Tell me about the Outer Banks

I want to take off for a few days with CrazyCatLady in between the end of my residency and the hassle of moving. I’ve always heard wonderful things about the Outer Banks, so I’d like to visit while I’m still in NC, but I’ve never been.

Where do I go? Where do I stay? What do I do?

I haven’t been in over a decade, so I can’t help you on where to eat, where to stay, etc., but I can say you’re going to have a great time.

As long as it hasn’t changed drastically since I’ve been there, the area is not nearly as touristy as you would expect. The beaches are clean and devoid of drunken college kids baring themselves for Mardi-Gras beads. The lighthouses are beautiful. Get the tours if you have time, as you’ll learn some pretty interesting stuff that you don’t get by just staring at them.

Kill-devil hill is very cool to visit, whether you believe it truly is “the birthplace of aviation” or not. Regardless of disputes, something great happened there, and you can almost feel it in the air.

I hope you have a great time!

Be very very wary if you go into the water. The undertows are legend. And don’t forget that this is hurricane season. But Cisco is right, it’s beautiful and relatively pristine.

Lovely place, but you have to live with getting bit by flies (horseflies?).

Okracoke is cool. We took a two hour ferry out there.

In some places, it’s just wide enough to have a beach, a row of dunes, a road and a railroad track, maybe 200 yards wide.

My wife and I go every year. The Outer Banks is a long spit of land that starts around Nags Head and terminates at Hatteras with Ocracoke island just offshore. What you experience at the Outer Banks is very much dependent on where you go and the time of year.

As you go from North to South the Banks become less densely visited and less like a typical tourist beach resort. If you choose to stay in Duck or Nags Head you will find lovely (but windy) beaches with your typical array of beach shops from cute to tacky. Even at its most populated the Outer Banks isn’t the Jersey Shore. You will still find miles of beach with nothing but a few surfcasters.

The south end, Hatteras, Avon, Buxton and Frisco, are much quieter and are feature a lovely and large wildlife sanctuary. There isn’t much to do at night if you want entertainment other than nature. The fishing is terrific, from the Frisco pier, from shore, or from a headboat. As you can tell I love the south end and we stay at Hatteras every year. The best place to eat is the Austin Creek Grill which is about as good a restaurant as I have ever eaten at.

If you are looking for a place to stay try Colony Realty at, we have had very good experiences with them and found the prices to be reasonable. Enjoy, I have to wait until September this year.

I don’t know if ‘touristy’ is the right word, but Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, etc. have become more and more built up and overcommericialized over the years, to the point where I really dislike staying on the northern end of the islands. On weekends, driving can be a nightmare because people are in the process of leaving their rental houses and new people are arriving. Since the Outer Banks is a series of skinny barrier islands, you are stuck on Route 158 (and farther south, Route 12) the whole way down - there is very little in the way of alternate routes you can take. So, if you decide to go, try and see if you can do it mid-week. It’ll make your journey more pleasant.

As for what to do - what do you want to do? Just sit on the beach? Sightsee? Or something more active? I like going down to Buxton or Hatteras to stay - it’s much less developed due to stretches of land being protected - but correspondingly, there is not as much to do. There’s the beach, and restaurants, and the Hatteras lighthouse, and wildlife watching and that’s about all.

I personally like stopping on the way near Manteo at the Weeping Radish, and you can also see The Lost Colony play, if you are interested in historical stuff.

The Outer Banks has a really good web site - you might want to check that out too.

IMHO, that’s the BEST time to go! It’s not blazing hot any more and the crowds have died down. The sky has stopped being hazy and turns azure blue and it’s just beautiful.

Hijack :

DoctorJ, you mentioned in another thread that you’d be working for a hospital in Appalachia - I asked which one, but don’t recall seeing a reply. I was just curious, since that’s sort-of my neck of the woods.

Ocracoke is where you want to head.

The northern Outer Banks have become terribly commercialized and crowded. Traffic can be very heavy. We started going there in the late 1960s and it was just a collection of cottages one one road. No longer.

Ocracoke, OTOH, is largely undeveloped and still a wonderful little place. It is protected because of the national seashore, so I don’t expect that it’ll be much more than it is right now for some time to come.

I’ve only been to the extreme north (Duck thru Corolla) once. My memories of it are that there’s a lot of development, but it’s a lot more subdued than Kill Devil’s Hills/Nag’s Head area. Think Hilton Head, maybe. Kill Devil’s Hill/Nag’s Head, think Myrtle Beach. The communities on Hatteras Island, somewhat in-between–but the last time I was there (2002), I saw lots and lost of condo-type buildings going up. Just depends on what you want. For my own purposes. . .

In your case, you’ll probably want to take [reserve] the Swan Quarter ferry (if Ocracoke appeals to you). It’s a long drive to Nag’s Head, and then back down Hatteras Island, and the lines for the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry can be quite long during the summer.

I just got back from a week in Corolla, and here’s my advice:

  1. Show up early on Saturday to dodge the HUGE rush of traffic on Route 12
  2. Leave early the next Saturday (i.e. 7 or 8 am) to cut an unpleasant hour of stop-and-go off your trip – this means you will arrive home early, and you will still be relaxed from the vacation.
  3. Don’t try to do all of your tanning the first day. :cool: --> :mad:

The beach house we stayed in seemed to be a pretty common variety (something like 7 bedrooms, 5 baths) and we fit 15 people in for a week, each paying about $110. Someone was always home, so locking and unlocking was never a problem; each night three or four people would take responsibility for dinner, and everyone brought some communal breakfast and lunch foods. There was always someone willing to go go-karting, kayaking, swimming in the pool or ocean, or even out for a run. Board games for the rainy day (only one all week!) and a hot tub for anyone with sore muscles from working out – it was heaven.

I highly recommend setting up a group house with 12 of your closest friends.

If you have a chance, Topsail Beach is a nice place to visit.

And if you don’t want to be instantly recognized as a tourist, pronounce it TOP-sul beach, not top-sail.

Hear! Hear! My parents own a share in a house in Surf City on Topsail. I try to get out there as often as possible. It’s quiet, and relaxing. Mrs. Magill and I wil bring Fang out to Topsail this July. I’m excited to see how he reacts to the beach.

Note: If you visit Topsail, try to get a place either in Topsail Beach or Surf City. Avoid North Topsail, unless you enjoy watching the beach erode before your very eyes.

Ah, I have heard of this so-called “Surf City”, and its highly favorable ratio of females to males. [/reference]

Probably some combination of hanging around on the beach, getting out on the water (some sort of boat trip, maybe), and general exploring. (Our vacations generally involve a lot of random roaming around.)

It’s in southeastern Kentucky.

It does seem cool. If I did go to Ocracoke, where should I stay? (Specific suggestions for other areas would be welcome as well, in terms of accommodations, food, and activities.)

Just look here and you will find lots of info about the town on the southern end of the island. Other than this little town, the rest of the island is pretty much natural and untouched.

I’ve stayed at several different places in Ocracoke. I think the Anchorage is on the waterfront (Silver Lake Harbor), but that one I haven’t stayed at. The Silver Lake Inn is pretty close to the waterfront. I’ve stayed there, and it was OK. If you’re into B&B’s, I’d recommend “Oscar’s House.” Ann, the lady who runs it, is really cool. She’s lived there for many years, and is also sorta like the island’s official photographer-in-residence. Normally, though, I stay at one of the budget places, the Sand Dollar. Hey, it’s a clean room, clean sheets, and doesn’t take a bite out the wallet.

Be forewarned, if you’re looking for a big shopping mecca, or excitement, this place probably isn’t for you. They do have a number of charter fishing boats, and one charter service (run by the Austins) will take you to the ghost town on Portsmouth Island. Portsmouth is actually larger than Ocracoke, but atrophied, IIRC, as the result of a change in the fishing lanes brough on by a hurrican over a hundred years ago.

So far as food, I always make a stop at Cafe Atlantic, the Creekside, and the Back Porch. There’s also another restaurant (that has a different owner, menu, and name each time I’m there) near the post office. I always sample the new fare there. Don’t know why they can’t keep a stable place. I’ve been happy with each incarnation. One of the local favorites is Captain Ben’s. I went there the very first time I ever visited, and never went back. That was the one bad experience. I think it was just a fluke, a bad luck of the draw, because it’s pretty popular even among the locals. But, I’ve never been able to convince Tucker-babe to give it a second try.

I’d recommend Ocracoke as well, specifically Oscar’s. There is a fine bluegrass-type band there as well, Molasses Creek, who have a new OpryHouse there:

Ocracoke is the last holdout for beachgoers who don’t want the outright glare.

Cool. Fairly near where my parents live.

Confirmed from personal experience. I almost got swept out to sea off Ocracoke. If another vacationer hadn’t swum out to help me, I probably wouldn’t be typing this now. Other than that, I liked the spot pretty well.