Outer Banks Allure
A popular television series recently spotlighted the long chain of thin barrier islands arching out into the Atlantic Ocean, but North Carolina residents and visitors alike have long treasured the stunning 125-mile (201 kilometers) stretch and Cape Hatteras, where Ocracoke and Hatteras Island meet. Situated in the center of the roughly 70-mile-long (113 kilometers) Cape Hatteras National Seashore — land operated and protected by the National Park Service — the laid-back destination is renowned for its natural beauty, pristine beaches, picturesque lighthouses, and Southern hospitality.
Must-Do: Check out the tallest natural sand dunes in the eastern United States — the highest reach 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 meters) — at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head. About 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away, visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills to see where Wilbur and Orville became the first to successfully fly an airplane in 1903. You can even visit the reconstructed hangar the brothers lived in during four years of experiments and see a replica sculpture of their plane.
Eat: Savor fresh North Carolina seafood at Dinky’s Waterfront Restaurant atop Village Marina. The eatery’s motto is “Great Things Come From Small Places,” and menu items such as blue crab ravioli and Carolina shrimp pair excellently with panoramic views of Pamlico Sound. Also, sample the smoked fish dip at The Wreck Tiki Bar and Food, a family-friendly spot on the docks of Hatteras Landing Marina.
Day-Trip: A little over an hour drive away, the iconic black-and-white spiraled Cape Hatteras Lighthouse can’t be missed. At 198 feet (60 meters), it is the country’s tallest brick lighthouse and peers upon one of the most perilous sections of Atlantic coastal waters, known as Graveyard of the Atlantic because of the numerous ships that have wrecked here. While the lighthouse’s interior is undergoing renovations, a virtual tour via the lighthouse’s webcam provides a look inside.