The Outer Banks (OBX), North Carolina is the beach resort region for families who can’t always afford beach resorts. This unique geographic area – 320 km of barrier islands linked by Highway 12 – is an outdoor lovers destination, whether you are looking for touristy activities such as beach fun, mini-golf and family-friendly restaurants found in the Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head areas or more scenic getaways of ocean flanked islands, tall grasses and sand dunes of the Rodantheand Hatteras islands. The north end of Corolla and Duck islands are also home to new condo development, but week-long beach house rentals with the amenities of home are the most common accommodation in the region.
The OBX is notoriously quirky and boasts a range of notorieties such as being the site of the first flight by the Wright Brothers and the final resting place of legendary pirate Black Beard. Near the northern end, wild horses roam grasslands and beaches that are accessible via four-wheel drive vehicles only. OBX is all coastline and consequently many, many ships have wrecked along the shores including those carrying Colonial Spanish Mustangs. More than 200 hundred years ago, the strongest swam ashore and started what is today the wild horse colony of Corolla Island, feral animals that tolerate humans and one supported by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
Today, families can stay at a few motels, hotels, condo rentals or beach houses mostly along the shoreline and participate in activities such as fishing on Jennette’s Pier, the oldest fishing pier in the OBX, built in 1939 but restored in 2003 after Hurricane Isabel tore through the area. Visit the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island or leisurely stroll the Bodie Island Lighthouse (one of many along the coast) boardwalk to get a good view of the wetlands that make this region ecologically interesting.
Most families (many in the state vacation here each year so July is crowded) head to only one section of the OBX. But a day tour of Highway 12 from one end to the other will give you the best view of the coastline, because at points the land is so narrow you can see the ocean out windows on either side of the car, especially toward the southern end that’s still reasonably pristine.
Previously published in Mom & Caregiver magazine, London, Ontario, April 2014