.
So that was our first adventure at the Outer Banks and it certainly won’t be our last! We had a great time barring a little bit of traffic and some congestion. We hope next time, it won’t be so darn hot outside. It was in the high 90’s!
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