Thursday, March 23, 2017

STAY: North Carolina's Sanderling Resort

We have been vacationing on the Outer Banks - barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina - for years. Before kids, we used to rent a house there with couples from college.  Then when kids came along we returned with them to enjoy the beaches, visit the Wright Brothers Memorial, and see if we could spot the famous wild horses who live there. There was a beautiful hotel that we would pass in Duck built in the Nags Head style of unpainted homes with large porches and roofs that mimic the dunes. The Sanderling Inn. (Which has since been updated to Resort)I had heard that it was expensive to stay there. So I didn't give it a second thought.

Fast forward to our last visit to the Outer Banks. There are now more hotels there than there used to be. Since we were only staying for a few nights and most rentals are weekly, I started  looking into hotels. I stumbled upon the Sanderling, remembering it from long ago. Set in the town of Duck, the Sanderling is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pamlico Sound. Sunrises and sunsets.

Recently voted in the top 10 of North Carolina's hotels by Our State Magazine, the Sanderling was offering off-season rates. (They regularly offer specials to military personnel and special rates for different seasons) So I called them up and lo and behold, we were staying at the Sanderling!

A Four-Diamond resort that has been recently renovated, the Sanderling is known for it's service.When you hear Four-Diamond or Resort you might think that it's stuffy. Pretentious. But there's none of that here. You can do as little or as much as you want. 

 There are three buildings of accomodations, a spa, vacation home rentals, two restaurants, 2 bars and 2 pools and a hot tub. Staff will provide beach chairs for you whereever you would like, set up local activities including a wild horse safari tour or golf or tennis or set up spa time for you. There are lounges with reading materials in each building. And those rockers - 
they're available on most of the porches.

We stayed in the North Inn with a balcony overlooking the pool and hot tub. Our room came with a smores packet for smores at the fire pit and our own rubber duckie for the bath. Since we were there off-season, one of the pools was closed as was one of the restaurants. But the spa, hot tub, fire pit andthe Life Saving Station restaurant were open.

We spent our time in the hot tub and the beach chairs overlooking the ocean. We witnessed a sunrise and a sunset. We drove into Corolla for breakfast  - if you go to First Light for breakfast, you must, MUST get one of their fist size biscuits. And we enjoyed a glass of wine on our balcony on those out of the world comfortable chairs.

If you're heading to the Outer Banks and you would like to stay at a Four-Diamond resort known for it's service and spa, then give the Sanderling Resort a look. Check the website or give them a call. You never know if you will fall into a special. And then you could be staying at one of the top ten ranked hotels in North Carolina!

This post is not sponsored. I just got a really good deal - first night at off-season rack rate and the second for $29.

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Wanderlust Facebook Travel Blog Party, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Million Dollar Highway and Ouray (Hurray!)

Since our son moved to Colorado a few years back, Mr. UR and I have been blessed to visit and explore the Centennial State. We've enjoyed the Christmas holidays in Estes Park and Breckenridge, attended Oktoberfest, stayed on a ranch in Hesperus, picknicked in the Garden of the Gods and now, driven The Million Dollar Highway. 

First off, I wasn't sure if it was The Million Dollar Highway cause it cost that to build or because of the Million Dollar views. I had to look that up. And apparently, it's not clear why it's called The Million Dollar Highway - differing views state it's because it cost a million dollars per mile to build in the 1920's or that it's fill dirt contains a million dollars in gold ore (you can view the remains of the Idarado Mine along the road) or from someone who drove it in the summer and stated that they "wouldn't drive that road in the winter for a million dollars."  Whatever the reason for the name, it's quite an incredible road.

The Million Dollar Highway stretches for about 25 miles from Silverton to Ouray. The 12 mile stretch through the Uncompaghre Pass is the most famous part of the road - holy switchbacks, Batman! There are steep cliffs, really narrow lanes and guess what? No guardrails!  So basically, they use the switchbacks to gain elevation to get you through that mountain pass and then you curve your way back down again while looking down the sheer cliffs without guardrails. Easy peasy!

And just for fun - here's an old photo of it before paved roads - still no guardrails!


The road is actually kept open all year long but you will be required to have chains on your tires from the time that snow starts falling sometime in October. All I have to say is that I'm glad I was there in the summertime! I can't imagine driving it in the winter. 

Consistently voted one of the top 10 scenic highways in the US, you'll want to pull over at every chance to view the majestic scenery. Along the way you'll see abandoned mine buildings from the area's heyday as a mining center, Lookout Point - where you can see all of the town of Ouray from up above and depending on the time of year, a few waterfalls including Bear Creek Falls which has a viewing stand where you can look down on the falls. 

Bear Creek Falls

Anchoring the highway are two towns - Silverton and Ouray. We drove to Ouray first and stopped at Silverton on our way back. Ouray - I'm not sure of the pronunciation - I heard both Ooooray and You-ray - is known as the Switzerland of America. Besides it's location at the end of the mountain pass, Ouray is known for it's Hot Springs Pool. The day was quite hot so we weren't feeling a dip in the hot springs so we climbed the stairs for a rooftop visit to Ouray Brewing Company. And some of us enjoyed our short dessert break at Mouse's Chocolates & Coffee. Had we the time, we could've taken a four-wheel jeep tour - and had we planned in advance. Note for future - Book tours in advance!  

Ouray's Main Street

A Colorado flag planted in themountain

Ouray in the shadow of the mountains

At the other end of the mountain pass is Silverton, known as the terminus for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, an all day train excursion seeing the mountains of Southwest Colorado (Please be aware that you Must book this in advance - it sells out quickly and is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, things to do in Southwestern Colorado) Silverton is also known as an outdoor adventure sport lover's dream. Mountain biking on the old mining roads is the thing to do in summer - or you can four-wheel it, too.  And there's hiking in nearby San Juan National Forest. Four miles outside of town is Molas Lake which is popular for alpine fishing. 

This is how high the snow can get!

Camping and fishing at Molas Lake

For us, it was a day spent in the sheer beauty of Colorado. Way back in the day when I was in travel school learning to be a travel agent, one of my instructors was a train enthusiast. He spent a half- day teaching us about The Million Dollar Highway and the Silverton & Durango train. I've wanted to go since. And I was happy to finally fulfill that wish. 

Wear your seatbelt, hang on tight and enjoy the ride!

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and the Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!