Boy did we ever miss the mark when we drove through North Carolina and never visited the Outer Banks. As a family, we often vacationed at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Depending on the age of our kids and the need for bathroom breaks, the trip took anywhere from 16 hours straight through or a couple of days with nightly hotel stopovers. Our prime reason for the trip was to enjoy the wonderful beaches and of course the warm weather. At the end of our stay and on our journey back home we would make a stopover in North Carolina to visit family.
This weekend I realized we had the whole South Carolina trip wrong. For years we journeyed to South Carolina, bypassing family and beaches to get to Myrtle Beach. We could have shortened our trip by vacationing in North Carolina instead! Yes *palm to forehead,* North Carolina is home to some of the most magnificent beaches.
Never, in all the years of visiting family in North Carolina had I ever traveled just a bit further down the road (a 36 minute drive to be exact) to walk the North Carolina’s Outer Banks shoreline. North Carolina not only has beautiful beaches, but the beaches are free and open to the public! In my defense, my North Carolina in-laws are not beach goers. They cover themselves up from head to toe before going out on sunny days. They think I’m (we are) a little nuts to be such a sun/beach worshiper(s). Anyway, back to the beaches.
Getting to the Outer Banks
For us, we traveled down route 158 straight to the beach. You could also take 64 or 284, but once reach the end of the road, you must turn right or left onto Route 12. Route 12 is the road that takes you up and down the North Carolina shoreline.
Being from New York where just about every time you cross a bridge there’s a toll, I was amazed when drove down route 158 and crossed the bridge over the Currituck Sound to get to Kitty Hawk/Cape Hatteras without paying a toll. Even better, the beaches are public and free.
There are many beach access points along Route 12 and several places to park (for free). Some parking areas have bath houses where you can change and shower. Some are paved while others aren’t. To get a true feel for what’s available, stop at the Visitor’s Center to get maps and tips on what’s where.
Clean Beaches and Plenty of Ocean
I’m guessing that visiting the beach in mid September is considered off season, but with temperatures in the mid to upper 80s and cloudless skies, I’ll come back again during the off season. There were no crowds which made strolling along the shore even more pleasant. The beaches are clean with soft sand (not full of broken shells to cut the bottom of your feet).
There were several sunbathers and young surfers trying to catch the perfect wave. The water was feeling the aftereffects of the latest hurricane so there was a rather respectful undertow. I didn’t find the waves to be super large In comparison to the waves found at NY’s Jones Beach, but the Outer Banks is apparently a surfer’s hot spot. Who knew? Surely not me.
Visiting the beach was a spur of the moment idea so we only stayed long enough to walk along the shore for about an hour or so. One thing I know for sure is the next time I’m in the area I will spend more time on the beach. I’ll also take more time to explore the area.
The Outer Banks is now on my Traipsing Around “To Do” list.
Oh, by the way. I forgot to mention that if you take 158 to the Outer Banks, you’ll pass a large water park not long before you reach the bridge. If you’re traveling with kids, blindfold them so they don’t see it, because you can bet they’ll hound you until you give in and take them to the H2OBX Water Park. I haven’t been there, but it looks like a lot of fun!