Worth The Drive

worththedriveThe sand, surf, and sun is more than enough to keep us occupied all summer long, but there are a few experiences worth loading up the car and hitting the road for. Depending on where you’re staying, some of these excursions can be made in a few hours and others will take the day, but they are all fantastic destinations when you are stricken with sudden ambition to explore the Outer Banks. From natural history to lighthouses and aquariums, there’s certainly something fun and inspiring for everyone in your party to discover.

Wright Brothers National Memorialwrightbros
More than 100 years ago, self-taught engineers Orville and Wilbur Wright proved that man could fly with the first successful airplane flights on December 17, 1903. They were drawn to the Outer Banks for its enormous sand dunes, steady winds, and wide-open spaces. Today, a massive monument commemorating their achievement stands in Kill Devil Hills at the exact location in which the brothers made history. Visitors can explore the aviation museum adjacent to the monument, view replicas of the 1902 and 1903 gliders, and climb the hill. Attending a “hangar talk” with one of the park rangers is an experience both adults and children will remember. 1000 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills • nps.gov/wrbr

jockeysridgeJockey’s Ridge State Park
The tallest active sand dune in the eastern United States, Jockey’s Ridge is a sight to behold and surely worthy of a few hours of your day. Both the Atlantic Ocean and Roanoke Sound can be seen from the top, making this a wonderful stop for photographers and nature admirers. The winds on the dunes are near constant and as such, perfect for wind sports. Those with a thirst for adventure will want to try hang gliding or paragliding right in the park, while visitors who like to keep their feet on the ground may want to bring a kite. From any dune, you can almost always see children running down the steeper slopes or sliding on a makeshift sled. 300 Carolista Dr, Nags Head • jockeysridgestatepark.com

Dolphin Toursdolphintours
While it’s true that you may spot the occasional fin while watching the waves at the beach, why not take a dolphin tour to really get an eyeful of these playful creatures? Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, like many visitors to the Outer Banks, only appear in the warmer months. Tours will take you to see the dolphins playing in their natural habitats, and some tour boats are even run by researchers who will tell you about the creatures’ migratory patterns and behavior. Make sure to call ahead because these tours can book up very quickly in the height of summer. Captain Johnny’s, Manteo • outerbankscruises.com

roanokeislandRoanoke Island Festival Park
Sprawling over 25 acres in Manteo, this interactive historic site and music and arts venue is a unique attraction for visitors of all ages. The park is home to the Elizabeth II, a 16th century representative ship; exhibits such as the Coastal Algonquian Indian Town and the English Settlement Site; and the Roanoke Island Adventure Museum. Younger children will be delighted by the costumed interpreters and interactive components. A variety of performances are also held throughout the year at the Outdoor Pavilion, including concerts such as the Island Bluegrass Festival. 1 Festival Park, Manteo • roanokeisland.com

The Lost Colonylostcolony
America’s longest running outdoor drama, The Lost Colony is a musical performance about America’s first English colony and the mystery they left behind. Guests will experience exciting battles, Indian dances, the royal court, and the birth of the first English child born in the New World, Virginia Dare. More than 200 actors, technicians, and designers collaborate on this enormous production that has drawn guests since 1937. Written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Green, The Lost Colony portrays an important piece of America’s history and is a family friendly event not to be missed. 1409 National Park Dr, Manteo • thelostcolony.org

elizabethangardensElizabethan Gardens
A walk through the Elizabethan Gardens is like nothing else on the Outer Banks or in the country. Located at the site of the first English colonists’ original settlement, the gardens pay tribute to the settlers of the New World with beautiful statues and rare, historic treasures set among spectacular, floral displays. Summer allows for sightings of hydrangeas, crepe myrtles, coneflowers, and many more species of native plants, while the cooler months bring completely different varieties. The Elizabethan Gardens are a must-see 1411 National Park Dr, Manteo • elizabethangardens.org

Oregon Inlet Fishing Centeroregoninlet
There is just something satisfying about catching your own dinner. Whether you are a newbie fisherman or an experienced angler, the professionals at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center can provide you with the gear and instruction for a great fishing trip. From offshore fishing charters to half-day excursions in the sound, the whole family can participate in hooking a couple of fish. If catching them yourself does not appeal to you, you will still want to stop by the center in the late afternoon to see the fishermen bring in the day’s catch. 98 NC-12, Nags Head • oregon-inlet.com

bodieislandLighthouse Climbs
It is one thing to see any of the impressive Outer Banks lighthouses, but it is quite another to climb one. The Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are both open seasonally for climbing from the third Friday in April through Columbus Day.The climbs can be very strenuous for some visitors with over 200 steps in each lighthouse; however, the view of the surrounding Outer Banks from the top is spectacular. Be sure to consider Full Moon climbs for rarely seen views. Bodie Island Lighthouse | Currituck Beach Lighthouse | Cape Hatteras Lighthouse | Ocracoke Lighthouse | Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Pea Island National Wildlife Refugepeaisland
More than 365 species of birds including ospreys, snowy egrets, and tundra swans can be found in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. This haven for migratory birds was established to protect wildlife resources through the protection of the wetlands in 1938. Kayak eco-tours are a popular activity in the refuge and a great way to see the many species of avian life from the water. For those visiting in the fall, the refuge plays host to an outstanding array of events during the Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival. This area is a bird lover’s paradise. Pea Island Visitor’s Center, NC Hwy 12, Hatteras Island • fws.gov/peaisland

ocracokeOcracoke Island
After you’ve traversed the length of Hatteras Island, hop on the ferry and don’t stop until you reach an island with wide-open, undeveloped beaches and a charming village called Ocracoke. This small-town paradise is alive with art, local music, and community events like the Ocrafolk Festival at the beginning of summer; however, you will find the streets peacefully quiet late at night. Bikes are a great way to get around this good-natured, little town, and we recommend you stay for a whole day or even two. Ocracoke Island • ocracokevillage.com

North Carolina Aquariumsncaquariums
The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island boasts the largest collection of sharks in the state, along with a state-of-the-art, interactive sea turtle rehabilitation center. Visitors can touch a stingray and watch river otters swim and play in their natural habitats. Turtle, alligators, and all kinds of aquatic life await you at the aquarium! Current areas of focus include the sand tiger sharks, lined seahorses, and sea turtles, all threatened or animals of concern. In addition, as an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and a partner in SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction, the Aquariums works to keep the most vulnerable animals from disappearing and protect them for future generations. Check their website for weekly events and programming. Newly renovated for the 2016 season. 374 Airport Rd, Manteo, NC • ncaquariums.com

Located in Corolla’s Heritage Park, The Whalehead Club is a beautifully restored 1920s Art Nouveau-style residence that is open to the public for tours Monday-Saturday from 10am-4pm. This iconic structure, with its copper roof and striking yellow exterior, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Whalehead’s curved rooflines, paint color choices, ornamental chimneys, Tiffany lighting, and distinctive porches and friezes demonstrate the style of the times when it was constructed. To this day, Whalehead contains some of the most important examples of Art Nouveau ornamentation in the United States. The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education and the Currituck Beach Lighthouse share the 39 acre site with the Whalehead Club. 1100 Club Rd, Corolla, NC • visitcurrituck.com

Jennette’s Pierjennettespier
Fish like a local at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head! Spend some time getting a personalized angling lesson, check out their summer adventure camps, and visit their aquariums. As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and a partner in the Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Responsible Pier Initiative, Pier staff works diligently to conserve and help protect the recreational fishery, sea turtles, marine mammals, and shore birds for future generations. Clean, wide beaches, free parking, a bathhouse, and a shop that offers tackle, beach supplies, snacks, cold drinks, and unique gifts make Jennette’s Pier the perfect spot to spend a day at the beach. 7223 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC • ncaquariums.com/jennettes-pier

corollawildhorsesCorolla Wild Horses
The Corolla wild horses were some of the first settlers on the Outer Banks! Originally left behind by explorers nearly 500 years ago, these horses are of Spanish decent and were recently recognized as the state horse of North Carolina. Known for their hardiness, the horses have weathered centuries of storms and feed on the salty marsh grasses native to this area. Current herd size fluctuates between 120-150 individuals. They roam freely north of Corolla, in an area that is accessible only by 4WD. There are several tour companies that offer excursions in search of the horses, or if you have a suitable vehicle you can strike out on your own. Just remember that the horses are wild and very unpredictable. It is illegal to feed or come within 50 feet of the them, so be sure to bring a zoom lens! For more information: corollawildhorses.com

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search