Mr. UR works in both of the Carolinas. He travels both states and visits clients that can be close to home - and the furthest away is about 8 hours drive time. Every other year, or so, he visits those clients who are the furthest away and hence, he is gone over the weekend. I try to travel with him so we can have a weekend away. (Note that this is done on our dime and not the company's) We've gone to the Outer Banks - the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina - a few times and decided to go again in January.
We ran into a little hiccup on our way there - 9 inches of snow! My first time ever at the beach wearing snow boots!
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras is a national seashore that stretches 70 miles from Bodie Island Lighthouse to Ocracoke Island and is managed by the National Park Service. Often hailed as one of the 10 most beautiful drives in the US, Cape Hatteras is windswept desolation at it's best. If you drive this national seashore, you won't be cruising along with water on both sides of the road. It's dunes, and sand, and more sand. Large dunes that block the view of the water. And wind. And driving on the beach. (You must get a permit from the National Park Service and have either all wheel or 4 x4) Which we did. I love it here. In fact, it's one of my favorite places I've been. In full disclosure I'll say that the last few times I've been here have been off season. January and February. No crowds. No traffic. And not much open. I'm ok with that though - in fact, I prefer it this way. But be aware that if you visit in summer there will most definitely be crowds, traffic and long waits at restaurants. It's a very popular destination.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Bodie Island Lighthouse (pronounced Body) is at the northern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. About seven miles south of the town of Nags Head, the lighthouse can be climbed from April through October for a fee. It's the third lighthouse located at this spot - and there was no road access until 1920 so all supplies had to be brought in by boat. The original lighthouse keepers duplex is part museum, gift shop and national park service visitor center. We stayed close by in Nags Head our first night and we went here to get our Off Road Vehicle permit and stayed to see the sunset. There is a viewing platform behind the lighthouse where you can also see the birds from Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. Grounds are open 24/7 but the Lighthouse Keepers Quarters are open from 9-5.
Buxton, North Carolina
Buxton is a quiet fishing village about 20 miles from the ferry to Ocracoke Island.
We've stayed here before - and chose Buxton this time around again for our second night. It's the largest town on Hatteras Island and is home to the high school for the area, several restaurants, the Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. There were only two restaurants open for dinner when we visited - Angelo's Pizzeria and Diamond Shoals, known for it's award winning chowder. We chose Diamond Shoals for our Saturday night dinner - and so did most of the town. People kept pouring in to eat at this third generation Hatteras Island resident's restaurant. It didn't disappoint.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore's beaches are free to visit. If you get a map at the visitor center, you'll see that there are several parking areas for beach goers. But some are across from the beach and you may have to climb a path up and over a dune carrying all your things. So the National Park Service allows for an ORV - Off Road Vehicle - pass so that you may drive your all wheel drive or 4 x 4 vehicle right on the beach to your spot. There is a fee and a few rules. We bought a pass this time and the Mr. drove on the beach - something he's wanted to do for quite some time. It was fun but not gonna lie - a little nerve wracking thinking we could get stuck.
Lighthouse View Inn
We spent our beach time right outside our lodging at Lighthouse View Inn. Built in the traditional Outer Banks style - natural cedar shingle - we stayed in the hotel portion of the inn. (You can rent condos and cottages also) Our room was directly oceanfront with a queen bed, full bath, table and chairs, tv and microwave/mini fridge. Each room has it's own little patio (or balcony) with adirondack chairs and a clothesline. There are charcoal style grills on the property, also, along with an outdoor pool and hot tub - which isn't open in the winter. Located in Buxton, you can walk across the street to Fatty's for breakfast or lunch, laze your days away on the beach or your patio, visit Cape Hatteras Lighthouse or Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve. This is an older property but is well kept and was easy on the budget. I really liked it and would stay here again.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located in the town of Buxton, and run by the National Park Service. Known for it's diagonal black and white stripes, Cape Hatteras is probably the best known of the Outer Banks lighthouses.Off the coast of Cape Hatteras are the Diamond Shoals - a cluster of shifting, underwater sandbars which made Hatteras one of the most dangerous areas for ships. Nicknamed the "Graveyard of the Atlantic", there have been some 600 shipwrecks off the coast here. The lighthouse also was famously, and controversially, moved further inland in 1999.(There is a movie that you can watch at the museum about the lighthouse moving) You can climb the lighthouse from April through October for a small fee - and you can also visit the Museum of the Sea in the lighthouse keeper's cottage. We stopped for a quick look-see on our way out of town.
Something cool they've done is take the original base of the lighthouse, carve the lighthouse keeper's names into the stone and make them into an amphitheater
Ocracoke Island, reached only by ferry or private boat, hosts Cape Hatteras National Seashore also. You can reach the island from the Outer Banks by one hour (free - no reservations) ferry or from Cedar Island or Swan Quarter on the mainland by 2 1/2 hour ferry ($15 - reservations) We arrived from Hatteras and took a little detour until our next ferry by driving on the beach. The town of Ocracoke is quite small - most get around by golf cart or bike - but there are restaurants, bars, hotels, house and condo rentals and the Ocracoke lighthouse. I've never spent much time here as we've mainly used it to get from one ferry to another. (The drive from one ferry to another is 20 minutes)
I hope you've enjoyed my first Beach of the Month installment. I've no clue where we're headed next month- but I'm looking forward to it anyways!
How about you? Have you been to Cape Hatteras National Seashore? or the Outer Banks?
Linking up with: Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!