Outer Banks vacation - tell me everything I need to know!

I’ll be baking on a beach in Avon, in NC’s Outer Banks, in a week. :slight_smile:

I’m looking forward to it tremendously, because my husband and I desperately need a vacation. We’re going to spend a week in a huge beachfront rental house with 8 other people, two of whom are good friends; the others are going to be new to both of us (friends of our friends), but we’ve been reassured they’re a fun bunch. The house has a pool table and media room, and between the 10 of us we’ve got a dozen board games, a Wii, and a couple of cases of wine coming. I’m excited - neither of us has ever been to the Outer Banks before!

How horrid is the drive from the DC area? Do I need to leave in the middle of the night to avoid the bad beach traffic?

What should we try and see? I already have plans to see the Hatteras lighthouse and the Wright brothers’ stuff at Kitty Hawk, but is there anything else worth taking a side trip for in the area?

And of course, what about food? We’ll be bringing and buying food and mostly eating dinners together in the giant kitchen and dining room, sharing cooking duties among the couples, but we also enjoy finding good little local places to eat. Any recommendations? Everyone I’ve asked has only ever stayed further north, in Nag’s Head or Duck, and I think those are probably too far from Avon to make a lunch trip realistic! Also, are groceries a lot more expensive out there? I’m trying to decide how much I should bring with me and how much I can wait and buy there.

Ah…I love that place, especially the farther south you go. In Avon, they have a huge fishing pier where you can rent rods/tackle and fish off the pier. Or bring your own. Its pretty fun…you also might see dolphins from up there.

Definitely check out Hatteras. Take the ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island and check that out. The ferry is free (or at least, it was the last time I was there). You might catch a glimpse of the wild horse herd that roams around on Ocracoke. Ocracoke is also sparsely populated. Go have a couple pitchers of beer at the Jolly Roger restaurant there.

Speaking of restaurants, you will find a lot of fried food. IIRC there is no natural gas service there due to the hurricanes and distance from the mainland. Actually scratch that…gas pipes were laid in 2004 which is after the last time I was there (2002). So I have no idea if that’s altered the restaurant culture down there.

You have 8 of you…I would seriously consider doing a deep sea fishing expedition. You can hire a captain and his boat from the many marinas around there, or look it up online and book in advance (probably a better idea). Its not cheap though but wouldn’t be too bad spread out amongst the 8 of you. Plus you get to bring home fresh seafood to eat at the rental house that the fishing boat crew will have cleaned for you.

Frankly, there’s not a TON of things to do the farther south you go, which is why I like it. Hatteras is a pretty pristine beach experience, especially if you go off peak season. I like not being around a shit ton of people when I go visit the ocean.

As far as your trip, I’ve been down to Nag’s Head a couple times when I lived in Northern VA and the drive wasn’t too bad at all. Taking I-95 to I-64 and then onto SR 168 to US 158 gets you there in about 5-6 hours. Its a pretty gorgeous drive, especially once you cross that massive bridge into the Outer Banks itself.

A couple other things you can do:
Visit Fort Raleigh in Manteo, site of the first English settlement in the New World, as well as the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Have fun, bring the sunscreen!

That sounds like a ton of fun, even though I’m not much (any) of a fisherwoman! I’ll ask the rest of the group and see if anyone else might be interested.

I’m glad we’re going to be in the less-hectic part of the Outer Banks, actually. The only other east-coast beaches I’ve been to are Daytona and Ocean City (MD) and they were absolute chaos. I like the thought of lying on a beach and not having to duck beach balls and tune out screaming kids all day.

Going to the outer banks is something I’ve been thinking of for a while.

Are there the usual fast food and motel chains on the outer banks?
Is the water still warm enough to swim in late September? Is fall considered a shoulder season?

The drive from DC can be horrific. Especially if you leave during prime hours on 95. We went last year actually and rented a beach house too. We were pretty underwhelmed to be honest but we were expecting there to be more to do than there was. If you only want to hit the beach though it’s great.

If you venture out to try a restaurant, consider Dirty Dick’s Crab House in Nags Head, featuring delicious food and shirts that read “I got my crabs from Dirty Dick’s” :smiley:

Can’t tell you anything about the drive from DC, as I drove from Norfolk. However, I can tell you that groceries are kind of expensive in the less populated areas.

ETA -

Yes, yes, usually, and don’t know.

When I was a kid, we spent every summer on the Outer Banks. Back then we would camp at a KAO campground and walk to the beach. It was quite and you could find patches of beach with hardly anyone around. People always tell me that it is way different now and really built up. Is it comparable to VA Beach, or Ocean City MD?

It’s been 5ish yrs so assuming things haven’t changed:

Definitely hit Jockeys Ridge - it’s just a big sand dune but that’s so “Nags Head” and where they lifted off (kinda). The memorial thing to them isn’t much to speak of IMO unless you’re hard-core about it - just a big monument and some pics in the little visitor area. Across the street from Jockeys Ridge is some good shopping, although if you hunt you can find better deals (“Wings” is the wal-mart of touristy stuff with several stores in the area). In Manteo (across the bridge) there is the lost city thing and a little shopping/etc. Farther in is the botanical garden and aquarium which are nice.

Re restaurants, Owens down near where you turn off the main drag of Nags Head to head to Hatteras is perhaps the best place in the whole area but pricey. Sam and Omies is right there and totally opposite, just a little hole in the wall place but decent food (trivia, Andy Griffith used to go there a lot before he got big). I’ll second Dirty Dicks, and I hear Breakouts in Hatteras is good though I’ve never been. And there is Awful Arthurs farther north in Nags Head, also a little hole in the wall place but a good oyster/shrimp bar kind of thing.

I was there about a month ago. Avon, on the beach. Only way to go. We stayed in Que Sera.

I’ve done this perhaps 15 times in the last 25 years. We leave Saturday morning from my mom’s in Arlington, Va. It’s an easy drive compared to what it was 20 years ago. But, it’s more like a 6+ hour drive with the bottleneck of traffic on 64 around Williamsburg going to Norfolk. That’s the worst traffic.

The fresh seafood store in Avon is “Risky Business.” They’re good, but make sure you pick out your selection before it’s too late in the day. If you go in at 5:00PM to buy something, your selection of about 1/3 of what you could have had at noon.

There’s a Food Lion in the shopping center in Avon. While I hate the commercialization that’s come to the Banks the last 20+ years, it’s sometimes worth it for the convenience of a modern grocery.

There’s no longer any BBQ that I would recommend on Hatteras Island. Trust me on this as I’m the king of Eastern Q. If you want some good BBQ, both pork and chicken, try High Cotton in Kitty Hawk. Awesome place. I know the owner. Of course, you need to decide to eat there when you’re up visiting Kitty Hawk area, as it’s a pretty good hike from Avon.

There’s actually a Dirty Dick’s now in the shopping center with the Food Lion in Avon. I’ve not eaten there as I’m not a fan of commercial places such as they appear to be. They might be great.

I’ll try to answer any other questions you might have. I’ll read this one at least once a day.

Oh, yeah. Gingerbread House in Frisco is one of the better places on the Island. Been there a long time. I recommend anything they have.

Groceries in the Food Lion are very much in line with what you pay in Maryland.

Yes, but only on the “Outer Banks” to the North(Kitty Hawk, Nags Head). Once you get on Hatteras Island, the answer is “NO.”

Yes, water is beautiful in late September, my favorite time to go. And, rates are about the cheapest at that time(after Labor Day). Also, perhaps not of interest to you, the best fishing time of the year.

Using my example of Que Sera above for rates, if you go in August, it’s $2,795/week. If you go in September, it’s $845/week. Same house. Less demand. Stupid lemmings.

Thanks for these recommendations. We’re probably going to be in the Kitty Hawk area around lunchtime on our trip down, so I’ll keep the BBQ place in mind. And while I’m not a huge seafood eater, my husband will be delighted to check out the seafood store. It’s also good to know the groceries won’t cost a ton. Is there anything resembling a farmer’s market in that area, for fresh local-ish produce?

The Bible quotes on their main page are a bit of a turn-off for me, but as long as nobody tries to sell me a side of Jesus with my cinnamon rolls, I’ll check them out.

Are there places near Avon to rent fishing and/or beach equipment? And how bad are the bugs? Do I need to bring industrial-strength mosquito-repellent?

Yes, bring industrial-strength mosquito repellent. We rented a house in 2009 in Avon, and were eaten alive crossing the dunes to the beach and back. We were bitten through heavy clothing, even. Not sure how bad they’ll be this year, but I would be prepared.

You do know which state you’re going to, right? :stuck_out_tongue:

I know, I know. And it’s really okay, as long as nobody tries to beat me over the head with a Bible. Maybe I should take the “evolve” fish off my bumper?

I highly recommend cooking your own food as much as possible. I found the Outer Banks-area restaurants to be underwhelming and often overpriced, with ordinary seafood offerings that you could easily find in, say, the Midwest.

Really? Being on the coast doesn’t mean better quality seafood?

It varies but that’s true, just because you’re on the coast it’s suddenly so much better than elsewhere. I have had some underwhelming meals there (Tortugas for ex and I’m sorry I don’t recall more offhand, but none in Hatteras as I rarely went there).

Just use common sense and do a little research. I’ve not been to the Outer Banks, but just got back from my 10th trip to Hilton Head. I’ve been to restaurants that are featuring the King Crab and/or the Snow Crab. Actually the midwest is around a 1,000 miles closer to Alaska than the Atlantic coast.

On the other hand, it isn’t too tough to find a place on the water with shrimp boats outside and watch deck hands bringing coolers into the restaurant on the dock. Guess who has great fresh steamed shrimp. Ask the locals what is good and fresh at this time of year.

I’ll second going over to Roanoke Island and touring the site of the first settlement. The play that tells the story of the Lost Colony they have is also pretty entertaining.

I’ll post this here, but send you a PM as you may not see this.

For all things fishing, go about a mile up from the Food Lion plaza to Frank and Fran’s. They’re the fishing pros in Avon. And, they’re nice. I have no idea if they rent fishing equipment. But, buying a rod and reel to fish either in the surf or off a pier isn’t horrendous.

Also, a tradition for my extended family, go to the Orange Blossom Bakery. While they have new owners, get there early to get your donut fix.

Don’t even think of looking at online reviews of restaurants on Hatteras Island. While some still are there, the turn over is huge.

As to the quatlity of the seafood. Fresh seafood, including daily catches of fish and Blue crabs, shrimp etc. are wonderful. You can’t buy the same things in stores 300 miles inland. When you pick out
grouper from the seafood store there, it’s truly grouper caught that morning. Shark is also good. Flounder is wonderful, just don’t over cook it. You can’t miss steaming up a mess of spiced shrimp seasoned with Old Bay.

Buy yourself a pound or two of fresh blue crab meat(lump only, not backfin,not claw), probably $27/lb. Make crabcakes. WE’ve actually had threads on the SDMB about them. Enjoy.