Category Archives: Blog

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.

The Top Dog-Friendly Attractions Along the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

With more than 200 miles of seashore stretching along the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean to the east as well as the Currituck, Roanoke and Pamlico sounds to the west, the Outer Banks of North Carolina offers something for everyone to enjoy—including the four-legged members of your family. From the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the northern tip of Hatteras Island, you’ll find dozens of pet-friendly Outer Banks attractions that welcome your furry friend to tag along on your adventures.

If you wouldn’t dream of leaving your four-legged family members at home while you spend your summer vacation on the barrier islands, be sure to scope out the following dog-friendly places on the Outer Banks the next time you visit:

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Photo: Pinterest

Stretching 100 feet into the sky and covering a 420-acre area along the shores of the Roanoke Sound in Nags Head, Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest “living” sand dune system in the eastern United States. The colossal mound of sand that makes up this popular state park is best-known for providing a prime spot for outdoor adventurers to take to the air while hang-gliding down from the top of the ridge. But hang-gliding isn’t the only form of outdoor recreation Jockey’s Ridge has to offer.

Photo: WAVY TV

The park comprises three unique ecosystems—the sand dunes, a maritime thicket and an estuary at the edge of the sound—which are home to a wide array of native species of wildlife. Leash up your four-legged friend and go for a hike along one of the three self-guided nature trails that weave through the scenic parklands. During your journey you’ll have the chance to spoteverything from white-tailed deer and red foxes to raccoons, luna moths and six-lined racerunner lizards.

Pet rules in Jockey’s Ridge State Park: Dogs are permitted throughout Jockey’s Ridge State Park, with the exception of inside the buildings. Dogs must be on a leash at all times, and leashes should not be longer than 6 feet. Learn more about Jockey’s Ridge State Park here.

Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

Another must-visit dog-friendly Outer Banks attraction located within the oceanside community of Nags Head is the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the busy beaches, this hidden gem boasts 1,400 acres of maritime forest, sand dunes and saltmarshes just waiting to be explored by you and your furry family members. The Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve was established in the 1970s when area conservationists came to the realization that the vast majority of land on the barrier islands was undergoing massive development to accommodate the booming tourism industry on the beaches of the Outer Banks.

Photo: The Nature Conservancy

In 1974, the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve was designated as a National Natural Landmark, guaranteeing the forever protection of the unique series of ecosystems it encompasses and the assortment of wildlife that call the confines of the preserve home. This unspoiled natural area—which lies along the shoreline of the Roanoke Sound on the western side of the island—is bordered by Jockey’s Ridge State Park to the south and Run Hill State Natural Area to the north. Visitors can traverse the park via seven marked nature trails, each of which winds its way through the lush maritime forest, over the rolling sand dunes and past a series of freshwater ponds. While you’re hiking, keep an eye out for the more than 50 species of birds, 15 species of amphibians, 30 species of reptiles, 50 species of butterflies and 550 species of plant life that make up this one-of-a-kind ecological preserve.

Pet rules in the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve: All dogs much be on a leash at all times, and leashes must not exceed 6 feet in length. Leashed pets are permitted on trails 4, 5, 6 and 7. Learn more about the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve here.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Photo: National Park Service

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are famous for being the site upon which an array of historic events have taken place over the years. From the mysterious disappearance of the Lost Colony in the 16th century to the spot where the infamous pirate named Blackbeard met his demise, the barrier islands are brimming landmarks and attractions that highlight the area’s rich history. But perhaps the most significant historic event to ever occur on the Outer Banks was the world’s first powered flight, achieved by brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright on Dec. 17, 1903.

Photo: Trip Advisor

Situated in the heart of Kill Devil Hills, the Wright Brothers National Memorial pays homage to the unprecedented achievement and the pair who forever altered the world of aviation well over a century ago. When you visit the site you’ll discover an enormous monument that sits atop a huge hill in the middle of the park, as well as a visitors center, a series of exhibits and the “flight line” that shows the landing spots along the path where the Wright Brothers attempted several flights that day before finally reaching success with the fourth. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, leash up your dog and head up the hill to the base of the monument overlooking the memorial grounds. From here you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Roanoke Sound to the west and the town that stretches out below.  

Pet rules at the Wright Brothers National Memorial: Pets are permitted on the grounds of the Wright Brothers National Memorial but not inside any buildings. Pets must be on a leash at all times, and leashes must not exceed 6 feet in length.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Photo: REAL Watersports

When it comes to the best beaches in the United States, nothing can compare with the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And if you’re searching for wide expanses of sandy shoreline, windswept sand dunes topped with sea oats, uncrowded and undeveloped beaches, and scenery that is unmatched by anywhere else on the East Coast, be sure to check out the area’s crown jewel: the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Extending more than 70 miles from South Nags Head and Hatteras Island to the southernmost tip of Ocracoke Island, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore encompasses nearly 25,000 acres of preserved and protected natural habitats. along the sea and sound. Whether you explore the national seashore by boat, bicycle, kayak, car or on foot, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a wealth of activities including kiteboarding, surfing, swimming, fishing, crabbing, shell-hunting, wildlife-watching, sightseeing and so much more.

Photo: Dhinoy Studios

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is also home to one of the most iconic landmarks in the country: the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Built in 1803 and standing 210 feet tall, the structure is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States and has served as a navigational aid that has helped mariners to safely navigate the constantly shifting diamond shoals off the coast of Cape Hatteras for centuries. For an unforgettable Outer Banks experience, climb all 257 steps to the top of the lighthouse to take in the spectacular 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean, Pamlico Sound and surrounding villages below. 

Photo: Surf or Sound Realty

When your climb is complete, leash up your dog and venture south toward Cape Point via the pristine stretch of seashore that is commonly referred to as “Buxton beach.” Here you’ll find the spot where the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse originally stood—before it was moved farther inland in 1999 in an effort to save it from falling into the sea—as well as unparalleled opportunities for spotting wildlife, finding seashells and simply enjoying a leisurely stroll along one of the most beautiful barrier island beaches in the entire world with your four-legged friend.  

Pet rules for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Pets are welcome along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but are prohibited inside any marked closures (such as bird and sea turtle nesting areas) and inside buildings. Pets must remain on a leash at all times, and leashes must not exceed 6 feet.

**Stay tuned to our next blog to discover the many dog-friendly restaurants on the Outer Banks of North Carolina!

 

Where to Watch the Fireworks on the Outer Banks in 2018

Photo: OBX.com

Whether you’re vacationing on the Outer Banks for the Fourth of July this year or you’re a local who lives here year-round, watching the various fireworks displays that take place from Corolla to Kill Devil Hills to Roanoke Island is an excellent way to officially kick off your summer at the beach. If you’re searching for the best places to see the fireworks on the Outer Banks in 2018, we’ve got everything you need to know:

NAGS HEAD

One of the best Outer Banks fireworks displays you’ll find this summer is the Nags Head “Fireworks Spectacular,” which will be held at 9:25 p.m. on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, at the Nags Head Fishing Pier. Presented by the Town of Nags Head, the Nags Head Fishing Pier and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, this popular annual event features a one-of-a-kind display of fireworks over the Atlantic Ocean that will last for approximately 25 minutes.

Photo: Rick Anderson Photography

The Nags Head Fishing Pier is located at milepost 11.5 on the beach road, but you don’t have to park at the pier itself to see the show. For an equally amazing view of the fireworks in Nags Head, head to the public beach accesses at Curlew Street, Hollowell Street and Conch Street (all south of the Nags Head Fishing Pier) or to the beach accesses at Bladen Street, Bittern Street, Bonnett Street, Barnes Street and Blackman Street (all north of the Nags Head Fishing Pier) to watch the fireworks show that takes place along the shoreline. If you’re feeling more adventurous, climb to the top of Jockey’s Ridge to experience the Nags Head fireworks from a truly unique location that offers stunning 360-degree views of the barrier island, including the Atlantic Ocean, Roanoke Sound and the Town of Nags Head below.

KILL DEVIL HILLS

PHoto: Ramada Plaza of Nags Head

Not to be outdone by the fireworks display in Nags Head this summer, the Town of Kill Devil Hills will also host its annual Fourth of July fireworks event over the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday. For its 2018 festivities, the Kill Devil Hills fireworks will be presented by an award-winning fireworks company out of New Castle, Pennsylvania, called Pyrotechnico.

Photo: Outer Banks Sentinel

The Kill Devil Hills fireworks will begin at dusk (approximately 8 p.m.) at the Avalon Fishing Pier, which is situated at milepost 6 on the beach road. Spectators are invited to grab their beach chairs or blankets and set up shop on the beach to watch an evening of unforgettable fireworks along the edge of the ocean. Parking at the Avalon Fishing Pier is limited, but several nearby public beach accesses with plenty of parking—including the Fifth Street beach access a half-mile to the south and the Hayman Boulevard beach access just a half-mile to the north—are also excellent spots for viewing the Kill Devil Hills fireworks display this season.

DUCK

Photo: Rick Anderson Photography

Few locations on the Outer Banks offer a more spectacular day of celebrations for the Fourth of July than the Town of Duck. The festivities will kick off at 9 a.m. with the 14th Annual Fourth of July Parade, which begins on Scarborough Lane and follows a one-mile route that winds toward the Atlantic Ocean along Ocean Way and Christopher Drive before ending up at Pamela Court. Following the popular Fourth of July Parade in Duck, visitors are invited to gather at Duck Town Park for a performance by a live Dixieland Band, free watermelon from Green Acres Farm Market, refreshments and an award ceremony honoring the 2018 parade float winners.   

COROLLA

Photo: Outer Banks Events Calendar

If you want to celebrate the Fourth of July in Corolla, head to Historic Corolla Park for a variety of family-friendly festivities that begin at 3 p.m. The 26th Annual Independence Day Celebration at Historic Corolla Park will feature live music, food vendors, a cornhole tournament, a watermelon-eating contest and several children’s games. The festivities will be capped off with the Corolla fireworks display at dusk.

Photo: Vacations Made Easy

Admission and parking for the 26th Annual Independence Day Celebration at Historic Corolla Park are free. Keep in mind that no alcohol, coolers or on-street parking is permitted during the event. The boat ramp at Historic Corolla Park will also be closed, and therefore no docking at this location will be allowed. For more information about the Fourth of July activities in Corolla, go to www.VisitCurrituck.com/Events or call 252-435-2947.

MANTEO/ROANOKE ISLAND

Photo: Matt Lusk Photography

If you’re looking for a little Fourth of July adventure on Roanoke Island, head to downtown Manteo for a fun-filled day of festivities. The celebration begins at 10:30 a.m. at Roanoke Island Festival Theater with a free children’s concert presented by the 208th Army Band.

Photo: Town of Manteo
Photo: WUNC

Manteo’s 2018 event also includes the Independence Day Parade, which will start lining up at 2:45 p.m. at the Magnolia Market before making its way down Queen Elizabeth Street. Attendees are invited to participate in the parade by donning a wacky hat or riding a decorated bike or golf court—all of which will be judged to see which participant has the best patriotic-themed entry. The paradise itself will begin at 3:15 p.m. at the intersection of Queen Elizabeth Street and Ananias Dare Street, winding its way through town and eventually ending at George Washington Creef Park at the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum. Judging of the patriotic entries will take place at the park at the conclusion of the parade, and winners will then be announced.

Photo: OBX Guides

A wide array of additional activities will take place throughout Manteo’s Fourth of July celebration, including a 3:30 p.m. performance by The Lost Colony Choir at the Boathouse Stage within the outdoor pavilion at Roanoke Island Festival Park. The Firecracker Cornhole Tournament will take place in the park beginning at 4 p.m. Registration for the cornhole tournament opens at 3:30 p.m., and teams of two in age groups of 10-15 and 16 and up are invited to compete for the grand prize, which will be presented at the conclusion of the tournament.

Photo: OuterBanks.org

Challenge your friends and family to a little friendly competition with the town’s Sparkler Watermelon Eating Contest, which will begin at 5 p.m. and is open to two separate age groups: ages 10-15 and ages 16 and up. The participant who consumes all of the required amount of watermelon in the shortest amount of time—without using their hands—will win the grand prize, which will be announced and presented to the winner at 5:30 p.m.

Photo: Outer Banks Events Calendar

Enjoy a live performance by the Echoes of Heritage on the Boathouse Stage at 4:30 p.m., followed by a 5:30 p.m. by The Crowd, which will take place on the same stage until 7:30 p.m. Challenge the best baker in your family to whip up their best homemade apple pie and enter the town’s annual American Apple Pie Contest. Entries must be submitted at the park tent by 4 p.m. on July 4. After the apple pie judging session, contest winners will be announced at 5:30 p.m.

Photo: Eillu Real Estate

As the afternoon’s activities wind down, the 208th Army Band will once again return to the stage at 8 p.m. to play a series of patriotic songs at Roanoke Island Festival Park’s outdoor pavilion. A variety of food vendors will also be situated on-site, selling delicious items ranging from funnel cakes, barbecue and sausages to lemonade, fries and slushies. Following the musical celebration, the Fourth of July event will culminate with a stunning fireworks display presented by the Town of Manteo and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. The fireworks show along the Manteo waterfront begins at dark, and visitors can watch an array of spectacular colors shooting into the sky from a barge that will be docked in the nearby Shallowbag Bay. Gather the family, pack up your beach chairs and blankets, and head to the historic town of Manteo on Wednesday afternoon to enjoy some of the most exciting activities and the best fireworks on the Outer Banks this season!

 

Preparing a Hurricane Kit: Supplies You Should Stock This Season

Photo: Nature.com

Hurricane season has officially begun, and forecasters are anticipating a significant amount of storm activity during the 2018 season in the Atlantic Ocean, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. According to Weather.com, 13 named storms are projected for this season, in addition to Tropical Storm Alberta, which formed in May before the season had officially begun and made landfall near Laguna Beach, Florida.

Photo: Pinterest

Of the 13 storms projected to develop into named storms in 2018, six are expected to attain hurricane strength—and two are expected to become major hurricanes, reaching an intensity of Category 3 or higher. When it comes to tropical storms and hurricanes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and there’s no better time than the present to go over your hurricane preparation checklist and make sure your hurricane kit is well-stocked and ready to go should a storm strike where you live this season.

 

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Unlike storms such as tornados—which tend to strike without much, if any, warning—hurricanes typically develop slowly over a period of several days as they strengthen from a tropical disturbance to a tropical depression to a tropical storm to a hurricane of varying intensities. But just because a storm is still hundreds of miles off the coastline and its path is not projected to affect you for a few more days doesn’t mean you should kick back and relax while you wait to figure out exactly where it’s going to hit.

Photo: RVA News

Storms can intensify rapidly—sometimes going from a tropical system to a strong hurricane in a matter of only a few hours—and their course can change drastically depending on factors ranging from ocean water temperatures to land masses they encounter along the way. To ensure you’re properly prepared to ride out a storm that hits your area and to care for yourself, your family and your pets for several days if roads become inaccessible and facilities remain closed, it’s imperative to build your hurricane kit in advance and to stock up on supplies well ahead of time. According to Ready.gov, at the minimum, your hurricane kit should include the following basic items:

  • Water (1 gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days, for drinking and sanitation purposes)
  • Food (3-day supply of nonperishable food per person/pet)
  • Medications (1-week supply of prescription medications per person/pet)
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Manual can opener for food items
  • Wrench and/or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Trash bags, plastic ties and moist towelettes for personal sanitation
  • Local maps
  • Dust mask to filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to cover holes in walls and the roof and protect you from the elements as you shelter in place)
  • Cell phone with charger (and an extra battery pack/portable power bank that is fully charged)
  • Whistle (to signal that you need assistance in the event that you need to be rescued)
Photo: WTVR

Remember that many people residing in coastal regions will wait until a storm is projected to make landfall before they head to the store to grab supplies. Stock your hurricane kit with supplies in advance to avoid running the risk of stores running out of necessary supplies—and to avoid the chaos that comes with trying to gather everything you need at the last minute along with everyone else in town. With the 2018 hurricane season in full swing, it’s more important than ever to keep a watchful eye on the weather, and when you discover that a storm is forecast to hit your area, you can rest assured in knowing that your hurricane kit is fully stocked and you are well-prepared to protect yourself and your loved ones when its wind and waves collide with the coastline.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge: Exploring the Inner OBX

Photo: Streaming Through America

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are undoubtedly best-known for the miles and miles of barrier island beaches that comprise the state’s coastline from Carova to Ocracoke Island. But wide expanses of unspoiled shoreline, world-class watersports, first-rate seafood and opportunities for top-notch offshore fishing are not all the area has to offer. Among the many hidden gems that can be found by visitors who scour the Outer Banks in search of attractions located off the beaten path is the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.    

Photo: Inner Banks Inn

All too often overlooked by vacationers heading to the coast for a week of fun in the sun and surf, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge consists of 152,000 acres of preserve land filled with nature trails, walking paths, picnic areas, fishing spots, hunting tracts, paddling trails and dozens of species of wildlife. And if the route from your hometown to the bustling beaches takes you along Highway 64 through the towns of East Lake and Manns Harbor, you’ve traveled right past the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge—and probably didn’t even know it. Whether you’ve got time to fill before your beach vacation officially begins this year or you’re up for a little bit of outdoor adventure that doesn’t involve the surf and sand, be sure to make a point of exploring this incredibly unique natural area this season.   

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Located on the North Carolina mainland, just 22 miles from Nags Head, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge spans 28 miles from north to south and 15 miles from east to west. Despite its close proximity to the popular vacation destination that lies less than a half-hour away, the land on which the majority of the refuge sits never attracted development like the nearby barrier islands that became a bustling tourist hotspot beginning in the 1950s. In fact, the site of the present-day nature preserve remained so desolate and undeveloped that in 1959 the U.S. Air Force sectioned off a 47,000-acre parcel of land in its center and established a military bombing range that is still in use today.

Photo: Paddling.com

Toward the end of the 1970s, conservationists who visited the region discovered that the tens of thousands of acres of seemingly uninhabited land were actually home to an assortment of species—many of which were threatened or endangered. Bordered by its namesake, the Alligator River, to the west and the Pamlico Sound to the east, the preserve encompasses a variety of habitats, including maritime forests, wetlands, saltmarshes and several types of swamps. The most unusual habitat here, however, is known as a “pocosin.” A unique type of wetland habitat whose name comes from a Native American term that translates to “swamp of a hill,” pocosins are characterized by deep, acidic, sandy peat soils that are high in organic material and frequently retain large amounts of water.

Photo: DefendersBlog.com

In an effort to preserve the many unique habitats found within its borders, and to protect the wide array of wildlife that reside among them, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was officially established on March 14, 1984. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the various habitats that constitute the wildlife refuge currently support 145 species of birds, 48 species of fish, 48 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 40 species of mammals.

Photo: Carolyn E. Wright

Although the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is home to a wide array of species ranging from woodpeckers, white-tailed deer and raptors to black bears, owls and, of course, alligators, its most famous residents are also some of the most endangered: red wolves. Once abundant throughout the southeastern United States—with populations found roaming as far west as Texas, as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Florida—today the red wolf is one of the most endangered species in the world, and they can be found only in a five-county area of eastern North Carolina.

Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

According to Defenders of Wildlife, red wolves—which are the smaller, thinner cousins of the gray wolf—had been hunted to the brink of extinction by the end of the 1970s. Determined to save the endangered species from imminent extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured fewer than 20 red wolves to be bred in captivity as part of a red wolf recovery program.

Photo: Pinterest

Seven years later, the organization reintroduced red wolves to the wild, but due to a slew of misconceptions about the species, numerous political attacks and insufficient planning, the recovery attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, and red wolf populations continued to decline toward extinction once again. Today, red wolves only exist in the wild in two places in the entire world: Columbia, North Carolina’s Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo: Fickr Foxes

In addition to its miles of picturesque hiking paths, paddling trails, fishing spots and hunting areas, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge also offers an assortment of recreational and education programs, including a Red Wolf Howling Safari. Visitors who attend this one-of-a-kind safari will learn about the plight of the red wolf and take a guided journey into the heart of the preserve with refuge staff and volunteers to listen to the howls of this rare and endangered species that calls coastal North Carolina home.   

 

 

2018 Spring Maintenance Checklist for Homeowners: Part Two

Last month, we shared part one of our 2018 spring maintenance checklist for homeowners looking to get their residence in tip-top shape for the season. With the warm and sunny days of spring finally fully in session, we’re following up with part two of the checklist, providing you with additional ways to properly prepare your property so you can relax and enjoy the loads of backyard barbecues, patio parties and days of fun in the sun that are sure to come this season!

Establish Mosquito Prevention Around Your Property

Photo: Calladoc

Nothing puts a damper on a fun-filled outdoor party with friends and family than the presence of pesky bugs that you and your guests have to constantly try to swat away. But mosquitoes aren’t just an annoyance that can ruin the vibe at your summer barbecues and pool parties—they can also pose a serious health risk when they take a bite out of your skin and transmit infectious diseases ranging from the West Nile and Zika viruses to dengue and yellow fever. And if you think it’s just your partygoers dining on the patio who could be affected by mosquito-borne illnesses, think again. Your pets are also at risk of catching diseases such as heartworm infections from a solitary mosquito bite.

Photo: Brightside St. Louis

To help limit or eliminate entirely the exposure your family, friends and pets will have to mosquitoes this year, be sure to establish sufficient methods mosquito prevention around your property before the dog days of summer have officially arrived and you end up with swarms of mosquitoes inhabiting your outdoor space. The first—and the absolute simplest—method for preventing mosquitoes from taking up a long-term residence in your backyard is to eliminate any and all sources of standing water, which can serve as a breeding ground for these tiny pests.

Photo: City of Los Angeles Stormwater Program

Mosquito larvae can emerge from eggs that are covered by just 1 inch of water, so keep a watchful eye out for containers and other objects that frequently fill up with rainwater, such as gutters, planters, flowerpots, buckets, outdoor décor items, patio furniture and kids’ toys. In addition to objects that regularly capture rain when it falls from the sky, keep containers that are actually designed to hold water from being contaminated and harboring mosquito eggs that will eventually hatch into larvae as well. Examples of these types of mosquito breeding grounds on your property include birdbaths, rain barrels and your pet’s water bowls. Emptying the standing water from these containers at least once each week and cleaning them thoroughly with soap and water will help mosquito-proof your property so you can enjoy your outdoor space all season long.  

Protect Your Residence by Repainting the Exterior

Photo: Consumer Reports

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that the main reason some of their friends, neighbors and co-workers make the effort to repaint the exterior of their residence regularly is simply to give it a face-lift and to significantly enhance its curb appeal. While replacing faded, chipped or peeling paint with a fresh coat of color can certainly achieve your goal of improving your property’s appearance, hitting your local hardware store, stocking up on an assortment of high-quality brushes and applying a new layer of exterior paint after a long, harsh winter can have many more benefits for your home than you might think.

Photo: Palmetto Pressure Clean

According to most home repair and renovation specialists, the biggest benefit your house will receive when you give it a fresh coat of high-quality exterior paint is increasing its protection from the elements. Whether you reside in the northeastern United States—where strong winds, extremely cold temperatures and massive amounts of snowfall can quickly contribute to wear and tear on your siding—or your property is situated in a coastal region that frequently receives hurricane-force winds, blowing sand and debris, and torrential rains resulting in excessive moisture that can lead to rotting wood and the development of mold, examining the exterior of your home at least once each year is essential to extending its lifespan.

Photo: Chewelah Painting

Applying the right exterior paint to your home can create a protective shield that helps resist the damage caused by natural elements like rain, wind, snow and sleet. When you choose a high-quality paint, it will serve as an outer coating on your siding, which will prevent most moisture from ultimately seeping into your residence. This protective layer of paint also prevents the growth of mold and mildew, which commonly occur in areas where excessive moisture is found and can be very costly to remove. Making the decision to repaint the exterior of your home after a long, harsh winter is key to increasing the lifespan of your siding, protecting your property from damage, and getting your residence ready to enjoy with friends and family throughout the spring and summer months to come.

Searching for Seaglass on the Outer Banks

Photo: SeaGlassJewels.com

If you’ve ever strolled along the beaches of the Outer Banks searching for seashells, you’ve probably discovered an assortment of unique shells that have washed up onto the shoreline with the rolling waves. From scotch bonnets, scallops and sundials to periwinkles, whelks and moon snails, dozens of varieties of seashells can be found up and down the North Carolina coast. But while stunning seashells of all shapes and sizes are plentiful from Carova to Nags Head to Cape Hatteras, another one-of-a-kind find is a bit harder to come by: Outer Banks seaglass.

Photo: The Coca-Cola Company

Also sometimes referred to as “beach glass,” seaglass is a small shard of broken glass that has been tossed and turned in the tumbling surf for such an extended period of time that its razor-sharp edges have become smooth and sleek. Ranging in size from a few millimeters wide to several inches long, “genuine” pieces of seaglass—pieces whose rough edges were smoothed by the sea and not in a manmade tumbler that speeds up the process and results in so-called “tumbled” seaglass—each have a history that dates back several decades, if not several centuries.

Photo: Cory Godwin

Outer Banks seaglass comes in an array of colors, some of which are much more commonly found than others. While hues like white, brown and green are the types beachgoers stumble upon most frequently on the barrier islands of North Carolina, seaglass found along the Outer Banks can also come in beautiful hues ranging from cobalt blue and brilliant turquoise to bright red, pale pink and light lavender. While spotting any piece of seaglass on the Outer Banks is an exciting experience for anyone searching for a unique find, the most coveted colors for collectors are usually those that feature the rarest tints: red, blue and teal.

Photo: Japan Sea Glass

The origins of seaglass on the Outer Banks can vary greatly, and for seaglass hunters who want to know the possible backstory behind a piece of glass they’ve discovered at the water’s edge, paying close attention to its color is the key to determining where it likely came from. In years past—before the modern-day use of plastic became so commonplace for packaging—household items such as shampoo, prescriptions, perfume, soda, beer and cleaning products often came in glass bottles or containers. In addition to commonly used household products, a variety of other sources of seaglass that washes up on beaches today include apothecary bottles, tail lights from automobiles, lanterns, traffic light lenses, insulators from power lines and even old pieces of glassware that wound up in the sea during a shipwreck.

Photo: Pinterest

When these items were irresponsibly discarded by their owners as litter or intentionally dumped illegally by manufacturing companies looking for a cheap method of disposal, they eventually found their way into the ocean, where they shattered into smaller pieces as they encountered other objects ranging from rocks and jetties to boats and floating debris. Over time, the pounding surf pummeled the shards of seaglass into smooth pieces with a frosted appearance, and their rough edges that were once sharp to the touch became polished and slightly rounded. The result of this sometimes centuries-long process is the creation of naturally tumbled seaglass that can be transformed into an array of meaningful keepsakes—the most common of which is genuine seaglass jewelry.  

Photo: Pinterest

Seaglass can be found in coastal regions around the world. For years, seaglass enthusiasts have flocked to the beaches of Spain, Australia, Nova Scotia, Puerto Rico, the British Isles, Bermuda and the Bahamas—all areas that are well-known for their abundance of seaglass—in search of the perfect piece to add to their collection. But stellar seaglass finds aren’t limited to the shorelines of nations overseas.

Photo: NC Culture

When it comes the best beaches to find seaglass in the United States, several beaches along both the East Coast and West Coast make the list. California’s Fort Bragg Sea Glass Beach and Kauai Sea Glass Beach in Hawaii are two of the best-known beaches in the U.S. for finding seaglass; however, the Outer Banks of North Carolina—especially along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore—are also recognized by collectors as a hotbed for beautiful pieces of naturally tumbled seaglass that wind up on the sandy shoreline.

Photo: Daniel Waters Photography

Whether you’ve come upon a commonly found color like white or brown, or you’ve unearthed a rare find that boasts unique shades such as vivid turquoise or bright red, finding seaglass on the Outer Banks is an incredible experience you’ll never forget. To increase your chances of uncovering a piece of seaglass along the shoreline or in the surf during your next Outer Banks vacation, start your search during low tide—when thousands of seashells that are typically covered during high tide are easily accessible—or comb the beach shortly after a strong storm, when large waves and rough surf stirs up the seafloor and washes an array of hidden treasures out of the depths of the ocean and onto the sand.

Explore a Pristine Natural Treasure: The Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

With more than 100 miles of shoreline stretching from Carova to Ocracoke Island, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is best-known for its pristine barrier island beaches and opportunities for world-class watersports ranging from kayaking to kiteboarding. Although the wide, sandy beaches and ride-worthy waves are undoubtedly the region’s biggest attractions—drawing thousands of visitors to the coast each year from across the country and around the world—the area is also home to an array of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. One such spot that’s worthy of a lengthy visit to explore everything it has to offer off the beaten path is the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve.

Photo: Pinterest

Situated on the western edge of the island along the shores of the Roanoke Sound, the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve comprises 1,400 acres of maritime forest, saltmarshes and sand dunes. This unspoiled Outer Banks attraction—which is bordered by Run Hill State Natural Area to the north and Jockey’s Ridge State Park to the south—serves as a protected habitat for more than 50 species of birds, 15 species of amphibians and nearly 30 species of reptiles. Visitors who wander along the trails within the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve will also discover several freshwater ponds, which are home to seven species of fish and an assortment of unique aquatic plant life, including a rare flower called the water violet.  

Photo: My Outer Banks Home

Before the town of Nags Head became the busy, bustling beach town it is today, it was home to a small population of year-round residents, some of which resided within a tiny village that was located on the grounds where the ecological preserve exists today. From the middle of the 1800s until the 1930s, these Outer Bankers lived within the protective confines of the maritime forest, developing 13 home sites and building two churches, a factory, a school, a gristmill and a general store. Despite the fact that nearly an entire century has passed since the Nags Head Woods were inhabited by a thriving village of local residents, visitors strolling through the preserve today will likely stumble upon a few remnants of the former structures, including a handful of headstones and gravesites, as well as pieces of brick foundations from the houses that once stood in this same location several decades ago.  

Photo: The Nature Conservancy

In the 1970s—as the barrier islands began to gain popularity as a desirable vacation destination for travelers throughout the Mid-Atlantic states and up and down the Eastern Seaboard—hundreds of vacation rental homes were constructed along the coastlines of both the ocean and the sound to accommodate the surge of seasonal visitors. In an effort to prevent the entirety of the area from being divided into parcels that would soon be purchased and developed with vacation rental properties and hotels, Nags Head and the neighboring town of Kill Devil Hills formed a partnership that sought to save the untouched natural area. The towns joined forces with The Nature Conservancy, a national environmental organization whose stated mission is to “conserve the lands and waters upon which all life depends.”  

Photo: Town of Kill Devil Hills

In 1974, Nags Head Woods earned its status as a National Natural Landmark, and in 1977 The Nature Conservancy and the towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills designated 1,000 acres within the woods that would be free and open to the public but could never undergo development. Additional parcels of land were added to the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve throughout the decades that followed, including more than 400 acres on the preserve’s western border that were generously donated John and Rhoda Calfee and Diane St. Clair.   

Photo: The Nature Conservancy

Today, outdoor enthusiasts who visit the barrier islands can escape the hustle and bustle of the busy beaches by venturing into the picturesque ecological preserve to enjoy a sense of peace and tranquility. Seven marked nature trails meander through the lush saltmarshes and dense maritime forest, giving visitors an opportunity to witness an array of different species of plants and animals, and the chance to explore an Outer Banks landmark that has remained completely unchanged over the course of the past several centuries.  

 

2018 Spring Maintenance Checklist for Homeowners: Part One

At last the long-awaited spring season has officially arrived. The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, buds are forming on the tree limbs, and flowers are beginning to bloom. Although there is much to celebrate and enjoy as winter gives way to spring, it’s important to remember that with the arrival of a brand-new season comes the need to check over your home for any issues that arose during the long, cold winter months—and to properly prepare your property for spring and summer. Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, the following are some of the most important maintenance items that should make their way onto your to-do list as you’re sprucing up your home for spring and summer.

Examine the Roof for Loose Shingles, Leaks and Punctures

Photo: O’LYN Roofing

If there is one single spring maintenance must-do item a homeowner should never skip when checking over their property for damage caused over the course of a long, harsh winter, it’s performing a careful and thorough examination of the roof. While living in a region that regularly receives large amounts of heavy snow puts your roof at a greater risk of collapse, you don’t have to reside in the Northeast or the Upper Midwest to have a home in danger of being damaged during the fall, winter and early spring. Strong gusts or sustained coastal winds in southern states that experience little or no snowfall can still fall victim to various types of roof damage ranging from excessive moisture and missing shingles to minor leaks and major punctures from wind-tossed debris.

Photo: Element Roofing

Should high winds or heavy snowfalls from a particular winter storm cause significant damage to your roof—such as a partial collapse under the pressure of the snow or a large leak coming from a compromised spot—you will likely discover the issue within just a few minutes or hours of its occurrence. However, other common types of roof damage that take place during the winter are not as visible or easy to notice without an up-close examination.

Photo: Waterview Construction Company

Because even the smallest issues can result in major damage if they are left unattended for any period of time, the best course of action for every homeowner is to get onto the roof and conduct a visual inspection. In addition to missing shingles that have been blown off in high winds, keep an eye out for shingles that have simply curled up or come loose, leaving the wood and materials below them vulnerable to water damage that can eventually seep into the interior of your home.

Photo: Shutterstock

Loose shingles can easily be nailed back into place, and missing shingles can be replaced; however, more serious damage—such as a collapsed portion of the roof due to the weight of the snow or an area that has already become affected by excess moisture and begun to leak—will probably require the assistance of an experienced professional roofer. Although many homeowners are hesitant to shell out a considerable amount of cash to hire a professional for roof repairs, keep in mind that the problems you’ll likely face down the road if you don’t address the issues as soon as they occur—such as mold, rotted framing, soggy insulation and damaged ceilings—will cost you much more money when the damage progresses and you’re finally forced to address them in the future.

Inspect Wood Decks and Outside Stairs for Damage from Excessive Moisture

Photo: Prokleen Pressurewashing

Day after day of wet winter weather that lasts for months on end can take a serious toll on any of your home’s structures that consist of wood. Decks and stairways are particularly prone to moisture and can quickly become a hazard in the spring and summer season if the damage that was done by snow and ice isn’t properly taken care of. Even just a few inches of snowfall every few weeks can cause serious problems if the weather doesn’t warm up enough between snowstorms to melt the cold, wet layer of flurries and allow the wood to dry out sufficiently.  

Photo: Tom Saint Painting & Remodeling

Although the vast majority of decks and outdoor stairs are constructed with treated lumber that is designed to be durable enough to withstand harsh elements, moisture that is allowed to stick around for too long will result in the growth of unsightly—and often slippery—mildew and can cause boards to warp or split. Because bent or broken boards can become a potential tripping hazard for your family, friends and visitors, it’s imperative to examine your wood structures for any damage caused by winter weather as soon as possible.

Photo: Inteplast Building Products

Remove any lingering snow and ice from your deck and stairs using a plastic shovel that won’t create further damage to the vulnerable wood below as you gently scrape the structure clean, always shoveling along the length of the boards and never straight across. Don’t be tempted to apply any salt or chemicals to your deck in an attempt to melt the remaining snow and ice more quickly—these substances may speed up the melting process, but cutting corners and applying chemicals will only weaken the protective coating on the treated lumber and result in discoloration down the road.    

Photo: Grand Banks Building Products

If you discover a layer of mildew on your deck and stairs after you’ve cleared the surface of snow and ice, you should begin treating the wood right away in order to avoid further damage. Purchase a mildew removal solution from your local hardware store or whip up your own by carefully mixing three cups of water with three squirts of liquid dishwashing soap and one cup of oxygen bleach. Spray the solution onto the wood and allow it to penetrate the surface for 20 minutes. Then thoroughly rinse the deck or stairs with water, stopping to scrub any stubborn bits of mildew with a coarse scrub brush as you go along. Once your deck and stairs are clean of any mildew—and any warped or split boards are repaired—apply a sealant to revitalize the wood and properly protect it from the elements for several seasons to come.

Scope Out Wind Damage on Screen Doors and Windows

Photo: www.beeyouitullife.com

The ultimate purpose of screening in a deck or patio is to prevent pesky pests from invading your living space while you try to kick back and relax to enjoy the great outdoors. Nothing has the ability to ruin an al fresco dining experience quite like a swarm of mosquitoes that force you to spend more time swatting bugs away than savoring good food, good drinks and good company on your screened-in porch.

Photo: Screen Savers Plus

Regardless of what region you live in—whether it’s a coastal community characterized by gusty, gale-force winds from a nor’easter or a northern state that receives several inches of snow every season and shards of ice that cling to window coverings, winter weather can wreak a considerable amount of havoc on the wire mesh or synthetic fiber screen material that covers your doors and windows.

Photo: Pinterest

Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to take inventory of any damage your screens have sustained and get them back in tip-top shape for the warm and sunny months you’ll want to spend outside. While some screens may have large, gaping holes or other obvious signs of destruction, be sure to look closely at each unit, as even the smallest hole in the mesh or a tiny tear along the side can be just big enough to give unwanted pests easy access to your next patio party.

Photo: The Family Handyman

For minor issues, simply purchase a screen repair kit from your local hardware store and patch the holes up yourself. Major damage will often require the help of a professional who can properly secure a brand-new screen to your existing frames as long as they’re still in good shape and haven’t suffered any bends or breaks during the winter. Tip: If you’re patching a tear or hole in vinyl screens, apply a thin layer of clear nail polish along the edges of the patch to prevent fraying from occurring in the future. 

**Stay tuned for the second installment of our Spring Maintenance Checklist for Homeowners for more tips to get your residence ready for spring and summer!   

Top 10 Outer Banks Activities and Attractions for Vacationers

Photo: Dan Waters Photography

When it comes to the best vacation destinations in the United States, the Outer Banks of North Carolina consistently earns a spot on the lists compiled by various travel companies, publications and blogs each season. In 2017, Southern Living magazine ranked the Outer Banks as the “South’s Best Island,” and the picturesque sliver of sand has also found a spot on Dr. Beach’s list of the “Top 10 Beaches in America” every single year for the past decade.

Photo: Sport Fishing Magazine

The popularity of the Outer Banks has grown exponentially since some of the area’s first vacation homes were constructed here nearly a century ago, with tens of thousands of visitors venturing to the 120-mile-long string of barrier islands each year to spend a week in paradise. Although the vast majority of people who visit the Outer Banks are drawn to the region in search of opportunities for relaxation and recreation by the sea, the shifting shoals that comprise the North Carolina coast offer far more than just fun in the sun.

Whether you’re planning your first-ever vacation on the Outer Banks or you’ve been visiting the OBX for decades, the following are the top 10 Outer Banks activities and attractions you can’t afford to miss the next time you’re in town.

1. Climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

No Outer Banks vacation is complete without a trip to Hatteras Island to see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in person. The 193-foot-tall, black-and-white spiral structure is situated in the tiny town of Buxton and has been an iconic Outer Banks landmark since its construction was completed in 1803. Visitors can take a tour of the historic lighthouse keepers’ quarters to learn more about the men who were responsible for fueling the lamp and maintaining the light that served as a guide for mariners sailing along the dangerous shoals of the Graveyard of the Atlantic decades ago. And if you’re searching for an unforgettable Outer Banks experience, climb the 257 steps that lead to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, where you’ll be treated to stunning, 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean, Pamlico Sound, the converging currents at Cape Point and the village of Buxton below.

2. Take a Wild Horse Tour in Corolla

Photo: CorollaWildHorses.com

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse might be the most famous attraction on the Outer Banks, but the wild horses of Corolla are certainly not far behind. Believed to be the descendants of Spanish mustangs that swam to shore after the vessels they were being transported on were shipwrecked off the coast of North Carolina five centuries ago, as many as 6,000 horses once roamed the beaches of Corolla and the four-wheel drive area of Carova to the north. Today, the herd consists of approximately 100 wild horses that can be spotted running along the seashore, splashing in the surf and foraging for food among the sand dunes and salt marshes. Visitors with off-road vehicles are welcome to scour the shoreline in search of the horses on their own; however, embarking on a tour with a local company whose guides are knowledgeable about the horses’ whereabouts is highly recommended.      

3. Tour the Historic Whalehead Club

Photo: Steve Alterman Photography

While you’re in Corolla searching for sightings of the wild horses of the northern Outer Banks, head to the historic Whalehead Club for a unique trip back in time. Located just a short walking distance from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the Whalehead Club is a 21,000-square-foot mansion that sits on the western edge of the barrier island and overlooks the Currituck Sound. The 12-bedroom, four-story residence was constructed in 1925 as a lavish hunting lodge for a wealthy couple who frequently visited the Outer Banks to hunt the wide array of waterfowl that inhabited the towns of Duck and Corolla in the early 20th century. Today, the Whalehead Club is best-known as being a prime venue for Outer Banks weddings and receptions; however, the property can be toured by those interested in learning what life would have been like on the Outer Banks when the structure was built and seeing lavish examples of the Art Nouveau style of architecture that was popular during its heyday.

4. Hike to the Top of Jockey’s Ridge

Photo: Pinterest

Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast hoping to encounter some of the unique species that call the Outer Banks home, or you’re looking for a place you can experience one of the best views on the islands, heading to Nags Head to hike to the top of Jockey’s Ridge should be on every vacationer’s bucket list. The largest living natural sand dune system in the eastern United States, the dunes cover a 420-acre area along the edge of the Roanoke Sound and stand as tall as 100 feet in some spots. The views from the top of the ridge can’t be beat—you’ll not only have a stunning view of the sound and the ocean, but also the town of Nags Head below and Roanoke Island in the distance. Embark on a journey along one of the many nature trails that wind their way through this popular North Carolina state park, where you’ll likely spot a variety of animals ranging from white-tailed deer and rabbits to foxes, lizards and luna moths. And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, sign up for a hang gliding lesson to discover what it feels like to soar over the sand dunes while taking in a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon.

5. Tour the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Photo: National Park Service

On Dec. 17, 1903, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright made history when they successfully completed the world’s first powered flight in their 40-foot, 605-pound Flyer from the top of a large sand dune on the central Outer Banks. The brothers made four flights on that fateful day, and the fourth and final time the pair took to the air their glider stayed aloft for 59 seconds, soaring a record-breaking 852 feet. A colossal monument atop a huge hill in the heart of Kill Devil Hills commemorates the Wright Brothers’ historic achievement that forever changed the face of aviation, and visitors can walk up to the top of the hill for exceptional views of the surrounding towns, ocean and sound, or take a tour of the on-site Wright Brothers museum just a short distance away from the base of the monument. Four large stone markers on the grounds of this national monument in Kill Devil Hills indicate the landing spot of each flight attempted that December day, with the fourth stone showcasing the one that made history and put the Outer Banks on the map more than a century ago

6. Visit the Site of the Lost Colony

Photo: National Park Service

History buffs who visit the Outer Banks will never be disappointed during their stay, as the barrier islands have been ground zero for an assortment of historical events that have taken place here over the course of the past several centuries. One such event continues to puzzle historians more than 430 years after it occurred: the disappearance of the men, women and children of the infamous “Lost Colony.” In the summer of 1587, a group of settlers recruited by Sir Walter Raleigh made the long and arduous journey from the coast of England to the shores of Roanoke Island, where they constructed a fort-like settlement in the present-day town of Manteo. Among the settlers were a man named John White, as well as his pregnant daughter, Eleanor Dare, and her husband, Ananias Dare.

Photo: American Digest

On Aug. 18, 1587, Eleanor gave birth to a daughter, Virginia Dare, who became the first English child to be born in the New World. Less than two weeks after his granddaughter was born, John White embarked on a journey back to Britain to procure additional supplies for the colonists of the brand-new settlement. When he finally returned to Roanoke Island in 1590, he found the fort completely deserted and no signs of the 117 settlers he had left behind just three years earlier. The tale of the Lost Colony still intrigues historians and archaeologists, who have yet to determine exactly what events transpired in the 16th century and resulted in the disappearance of the colonists. Today, tourists vacationing on the Outer Banks can visit the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site to see the spot that members of the Lost Colony called their home for a short time before they mysteriously vanished from the barrier island more than four centuries ago.

7. Stroll through the Elizabethan Gardens

Photo: ElizabethanGardens.org

The Outer Banks may be most well-known for its beautiful ocean beaches and pristine stretches of soundside shoreline, but one lesser-known attraction that every vacationer should visit during their stay is the Elizabethan Gardens. Featuring over 500 different species of plants and flowers, the picturesque gardens stretch across 10.5 acres on the northern tip of Roanoke Island, in the soundside town of Manteo. The origins of the Elizabethan Gardens can be traced back to the 1950s, when a group of vacationers visited the nearby Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and learned the story of the so-called “Lost Colony” that had briefly settled on the Outer Banks in the 16th century and then abruptly disappeared without a trace.

Photo: RoanokeIsland.net

Inspired by the story of the 117 colonists who disappeared centuries ago, the group of visitors sought to create a place that would permanently pay homage to the settlers from the Lost Colony. On Aug. 18, 1960, the 373rd anniversary of the birth of colonist Virginia Dare—who became the first English child born in the New World when she was born on Roanoke Island—the Elizabethan Gardens officially opened to the public. The site has remained a popular Outer Banks attraction since its gates first opened, and each year thousands of tourists take a leisurely stroll along the pathways that weave throughout the gardens to view the wide variety of botanical collections that change with the seasons as spring and summer give way to fall and winter. 

8. Visit the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

Photo: Scenic USA

With its converging currents, shallow waters and constantly shifting shoals that make navigating the coastline a difficult task for mariners, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are commonly referred to as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Despite the presence of four lighthouses along the coastline from Ocracoke to Corolla—whose purpose was to help sailors navigate the treacherous shoals that lie just offshore from the barrier islands—thousands of vessels have become shipwrecked on the Outer Banks. To aid sailors whose vessels ran aground in returning safely to the shoreline, crews of surfmen were historically stationed at spots along the North Carolina coast—including the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station—and rowed large wooden surfboats past the breakers and into the Atlantic Ocean to save those who were stranded at sea as the ships went down.

Photo: Chicamacomico.org

Located on Hatteras Island, in the small village of Rodanthe, the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station was commissioned on Dec. 4, 1874, and its crew of surfmen became the first life-saving service in North Carolina. For years, the surfmen who staffed the Chicamacomico Life-Saving played a pivotal role in saving the lives of distressed sailors whose ships had begun to sink after striking the unseen diamond shoals. In November 1921, crew members from Chicamacomico were awarded gold life-saving medals by the British government for their incredible efforts to save the lives of three dozen soldiers who were tossed into a fiery sea when their ship, the Mirlo, struck a mine that had been dropped by a German U-boat, causing a series of massive explosions—and resulting in one of the most dramatic rescues in maritime history. Today, visitors can tour the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station to view a variety of artifacts, photos, interviews and rescue equipment, including an original surfboat used by the surfmen who staffed the station until it was decommissioned in 1954.

9. Cast a Line at Jennette’s Pier

Photo: OBXbound.com

Whether you’re an avid fisherman or you just want to find a stellar spot for sightseeing, taking a trip to Jennette’s Pier is an absolute must on your next Outer Banks vacation. This popular pier in Nags Head stretches 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, offering some of the best opportunities for pier fishing from Corolla to Ocracoke. Originally constructed in 1939, Jennette’s Pier became increasingly popular among anglers from up and down the Eastern Seaboard, who traveled to the barrier islands of North Carolina just to cast a line for the catch of the day. As the pier’s popularity grew, a series of bare-bones cottages along the oceanfront—which had formerly housed U.S. Civil Works Administration employees who spent time on the Outer Banks building a line of protective sand dunes during the Great Depression—were transformed into a camp for fishermen looking for affordable accommodations near the pier.

Photo: Pelmey Photography

As the decades passed, Jennette’s Pier took several beatings from hurricanes and nor’easters, and in 2003 a large portion of the structure succumbed to the massive power of Mother Nature when Hurricane Isabel hit the Outer Banks and took 540 feet of the original 754-foot-long wooden pier with it. The pier was forced to shut down operations for several years due to the damage, but the North Carolina Aquarium Society—which had purchased the pier from surviving members of the Jennette family shortly before the hurricane hit—started construction on a new pier in its place. In May 2011, the new version of Jennette’s Pier, which is made of concrete rather than wood to ensure the structure can withstand the force of coastal storms, officially opened to the public. Today, Jennette’s Pier is one of the longest fishing piers on the East Coast, and its pier house features a 3,000-gallon aquarium, a series of educational exhibits, a retail store, snack bar, event space and tackle shop. The staff of Jennette’s Pier also offer a variety of summer camps where kids visiting the Outer Banks can learn to fish, surf, paddleboard and hang glide, and veteran on-site anglers are available to offer family fishing activities and private lessons with a pro.

10. Explore the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Unlike other popular vacation destinations along the country’s coastline—which boast bustling boardwalks, crowded beaches and high-rise hotels—the Outer Banks are characterized by pristine stretches of shoreline and plenty of natural habitats home to a wide array of wildlife. And perhaps the best spot to experience the unparalleled beauty of the barrier islands and to encounter an assortment of unique species of wildlife up close is Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife refuge was established in 1938, when the U.S. government sectioned off this portion of the island so it could serve as a nesting and resting habitat for migratory birds and waterfowl, and to provide a safe haven for threatened and endangered species.

Photo: Richmond Navigator

Located on the northern tip of Hatteras Island, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge spans 13 miles, from Oregon inlet to the north to the village of Rodanthe to the south. Comprising 5,834 acres of land and 25,700 acres of boundary waters, the refuge is home to more than 365 species ranging from shorebirds and snow geese to piping plovers and sea turtles. Visitors can explore the refuge on foot via two nature trails—the North Pond Trail and the Salt Flats Trail—or launch a canoe or kayak from the boat ramp that provides paddlers easy access to the shallow, brackish waters of the sound, salt marsh and a series of wide canals along the margins of the refuge. Stretching from the waters of the Pamlico Sound on its western border to the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Pea Island National Wildlife refuge offers incredible opportunities to enjoy a wide array of recreational activities on the Outer Banks, including birdwatching, surfing, kayaking, standup paddleboarding, and searching the shoreline for seaglass and seashells.

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