Category Archives: Blog

The Duck Research Pier & Field Research Facility

alt="The Duck Research Pier is shown from an aerial view stretching out into the clear blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean."
Photo: DVIDS

If you’ve ever visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the many fishing piers that dot the coastline from Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills to the smaller communities along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. One particular pier, however, is much lesser-known among both the locals that call the Outer Banks home and the thousands of tourists who come to enjoy a week of surf, sand and sunshine every season: the Duck Research Pier.

Photo: Surfline.com

Stretching 1,840 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, the Duck Research Pier is part of the Research Field Facility, a coastal and hydraulics laboratory located on the northern Outer Banks. Unlike its counterparts that are situated farther to the south—such as the Kitty Hawk Pier, Avalon Fishing Pier, Nags Head Fishing Pier, Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Rodanthe Pier and Avon Pier—the Duck Research Pier is not open to the public and doesn’t permit anglers to set up shop on its planks as they cast a line and search for the catch of the day. Instead, the Duck Research Pier was established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1977 with the purpose of advancing coastal knowledge by allowing scientists to gather and analyze data regarding area wave action, winds, currents and tides.  

alt="A danger sign near the Duck Research Pier warns visitors of unexploded munitions along the northern Outer Banks."
Photo: Pinterest

Located less than one mile to the north of downtown Duck, a quaint Outer Banks community that is best-known for its wide array of waterfront shops and restaurants, winding boardwalk and picturesque town park, the Field Research Facility and Duck Research Pier sit atop a large, undeveloped plot of land that the U.S. Navy used as a bombing range and target testing site from 1941 and 1965—decades before the barrier island community became such a popular vacation destination among visitors from across the country. In fact, multiple signs can be spotted on both the oceanside and the soundside of N.C. Highway 12 in Duck to warn travelers of the potential dangers posed by the remnants of old practice bombs and other munitions that were dropped by military aircraft along the beaches and sand dunes of this stretch of the Outer Banks back when it was almost entirely isolated.  

alt="The CRAB rolls along the beach on the south side of the Duck Research Pier in Duck, North Carolina."
Photo: Flickr

The concept for the Duck Research Pier—which is composed of concrete and cost approximately $7.5 million to construct—as well as its accompanying Field Research Facility were originally proposed in 1963 by Rudolph Savage, who worked as the chief of the research division at the Coastal Engineering Research Center. The structure was designed to serve as a platform that would assist researchers in measuring nearshore wave action, currents, water levels and bottom elevations—particularly during the severe storms that frequently strike the coast of North Carolina. In addition to an automated rain gauge that measures on-site precipitation, approximately 30 to 40 Baylor gauges are deployed along the sides of the Duck Research Pier at any given time in order to track incoming waves as they approach the beach and to measure wave height. The Duck Research Pier’s most famous piece of equipment, however, is a three-wheeled instrument called the “CRAB,” a 35-foot-tall tripod seafarer with the ability to easily roll along the beach, over the sand dunes and out into the deep water surrounding the pier as it gathers data and performs measurements.

alt="The Duck Research Pier stretches 1,840 feet into the ocean wave as pink clouds dot the horizon."
Photo: Dan Waters

The Duck Research Pier and Field Research Facility employ a permanent staff of 11 people, including oceanographers, computer specialists and technicians. The expertise of these scientists and researchers, coupled with the wide array of high-tech instruments utilized at the facility and along pier itself, have provided a wealth of important information over the past several decades that has helped to improve emergency responses to severe storms and coastal flood hazards—and ongoing studies will continue to provide the data and analyses necessary to better predict the threats posed to the beaches of the Outer Banks by tropical storms, nor’easters and hurricanes for many years to come.

Easy and Affordable Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

alt="A green home full of energy efficient and environmentally friendly options includes a sun, the earth and a leaf in a lightbulb."When it comes to making your home more energy efficient as well as more environmentally friendly, a wide array of opportunities are available—from purchasing pricey solar panels to install on your roof, to adding top-of-the-line doors and windows, to replacing your current appliances with brand-new Energy Star-rated fixtures. Although these options are all excellent and effective ways to reduce your home’s carbon footprint and will ultimately save you some cash in the long run, they all require a considerable amount of commitment in terms of their upfront costs. Whether you’re looking for less expensive ways to make your home more energy efficient or you’re a renter who isn’t permitted to make such massive changes to the property in which you live, the following tips will help you make your residence more energy efficient without breaking the bank.

1. Replace Incandescent Lightbulbs with LED or CFL Lightbulbs

alt="LED, CFL and incandescent lightbulbs are shown to illustrate how the former two are more energy efficient options."
Photo: LatinaLista.com

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to make your home more energy efficient is to swap out your old incandescent lightbulbs and replace them with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs or compact florescent lamps (CFL) bulbs. In 2007, the U.S. Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in an effort to assist the United States in moving toward greater energy independence and security and to increase the production of clean and renewable forms of energy. As a result of the the EISA being signed into law, several types of incandescent lightbulbs are no longer being manufactured and a wider array of LED and CFL options are now available.

alt="A green lightbulb contains a U.S. dollar sign to indicate how this bulb is more energy efficient."
Photo: Town of Kittery

Although they are much more energy efficient than their incandescent counterparts, many consumers are hesitant to replace their old bulbs because of the higher upfront costs that are often associated with LED and CFL lightbulbs. The majority of incandescent bulbs can be purchased for about $1, whereas LEDs and CFLs typically range in price from $3 to more than $10 per bulb. However, despite their higher purchase price, LED and CFL lightbulbs offer a significantly longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, which means you’ll save more money in the long run by not having to replace them as frequently—and because they are energy efficient, you’ll also save a considerable amount of money on your monthly electric bills.

2. Use Low-Flow Showerheads & Faucets

alt="A stainless steel showerhead in a black tiled shower drips water from blue lights at the top of the showerhead fixture."
Photo: American Home Shield

Another inexpensive yet effective method of making your home more energy efficient is to trade in your current showerheads and faucets for low-flow options that will help you to conserve water and reduce your use of excessive resources that are simply—and quite literally—going straight down the drain. According to The Washington Post, the average American family uses 40 gallons of water for showering each day—which amounts to 1.2 trillion gallons of water used each year in the United States. Add to this the fact that each gallon of water must be heated up properly before use and the results in a huge amount of “energy-rich” water being used up every single day, much of which is wasted when low-flow showerheads aren’t being utilized.  

alt="Two $20 bills are being sucked down a drain by water in a shower that is not energy efficient."
Photo: Earth Bio Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that water heating comprises as much as 17 percent of a home’s electric bill, so replacing your high-flow showerheads with low-flow models will not only reduce the amount of water that is wasted during your daily showers—it will also cut your monthly electric bill costs significantly once less water is being warmed up to showering temperatures by your water heater. To ensure you select a suitable model, look for a low-flow showerhead that has been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Thanks to this government organization’s WaterSense program, consumers can now easily find showerheads that have been proven to produce flow rates below 2 gallons per minute—enough to save the average family nearly 3,000 gallons of water per year and to provide power to a residential property for as many as 13 days.

3. Replace Furnace Filters Frequently

alt="A man replaces a furnace filter inside a home to ensure the residence is as energy efficient as possible."
Photo: California Energy Services

Few methods of making your home more environmentally friendly and energy efficient are quicker—or easier—than replacing your furnace filters on a regular basis. Traditional forced-air systems—which are the most common types of heating and cooling systems found in residential properties—draw air into return ducts and then heat it up or cool it down with the help of a heat exchanger. Once the air has been heated or cooled, it is pushed back out through another series of ducts with the assistance of a blower fan, and it is then dispersed into the various rooms throughout your home. This cycle is repeated again and again until the desired temperature you have set on your home’s thermostat has been reached.

alt="A dirty and dusty furnace filter is shown next to a clean furnace filter to illustrate when the filter needs to be replaced."
Photo: Landmark Home Warranty

Although many people mistakenly believe that the only job of a furnace filter is to clean or purify the air that is pumped out from your heating and cooling system and into your home, the reality is that the primary job of a filter is to protect the blower fan on your furnace from becoming clogged by dust, hair and other contaminants that may be floating around inside your property. When you neglect to maintain a regular filter replacement schedule, your furnace filter can become very dirty very quickly, which not only results in filthy, contaminant-filled air being pumped out into every room of your home—but also results in an appliance that has to work overtime to keep up, contributing to an excessive amount of energy use and potentially causing damage to the unit itself. To ensure your family is breathing in clean and safe air, to prevent your furnace from becoming damaged and to make your home more energy efficient, check your filter for clogs and blockages monthly, and replace your filter completely every 90 days or sooner.

4. Seal Up Air Leaks Around Doors and Windows

alt="Money is seen flying out of an open window in a home whose windows are not properly sealed up."
Photo: The Balance

If you’re searching for a super-cheap way to save a considerable amount of cash on your home’s electricity bills while also increasing the energy efficiency of your residence, hit your local hardware store and stock up on some sealant, caulk, spray foam or weatherstripping to use on your home’s windows and doors. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, residential properties are filled with a variety of places that can contribute to air leaks that cause your home to lose warm air in the winter and lose cool air in the summer—potentially costing hundreds of dollars in wasted electricity and also reducing the energy efficiency of your home significantly.

 

alt="A man uses a caulk gun to seal and air leak in the window of a residence and ensure it remains energy efficient."
Photo: House Logic

Although attics, ceiling fixtures, fireplace walls, chimneys and air vents are well-known trouble spots when it comes to air leaks, the most common culprits are typically doors and windows that haven’t been properly sealed to prevent the flow of air from seeping in and out of your property through the cracks. Major leaks are often noticeable—particularly during cold and windy days when the flow of outside air can be felt creeping into your home; however, some smaller leaks can be almost impossible to detect but still require proper sealing. For a variety of ways to check your residence for air leaks of all types and sizes, click here. Once you’ve determined the spots where your home is losing hot or cold air—or where it is allowing hot or cold air to seep in from the outdoors—use spray foam, caulk or weatherstripping to completely seal up the gaps, save your hard-earned money and to maximize the energy efficiency of your house.   

 

Craft Breweries on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

alt="A white picket fence sits in the foreground of one of the craft breweries on the Outer Banks of North Carolina."
Photo: Weeping Radish Farm Brewery

Weeping Radish Farm Brewery – Grandy

According to the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, the Tarheel State is home to more than 230 craft breweries—more than any other state in the country—however, only one can claim the title of being the oldest microbrewery in the state: the Weeping Radish Brewery. The brewery was founded in 1986 by Bavarian native Uli Bennewitz, who immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and quickly set out to open a brand-new microbrewery in North Carolina that was similar to the ones that were found throughout his Bavarian homeland.

Photo: Our State Magazine

Despite the popularity that breweries had enjoyed in his home country, at the time that Bennewitz attempted to establish one in North Carolina, only 100 microbreweries existed in the entire United States. To further complicate his plans of opening a business, North Carolina law prohibited breweries from selling their beer directly to consumers. Bennewitz, however, was determined to turn his dream of opening a Bavarian-style brewery in the United States into a reality, so he went to work attempting to convince state politicians to repeal the restrictions that craft breweries faced. His efforts eventually paid off, and Bennewitz soon opened the doors to what would become the first microbrewery in North Carolina.

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Drawing on his Bavarian heritage, Bennewitz began to brew his beers in strict adherence to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot Purity Law of 1516. Commonly referred to as simply the “German Beer Purity Law,” Reinheitsgebot was introduced by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria and states that only four ingredients can be used in the beer-brewing process—hops, barley, yeast and water—and that the product can contain no chemicals, additives or preservatives. Due to his strong belief in Reinheitsgebot, Bennewitz concocted all of his beers in accordance to the Bavarian law, and brews made by the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery gained immense popularity among both locals and visitors to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Photo: Weeping Radish Farm Brewery

As the demand for Bavarian-style brews on the barrier islands increased, it quickly became evident that the Weeping Radish Brewery needed a bigger facility than its location on Roanoke Island in order to keep up its supply. In 2001, groundbreaking began at the brewery’s new location in the nearby town of Grandy, about 35 miles away from its original location in the waterfront town of Manteo. In 2005, the newly named “Weeping Radish Farm Brewery”—which featured a larger brewing operation, a farm, a restaurant and a butcher’s facility—brewed its first batch of beer and officially opened its doors to the public. For more on the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery, click here.

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

The Outer Banks Brewing Station – Kill Devil Hills

Situated in the heart of Kill Devil Hills, the Outer Banks Brewing Station is perhaps the best-known craft brewery on the barrier islands of North Carolina—and it’s anything but your ordinary brew pub. The Outer Banks Brewing Station has a unique claim to fame that sets it apart from other breweries across the country: it was the first-ever wind-powered brewery in the United States as well as the first wind-powered business to open up shop on the Outer Banks.

alt="The wind turbine on the Outer Banks Brewing Station spins outside the building designed to look like a lifesaving station."
Photo: Our State Magazine

The concept for this environmentally friendly business dates back to 1992, when its founders, Eric Reece and Aubrey Davis, were working as Peace Corps volunteers in Thailand. The pair had developed an interested in home brewing, and Eric had gained a wealth of experience in the brew pub industry while working at a brewery with master brewer Scott Meyer in Berkeley, California. Having grown up spending his summers on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Aubrey envisioned the beach as the perfect place to start a business that honored the unique history of the region.

alt="The bar at this craft brewery on the Outer Banks was designed to resemble a lifesaving boat pointed toward the sea."
Photo: OBX Guides

The building—which was designed by architect Ben Cahoon and constructed by Carolina Beach Builders—was modeled after the many lifesaving stations that sprang up along the Outer Banks at the turn of the 21st century. According to the brewery’s founders, the bar itself is a modern-day interpretation of a lifesaving boat that is pointed east toward the ocean, ready to be deployed down tracks made of beach bricks to save the crew of a ship that has fallen victim to the infamous Graveyard of the Atlantic. Behind the Outer Banks Brewing Station stands the landmark 92-foot-tall wind turbine that is responsible for powering the innovative restaurant and brewery whose focus is not only on crafting exceptional beers but also on sustainability and environmental consciousness in the community.

alt="The stage at the Outer Banks Brewing Station is pictured from above and tables fill the spot that is transformed into a dance floor at night."
Photo: Outer Banks Brewing Station

The Outer Banks Brewing Station may be best known for its extensive menu of handcrafted brews, tasty tapas and delicious entrees that range from burgers and fish bites to North Carolina barbecue and pan-seared scallops; however, the establishment has also become a hot spot for live music performed by local and regional bands. Those looking for a one-of-a-kind spot to enjoy nightlife on the Outer Banks will find a large stage that fronts an even larger dance floor, making the brew pub a prime place for people who want to dine on delicious fare before kicking back with a cold brew and soaking up the music scene.

1718 Brewing Ocracoke – Ocracoke Island

alt="1718 Brewing Ocracoke is one of the newest craft breweries on the Outer Banks."
Photo: Facebook

One of the newest craft breweries on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is 1718 Brewing Ocracoke, which opened its doors for the first time in October 2017. Located on the main road as you enter Ocracoke Village, 1718 Brewing Ocracoke was established by owner Garick Kalna and his wife, Jacqui, in the building that formerly housed Café Atlantic. The couple made a conscious effort to maintain a significant amount of the previous restaurant’s ambiance, incorporating some of the exterior shingles into the interior design and keeping the rich wood paneling on the walls intact. 

alt="Four handcrafted beers in glasses are sit in front of a chalkboard menu at 1718 Brewing Ocracoke, one of the newest craft breweries on the Outer Banks"
Photo: Visit North Carolina

The two-story structure offers patrons plenty of indoor and outdoor seating where they can enjoy one of the many handcrafted beers that are brewed on-site in 12-barrel batches. Named for the year that the legendary pirate Blackbeard was killed just offshore in the waters of the Pamlico Sound after a brief battle with British soldiers who sought to put an end to piracy in the shipping routes that ran along the Eastern Seaboard, 1718 Brewing Ocracoke offers an extensive menu of unique beers to please every palate. From IPAs, kolches and stouts to ales, saison-style brews and wheat beers, visitors will find no shortage of exceptional options to choose from at 1718 Brewing Ocracoke.

 

 

 

 

The 2020 Outer Banks Wedding Expo – March 7 & 8

What is the Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo?

alt="A bridge and groom kiss under an alter on the beach as ocean waves roll onto the shoreline behind them."
Photo: Outer Banks Wedding Expo Facebook

Hosted each year by the Outer Banks Wedding Association, the Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo is a two-day event aimed toward couples who are planning to hold their wedding ceremony and reception on the pristine beaches of North Carolina’s picture-perfect barrier islands. Attendees will have one-on-one access to more than 120 local vendors who can help them plan and pull off every single aspect of their dream wedding, from the type of flowers bound in the bride’s bouquet to the flavors found in the slices of cake served at the reception. Those who venture to the beach to attend the annual Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo will also be treated to tours of some of the most popular wedding venues on the OBX—and they will also receive a variety of generous discounts that can be redeemed at restaurants, hotels and attractions up and down the North Carolina coastline! 

Types of Vendors Exhibiting at the Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo

alt="Outer Banks restaurant staff members from Red Sky Cafe stand at their exhibitor booth at the Outer Banks Wedding Expo."
Photo: North Beach Sun

When you attend the 2020 Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo, you can expect to find a wide array of on-site booths staffed by exhibitors whose local businesses are designed to assist you with virtually every element of your Outer Banks wedding. Sample a variety of potential menu items that you can serve to your guests from dozens of top-notch restaurants and catering companies who will be exhibiting at this year’s event. Discuss photography and videography package options with local Outer Banks photographers who have decades of experience capturing every memorable moment of couples saying “I do” along North Carolina’s barrier island beaches.

alt="A photographer showcases samples of his work at a booth at the Outer Banks Wedding Expo."
Photo: ColemanShots.com

Looking for a seasoned professional who can make both you and your bridal party look absolutely stunning on your special day? The Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo will feature an assortment of hairstylists and makeup artists who can help you decide on the perfect look for your once-in-a-lifetime walk down the aisle as well as the post-ceremony reception activities! And if you need assistance finding a place to stay during the week of your wedding—or for your honeymoon—you’ll find no shortage of exhibitors representing Outer Banks vacation rental companies from Corolla to Kitty Hawk to Hatteras Island that are here to help you select the perfect condo, cottage or extravagant estate for the big day!    

Where to Stay During the Outer Banks Wedding Weekend

Photo: Pinterest

When it comes to places to stay along the barrier islands during the 2020 Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo—or for your upcoming Outer Banks wedding ceremony and reception—you will find an assortment of options to choose from. Whether you’re searching for an affordable, cozy condo for a couple or you’re in need of a beach house big enough to fit your entire family, the Outer Banks vacation rental companies listed below are sure to have the perfect accommodations to suit your specific needs and your budget.

Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo Hours & Locations

The Outer Banks Wedding Expo will be held on Saturday, March 7, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at First Flight High School, 100 Veterans Drive, Kill Devil Hills, NC, 27948.

The Outer Banks Wedding Tour portion of the Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo will be held on Sunday, March 8, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at various venues and locations along the beach. 

For more information about the 2020 Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo—including a complete list of local businesses and professionals who will be exhibiting at the expo as well as venues that will be participating in the tour—click here.

To learn more about some of the most popular spots along the beach where you can hold your Outer Banks wedding—from a century-old estate and a family-owned vineyard to a historic fishing pier and a world-class marina—check out our latest blog, “The Best Outer Banks Wedding Venues.”

The Best Outer Banks Wedding Venues

Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head

alt="Jennette's Pier in Nags Head serves as the aisle for an Outer Banks wedding with a white arch standing in front of the Atlantic Ocean."
Photo: ColemanShots.com

If you’re searching for a picture-perfect oceanfront location to serve as the backdrop for your Outer Banks wedding and reception, look no further than Jennette’s Pier. Located at milepost 16.5 in Nags Head, Jennette’s Pier is an Outer Banks landmark whose history dates back nearly a century. The original fishing pier—which was made of wood and stretched just 754 feet into the Atlantic Ocean—was constructed in 1939. In the decades that followed, Jennette’s Pier suffered considerable damage due to the rough surf and high winds that accompanied a series of hurricanes and nor’easters that struck the Outer Banks over the years. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel destroyed a large portion of the pier when more than 500 feet of the structure succumbed to the storm surge, and the pier was deemed unsafe and forced to shut down its operations.  

alt="Outer Banks wedding tables with white linens sit in a window filled room with ocean views at Jennette's Pier in Nags Head."
Photo: Neil GT Photography

In 2009, construction on an entirely new pier began, and in May 2011 the North Carolina Aquarium Society held a groundbreaking ceremony and officially opened the brand-new attraction to the public. Today, Jennette’s Pier stands atop sturdy concrete pilings and stretches 1,000 feet out into the sea, making it one of the longest piers on the entire East Coast of the United States. The top floor of the completely renovated pier house features panoramic ocean views, a cathedral ceiling, and plenty of space to accommodate up to 175 guests for your Outer Banks wedding, reception or rehearsal dinner. You’ll also find a covered outside deck where you and your guests can enjoy a salty sea breeze and the sounds of the surf rolling onto the shoreline should you choose Jennette’s Pier as the venue for your one-of-a-kind Outer Banks wedding.  

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

7223 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959

252.255.1501 Ext. 204

www.NCAquariums.com/Jennettes-Pier-Weddings

The Whalehead Club in Corolla

alt="The historic Whalehead Club in Corolla and the Currituck Lighthouse are reflected into the water during an Outer Banks wedding."
Photo: Julie Dreelin

Another Outer Banks wedding venue with a unique history on the barrier islands of North Carolina is the Whalehead Club , a 21,000-square-foot mansion in Corolla that overlooks the Currituck Sound on the western edge of the island. Boasting a bright-yellow exterior, five brick chimneys, 18 dormers and a copper roof comprising 10,000 individual tiles, the historic Whalehead Club is one of the most recognizable buildings on the entire Outer Banks, making it the perfect setting to host your wedding ceremony and reception. The estate was constructed by Edward Collings Knight Jr. in 1925 to serve as a hunting lodge for his own family as well as the many wealthy businessmen from Washington, New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia who frequently ventured to Currituck County to hunt the various types of waterfowl that were once found in abundance throughout the region. 

alt="The historic Whalehead Club is pictured in front of the Currituck Lighthouse and the Atlantic Ocean in Corolla, North Carolina."
Photo: Michael Colligon Photography

In the years that followed the Great Depression, however, the waterfowl population on the Outer Banks began to decline significantly, as did the demand for such an extravagant hunting lodge. The estate’s ownership changed numerous times before the structure finally fell into a state of disrepair in the early 1990s. In 1992, the Currituck County Board of Commissioners undertook a $1 million project that restored the abandoned and dilapidated mansion to its former glory. Today, the Whalehead Club is a famous Outer Banks landmark that attracts thousands of visitors each year—many of whom have said “I do” on the enormous front lawn of this spectacular waterfront property during their Outer Banks wedding.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

1100 Club Road, Corolla, NC 27927

252.453.9040

www.WhaleheadWedding.com

Sanctuary Vineyards in Jarvisburg

alt="The sun rises over a row of grape vines at Sanctuary Vineyards on the Outer Banks of North Carolina."
Photo: Fearrington Village

If saying your vows while being surrounded by winding rows of grape-filled vines in a spot whose rich history dates back more than seven generations sounds like your style, head to Sanctuary Vineyards in Currituck County for your upcoming celebration. Situated on the mainland of eastern North Carolina just a short drive from the barrier island beaches, Sanctuary Vineyards is one of the most popular locations for couples who plan to host an Outer Banks wedding. The vineyard’s story begins hundreds of years ago, when a man named Jacob Wright found himself shipwrecked on the shores of nearby Duck, North Carolina. Rather than attempting to set sail along the Graveyard of the Atlantic once again, Wright made the decision to settle permanently on the Outer Banks and soon established a small farm on the edge of the Currituck Sound in Jarvisburg.

alt="Wine barrels serve as the backdrop to Outer Banks wedding tables at Sanctuary Vineyards in Currituck County, North Carolina."
Photo: Wedding Spot

In the decades that followed, members of the Wright family discovered that the sandy soils of the coastal plains provided the perfect conditions for growing Muscadine grapes, and Sanctuary Vineyards was officially founded. Today, Sanctuary Vineyards boasts a 10-acre plot of land dedicated to producing several varietals of grapes, including the Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Norton and, of course, the ever-popular Muscadine. If you select this world-class vineyard as the location for your Outer Banks wedding, you’ll have your choice of an outdoor or indoor reception area that can accommodate up to 250 guests who will not only enjoy the stunning scenery of this quaint farm in Currituck County, but also the wide array of top-notch wines that are produced on-site by the Wright family each season.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

7005 Caratoke Highway, Jarvisburg, NC 27947

252.491.2387

www.SanctuaryVineyards.com

The Pavilion at Pirate’s Cove Marina

alt="A bride and groom sit on a deck staring at the water in a marina full of boats during their Outer Banks wedding at sunset."
Photo: Pirates Cove Marina

One of the most unique venues to host an Outer Banks wedding is the Pavilion at Pirate’s Cove Marina. Situated along the shoreline of a canal that juts off the Roanoke Sound, the Pavilion at Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo is located in one of the premier resort communities of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The open-air venue offers 13,000 square feet of space that can accommodate over 300 guests for your wedding or reception. The world-class marina full of sport fishing yachts serves as a picturesque backdrop to your big event whether you hold your ceremony inside the pavilion itself or outside along the docks.

alt="Yachts in a marina sit at the end of an Outer Banks wedding aisle at PIrate's Cove in Manteo, North Carolina."
Photo: Nikki Seward

Guests will enjoy an 18-foot by 18-foot dance floor, a built-in stage, on-site restrooms, as well as a 30-footlong granite bar complete with appliances. Step outside the pavilion to the lawn along the edge of the marina, where you and your guests can hold the ceremony itself, host a cocktail hour before the reception, or simply spend the afternoon or evening playing a round of games in the great outdoors. Whether you’re a fishing enthusiast who wants easy access to one of the most coveted marinas on the East Coast or you’re searching for a unique spot with incredible views for your ceremony and reception, the Pavilion at Pirate’s Cove Marina is the perfect place to host your waterfront Outer Banks wedding.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

2000 Sailfish Drive, Manteo, NC 27954

252.473.1015

www.PiratesCoveWeddings.com

The 2020 Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo

Are you planning to hold your upcoming wedding on beautiful beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina? If so, don’t miss your chance to attend the 2020 Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo!

This annual two-day event, which will be held March 7-8, will feature 120 local vendors whose businesses will help you pull off the perfect beach wedding in your favorite slice of barrier island paradise.

To find out more about this highly anticipated event, check out our blog on the 2020 Outer Banks Wedding Weekend & Expo by clicking here. 

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

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

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

MANTEO:

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

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

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

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

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

IF YOU GO:

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

KILL DEVIL HILLS:

Great Gatsby New Year’s Eve Party

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

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

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

IF YOU GO:

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

DUCK:

Annual Crab Pot Drop & Oyster Roast

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

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

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

IF YOU GO:

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

HATTERAS ISLAND:

Old Farts New Year’s Eve Event

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

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

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

IF YOU GO:

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

Celebrate Safely:

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCRACOKE ISLAND:

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

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

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

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

PEA ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE:

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

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

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

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

COQUINA BEACH:

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

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

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

What is a Coquina Clam?

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

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

TIPS & TRICKS FOR FINDING SEASHELLS:

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Seashell Hunting on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

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

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

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

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

SCOTCH BONNET:

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

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

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

SCALLOP SHELLS:

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

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

WHELK SHELLS:

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

The 3 Types of Whelk Shells:

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

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

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

COQUINA CLAMS:

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

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

Where to Find Coquina Clam Shells:

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

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

SEAGLASS HUNTING ON THE OUTER BANKS:

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

 

The Top 5 Holiday Activities on the Outer Banks in 2019

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

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

1. Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens

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

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

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

Photo: OuterBanks.com

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

IF YOU GO:

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

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

2. Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival

Photo: WingsOverWater.org

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

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

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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

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

IF YOU GO:

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

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

Photo courtesy of OuterBanks.org

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

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

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

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

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

IF YOU GO:

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

4. The Manteo Christmas Tree Lighting & Parade

Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

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

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

Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

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

IF YOU GO:

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

 5. The Poulos Family’s Outer Banks Christmas House

The Outer Banks Christmas House. Photo: Pinterest.

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

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

Photo: Clip.CookDiary.net

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

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

IF YOU GO:

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

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

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

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

NAGS HEAD:

Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

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

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

Photo: The Nature Conservancy

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

KITTY HAWK:

Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve

Photo: Shutterstock

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

Photo: InstagHub – @CoastalKayak.Obx

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

Photo: DefendersBlog.org

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

CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE:

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Photo: Rob Sabatini Photography

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

Photo: HatterasFishingCaptain.com

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

Photo: NCPedia.org

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

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