During the months following up to spring break, we decided to do a long trip and stay for a week in the Outer Banks, NC. If we could survive a week, perhaps we could survive a month on the road this summer. Easy peasy. Right? Well… a week in a camper makes you realize just how small your space is. We assumed that most of our time would be spent outdoors: cooking, eating, fishing, etc; however the weather had other plans on being cold and windy verses beautiful. The exact moment I realized that a month in the camper was a horrible idea was on the second day of my having to put on pants in the living area, because our bedroom was too small.
Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, we tried to make the best of it. If the sun was shining, we were outside. At one moment, the wind was strong and the blowing sand was painful, so the girls hung out in the truck, watching movies and eating snacks, while we fished. We had a bucket list of places we wanted to see while we vacationed and most were checked off. To be honest, the most fun we had was when it wasn’t planned, when we were more spontaneous, and just followed the open road. The one day we had ventured out with a plan turned into the family being grumpy and tired, mostly because we tried to smush too many things into an afternoon.
We have compiled a list of our favorite activities we did during this trip; however there are so many other great places to visit and activities to do while vacationing here. Most of this list consists of activities that we had never tried or done before, instead of us doing the same thing we do every time we visit.
- Spend a day on the beach. There’s nothing better than a warm, sunny day spent on the beach. With the unreliable weather, we made sure to spend as much time on the beach as possible. The girls always have a blast collecting shells, build sand castles, playing the waves, or finding sand fleas. Joseph and I enjoy surf fishing, while relaxing and staring at the waves.
- Visit the sound: Most people who go to the beach only go for the salty, ocean water and sand. My family, on the other hand, typically goes to the sound for swimming, fishing, and windsurfing. Because my husband and in-laws are windsufers, we usually stay on the sound side. If you are into this recreational sport, interested in a lesson or two, or just want a good show, this is a must! We enjoyed watching the windsurfers and kitesurfers zip across the water and get some major air! I highly recommend checking out Canadian Hole, near Buxton. More perks of hanging out on the sound would be the calm, clear water, hermit crabs, beautiful sunsets, and the lack of large crowds. During this visit, it was very windy and there were no hermit crabs. So our trip on the sound was not as long as we had planned.
- Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge: One of our favorite families, the Haithcocks, told us about The Sanctuary of Pea Island the last time we had spent time in the OBX. I had no idea this place even existed, nor did I realize how cool it was. The museum/gift shop near the front of the parking lot has stuff for the kids to look at, a telescope to find local wildlife, and a scavenger hunt! Once outside on the nature trail, you will find cute turtles, beautiful trees, and great sites.
- Lighthouses: This is one of the things that the Outer Banks is known for! There are five lighthouses in the Outer Banks that you can visit. During our visit, we saw two,the Bodie Island lighthouse and Cape Hatteras lighthouse. The girls were fascinated by both of these, but unfortunately they were not open to the public to climb yet. Cape Hatteras is my favorite lighthouse, because of the extensive move it made to remain a protected landmark.
- Drive on the beach: This all depends on if you have the appropriate vehicle. If you own a 4×4 suv/ truck, then I highly recommend obtaining a permit. Links for more information are below. We were able to explore Rodanthe, Cape Point (our fave!), Frisco, and use the beach access roads to connect the beaches instead of paved roads. If you have kids, you already know how much stuff you will be lugging to the beach, only to have one of them exclaim their need to use the restroom. This happened to us a few times and it was still a pain the butt; however it was so much nicer to jump out of the truck onto the sand and grab stuff from the back. Easy enough! I do recommend anyone planning to do this, make sure you understand the what to do and not do while driving on sand. We saw so many people get stuck and not have the equipment to get themselves out. So, know the rules and get the recommended equipment OR looking like an idiot.
- Cape Point: Once you get the hang of driving on the beach, I strongly suggest spending a day at Cape Point. You can hike it, but I personally would not with all of our gear and two kids trailing behind. It’s just around the corner from Cape Hatteras lighthouse and will not disappoint! This beach offers the best fishing, best shells, and the best views! While fishing there the first time, I looked to my left and saw the lighthouse watching over us, and to my right was nothing but beach and ocean. On the day of our departure, we ended up requesting a late checkout and spent the remainder of our time here. It’s by far my favorite place in the Outer Banks and look forward to my next visit.
- Jockey’s Ridge: This was the first time my family and I were been able to climb up Jockey’s Ridge. Once you get to the end of the boardwalk, what you are able to see is nowhere near amazing as the top of the sand dune. Once to the very top of the dune, you are rewarded with a beautiful site of the sound and ocean. I highly recommend bringing a picnic lunch and blanket, water, kites, maybe a beach chair, and definitely an entire open afternoon. We did not plan accordingly, but we did have fun flying the one kite we did remember and watching the hang gliders.
- EAT: There are an abundance of restaurants in the Outer Banks, especially in Nags Head and Kitty Hawk area. Seafood and doughnuts are our favorite foods to feast on while we are here. We feasted at The Dunes the first night we arrived, of which we have dined at on previous trips. I highly recommend their breakfast menu and buffet. If you’re into local craft beer, check out the Outer Banks Brewing Station. I enjoyed some of the best tuna tacos that I have ever had, while eating lunch there. One thing I would recommend, is after dining, check out the playground in the back. Kids can play, while the adults enjoy one of they’re handcrafted beers. Unfortunately, we did not do this. We should have. We left completely stuffed, but somehow ended up in Duck Donuts. Was this the smartest decision that we have ever made? Nope. Because we were so full, we weren’t able to appreciate the delicious, dessert donuts as much as we should have. Thankfully, we have a Duck Donuts down the road from our house that we can visit and enjoy whenever we have a craving. If you have not tried these famous donuts, you’re in luck! They have over 160 locations, mostly on the east coast. Our last dining experience came to us unexpectedly, mostly because I was craving fried oysters again. Our original plan was to only eat out twice, but this cute cafe was across the street from our campground. The Atlantic Coast Cafe is small in size, but big on taste! They have a well rounded menu for even the pickiest of eaters (aka Chloe) and serve breakfast lunch, and dinner.
- Beach Bonfires: I have only seen a beach fire on movies and television. So when my husband said we could have a fire ON the beach, I got pretty excited! There is a permit that needs to be filled out and regulations regarding location, time of year, and time of day. On our last night in the Outer Banks, we filled out the permit, bought some firewood at the camp store, and grabbed our shovel. Talk about relaxing! The evening was slightly chilly, but the fire and our cocktails kept us warm while we discussed our future travels. It would only take us a few days after arriving home, the camper still packed, for us to decide this was the year that we would go for an adventure!