The Outer Banks

Sea Oats on Sand Dunes, Ocracoke Island.jpg


Sea Oats on Sand Dunes, Ocracoke Island.jpg

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are a favorite vacation spot for many.  There are many things to do here besides sit on the beach.  Our purpose here is to share the experiences we have enjoyed.

Lighthouses of North Carolina

                                                                         The Ocracoke Light

North Carolina’s lighthouses are famous and a very popular destination for tourists.  There are five lighthouses on the northern Outer Banks, listed from north to south:  Currituck Beach (in Corolla); Bodie Island (northern Hatteras area); Hatteras (southern Hatteras Island); Ocracoke (on Ocracoke Island and pictured above); Cape Lookout (the furthest south, and it is part of a national seashore park.  It is accessible only by private ferry).  These are all still operating.  We have visited all of them except Cape Lookout.  

Further south, at Cape Fear, there are four more, not all of which are still in operation.  Here is a link to a map showing the lighthouse locations:  Several of the lighthouses bear distinctive patterns called daymarks, that allow sailors to distinguish between the lighthouses and thus to determine their location.  For sailing at night, each light shines with a distinctive frequency and pattern, once again, enabling sailors to establish their position. 

The Currituck Beach Light is brick structure which is open to the public, so one can climb to the top.

The Bodie (pronounced ‘body’) Island light is also open to the public.  You can climb up a short way inside.  There is a gift shop in the large building, and the small keeper’s house is also open.  The lighthouse underwent restoration in 2010.

The Hatteras light is near the south end of Hatteras Island.   There is a visitors’ center and museum of the sea located on the grounds.  The lighthouse is open for climbing during the summer.  However, the climb is equivalent to twelve stories and there is a handrail on only one side, although there is two-way traffic on the stair.  The lighthouse was relocated in 1999-2000, due to beach erosion.

The light we have visited several times is the one at Ocracoke, even though it is not open to the public.  It is in a beautiful location and always worth a visit.  You never know what you will see there.  On our latest (2011) visit we encountered a nutria, enjoying a meal at the edge of the lawn.  The ferry ride to Ocracoke is always fun, and the island is the most unspoiled of the populated barrier islands.  It still retains much of its fishing village quaintness, and large portions of the island are unspoiled since they are part of the Hatteras Island National Seashore.

Lighthouses are an important part of our country’s maritime history, and are fun places to visit.

005 Susan & Harry at Ocracoke Lighthouse (7-16-08) - 2 copy.jpg

                                                    Our engagement picture, taken at Ocracoke Light

Originally posted July 30, 2011

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

It takes effort to get to Ocracoke Island.  From Kitty Hawk it is a drive of about 70 miles to get to the ferry.  After the no-cost ferry ride it is a further drive of 13 miles to get to the town of Ocracoke.  For us there are four main attractions on Ocracoke:  The Ocracoke Light, Howard’s Pub, the wildlife, and the beautiful beaches.  In some areas 4-wheel drive vehicles are allowed to drive on the beach.  Many people take advantage of that opportunity.  

First on our agenda when we arrived on the island was a stop at Howard’s Pub, to slake our thirst and get some lunch.  They have a nice selection of beer in bottles and on draft, as well as a full bar and non-alcoholic beverages.  The food is good.  It is a very good place to get locally caught fish.  The day we were there we had a choice of five different fish of the day.  The decor inside is rather crazy - many sports team pennants and old license plates that commemorate Howard’s Pub.  One could spend hours looking at all those things.

The next stop on our agenda was to get our annual photo taken at the light house.  This year a very nice couple volunteered to take the photo for us, and they did a great job.  We were able to do the same for them.

Our first beach stop was at ramp 72, a place where you can drive your vehicle onto the beach. It is a sand road that had a couple of places that were a little challenging for our all-wheel drive vehicle, so unless you have a good off-road vehicle, this road is not a good idea.

While we were walking on the beach we noticed an area that was closed.  It turned out to be an area with sea turtles nests.  There was a much smaller nesting area where we stopped at mile post 77.  We were a little surprised to find mile markers on the beach, but with such long beaches it helps to have location markers.

We saw shore birds like the Sanderling in this photo, in addition to the usual gulls.  It is also possible to find some shells on the beach, for those who enjoy collecting them.  We also saw a lot of ghost crab holes, many of which were very large.  That’s Harry’s foot next to one of them.  These are much larger than the crabs we see in the populated areas.

Another wonderful find was a wetland about a mile before the ferry, where we saw at least a dozen Great Egrets, and one White Ibis.  On one visit to the Ocracoke light we encountered a Nutria, an animal that is raised for its fur (this one had apparently escaped into the wild).

The final fun on the island is the large number of Laughing Gulls that hang out, in hopes of being fed, by the line of cars waiting for the ferry.  They are always good for a little entertainment.       

                                                                           Laughing Gulls

Original post July 28, 2011

Town Park Boardwalk, Duck, NC

Duck’s town park is an amazing place.  Located on Currituck sound, it is very manicured at the entrance, with nice lawns and a play area and gravel parking lot.  They recently built a small amphitheater and are in the process of building a town hall on the property.  But for us, the best part of the park is the boardwalk, which has a place where you can launch a kayak or go crabbing, and now another platform for crabbing.  Since last year they have extended the boardwalk all the way to the Waterfront Shops, a nice shopping center also located on the sound.  Note: in subsequent years they have finished the town hall and they continue to extend the boardwalk.

We made a special trip to the boardwalk today for the purpose of photographing some beautiful grasses.  Along the way we had several cool surprises.  The first was a white-tailed deer, who just went about her business, paying no attention to us.  As we were watching her, we also spotted a Viceroy butterfly.

Further on we encountered another deer (photo below).  This deer is at the edge of the park’s willow swamp, as is this interesting scrub oak.

There are several bald cypress in the park, most bigger than the one pictured here.  

There are some beautiful grasses in the park - both in the sound and on land.  We were delighted not only with them, but also all the beauty we observed on our way to see them again.  This park just keeps getting better.  Kudos to the Town of Duck for a great park!

                                                               White-tailed Deer

Originally posted July 29, 2011

Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, NC

Jennette’s Pier has been a Nags Head institution since it was built in 1939 in Whalebone Junction (mile post 16.5, 7223 S. Virginia Dare Trail).  The pier has always been a magnet for fishermen, as well as other vacationers.  The North Carolina Aquarium Society purchased the pier in 2003, in an effort to save the historic structure.  Shortly after that Hurricane Isabel removed most of the pier, and almost destroyed the pier house.

The new pier, which opened in May, 2011, is built of concrete with wood decking, benches and rails.  It is now 1000 feet long, built in the ‘Old Nags Header’ style, in keeping with its heritage and the neighborhood.  The pier features three wind turbines, sheltered education panels, and a large, two-story pier house, which includes a gift shop, educational facilities, and the ability to host large events.  There will eventually be two aquariums in the pier house.  The pier also has a couple of areas where one can clean fish.  The whole pier, including auxiliary areas, is built to be environmentally friendly.

For a $200 contribution to the pier you can have anything you want engraved on a Corian fish, which will be displayed as in this photo.

At the time of this writing the daily fishing fee is $12 per adult and $6 for children under 12.  For those who just wish to visit the pier there is a suggested donation of $2 per person.

Jennette’s Pier is a pleasant place to visit.  It will be even better once the aquariums are installed.

Originally posted July 27, 2011

© Susan L. Stone 2015