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Explore H2OBX: The Outer Banks’ New Waterpark

Photo: WFMY

If you’re planning a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina this summer and searching for a unique activity that provides fun for the entire family, look no further than H2OBX, a brand-new waterpark located just across the bridge from Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores in neighboring Currituck County.

Photo: Aquatic Development Group

Conveniently located right off Caratoke Highway in Powells Point, North Carolina, H2OBX is situated directly along the route that tens of thousands of visitors take to reach the barrier island paradise for a weeklong vacation. Read on to find out what you can expect to find when you visit this one-of-a-kind Outer Banks attraction this season.

Photo: H2OBX

Located at 8526 Caratoke Highway, the $46 million-dollar H2OBX waterpark held its grand opening event on June 22. Perfect for days when the red flags are flying and the surf is too rough to get in the ocean, H2OBX boasts an assortment of adventures for kids and adults alike. The waterpark features more than 30 rides, slides and themed attractions, as well as a lazy river, wave pool, lagoon, and 50 private cabanas where you can kick back and relax in resort-like style.

Photo: WAVY

If you’re in the mood for a thrill ride, take the “Paradise Plunge.” This nine-story slide allows riders to climb into a launch capsule which will then be dropped free-fall-style from 90 feet in the air before launching into a 360-degree loop. Sound a little too exciting for you? Take the thrill meter down just a notch or two with a ride on the Rip Tide. The 50-foot-tall tube slide takes riders through a series of twists, turns and steep drop-offs before they reach a 35-foot wall that boomerangs them back and forth.

Photo: H2OBX (Paradise Plunge)

Looking for something a little more family friendly that won’t freak out riders with a fear of heights of sudden, steep drops from the sky? H2OBX features plenty of rides that are perfect for families and young children. Check out the Queen Anne’s Revenge—a ride named after the ship sailed by the legendary Outer Banks pirate Blackbeard in the early 1700s—or sail into Calico Jack’s Cove, a wet ‘n’ wild playground designed for kids of all ages. Children too scared to brave the waves of the Atlantic Ocean can get a similar and safer experience at H2OBX’s Twin Tides Family Wave Beach, a dual-entry pool filled with gently rolling waves.

Photo: H2OBX (Flowrider)
Photo: H2OBX (Lazy River)

If you’re a surfer searching for waves on a day when the ocean isn’t offering what you need, head to H2OBX’s Flowrider, which offers endless waves perfect for surfing or boogie boarding. After a long day of surfing the waves or embarking on one of the dozens of adrenaline-inducing ride, lay back and soak up the sun on a tube ride through the gently flowing waters of the adventure river. This 1,000-foot-long journey takes tubers on a relaxed ride that features a series of waterfalls, geysers and bubbling waters—an adventure not to be missed on your trip to H2OBX waterpark, which offers something for everyone to enjoy on your next Outer Banks vacation.

The Benefits of Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens

Whether you’re looking for an easy way to go green and do your part to protect the environment or you simply want to save a little money all year long, setting up a rain barrel or creating a rain garden on your property will help you to do both.

The Benefits of Rain Barrels & Rain Gardens

Photo: www.riwaterlady.com

By collecting rainwater that falls from the sky and storing it in a tank for later use, you can minimize the amount of water you use from your hose or faucet when watering flowers or the fruits and veggies in your garden. The average rain barrel saves homeowners more than 1,000 gallons of water per year—which translates to savings of up to $50 each month. You’ll also prevent rainwater from flowing down your driveway and into the street, where it collects an assortment of fertilizers, oil and pesticides that ultimately end up in rivers, sounds and oceans, causing harm to the wildlife that call these areas home.

Photo: This Old House

The benefits of rain gardens are similar to those of rain barrels—they also prevent runoff from your property from ending up in area waterways—but this type of rain collection is also a great way to redirect water in your yard to one designated spot, which can relieve flooding issues. In addition to helping to minimize flooding and preventing runoff, rain gardens also offer homeowners a way to conserve water and create a new habitat on their property for wildlife ranging from birds and butterflies to frogs and beneficial insects.  

Types of Rain Barrels

Photo: The Watershed Council

Rain barrels come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and styles, so no matter what your budget or space may be, you’re sure to find the perfect one to fit your needs. Rain barrels are typically made of plastic, and the most common varieties hold around 50 gallons of water that flows off your roof and through downspouts—although bigger options are available and can hold more than 100 gallons once they are full. You can purchase a rain barrel at your local home improvement store—such as Lowe’s or Home Depot—and there is no shortage of options available from online retailers.

Photo: HGTV

Rain barrels are also typically composed of dark-colored plastic, as lighter colors allow sunlight to pass through the container and can result in the growth of algae inside the barrel. Purchasing a rain barrel with a lid is a must, as having a cover on the top of the barrel will keep out children and pets as well as prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the standing water.

Photo: Home Depot

Most rain barrels feature a small spigot, which is used to access the rainwater that is stored inside the unit. And if you’re concerned that a large plastic barrel on your property will harm your home’s curb appeal, fear not: numerous aesthetically pleasing rain barrel options are available—including varieties that boast a deep indention on the top that is designed to be used as a spot for planting flowers, herbs or a miniature vegetable garden.

What is a Rain Garden?

Photo: WatershedCo.com
Photo: North Londonberry Township

If your property is prone to flooding or you simply want to help filter runoff and recharge the groundwater supply, building a rain garden in your yard is an easy and inexpensive way to solve all of these issues and then some. Chances are, you drive past several rain gardens in both urban and suburban areas every day and don’t even realize it. Rain gardens are defined as a shallow depression in the soil that contains an assortment of plants and grasses that are native to the region. The goal of a rain garden is to position the depression near a downspout, driveway or some other source of runoff to prevent the water that flows to that area after a rainstorm from continuing on its path and eventually reaching the sewer system or flowing into nearby streams, rivers, sounds or the ocean.

Photo: North Carolina Health News

How to Build a Rain Garden

To determine where on your property you should put a rain garden, wait until the next time a storm rolls in—and then scope out the area to see where the majority of rainwater is pooling up or where it leaves your property and pours into the street or sidewalk. Once you’ve found the spot where water runs to naturally, you can construct a rain garden in the same area to capture the pooling water and prevent it from flowing off your property.

Photo: Seattle Ocean Friendly Gardens Program

When choosing the types of vegetation for your rain garden, it’s important to keep in mind that rain gardens comprise three specific zones. Zone 1 is the centermost area within the rain garden, and because it contains water the majority of the time it should be filled with water-tolerant plants that can withstand standing water for long periods of time. Zone 2 is the middle ring within the rain garden and should be stocked with a mixture of plants that can tolerate standing water occasionally but are also capable of withstanding dry spells. Zone 3, the outer ring of the rain garden, should contain plants or grasses that don’t need much water to survive and thrive, as this zone is rarely full of water for any extended period of time.

Photo: Ocean County Soil Conservation District

By planting a rain garden on your property, you’ll not only enhance your home’s curb appeal—you’ll also help protect the environment by capturing rainwater before it can contribute to runoff and can cause issues for plants and animals within your region.

Shelly Island: A New Island Forms on the Outer Banks

Photo by Chad Koczera

When it comes to vacation destinations, beach lovers will be hard-pressed to find a better spot to soak up the sun, surf and sand than the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Stretching nearly 200 miles from Carova Beach to Ocracoke Island, the Outer Banks comprises barrier islands composed of constantly shifting shoals and sandbars. Earlier this year, a brand-new island emerged off the coast of Cape Point on Hatteras Island—one of the most dynamic regions along the entire Outer Banks. Named Shelly Island for the abundance of seashells visitors to this recently exposed sandbar encountered as they strolled its shores, the new island has started to make waves among Outer Banks locals and vacationers alike.

Photo: Raleigh News & Observer

The story of Shelly Island begins in April, when a thin strip of sand began to become visible just off the southern shoreline of Cape Point. Because this area is the spot where the Gulfstream and the Labrador Current converge, Cape Point is no stranger to sudden changes in the hidden shoals that lie beneath the shallow salty water. Marking the southernmost point of the Graveyard of the Atlantic, the waters off Cape Hatteras National Seashore are sprinkled with the wreckage of thousands of sunken ships that ran aground on the treacherous shoals over the course of the past several centuries.

Photo: CBS News

While most sandbars that become exposed during constantly changing conditions around Cape Point are quickly covered again in just a few days or weeks, Shelly Island continued to grow larger and larger as spring turned into summer. Noticing the rapid expansion of the new island off the coast—and just how close it was to Cape Point—Outer Banks beachgoers began to make the journey through the relatively shallow waters that extend between the two islands via kayaks and standup paddleboards. Those brave enough to take on the strong and often dangerous currents that sweep along the shoreline of Cape Hatteras swam or waded to the new island to scope it out for themselves.

Photo: WCNC

What was found on the mile-long island caused a young beachgoer to nickname the sandbar Shelly Island—and the name stuck. As word spread of the hundreds of shells that litter this island that once sat deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, adventurous shelling enthusiasts showed up by the dozens to stroll the beach and add items to their collections. But seashells weren’t the only notable finds on Shelly Island. According to National Geographic, the surf has also washed a variety of other interesting objects onto the beach, including whale bones and shards of centuries-old shipwrecks.

Photo by Chad Koczera

From fishermen to history buffs to shell-seekers, there is something unique for every ocean lover to find on a trip to the Outer Banks’ newest island. But because of the strong and unpredictable currents Cape Point is known for, those who make a journey to Shelly Island this season are encouraged to exercise extreme caution when venturing out to the sandbar. If you’re planning to visit Shelly Island for yourself, you’d better act fast: like the hundreds of shifting sandbars along the Graveyard of the Atlantic that came before it and then suddenly disappeared beneath the white-capped waves, Shelly Island likely won’t stick around forever.

 

The Story Behind the Historic Whalehead Club in Corolla

Photo: Steve Alterman Photography

When it comes to landmarks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the four iconic lighthouses along the coast from Corolla to Ocracoke Island frequently come to mind first. Although climbing up the spiral staircases inside these structures to take in unparalleled views of the ocean and sound is one of the most popular activities to participate in during an Outer Banks vacation, visitors should not skip a trip to yet another historic Outer Banks attraction: the Whalehead Club. 

Located in the heart of the village of Corolla and overlooking the Currituck Sound on the western edge of the barrier island, the Whalehead Club is a 21,000-square-foot mansion that boasts a bright-yellow painted exterior, 18 expansive dormers, five brick chimneys and a copper roof comprising 10,000 individual tiles—making it one of the most recognizable buildings on the entire Outer Banks. But while it is best-known today for serving as an exceptional venue for Outer Banks weddings and other extravagant affairs, the Whalehead Club has a unique history that harkens back nearly a century.  

Photo: WeddingWire.com

In the late 1800s—long before the Outer Banks became the popular East Coast vacation destination it is today—the Currituck Outer Banks were bustling with wild birds ranging from ducks to snow geese that flocked to the region in enormous swarms during the fall and winter. As news of the wildfowls’ presence began to spread, wealthy businessmen from New York, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia transformed tracts of undeveloped land throughout Currituck County into hotspots for houses that served as clubs where hunting enthusiasts who came to the Outer Banks to partake in such activities could rest after a long day in the field. One frequent visitor to the hunting clubs—particularly the Light House Club, which was established in 1874 near the Currituck Lighthouse—was a man named Edward Collings Knight Jr.

Photo: Michael Colligon Photography

An artist, businessman and heir to his father’s fortune, Knight and his second wife, Marie-Louise, spent a considerable amount of time visiting the Outer Banks throughout the early 1920s. Soon realizing they wanted to make the Currituck area their permanent residence, in April 1922 the Knights purchased the Light House Club as well as the 4.5-mile-long tract of land it sat upon. Not content to remain in the rustic accommodations of the hunting lodge they had purchased forever, the couple began to design the plans for their brand-new estate that would become the future Whalehead Club.

Photo: VisitCurrituck.com

Completed in 1925, the Whalehead Club was built upon 39 acres of pristine soundfront property as a hunting lodge that would house the couple and offer accommodations for well-to-do visitors to the Outer Banks. The construction project—which required all materials to be hauled in by boat due to an absence of paved roads in the village of Corolla—took three years to complete and cost the Knights $383,000 (more than $5.3 million today). A lavish example of the Art Nouveau style of architecture popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Whalehead Club consists of four stories and features a dozen bedrooms and bathrooms. The estate was one of the first structures east of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to have an elevator installed, and it was also the first residence on the entire Outer Banks to receive power.

Photo: WhaleheadWedding.com

Throughout the years, the Knights hosted plenty of company in their new show-stopping estate. As many as 30 friends and visitors came by each year, many staying for several weeks at a time to enjoy the coveted hunting season that lasted from October to March in the Currituck Outer Banks. In the years following the Great Depression, however, the waterfowl population on the Outer Banks began to wane as a result of decades of hunting along the barrier islands. Knight’s health also began a sharp decline in the 1930s, and on November 23, 1934, he suffered a heart attack, which prompted him and his wife to leave the Whalehead Club. In 1936, Edward Knight passed away, and just three months later, Marie-Louise suffered from what doctors believed to be an aneurysm and passed away as well.  

Photo: Tangled Roots and Trees BlogSpot

The Whalehead Club sat empty in Corolla, and Knight’s two granddaughters who had inherited it upon his death had no interest in maintaining the property, so it was placed on the market and purchased in 1940 by a Washington, D.C.-based businessman named Ray Adams. Because there was virtually no demand for such an enormous and extravagant property as a result of the Great Depression, Adams paid only $25,000 for the 15-year-old mansion and was the one who gave it its current name. Although Adams had grand plans to turn the estate into a year-round tourist destination for visitors of the Outer Banks, which was growing in popularity among those looking for an escape from city life, he passed away in 1957, and the house was once again put up for sale.

Photo: The Photo Hiker

In the years that followed, the Whalehead Club was purchased and then resold by various owners who had a wide array of different plans for its use—but eventually it was abandoned altogether, and the unkept building and its property was deemed an eyesore by the community. So in 1992 the Currituck County Board of Commissioners undertook a $1 million project to restore the dilapidated structure to its former glory as a luxurious 1920s hunting retreat. Following a long labor of love, the renovation was complete. Today, visitors to the Outer Banks can take a step back in time by embarking on a tour of the historic Whalehead Club and finding out what life there would have been like nearly 100 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

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