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The Top New Year’s Eve Events on the Outer Banks for 2019

alt="Bright fireworks bursting over a banner for New Year's Eve events on the Outer Banks 2019"The holiday season has officially arrived, 2019 is quickly coming to a close, and New Year’s Eve is fast approaching. When it’s time to put the past behind you and to celebrate brand-new beginnings—as well as all of the promise for a bright new future that 2020 brings—you’ll want to make sure you ring in the new year on the beach just right.

To ensure you have the absolute best “end of 2019” celebration possible, we’ve compiled a list of the top New Year’s Eve events on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Check out our list below for details on what’s happening at some of your favorite barrier island hot spots from Duck to Kill Devil Hills and from Manteo to Hatteras Island. From all of us at The Coastal Cottage Company: have a safe, happy and healthy 2019!

MANTEO:

The 3rd Annual “New Year in the New World” Celebration

alt="New Year's Eve events banner highlighting New Year in the New World party in Manteo, North Carolina"

If you’re searching for a family-friendly spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve on the Outer Banks this year, head to the heart of Roanoke Island for Manteo’s “New Year in the New World” celebration. This free New Year’s Eve event will begin at 5 p.m. in downtown Manteo with music by DJ Mixin’ Mike, followed by free concerts courtesy of Formula (8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) as well as Urban Soil, who will perform a can’t-miss “Dancing Through the Decades” set from 10 p.m. until midnight.  

Sample scrumptious snacks from a variety of on-site food vendors and take a stroll around the historic downtown area as you visit the assortment of shops that line the streets of this quaint community on Roanoke Island. Enjoy a wide array of events and activities designed to provide fun for the entire family, including an early ball drop for the kids at 8 p.m. Just before the evening’s events—and the year 2019—are about to come to a close, visitors are encouraged to hit the boat docks along the picturesque Manteo waterfront where they will witness a spectacular fireworks display to celebrate the official start of 2020.

For more information about the Town of Manteo’s annual New Year’s Eve events and “New Year in the New World” celebration, click here.

IF YOU GO:

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019
Time: 5 p.m. to midnight
Location: 207 Queen Elizabeth Avenue, Manteo, NC 27954
Cost: Free

KILL DEVIL HILLS:

Great Gatsby New Year’s Eve Party

alt="New Year's Eve events flyer featuring champagne glasses and gold balloons for Great Gatsby theme party"What better way to ring in the brand-new year than decking yourself out in a one-of-a-kind costume, drinking craft brews and sipping on handcrafted cocktails at your favorite local brewery? To celebrate the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, the Outer Banks Brewing Station is hosting a Great Gatsby-themed New Year’s Eve event starting at 10 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2019. Known for its wide selection of tasty beers brewed directly on-site, top-notch local DJs and its enormous dance floor, the Outer Banks Brewing Station is the only place to be when the clock strikes 12 and this little slice of paradise welcomes the arrival of 2020.

The festivities will feature music by DJ OHKAY and DJ Gustavo—plus an epic drop and champagne toast at midnight. If you’re looking for the perfect spot to soak up some late-night shenanigans this New Year’s Eve, look no further than the Outer Banks Brewing Station! Gather your favorite friends, grab your Great Gatsby-themed attire, and ring in the new year with an unforgettable throwback to the Roaring ’20s!

For more information about the Outer Banks Brewing Station’s New Year’s Eve events, click here.

IF YOU GO:

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019
Time: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Location: Outer Banks Brewing Station, 600 S. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Phone: 252-449-2739
Cost: $10 Cover

DUCK:

Annual Crab Pot Drop & Oyster Roast

alt="Roadside Bar & Grill's Backside Bar area features brightly colored umbrellas, glass bottles and Adirondack chairs"Nothing says “New Year’s Eve on the Outer Banks” quite like an all-you-can-eat oyster roast and a countdown to a crab pot drop. The Roadside Bar & Grill in Duck will celebrate the last few hours of 2019 with its annual crab pot drop party—a fun and festive event that has become a favorite tradition among locals and visitors alike over the past few years. 

The party begins at 6 p.m. with an assortment of food and drinks being served at Roadside’s famous Backside Bar. Fill up on a plate stacked high with fresh, local oysters you shucked yourself, and then kick back in an Adirondack chair to enjoy some quality time with friends and family while you wait for the brightly lit crab pot to make its highly anticipated descent across the decked-out backyard bar area at 10 p.m. Live music will be performed by The Ramble, a local “soul-rock” band whose original tunes that feature hints of blues, rock, jazz and funk offer something for everyone in your party to enjoy.

For more information about The Roadside Bar & Grill’s New Year’s Eve events, click here.

IF YOU GO:

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019
Time: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Location: The Roadside Bar & Grill, 1193 Duck Road, Duck, NC 27949
Cost: Crab pot drop, free. Oyster roast, cost TBA.

HATTERAS ISLAND:

Old Farts New Year’s Eve Event

alt="New Year's Eve events banner for Pangea Tavern's Old Farts New Year Eve party on Hatteras Island features fireworks"Let’s face it. We can’t all handle hanging out until the early morning hours to take in everything the late-night New Year’s Eve events on the Outer Banks have to offer. Fortunately, Pangea Tavern on Hatteras Island has the perfect solution for those looking to celebrate the wrapping up of 2019 without having to stay out until the wee hours of New Year’s Day.

Head down to the village of Avon—also known as “Kinnakeet”—on Hatteras Island for an early evening affair filled with delicious food, tasty libations, live music performed by Jeremy & the Generations, and unforgettable fun with friends and family. This event will begin at 5 p.m. for party-goers who wish to dine before the complimentary champagne toast and anchor drop takes places at 10 p.m.  

Reservations for dinner are required, so make sure you secure your spot for this super-fun New Year’s Eve event early! For more information about Pangea Tavern’s Old Farts New Year’s Eve event, or to make a reservation for dinner, click here. 

IF YOU GO:

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019
Time: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Location: Pangea Tavern, 41001 N.C. Highway 12, Avon, NC 27915
Cost: TBA (reservations required for dinner)
Phone: 252-995-3800

Celebrate Safely:

There’s no worse way to ring in the new year than wrecking your car—or putting yourself and those around you—in any kind of danger. When you’ve finished celebrating at your New Year’s Eve events, make sure you and your loved ones all get home safely. Choose a designated driver, order an Uber via the app, or call one of the many cab companies that are here to help you get home safely after your New Year’s Eve 2019 celebrations!

  • A1 Taxi: 252-599-7777
  • Beach Cab: 252-441-2500
  • Corolla Cab: 252-489-9408
  • Duck Taxi: 252-489-5228
  • Island Limousine: 252-441-5466 (open 24 hours)

Where to Search for Seashells on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

alt="Brightly colored seashells, starfish and scallops lay on a wooden tabletop"If seashell hunting ranks at the top of the list of your favorite things to do on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, chances are you’re already well-aware that this particular stretch of barrier island paradise is one of the best places in the world to stroll along the shoreline looking for hidden treasures.

It’s definitely possible to stumble across some rare finds on the beach right outside your quaint cottage or hotel room. However, if you’re hoping to find an unusual variety of seashell—or even a couple pieces of seaglass—you might have to venture a little farther from your cozy accommodations and scope out the spots that offer some of the best opportunities for seashell hunting on the entire East Coast of the United States.

Whether you’re planning your next vacation to the beach or you’re already on the islands and ready to get outside and start searching, check out our list of the top places for seashell hunting on the Outer Banks below before you go!

OCRACOKE ISLAND:

alt="Ocracoke Island is a prime spot for seashell hunting on the Outer Banks"
Photo: Our State Magazine

Few places on the Outer Banks are better spots for finding a plethora of unique seashells than along the shoreline of Ocracoke Island. Accessible only by ferry, private boat or private plane, Ocracoke Island is situated at the southernmost portion of the Outer Banks, bordered by the Pamlico Sound to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. This tiny island—which is home to a population of fewer than 1,000 year-round residents—comprises only 8.6 square miles of land but boasts 16 miles of pristine and undeveloped beaches. In fact, Ocracoke Island was recognized by Dr. Beach as the No. 2 beach in the United States in 2019 and has repeatedly received similar honors by Coastal Living Magazine, being recognized as one of the “Best Beaches in the USA” and “Best Beach Towns in North Carolina” in the past several years.

alt="A scotch bonnet seashell lays on a wooden deck"
Scotch Bonnet

Thanks to its prime location off the beaten path and its positioning just south of the spot where the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current converge at Cape Point on nearby Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island is the perfect spot to find an abundance of rare seashells—including the elusive scotch bonnet. This hard-to-find shell was officially named the state shell of North Carolina in 1965; however, even the most dedicated beachcombers and experienced seashell collectors have struggled with successfully finding one completely intact along the beaches of the Outer Banks. In addition to scotch bonnets, visitors who search for seashells on Ocracoke Island will also find an assortment of other interesting finds ranging from scallops, sand dollars, periwinkles and coquina clam shells to olive shells, whelks and queen helmet conchs.  

PEA ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE:

alt="Hundreds of seashells are strewn on this Outer Banks beach on Hatteras Island"
Photo: Fine Art America

When it comes to searching for seashells on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, one particular spot that consistently delivers a wide array of stunning and rare varieties is Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Located just south of Oregon Inlet on the northernmost tip of Hatteras Island, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is 13 miles long and covers nearly 6,000 acres of land and more than 25,000 acres of water. Like its Ocracoke Island counterpart, which sits a few miles off the coast of the opposite end of Hatteras Island, this uninhabited stretch of sandbar is a beachcomber’s dream come true.

alt="Seashell hunting on the Outer Banks also provides beachcombers the chance to find seaglass such as these bright pieces"
Photo: Carolina Designs Realty

In addition to serving as a sanctuary for 400 different species of wildlife ranging from dolphins and sea turtles to migratory birds, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge offers wide expanses of open shoreline just waiting to be explored by visitors who are searching for the perfect shell to add to their collection. Here you’ll likely find an assortment of colorful scallop shells, clams, whelks and moon snails. And if you’re truly lucky, you just might stumble upon a piece or two of Outer Banks seaglass because this sliver of secluded shoreline is a hot spot for these hidden gems! For more information about Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, check out our detailed blog here.

COQUINA BEACH:

alt="Coquina Beach is an excellent place for seashell hunting on the Outer Banks as seen here with hundreds of shells in the foreground"If you’re visiting the northern beaches of the Outer Banks and a trip to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge or Ocracoke Island is a bit too far to travel for an afternoon of seashell hunting, simply head down to South Nags Head and take a stroll along Coquina Beach to search for the perfect find.

Coquina Beach is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and it is conveniently located directly across N.C. Highway 12 from the Bodie Island Lighthouse at Milepost 22. This popular Outer Banks beach access offers both a bathhouse and plenty of parking spaces. Coquina Beach is just a short drive from the bustling beach towns of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head to the north, but it boasts seemingly endless stretches of undeveloped beaches and windswept sand dunes. This makes it the perfect place to spend your day searching for seashells without a lot of competition from other shell collectors.

alt="Numerous coquina clam shells of various colors lay on the wet sand"

What is a Coquina Clam?

Coquina Beach is aptly named after the coquina clam, whose shells are found in abundance along this particular piece of shoreline. This is especially true during the warm spring and summer months, when coquina clams are the most active. The wedge-shaped shells of these bivalve mollusks are small, ranging in size from about 1 centimeter to 1 inch in length. They also come in a rainbow of colors ranging from yellow, white and pink to purple, blue and orange.

Visit Coquina Beach in the spring and summer and you’ll likely witness live coquina clams quickly burrowing back down into the sand along the water’s edge after they are uncovered by the waves washing up along the shoreline. Coquina Beach may be best-known for the number of coquina clams that call this spot home; however, beachcombers will also find a variety of additional seashell varieties here. Keep an eye out for whelks, scallops and moon snails—as well as a plethora of driftwood and the occasional shard of Outer Banks seaglass!

TIPS & TRICKS FOR FINDING SEASHELLS:

  • Seashell hunting on the Outer Banks is typically the best in the morning hours (ideally just prior to or during sunrise). Getting to the shoreline before other beachcombers collect the most highly prized finds is key!

 

  • Scope out the beach during or just after a storm or period of rough surf. Intense wave action can stir up shells that are normally nestled along the seafloor or buried beneath the sand and deposit them onto the shoreline.

 

  • Hit the water’s edge as the tide is going out or when the tide is at its absolute lowest for the day. A receding tide reveals an abundance of shell beds that are normally covered by the ocean waves. These are often the best spots to discover hard-to-find treasures, particularly pieces of seaglass!

 

 

 

 

Seashell Hunting on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

alt="Dozens of seashells in various bright colors lay on top of one another on the beach"

Visitors who spend their summer vacations on the Outer Banks of North Carolina may come to the coast to enjoy the picturesque stretches of pristine shoreline, world-class watersports, first-class seafood and top-notch offshore fishing, but in addition to those popular attractions that draw visitors from hundreds of miles away, the wide, sandy beaches of the Tarheel State offer opportunities for another popular activity beloved by many who make the journey to the spot where the sand meets the sea: seashell hunting.

If you’re one of the many people who find themselves captivated by seashell hunting on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, check out the guide below to learn more about the types of seashells that are typically found on the Carolina coast and how to identify them.

THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF SEASHELLS FOUND ON THE OUTER BANKS OF NORTH CAROLINA

SCOTCH BONNET:

alt="This scotch bonnet is the state seashell of North Carolina and sometimes found on the Outer Banks"When it comes to seashell hunting on the Outer Banks, few finds are more highly prized by both novice and professional collectors alike than the scotch bonnet. Named for its characteristic pattern that resembles that of a Scottish tartan fabric, the scotch bonnet made its first appearance in scientific literature in 1778. In 1965, the North Carolina General Assembly designated the scotch bonnet as the official state shell at the urging of the North Carolina Shell Club. Despite its status as the state shell of North Carolina, the scotch bonnet is not necessarily found in abundance along the shoreline here, and it is actually considered to be quite a rare and treasured find.

alt="Portions of a live snail can be seen popping out of this scotch bonnet seashell crawling on the sand"Scotch bonnets are classified as gastropods, a large and diverse category of mollusks that comprises more than 62,000 different species. They are typically between 2 inches and 4 inches in length, and they range in color from white to cream with an overlaying tartan pattern in various hues of yellow, tan and brown.

Although scotch bonnets’ range extends as far south as Brazil, these mollusks are predominately found from North Carolina to Florida. The elusive creatures are most commonly found at depths of 50 feet to 150 feet and tend to prefer tropical water. This makes the Gulf Stream that runs along the coast of North Carolina—particularly the waters just off the coast of Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island—the perfect spot for scotch bonnets to call their home.

SCALLOP SHELLS:

alt="Scallop shells in bright hues of pink, orange, yellow and purple lay on a glass tabletop"Another shell whose invertebrate inhabitants prefer the temperate ocean waters off the coast of the Outer Banks is the scallop. More than 400 individual species of this bivalved mollusk are found in saltwater habitats all around the world. Two types in particular are frequently found on North Carolina’s beaches: the calico scallop and the bay scallop.

When you’re seashell hunting on the Outer Banks, you’ll likely find scallop shells in dozens of different colors. The most common hues range from black, white and gray to yellow, orange, pink and purple. In addition to coming in a plethora of colors, scallop shells are also found with several different patterns. The most coveted type of scallop shell among beachcombers and collectors is often this picture-perfect speckled variety.  

WHELK SHELLS:

alt="A conch shell lays in the sand as the sun rises over the ocean waves behind it"Often mistaken for a conch shell among those seashell hunting on the Outer Banks, whelk shells are found frequently on the shoreline of North Carolina’s barrier islands. Three unique varieties of whelk shells exist in the Atlantic Ocean: the lightning whelk, the knobbed whelk and the channeled whelk.

The 3 Types of Whelk Shells:

The lightning whelk shell is typically the largest of the three types. It features a series of spiny spirals around the circumference of its larger end, and has a left-sided opening. The knobbed whelk is essentially the mirror image of the lightning whelk. The only difference between the two is the fact that the knobbed whelk has a right-sided opening rather than an opening on the left. Unlike its lightning whelk and knobbed whelk counterparts, which feature spiny spirals on one end, the channeled whelk boasts a series of deep channels instead. These channels swirl to form the tip of the shell, thus giving the channeled whelk its name.

alt="Five whelk shells in hues of blue, gray and tan lay in a line on a North Carolina beach"
Photo: Coastal Review Online

Whelk shells vary significantly in size. The smallest whelks are often just 2 inches long, while the largest can exceed 14 inches in length. Whelk shells also vary greatly in color, ranging from black, gray and tan to bright shades of orange and pink. Like scallop shells, whelks can be found along the entire Outer Banks from Carova to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Despite their prevalence along the seashores of the Outer Banks, the majority of whelk shells that wash up onto the sand are cracked or broken, making finding one that is completely intact a true treasure.

COQUINA CLAMS:

alt="Coquina clam shells in a variety of bright colors are sprinkled on the wet sand of a beach"Scotch bonnets, scallops and whelks may be the most popular among people seashell hunting on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but some equally interesting varieties of shells are found much more easily and more much frequently on area beaches.

One such type of seashell you’ll likely encounter all over the barrier islands is the coquina clam. These wedge-shaped seashells are very small, and they typically only grow as large as 1 inch in length. Coquina clam shells come in a wide array of colors, including white, orange, yellow, purple, pink, blue and green. Some coquina clam shells are also characterized by various combinations of colors on one single shell. Coquina clams are tiny mollusks that are most often found at the water’s edge, particularly at periods of a low or receding tide, and stumbling upon a shell bed full of these fragile beauties is a serious sight to behold.

Where to Find Coquina Clam Shells:

If you’re seashell hunting on the Outer Banks and want to increase your chances of discovering dozens upon dozens of coquina clams in a seemingly endless assortment of colors, head to Coquina Beach in South Nags Head. This popular beach is named for the number of coquina shells that tend to wash up regularly on its pristine and undeveloped swath of shoreline.  

NOTE: To find out where some of the best places are for seashell hunting on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, check out our blog here.

SEAGLASS HUNTING ON THE OUTER BANKS:

If seashell hunting tops the list of your favorite Outer Banks activities, you’ll likely find searching for seaglass here equally appealing! Check out our blog on searching for Outer Banks seaglass here.

 

The Top 5 Holiday Activities on the Outer Banks in 2019

‘Tis the season for spending quality time with family and friends and for seeking out one-of-a-kind holiday festivities—and there’s no better place to experience the most wonderful time of year than the Outer Banks of North Carolina. From wildlife festivals and holiday light displays to Christmas parades and historical celebrations, you’ll find something for everyone to enjoy on the barrier islands this year.

So if you’re looking for some of the best spots to soak up the holiday spirit as 2019 comes to a close, you’re in luck. Here are the top 5 Outer Banks holiday activities you simply can’t miss this holiday season!

1. Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens

alt="Bright Christmas lights and nutcrackers decorate the entry gate during the Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens"
Photo: Resort Realty

Few holiday activities on the Outer Banks are as festive and famous as the Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens. Held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on select evenings from late November to mid-January each year, this must-attend event features spectacular displays of holiday lights upon the trees, bushes, plants and pathways that can be found within the 10-acre gardens situated on Roanoke Island.

In addition to the tens of thousands of lights that you’ll find strung along the hedges, wrapped around tree trunks and decking out the tips of virtually every branch, when you visit the Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens this season you’ll also encounter an open-air fire on the Great Lawn, as well as a wide array of holiday displays ranging from candy canes and gingerbread houses to reindeer and nutcrackers all along the walkways.

Photo: OuterBanks.com

When you’re finished wandering through the enchanting winter wonderland and soaking up the holiday spirit, step inside the gatehouse and reception hall, where you’ll discover an assortment of festive trees that are fully decorated for the season, as well as a gift shop filled with a variety of unique items that will help you get a head start on your holiday shopping this year!

IF YOU GO:

Dates: Nov. 30, 2019 to Jan. 19, 2020 (open Tuesdays through Saturdays in December; open Fridays and Saturdays in January).
Time: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Phone: 252-473-3234
Price: Adults $11, youth (ages 6-17) $9, child (ages 5 and under) $6. Winter Lights season passes are $17 for adults, $14 for youth and $11 for a child.

*NOTE: The Winter Lights will be closed on Dec. 24, Dec. 25, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. 

2. Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival

Photo: WingsOverWater.org

One of the most unique holiday activities on the Outer Banks is the Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival. Originally founded in 1997 by former refuge manager Mike Bryant, Wings Over Water is an annual fundraising event that takes place throughout six different wildlife refuges across eastern North Carolina. Since its inception 22 years ago, the popular event—which is billed as being one of the premier wildlife festivals on the East Coast of the United States—has grown from offering only a handful of activities to providing more than 90 activities that range from birdwatching and paddling to photography and art and history programs.  

Although the main portion of the event is held in October due to the potential for milder fall weather, a second session of festivities that focuses primarily on birdwatching—known as the Wings Over Water Encore—is held in December each year, when colder, late-season weather offers participants the opportunity to spot larger flocks of migratory birds traveling south along the Atlantic Flyway.

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival is sponsored by the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support regional and national wildlife refuges. Funds raised during the 2019 Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival will be used for an important project taking place on Hatteras Island: raising the visitor center at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge by approximately 5 feet. Scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2020, the project is an effort to protect this spot where thousands of nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts gather each year until a brand-new facility can be constructed in a less-threatened location.  

For a full schedule of events and activities for the Wings Over Water Encore session, visit www.wingsoverwater.org.

IF YOU GO:

Dates: Dec. 6, 2019 to Dec. 8, 2019
Phone: 252-216-9464
Price: Varies per program/trip

3. The 116th Annual Celebration of the Wright Brothers’ First Flight

Photo courtesy of OuterBanks.org

To commemorate the 116th anniversary of the day in 1903 on which brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the world’s first powered flight, the First Flight Society will hold a celebratory event on Dec. 17, 2019. Each year, the First Flight Society honors an individual or group that—like the Wright brothers—has achieved a significant “first” in the field of aviation and then inducts the honoree into the Dr. Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine.

This year, the organization will honor retired United States Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, a 99-year-old World War II veteran who became known as the “Candy Bomber” thanks to his humanitarian efforts during the Berlin Airlift. Col. Halvorsen will be honored as a representative of the crews that flew their planes throughout the duration of the mission, which took place from June 27, 1948, to May 12, 1949.

alt="United States Air Force Colonel Gail Halvorsen is wearing his USAF uniform"
Retired United States Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen. Photo courtesy of the First Flight Society.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the completion of the famous humanitarian event that profoundly impacted the lives of thousands of people in West Berlin as more than 2.3 million tons of cargo were flown over and dropped into this Soviet-occupied zone in Germany whose roads and waterways had been blockaded by the Russians to prevent any food or supplies from reaching residents of the region, which the Soviet Union sought to take complete control of.   

In addition to an induction of Col. Halvorsen, the 116th Annual Celebration of the Wright Brothers’ First Flight will also feature a flyover and the display of a C-54 and a C-47 aircraft, courtesy of the Berlin Airlift Foundation. For a closer look at the First Flight Society’s upcoming celebration and the inspiring story of the man being honored, click here to check out our blog about Col. Halvorsen and the heartwarming efforts that earned him the nickname of the “Candy Bomber” during the Berlin Airlift 70 years ago.

IF YOU GO:

Dates: Dec. 17, 2019
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Location: Wright Brothers National Memorial, 1000 N. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Phone: 252-441-1903
Price: Park admission fee will be waived for this event.

4. The Manteo Christmas Tree Lighting & Parade

Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

When it comes to holiday activities on the Outer Banks, one tradition you can’t miss this season is the annual Manteo Christmas Tree Lighting. Part of the Town of Manteo’s monthly First Friday events, this year’s Christmas tree lighting will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. The tree lighting will kick off an evening full of family-friendly activities that will all take place in the heart of this historic town on Roanoke Island.

Join Outer Banks residents and visitors as the town’s spectacular Christmas tree is lit for the first time this holiday season. Then enjoy a cup of hot cocoa as you stroll along the quaint streets of the downtown area visiting local shops and listening to the sounds of holiday music being sung by children of all ages.

Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

Head back to the Manteo waterfront on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, to take part in another popular tradition: the town’s annual Christmas parade, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. In addition to the parade, a wide array of other fun and festive events will be offered throughout the day, including a variety of themed contests and Outer Banks holiday activities designed to provide fun for the entire family!   

IF YOU GO:

Date: Dec. 6, 2019 and Dec. 7, 2019
Time: 6 p.m. on Dec. 6 for the Christmas tree lighting. 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 7 for the Christmas parade
Phone: 252-473-2133
Location: 207 Queen Elizabeth Avenue, Manteo, NC 27954
Price: Free

 5. The Poulos Family’s Outer Banks Christmas House

The Outer Banks Christmas House. Photo: Pinterest.

Nowhere on the entire Outer Banks will you find a more spectacular display of holiday lights at a private residence than the one that the Poulos family has been showcasing all around their property in Kill Devil Hills for the past 38 years. Ann and Jim Poulos purchased their house on Ocean Acres Drive in 1981, and beginning that year the family started a tradition that would soon make visiting their home during the holiday season a can’t-miss experience for everyone on the Outer Banks.

Thanks to the tens of thousands of brightly colored lights that cover virtually every corner of the property—plus the dozens of decorative displays that are set up all around the expansive lawn and even line the rooftop—the Outer Banks Christmas House quickly became famous among vacationers and locals alike. As you approach the property you will be greeted by the sounds of popular Christmas tunes playing on a stereo system, setting the stage for a unique place to get into the spirit of the season.

Photo: Clip.CookDiary.net

The Poulos family begins setting up the first round of decorations each year as early as August, and it typically takes as long as 12 weeks to put the finishing touches on this one-of-a-kind winter wonderland. The family’s intense efforts to transform their property into an experience that ranks as one of the top holiday activities on the Outer Banks has definitely paid off in the past. In fact, their home has been featured on HGTV, and it also earned the title of “Best Decorated House in America” by the Today show back in 2005.

When you’re in the mood to start taking in all of the festive scenes that the barrier islands of North Carolina have to offer this holiday season, make sure the Outer Banks Christmas House is at the top of your list! For more information about the Poulos Family’s Outer Banks Christmas House, click here to check out our featured blog from December 2018.

IF YOU GO:

Dates: Nov. 28, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2019 (nightly) 
Location: 622 Ocean Acres Drive, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

The Top Hiking Trails and Wildlife Hot Spots on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

alt="The sun shines through the trees on the hiking trails of this wetland on the Outer Banks"
Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast searching for a series of hiking trails where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the busy beaches on your next vacation to a sun-kissed shoreline, you’re in luck. The Outer Banks of North Carolina—a string of barrier islands situated right off the coast of the Tarheel State—are home to an assortment of nature preserves, wildlife refuges and hiking trails that provide the perfect place to soak up some one-on-one time with Mother Nature. For more information about what types of terrain you’ll likely experience and which species of wildlife you can expect to encounter on your next ecological adventure, check out our list of the top wildlife hot spots and hiking trails on the Outer Banks below.

NAGS HEAD:

Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

alt="A hiker sits on an overlook gazing out at the water on a gorgeous fall day at this wildlife refuge on the Outer Banks"
Photo: The Nature Conservancy

Nestled along the western edge of the island in the popular vacation town of Nags Head, the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve sits along the shoreline of the Roanoke Sound and comprises several unique habitats ranging from sand dunes and salt marshes to wetlands, ponds and a lush maritime forest. Visitors to this tranquil preserve that is positioned just off the beaten path will find seven marked hiking trails that meander through an ecological hot spot teeming with so much wildlife that it was officially designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1974.

Photo: The Nature Conservancy

Here you’ll find more than 100 species of birds—including egrets, wood ducks, green herons, red-shouldered hawks, clapper rails and ruby-throated hummingbirds—as well as 15 species of amphibians, seven species of fish and 28 species of reptiles. Thanks to its location on the sound side of the island where it is protected from the ocean winds, the preserve also supports a variety of plant life, including the rare water violet. To learn more about the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve, click here.

KITTY HAWK:

Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve

Photo: Shutterstock

One of the lesser-known natural areas on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Preserve, a large section of land situated along shores of the Currituck Sound in the western portion of northern Kitty Hawk. Much like its neighbor nine miles to the south, the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve, the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve comprises a maritime forest, salt marshes, soundside beaches and brackish swamplands—as well as a series of small uninhabited islands just offshore in the Currituck Sound—making the reserve an excellent place to encounter the wide array of wildlife that can be found within its borders.

Photo: InstagHub – @CoastalKayak.Obx

The Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve can be accessed via a number of trailheads as well as the multiuse path that runs along Woods Road—or, for the more adventurous outdoor enthusiasts, by boat, kayak or standup paddleboard. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll discover several designated hiking trails that wind through the maritime forest and eventually make their way out to the edge of the Currituck Sound. Tucked well away from the busy bypass and the hundreds of vacation rental homes that dot the coastline, the Kitty Hawk Woods Ecological Reserve is a secluded spot where visitors will have the chance to witness dozens of species of wildlife in their natural habitats.

Photo: DefendersBlog.org

Keep an eye open for the woodpeckers, wrens and warblers that seek protection from predators under the lush canopy of the maritime forest, as well as the hawks, owls, ospreys—and even the occasional bald eagle—that can be spotted sitting atop the trees or soaring across the sky above. In addition to numerous species of snakes, turtles and salamanders, the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve is also home to gray foxes, white-tailed deer, river otters, muskrats and bobcats—as well as seven rare plant varieties that are protected by the state of North Carolina.

CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE:

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Photo: Rob Sabatini Photography

When it comes to wildlife refuges and hiking trails that feature picture-perfect landscapes and boast the raw, natural beauty of a pristine and undeveloped shoreline, few in the world can compete with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Stretching 70 miles from end to end, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore begins at the border of South Nags Head and encompasses all of Hatteras Island, including the towns of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Frisco, Buxton and Hatteras. At the northernmost tip of Hatteras Island, where the sandbar meets the waters of Oregon Inlet, visitors will come across some of the most diverse ecosystems on the entire Eastern Seaboard at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo: HatterasFishingCaptain.com

Extending over 13 miles from north to south and comprising 5,834 acres of land and more than 25,000 acres of water, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to nearly 400 species of wildlife ranging from dolphins and sea turtles to migratory birds and blue crabs. Of the hundreds of species that reside within the refuge—which covers both the ocean side of the barrier island to the east and the sound side of the island to the west, as well as all of the land that falls in between—315 species are birds, 34 are fish, 32 are reptiles, 21 are terrestrial mammals, eight are marine mammals, and 20 are other types of aquatic organisms. Many of the species of wildlife that live within the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge are threatened or endangered, including loggerhead sea turtles, green sea turtles and piping plovers. Best explored either on foot or via kayak or standup paddleboard, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge features a visitor center and two hiking trails that wind their way through this slice of barrier island paradise.

Photo: NCPedia.org

The North Pond Trail is a half-mile long and takes visitors on a relatively easy stroll around a series of ponds along the sound side of the refuge. On this hiking trail you’ll have the chance to witness a variety of wildlife up close and personal via a wooden boardwalk as well as a double-decker observation tower and three observation decks. The Salt Flats Trail offers more of an “off the beaten path” terrain, but a hike along this trail is well worth the effort. Here you’ll likely encounter an assortment of birds ranging from falcons to snowy egrets as well as more than two dozen types of reptiles. The trail ends with a scenic overlook, and during the summer months volunteers are available to answer questions about the plethora of species that live in the unique habitats that comprise Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. For more detailed information about the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, check out our in-depth blog here.

Outer Banks Leash Laws: Rules & Regulations from Corolla to Nags Head to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore

alt="A happy dog sits on the beach with ocean waves and mossy rocks behind him"Stretching from the southern border of coastal Virginia to the tip of legendary Ocracoke Island, the Outer Banks of North Carolina feature some of the most dog-friendly beaches in the United States. Boasting more than 200 miles of unspoiled shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean, this picturesque string of barrier island beaches has beckoned vacationers to its sun-soaked seashore for more than a century—and what better way to enjoy some fun in the sun than letting your four-legged family member tag along on your trip?

alt="A smiling Shiba Inu is enjoying a beach day on the Outer Banks of North Carolina"To ensure your furry friend stays safe during your visit to the beach this year—and to avoid potentially being fined for breaking the rules and regulations regarding pets on the beach—it’s important to be aware of and to follow these Outer Banks leash laws. Whether you’re spending your week of rest and relaxation in Corolla, Kill Devil Hills, the tiny villages that comprise Hatteras Island or any of the beautiful beaches in between, we’ve got you covered with the most up-to-date Outer Banks leash laws for 2019 below.

OUTER BANKS LEASH LAWS ON THE NORTHERN BEACHES:

Learn the rules and regulations regarding Outer Banks leash laws in Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Corolla, Duck and Southern Shores.

NAGS HEAD:

Perhaps the most well-known of all the towns on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Nags Head is also one of the most popular, attracting tens of thousands of visitors to its shoreline each year.

Vacationers who travel to Nags Head with their dogs must keep them restrained with leashes no longer than 10 feet. Dogs are permitted on Nags Head beaches year-round; however, violations of the town’s leash law could result in a criminal and/or civil penalty.

KILL DEVIL HILLS:

Home to the Outer Banks’ largest year-round population, Kill Devil Hills is best-known for being the site where the Wright Brothers launched the world’s first powered flight on December 17, 1903—a historical accomplishment that is commemorated at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Because it has such a large population of local residents—approximately 7,000 people—in addition to the thousands of visitors that are drawn to the town for vacation each season, Kill Devil Hills also has some of the strictest Outer Banks leash laws.

During the in-season (from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year), dogs are only permitted to be on the beaches of Kill Devil Hills before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m.—with the exception of registered service dogs who are being used to aid an individual with a disability.

For the remainder of the year, dogs are permitted on the beach at any time; however, they must be kept on a leash and under the supervision and control of their owner or handler at all times.

KITTY HAWK:

Much like its neighbor to the south, Kitty Hawk is also home to a large population of local residents. This northern Outer Banks town is exceptionally pet-friendly—dogs are welcome on Kitty Hawk’s beaches year-round—although different sets of Outer Banks leash laws and restrictions apply depending upon both the time of year and the time of day.

During the in-season—which the town considers to be the Friday before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day each year—dogs are permitted on the beaches in Kitty Hawk, but between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. they must be kept on a leash that does not exceed six feet in length.

Throughout the remainder of the year (the off-season), Kitty Hawk allows dogs to be on the town’s beaches with retractable leashes up to 12 feet in length. Dogs may be taken off leash on Kitty’s Hawk beaches only if they will not disturb or interfere with other beachgoers and their pets. Unleashed dogs are required to be under the strict control of their owner or handler, and this person must remain within 30 feet of their unleashed dog at all times.

Owners/handlers must also possess a leash for their dog, as well as a bag or container for pet waste removal at all times. Violation of these Outer Banks leash laws in Kitty Hawk is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $50.

COROLLA:

Situated upon the northernmost portion of the Outer Banks, the village of Corolla is located in Currituck County and best-known for its most famous residents: the herd of wild horses that roam the beaches of this unique coastal community.

Dogs are permitted on the beaches of Corolla year-round; however, Outer Banks leash laws require that they be restrained on a leash at all times. There are currently no restrictions on the length of the leash.

DUCK:

When it comes to Outer Banks leash laws, Duck has one of the least restrictive of all of North Carolina’s pet-friendly barrier island beaches.

Dogs are permitted to be unleashed on the beaches of Duck at any time; however, they must remain under the supervision of their owner or handler at all times as a matter of courtesy and public safety.

SOUTHERN SHORES: 

Spanning fewer than five miles from north to south, Southern Shores’ coastline is one of the smallest stretches of beach on the Outer Banks.

During the in-season—which runs from May 15 to September 15 each year—dogs are allowed on the beaches of Southern Shores only before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

During the off-season—which runs from September 16 to May 14 each year—there are no restrictions on the hours that dogs are permitted to be on the town’s beaches.

Southern Shores enforces a year-round leash law, meaning dogs are NOT allowed to be off-leash on the beach at any time. In addition, the town mandates that leashes must not exceed 10 feet in length.

OUTER BANKS LEASH LAWS ON THE SOUTHERN BEACHES:

CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE:

Learn the rules and regulations regarding Outer Banks leash laws within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This includes the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras, as well as Ocracoke Island.

Beginning in South Nags Head and continuing through both Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the crown jewel of the North Carolina coastline. This 70-mile-long stretch of pristine and predominantly uninhabited shoreline is home to a wide array of attractions, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.

Dogs are welcome on the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore as long as they are restrained at all times on a leash that does not exceed six feet in length. However, pets are not permitted within any resource enclosures, on designated swim beaches (signs will notify you of these locations), or inside designated buildings—such as visitor centers, museums, etc.

THE TOP PET-FRIENDLY OUTER BANKS ATTRACTIONS:

alt="A golden retriever with a tennis ball in his mouth is playing in the ocean waves"Looking for some fun and exciting places you can visit with your four-legged friends while you’re enjoying your stay on the North Carolina coast?

Check out our list of the top pet-friendly attractions on the Outer Banks here!

 

 

 

Tips for Winterizing Your Beach House

alt="An oceanfront beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina covered in snow during winter"
Photo: A historic oceanfront cottage in Nags Head, North Carolina. Image courtesy of Fine Art America.

 

Whether your seaside sanctuary is a second home primarily used for summer vacations—so you plan to batten down the hatches and secure it for the season—or your coastal cottage is your family’s primary residence and you will be riding out the winter there, owning a home in a seaside community means taking the time to start winterizing your beach house properly. Failing to perform the proper preventative measures before snow, ice and freezing temperatures arrive could cause your home to incur major damage over the cold winter months—the effects of which can be both time-consuming and costly to repair or replace. When you’re preparing to winterize your beach house this season, make sure the following items are on your to-do list.

PROTECT YOUR PLUMBING SYSTEM

alt="Water is shooting out of several places in a broken pipe"
Photo: George Herald

When it comes to winterizing your beach house, few tasks are more important to take care of than properly protecting your plumbing from the potential devastation that can be caused by freezing temperatures. Because the vast majority of beach houses were originally built as vacation homes that would primarily be occupied during the warm spring and summer months, many homeowners find that their property’s plumbing lacks the appropriate amount of insulation to protect the pipes from becoming frozen and ultimately bursting open. If you’re a year-round resident and will be residing at your property during the winter, perform a thorough examination of the insulation surrounding the interior and exterior pipes throughout your beach house—including those in attics, utility rooms and crawl spaces—to check for missing, damaged or insufficient insulation that could put the pipes at a higher risk of freezing up when cold weather strikes.  

alt="A man wraps insulation around a pipe to prevent it from freezing as part of the winterizing process"
Photo: Pinterest

If you don’t plan on spending any time at your beach house yourself this winter—and you also don’t intend to make the property available for potential vacationers to rent out for a week or two—winterizing your beach house is a relatively quick and easy process. While you should always make a habit of routinely examining your home’s pipes each winter to ensure that anything exposed to the elements is adequately covered by insulation, the only surefire way to protect your pipes from bursting when the temperature dips below freezing is to prevent any water from traveling through them in the first place. Before you vacate your home for the season, simply switch off the property’s main water supply, then open all interior and exterior faucets—including showers and bathtub faucets—to completely drain any remaining water out of the pipes.

alt="A home's kitchen and living room are filled with several feet of water from flooding"
Photo: Specialty Restoration of Texas

Neglecting to properly prepare your plumbing system when winterizing your beach house for the cold months to come could result in catastrophic damage if water inside a pipe freezes to the point of expansion—causing the pipe to burst and potentially costing you thousands of dollars in water damage (not to mention an extremely high water bill), particularly if the leak goes undetected for an extended period of time.

ADD INSULATION TO WINDOWS, DOORS & OTHER SUSCEPTIBLE AREAS

alt="Looking out of a beach house window covered in snow on the Outer Banks of North Carolina"
Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Regardless of whether you are staying at your residence throughout the winter months this year or you’re closing it up and heading out of town until spring, checking to make sure windows, doors and other susceptible spots are properly insulated is a key component of winterizing your beach house. When doors and windows lack proper insulation, drafts of cold air are permitted to penetrate your property through small gaps or leaks along their edges—and the warm air inside your house is allowed to escape, causing costly energy bills that can easily be avoided by taking a few preventative measures.

alt="A person adds gray insulation to the interior edges of a window while winterizing their residence"
Photo: Amazon

 

Although many homeowners assume the insulation found around their doors and windows is sufficient as is, it’s imperative to examine the condition of your home’s insulation and weatherstripping every season to ensure it isn’t damaged. Keep in mind that older homes that have not been maintained properly—as well as homes that are used as vacation rental properties and therefore experience more use and higher rates of wear and tear—are much more likely to sustain damage to doors and windows than gently used primary residences. No matter which type of property you own, the first step to winterizing your beach house is a thorough examination of all at-risk areas, which range from windows and doors to attics and chimneys.

CLEAN AND INSPECT YOUR CHIMNEY

alt="Flames shoot out of the roof and windows as fire rips through a beach house in Nags Head, North Carolina"
Photo: The Coastland Times

One item that is often overlooked by homeowners who are in the process of winterizing their beach house is cleaning and inspecting their chimney—a task that is extremely important to undertake at least once each year, particularly if a proper examination wasn’t performed before it was first used in the fall. According to the National Fire Protection Association, failure to clean chimneys is a leading cause of home heating house fires. From leaves, twigs and pine cones to bird nests and tree branches, a wide array of debris can easily make its way inside your chimney and begin to obstruct the airflow. In addition to these types of blockages, the buildup of flammable material caused by incomplete combustion can also create dangerous conditions and fire hazards that need to be taken care of before the chimney can be used to keep your family warm during cold weather.

alt="A stylish fireplace is the focal point of a beautifully decorated living room in this beach house"
Photo: The Spruce

Although it’s possible to perform a quick look inside your chimney yourself to check for debris, deterioration and damage, experts say a chimney check shouldn’t be considered a do-it-yourself job. In order to ensure your chimney is cleaned correctly and that the system is in good working order, contact a professional to handle this winterization task for you. Hiring an experienced professional will not only prevent you from overlooking damage or debris that could result in a catastrophe once the chimney is used to heat your home; it will also provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing this important beach house winterization chore was performed correctly.

EXAMINE YOUR ROOF AND GUTTERS

alt="A man wearing a glove pulls a wad of mud and wet leaves out of a clogged gutter"
Photo: All American Gutter Protection

When it comes to the massive amount of water damage that can occur along the roof if you don’t know how to winterize your beach house properly, prevention is a key component of protecting your property. Check the entire length of your gutters to ensure they are clean and free of any leaves, branches or other types of debris, which can create potentially dangerous clogs. If debris—particularly wet leaves—is left unchecked and permitted to build up inside your gutters, it can add a considerable amount of weight and cause them to leak, crack or even tear loose from the roof.

alt="The ceiling of this home is destroyed due to water damage after an ice dam caused flooding to occur from the roof"
Photo: The Ice Dam Company

Likewise, when water is prevented from draining properly due to clogs in your gutters, it can lead to the formation of ice dams when temperatures drop below freezing. Once an ice dam has formed, it can have devastating effects on a residence—ranging from broken gutters and missing shingles to destroyed roofing and major flooding inside the attic or top-level living space—if the problem isn’t remedied immediately because the water trapped behind an ice dam can flow under the shingles on your roof and leak into the house, potentially damaging the ceilings, walls, floors and insulation. Water damage can be catastrophic and costly, so if you own a home along the coast, your best bet is to prevent it from occurring in the first place by properly winterizing your beach house this season.

alt="The flashing on a roof around the chimney is shown before and after repairs were completed"
Photo: Wilcox Roofing

In addition to checking for clogs inside your downspouts and gutters, be sure to inspect the rest of the roof for any damaged or missing shingles, which can lead to leaks in those locations during rain showers or snowstorms. While you’re winterizing your beach house by performing your roof check, don’t forget to examine the flashing—the thin, weatherproof pieces of metal that are installed around windows, doors, gutters, chimneys and other exterior joints—to ensure it is functioning correctly and diverting runoff away from vulnerable areas of the roof.

SECURE YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE

alt="When winterizing your beach house, deck chairs like these on the Outer Banks of North Carolina should be stored inside"
Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Once you’ve wrapped up the to-do list of tasks inside your home, the last step you need to take when winterizing your beach house is to secure the items in your outdoor space. Bring patio and deck furniture indoors to prevent it from being damaged during inclement weather and to avoid it being blown about in high winds. If you are unable to move outdoor furniture inside your home, a garage or shed, be sure to secure it sufficiently in a safe spot so that it doesn’t come loose and get lost—or cause damage to other parts of your property during winter snowstorms or nor’easters.

TIP: WINTERIZING YOUR BEACH HOUSE WITH THE HELP OF A FRIEND OR NEIGHBOR

alt="An oceanfront beach house sits just beyond snow covered rocks and sand dunes during the sunset"
Photo: Flickr

If you own a beach house but won’t be riding out the winter at the property, consider finding a friend, a neighbor or someone located nearby who can periodically check on your home upon request to check for damage and report any necessary repairs back to you. You can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that comes with knowing someone is ready and willing to keep a watchful eye on your home away from home this winter until you can finally return to your slice of paradise in the springtime.

The Outer Banks Christmas House – Experience the Poulos Family’s Spectacular Holiday Lights Display

alt="The Outer Banks Christmas House in Kill Devil Hills is decorated with thousands of brightly colored holiday lights by the Poulos family"
The Outer Banks Christmas House, 622 Ocean Acres Drive, Kill Devil Hills, NC Photo: Stephanie Banfield

When it comes to Christmas on the Outer Banks, few seasonal attractions are more festive—or more famous—than the Outer Banks Christmas House, a spectacular holiday lights display created each year by the Poulos family of Kill Devil Hills.

THE HISTORY OF THE OUTER BANKS CHRISTMAS HOUSE:

Featuring tens of thousands of lights and dozens of holiday-themed decorations that are sprinkled across the lawn, stationed along the roof and even strung throughout the tall trees dotting the property, the Outer Banks Christmas House has become a must-visit destination during the nearly 40 years since its inception. 

alt="Festive displays cover the yard of the Outer Banks Christmas House owned by the Poulos family in North Carolina"
Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Nestled along the northern edge of Ocean Acres Drive, less than a mile from the bypass, the house is owned by Ann and Jim Poulos, who purchased the property in 1981—and they’ve been lighting it up in a one-of-a-kind way ever since.

Setting up such a huge and intricate display is no easy task, and the couple often begins bringing out the first round of decorations as early as August. After about 12 weeks of stringing lights and setting up the 80-plus Christmas scenes that can be found in various locations throughout property, the Outer Banks’ most popular holiday lights display is typically ready to be lit for the first time each season around Thanksgiving.

alt="The front yard of the Outer Banks Christmas House in Kill Devil Hills is filled with holiday displays and lights the Poulos family decorates with"
Photo: Stephanie Banfield

EXPLORING THE OUTER BANKS CHRISTMAS HOUSE:

Unlike the vast majority of holiday light displays held at private residences, the Outer Banks Christmas House offers visitors a chance to hop out of their vehicles and explore the festivities on foot rather than simply driving by for a few short seconds.

A handful of parking spots are available directly across from the house, and visitors are invited to take a stroll and spend a considerable amount of time walking around the winter wonderland the Poulos family has created. A stereo system that sends the sounds of popular Christmas tunes across the property is sure to put you in the holiday spirit as you tour the amazing display of lights that been featured on HGTV and even earned the title of the Today show’s “Best Decorated House in America” back in 2005.

Whether you’re visiting the Outer Banks for the holidays or you’re a local resident in search of a little bit of holiday cheer, there’s no better spot to feel the Christmas spirit right here on the barrier islands than the Outer Banks Christmas House on Ocean Acres Drive. 

alt="The Poulos family of the Outer Banks have a home and yard covered in thousands of Christmas decorations and Christmas lights"
Photo: Stephanie Banfield

HOW TO GET THERE:

The Outer Banks Christmas House is situated in the heart of Kill Devil Hills at 622 Ocean Acres Drive, making it easily accessible for anyone wishing to stop by and experience the spectacular display.

You can access this must-visit holiday attraction by heading west on Ocean Acres Drive (turning at the stoplight at McDonald’s on the bypass). Follow the road through the neighborhood for about 3/4 of a mile. As you round a small bend, the road will turn to gravel, and you won’t be able to miss the thousands of bright lights and the assortment of festive decorations that lie right in front of you. So hop out of your vehicle and explore the Poulos family’s incredible Christmas display on the Outer Banks of North Carolina!

 

 

The Ocracoke Pony Pen: Home of the Wild Ponies of Ocracoke Island

Photo: TripAdvisor

From the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Wright Brothers National Memorial to Jockey’s Ridge State Park and the site of the Lost Colony, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are brimming with attractions and activities for everyone in the family to enjoy—and when it comes to area wildlife you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to witness unique species in their natural habitat. While most people planning a vacation on the Outer Banks are familiar with the wild horses of Corolla, far fewer are aware of another herd of horses that have called the barrier islands home for centuries: the wild ponies of Ocracoke Island.

Photo: VisitOcracokeNC.com

Ocracoke Island:

Situated to the south of nearby Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island spans just 16 miles of land from one end to other, and ranges from three miles wide in some spots to only a half-mile wide in others. Because the narrow spit of sand is only accessible by air or water, Ocracoke Island has retained a laidback island vibe and experienced minimal development over the past several decades, making it a prime vacation destination for those in search of a relaxing Outer Banks vacation off the beaten path and away from many tourist attractions that dot the northern beaches from Corolla to South Nags Head. But if there’s one thing everyone traveling to Ocracoke Island should put on their to-do list, it’s taking a trip to the pen that protects the wild Ocracoke ponies to check out the island’s most famous residents.

Photo: National Park Service

How to Get to the Ocracoke Pony Pen:

Following a 40-minute ferry ride from Hatteras Village to the port at the northern tip of Ocracoke Island, visitors who travel south along N.C. Highway 12 toward Ocracoke Village will discover a small paved parking area on the west side of the road. Upon pulling in to park, you’ll spot a wooden fence that sections off a 188-acre plot of land that extends along the soundside of the island and serves as the home of Ocracoke’s herd of wild horses whose story dates back several centuries. Although the herd that once freely roamed the island consisted of as many as 300 horses, the Ocracoke pony pen currently contains only 16 horses, the youngest of which is a female named Hazelnut who was born in February 2015.   

Photo: Britannica.com

How the Wild Ocracoke Ponies Ended Up Here:

Just like their neighbors to the north—the wild horses of Corolla—the wild Ocracoke ponies that call this tiny island home are the direct descendants of Spanish mustangs who swam to shore when the ships upon which they were traveling ran aground while attempting to navigate the shifting shoals that make up the infamous Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Beginning in the 1500s, European explorers started to set sail across the Atlantic Ocean with their sights set upon North America, where they eventually landed and established colonies within what is frequently referred to as the “New World.” Before the explorers embarked on their long and arduous journey from Europe to the present-day United States, they loaded their vessels with an abundance of supplies ranging from food and clothing to a variety of livestock—including, in many cases, domesticated Spanish mustangs.

Photo: Sara Maglieaene

Shipwrecked in the Graveyard of the Atlantic:

As the ships neared the coastline of the barrier islands that compose the Outer Banks, however, they encountered the dangerous Diamond Shoals—a series of underwater sandbars that begin near Cape Hatteras and extend outward from the shoreline for several miles in different directions depending upon the currents.

Frequently hidden well beneath the waves and constantly shifting into new formations of varying sizes and depths as the currents flowed around them, the Diamond Shoals posed a considerable threat to sailors, who often didn’t know the treacherous sandbars sat in their path until their ships crashed right into them, causing them to run aground and remain stuck—or to take on water and slowly sink to the seafloor.

An extreme challenge to spot from the surface of the water and virtually impossible to navigate, the Diamond Shoals are responsible for approximately 600 shipwrecks along the coastline of the Outer Banks, earning the region its nickname of “the Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Photo: National Park Service

Lightening the Load:

Desperate to lighten their loads enough to free a ship that had become stuck on one of the sandbars in shallow water, sailors frequently tossed unnecessary and heavy supplies overboard.

According to the Ocracoke Current, the herd of wild ponies that occupies Ocracoke Island are believed to be the descendants of Spanish mustangs unloaded onto the beach by Sir Richard Grenville, the captain of an English ship called Tiger, when the vessel ran aground near Ocracoke Island in 1585 during Grenville’s voyage in search of the missing settlers of the Lost Colony who had just mysteriously vanished from nearby Roanoke Island.

Although this theory has never officially been proven, historic documentation indicates that the wild ponies of Ocracoke were definitely present on the island as far back as the 1730s, and in the years since they have played an integral role in the lives of many residents and visitors.

Photo: Pinterest

Putting the Ocracoke Ponies to Work:

As the population of Ocracoke Island slowly grew, its residents began to see an array of opportunities in which they could use the herd of wild horses that roamed the area beaches and salt marshes to their advantage. After capturing and taming some of the horses within the 300-member herd, the Outer Bankers living on Ocracoke Island put them to work pulling carts that were loaded with heavy cargo and supplies that were otherwise difficult to transport from one location to another.

The wild ponies of Ocracoke Island continued to be used for the residents’ benefits in the centuries that followed, with the men who served in the United States Life-Saving Service riding the horses during routine beach patrols and using them to pull heavy equipment to and from the site of shipwrecks in the late 1800s. This trend continued in the 20th century, when the United States Coast Guard rode domesticated members of the Ocracoke pony herd as they conducted beach patrols in search of the German U-boats that patrolled the waters just offshore from the Outer Banks during World War II.

Photo: Ocracoke Island Journal

Penning in the Ponies:

In the 1950s, the local Boy Scouts cared for the wild ponies of Ocracoke, and they soon earned the distinction of being the only mounted troop in the United States. In 1957, the state paved N.C. Highway 12, resulting in a dramatic increase in the numbers of vehicles traveling along the island—and ultimately leading to ponies being accidentally injured or killed.

When it became evident that the ponies’ presence was contributing to an increase in traffic accidents on the island and causing issues related to overgrazing, legislators passed a law in 1959 that required the ponies to be permanently penned for their own safety as well as that of the island’s residents and visitors. That same year the National Park Service (NPS) constructed the nearly 200-acre soundside pen in which the herd of horses is free to roam. The NPS took charge of caring for the wild Ocracoke ponies beginning in the 1960s and continues to do so today.

Photo: Crystal L. Canterbury

Visiting the Ocracoke Ponies Today:

Today, visitors can stop by the pony pen to see the 16 horses that comprise Ocracoke’s herd of wild ponies up close and personal. Although the herd is free to roam the soundside beach and the salt marsh that sits within the confines of their protective pen, the ponies often spend time around the stable and paddock. This makes it incredibly easy for them to be spotted from the parking area along the fenced enclosure.

An elevated viewing platform and pathway alongside the pasture offer additional opportunities to view the wild horses whenever you please. The National Park Service also offers a variety of programs at the pony pen to teach visitors all about the herd of Spanish mustangs who have called Ocracoke Island home since their ancestors first swam ashore from shipwrecked vessels several centuries ago.  

Rip Currents on the Outer Banks: How to Stay Safe this Summer

Photo: Pinterest

With summer in full swing and hurricane season in full force—as well as a series of storms being projected to cross paths with the coast of North Carolina in the coming days and weeks—it’s important to understand the dangers of rip currents on the Outer Banks and to find out what you can do to keep both yourself and your family safe at the beach this year. Whether you’re an experienced swimmer and think you have nothing to worry about while you’re riding the waves or you’re already cautious about venturing into the surf and want to be well aware of the risks posed by the water, taking a few minutes to learn what causes rip currents, how to spot them in the ocean and what to do if you’re caught in a rip current could ultimately save your life.

What is a Rip Current?

Photo: Modern Mom

Every year, rip currents claim the lives of dozens of people swimming along the coastlines of picturesque beaches around the world—and the Outer Banks is no exception. Frequently found along the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, rip currents are extremely powerful channels of fast-moving water that pull water away from the edge of the beach and out into the ocean. These narrow channels flow perpendicular to the shoreline and most often form around breaks in sandbars and near structures such as fishing piers, groins and jetties.

Photo: Pinterest

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rip currents typically reach speeds of 1 to 2 feet per second—meaning a swimmer caught in a rip current will be pulled 1 to 2 feet away from the shoreline and into the open ocean every second—but the dangerous currents have also been measured at speeds as fast as 8 feet per second, which the coastal agency says is faster than any Olympic swimmer ever recorded.   

Photo: Seaside Vacations

The U.S. Lifesaving Association estimates that as many as 80 percent of all rescues at ocean beaches are the result of swimmers being swept out to sea by these strong, localized surface currents—and approximately 100 people die each year when they get caught in a rip current and ultimately drown while trying to escape. Learning how to spot a rip current so you can avoid swimming in the area is key to protect yourself from becoming one of these statistics and will help prevent a crisis from occurring the next time you hit the beaches of the Outer Banks for some fun in the sun.

When Do Rip Currents Form?

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Think rip currents only occur when the surf is rough or when the water is already churned up from coastal storm systems passing offshore? Think again. Rip currents can form in the water at any time—including when the ocean is seemingly calm on a deceptively bright and sunny day. According to NOAA, multiple rip currents of various sizes and speeds can develop in the water when wave activity is slight, and during periods of heavy wave action beachgoers will actually find fewer—but more concentrated—rip currents forming in the surf zone. Coastal scientists warn swimmers that spontaneous rip currents can form on any given day with no notice, so don’t be deceived into thinking the ocean is safe to swim in just because it appears to be calm on the surface.

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

In addition to being just as cautious about the presence of rip currents on the Outer Banks during calm days with minimal wave action as you are during days when the surf is rough and the development of rip currents seems more likely, you should also be on high alert for rip currents that materialize during periods of low tide. Although they are not directly caused by tide changes, rip currents frequently form along the beach during low tide—and these rip currents can prove to be even more dangerous to swimmers than rip currents that occur during high tide because the ocean water is already being sucked out to sea as the tide goes out.

How to Spot a Rip Current

Photo: Gulustan

So how do you spot a rip current so you know when to avoid wading out into the water? Because individual rip currents can vary dramatically in size and speed due to a variety of factors—such as wave conditions, tide changes and the shape of the beach upon which the surf is breaking—spotting a rip current is sometimes rather easy for people who know what to look for, but oftentimes the potentially deadly channel of fast-flowing water goes completely unnoticed by unsuspecting swimmers spending a day along the shoreline.

Photo: The Ecologist

In some cases, the exact location in which a rip current exists under the surface may actually be the same spot that appears to be the calmest place among the waves, luring many beachgoers who looking for a “safe” place to swim right into the treacherous current and catching them completely off guard. According to coastal hazards specialists, rip currents that are situated above a deep channel in a sandbar look like a calm patch of water when you’re standing on the beach or just inside the shallows. Don’t be fooled by this deceptively smooth area that is tucked between areas full of breaking waves to the right and left of it. And to truly play is safe this season, when you can’t quite tell if a rip current is present, take the old adage of “when in doubt, don’t go out” to heart.

Photo: Crocodive

If you do plan to swim in the ocean this summer, the U.S. Lifesaving Association advises beachgoers to look for a variety of characteristics of the surf that could signal a rip current is waiting right off the shoreline. One of the biggest indicators that a rip current is present is a narrow streak of muddy or sandy water in a certain spot that can often be seen from the beach or as you step into the waves. When a rip current is strong enough, the fast-moving water flowing churns up the sand along the ocean floor and drags it through the channel. Rip currents that disrupt the incoming ocean waves and stir up the sand and sediment on the seafloor are typically severe and therefore extremely dangerous—but because of this they can also sometimes be spotted from a distance, so keep an eye out for areas where no waves are breaking and the water appears to be muddy, and then avoid swimming in that location altogether.

Photo: iAlert

Just as swaths of the ocean’s surface that appear unusually calm compared to the wave action in surrounding spots can indicate that the seemingly smooth patch is actually a rip current, areas where the water is choppy, is a different color of water than the rest of the water around it, or that consists of a line of debris such as foam or seaweed can also be the sites of rip currents of varying degrees of severity. While a properly trained eye can easily recognize many of these situations when they occur to such a degree that they are visible from the shoreline, the U.S. Lifesaving Association cautions swimmers to remain aware of the fact that rip currents don’t all show up in the same manner—and that even if none of the above situations can be spotted in the sea, deadly rip currents can still be present around you.

Photo: Village Realty Outer Banks

Before you venture into the ocean for a day of fun in the sun swimming in the surf this summer, stop by the lifeguard stationed on the beach you’re visiting to find out the risk of rip currents in your area or any other dangerous conditions you need to be aware of that day. These first responders are specially trained to watch for the spontaneous development of rip currents as well as rapid changes in the risk level presented by swimming in the ocean on any given day. And to further eliminate your risk of being swept out to sea in a rip current, never swim in the ocean—or even wade in the shallows—on days when yellow caution flags or red “no swimming” flags are flying.

What to Do if You’re Caught in a Rip Current

Photo: Los Angeles County Fire Department

If you’re swimming in the ocean and get caught in a rip current, chances are it will happen so quickly that you won’t have time to react until you’ve already been swept a significant distance away from the shore. The key to surviving a rip current is to stay calm, refrain from panicking, and swim parallel to the shoreline (to the north or south of where you are) to escape the grip of the rip. The majority of swimmers who fall victim to these deadly currents ultimately drown from fatigue because too much energy is spent attempting to fight the current and paddle straight back to the shore.

Photo: National Weather Service

Despite how far the rip current may have swept you out to sea, do not panic once you realize what’s happening. Remain calm and clearheaded, signal for help if you are able to, and swim sideways out of the current—not right back into the flow of water moving at speeds that could push you several feet further offshore every single second. Although some currents are so strong swimmers can be carried hundreds of yards offshore, according to NOAA, most rip currents are not more than 80 feet wide and dissipate just beyond the breaking waves. If you are unable to break out of the current and swim parallel to the shoreline right away, stay calm and allow the current to carry you until it dissipates—then paddle parallel to the shoreline and away from the current before swimming back to the beach at an angle.

Photo: NOAA

For years, rip currents have been incorrectly referred to as “riptides” or the “undertow,” causing many people to mistakenly believe that getting caught in a rip current means they will be pulled under the surface of the water and swept out to sea. Unlike riptides—which are a specific type of swift current that flows through inlets, harbors and the mouths of estuaries—and the undertow, which refers to a current that pulls swimmers down along the bottom of the seafloor, rip currents are surface currents that pull you straight out into the ocean but not underneath the water. A strong rip current can quickly knock you off your feet when it strikes in shallow water; however, you will most likely not be dragged under the surface of the ocean unless you panic, thrash around in the waves and end up disoriented. When you’re caught in a rip current, relax your body and allow the current to keep you near the surface until you can safely swim parallel to the shoreline and save yourself from this potentially deadly force of nature.

Photo: AccuWeather

Regardless of how experienced you may be when it comes to swimming, rip currents are incredibly powerful and must be taken extremely seriously by beachgoers. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, your chances of drowning at a beach with a lifeguard present are just 1 in 18 million, so avoid swimming in the ocean at beaches that don’t offer the protection of professional lifeguards or ocean rescue teams—and make sure you only venture into the surf during the times of day when lifeguards are on duty. If you educate yourself on the dangers of rip currents on the Outer Banks, stay aware of your surroundings at all times, and respect the power of the ocean, this year’s summer vacation on the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina will be one you’ll remember forever for all the right reasons.

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