|Outer Banks, North Carolina|
A pristine beach, 75-miles long, with sand dunes, marshes and woodlands were set aside as Cape Hatteras National seashore which extends from South Nags Head across three islands – Bodie, Hatteras and Ocracoke, linked by a narrow paved road and the Hatteras Inlet ferry.
The highlight of my trip was at Pea Island Refuge when I was invited to tag along with volunteers from the Network of Endangered Sea Turtles. Forty-five baby loggerheads, just 18-hours old were released after dark to avoid predators like birds and dogs. Smaller than the palm of my hand they faced the Atlantic Ocean on their own.
Once released, most of the hatchlings headed for the ocean but some didn’t seem to know which way to go. There was no moon to guide them. Our only source of light came from two blue filtered flashlights and we had to be so careful not to step on them. Huge waves pounded the beach tossing many of them back on shore. I am glad we were there to help. Though drenched with rain and soaked by waves, it was a good experience.
Then “Turtle Watch” began. Each of the eight remaining nests was assigned two volunteers to protect hatchlings until midnight. To make their journey to the ocean easier, we made a smooth path for them to travel from the nest to the ocean. The rain continued relentlessly and we were drenched. I was glad to see midnight come.
Lighthouses are another big attraction on the east coast. Congress recently moved Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in the nation, at a cost of $12 million, to save it from the encroaching sea. The climb to the top is an endurance test with 268 spiraling stairs but well worth the effort. Historic Ocracoke Lighthouse, built in 1823, the oldest in North Carolina, has survived the Civil War and numerous hurricanes.
I was fascinated with the shore birds patrolling the beach for food, catching small fish or crabs carried in by the waves. The ocean is also a fisherman’s paradise, rich with channel bass, pompano, sea trout, bluefish and more. The International Game Fish Association lists 55 world records for Outer Banks waters.
History plays an important role in Outer Banks attractions. Roanoke Island Festival Park is the location of the fort and settlement of the 110 English settlers sent by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587. The first English child born on American soil was Virginia Dare, granddaughter of Gov. John White on August 18, 1587. By 1590 when White returned, the colonists had vanished but there was no sign of a struggle. The mystery has never been solved.
An outdoor drama, “The Lost Colony” blends music and dance to tell their story. The play opened in 1937 to standing-room-only-audiences and that tradition still prevails. It is America’s first and longest-running theater under the stars.
A film, The Legend of Two-Path, shown at the Roanoke Adventure Museum is the true story of Manteo and Wanchese, Algonkian Indian brothers who befriended the English on their arrival to Roanoke Island. They accompanied the ship back to England where they remained for a year. On their return Manteo trusted his new friends and was the first person baptized in the New World on August 13, 1587. Wanchese could see nothing but trouble ahead for his people if the English remained. A bitter estrangement developed that never healed.
Take a trip back in time at Settlement Site, a sentry outpost on the Waterfront where the soldiers are always on the lookout for the Spanish. Tents, tools and lifestyle are on display with garbed interpreters who speak in early English dialect engaging guests with interesting historical facts of the 1580s. Nearby the Elizabeth II, a replica of a 16th century merchant ship, was one of seven in Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1585 expedition. Visitors soon learn the important topics of that era.
Other attractions on Roanoke Island include the Elizabethan Gardens, a memorial to the first colonists and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, a replica of the first English settlement.
A big celebration is being planned for the 100th Anniversary of Flight. On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright accomplished man’s first heavier-than-air, machine-powered airplane flight across the sands of Kitty Hawk. The fourth attempt covered 852 feet in 59 seconds! The Exhibit Center houses a replica of the original aircraft and gift shop. Interpretive talks explain the aerodynamics of flight. Plans are well in the making for the biggest celebration ever!
There is so much to see and do in the Outer Banks. Friendly people, wonderful seafood and unbelievable beauty make precious memories.
When You Go
Kitty Hawk Sports: Kayaking, windsurfing, parasailing rentals
Kitty Hawk Kites: Hang Gliding Lessons at
N.C.Aquarium: An educational facility with all the species that live in N.C.waters is on Roanoke Island.
Where to Eat
The Weeping Radish: This Bavarian Restaurant in Manteo is serves excellent food and beer.
Where to Shop
The Christmas Shop: This store in Manteo has thrilled shoppers since 1967. There are 36 rooms filled with fine gifts.
Where to Stay
There are many hotels but most visitors prefer the privacy of one of the thousands of rental cottages ranging from bungalows for two to mansions for 24.
For More Information
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau (877) 298-4373