Category Archives: Blog

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

Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast searching for a spot to 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 wildlife trails and nature preserves 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

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 nature 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 multi-use 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 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 places 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 nature 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 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, click 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 a Spectacular Holiday Lights Display Courtesy of 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 spectacular holiday lights display created each year by the Poulos family of Kill Devil Hills. 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.  

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Nestled along the northern edge of Ocean Acres Drive, less than a mile from the bypass, the Outer Banks Christmas 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.

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

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. 

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

DIRECTIONS TO THE OUTER BANKS CHRISTMAS HOUSE:

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. To access this must-visit holiday attraction, head west on Ocean Acres Drive (turning at the stoplight at McDonald’s on the bypass) and 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, letting you know that you’ve officially reached the most spectacular Christmas display on the Outer Banks of North Carolina!

 

 

Ocracoke Pony Pen: Home of the Wild Horses of Ocracoke Island

Photo: Trip Advisor

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 ponies that have called the barrier islands home for centuries: the wild horses of Ocracoke Island.

Photo: VisitOcracokeNC.com

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 Ocracoke wild pony pen to check out the island’s most famous residents.

Photo: National Park Service

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

Just like their neighbors to the north—the wild horses of Corolla—the wild horses that call Ocracoke 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

As the ships neared the coast of 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 were 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

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

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

In the 1950s, the wild ponies of Ocracoke were cared for by the Ocracoke Boy Scouts, who earned the distinction of being the only mounted troop in the United States. In 1957, N.C. Highway 12 was paved, 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 over-grazing, a law was passed 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. The nearly 200-acre soundside pen in which the herd of horses is free to roam was constructed that same year by the National Park Service, who has been in charge of caring for the ponies since the 1960s.

Photo: Crystal L. Canterbury

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, making it easy for them to be spotted from the parking area along the fenced enclosure. An elevating viewing platform and pathway alongside the pasture offer additional opportunities to view the wild horses, and the National Park Service 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.

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.

OUTER BANKS LEASH LAWS:

To ensure your furry friend enjoys a safe and fun vacation on the barrier islands with you this season, make sure you follow the Outer Banks leash laws. These rules and regulations vary from town to town, so check out our breakdown of the most up-to-date leash laws for 2019 by clicking here!

 

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.   

 

 

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