Agenda: 3 days in North Carolina’s Outerbanks

North Carolina’s Outer Banks are the perfect spot for a family vacation.  It has everything:  Beautiful beaches, luxurious  rentals, cool and unique natural pursuits, fascinating historical sites, fantastic restaurants, theater, aquarium… everything.  Roller coasters?  No. Almost everything.

The only other thing the outer banks does not have is low prices in the high season summertime.  That is why a weekend in the spring or fall shoulder season is a great time to go.  The weather is perfect.  Pools can be heated to perfection.  The ocean is still warm in the fall.  Here is a small sampling of a spontaneous agenda for a spectacular long weekend in Duck, NC in the Northern Outer Banks:

DAY 1:  Arrive in Duck, NC

4:00pm Stock up on provisions at Tommy’s Gourmet Market before your 4pm check in.  Tommy’s will even shop for you in advance so that you can maximize your vacation time.  Check in at your rental house headquarters in the village of Duck.  Duck is my preferred area in the OBX due to its numerous great restaurants, waterfront boardwalk, and walkability.

Houses in the area range from 4 bedroom all the way up to 21 bedrooms for many families traveling together and from old beach house style to modern renovations.  Homes on the oceanfront demand quite a premium, so it is best to prioritize what features you want.

After unpacking and settling in, enjoy a dip in the pool and a cocktail on the porch.

6:30pm Walk to a sunset  dinner at Aqua restaurant overlooking the sound.  After dinner, stroll the shops at Scarborough Fair and stop in for dessert before heading back to the house.

DAY 2:  Day Trip South

9:00am Head down NC State Road 12 to Kill Devil Hills for a visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, site of the historic first flight.  The new visitors center has top notch exhibits on the history of flight, a replica of the plane.   interesting to all ages, followed by a walk on the grounds following the path of the historic trip at the top of the hill.

12:00pm Right next to the Memorial, is a great stop for lunch, the Outer Banks Brewing Station the first windpowered brewery in the US.   It opens at 11:30am on Fridays and Saturdays but not until 3pm Monday-Friday, so be careful about when you go.

1:30pm   If you have energy left to burn after the morning’s activities and didn’t drink too many beers, hop down to Nags Head for a dune hike at the super cool Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest and largest natural dune system in the eastern U.S.  Warning:  There is little shade and on a hot day you will roast like a marshmallow in the sun.  Plan ahead and you can arrange a dune Hang Gliding lesson from Kitty Hawk Kites.  The lessons are approximately 3 hours long for folks over 75 pounds.  Younger, smaller kids can have a tandem lesson but only June- August.

There is also a nice visitor’s center with fun information on the natural history of the dunes.

After a hot afternoon in the sun, head back to the house to cool off in the pool and relax with dinner in and movie night.

DAY 3:  Day Trip North!
9:00am Head up to Corolla after a pit stop at Duck Deli for breakfast.  You will already be hungry for lunch when you smell the excellent barbecue cooking.

photo (c) 2011 by travelguideline under CC attribution

In Corolla, take a tour to the top of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and then visit the neighboring Historic Whalehead Club, a fully restored former hunting lodge built in the prohibition era of the 1020s that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  In addition to the lighthouse and the historic home, the Currituck Heritage Park contains the old school house, boathouse, an interpretive trail that leads you by 20 historical markers, and adjacent Maritime Museum.  There are also kayak rentals and pontoon boat rides on the sound.  At 9am Monday-Friday, there is an “expedition” tour of the home designed for children 8-14.  Advance reservations are necessary, so plan ahead.

12:30pm   At this point, you’ll no doubt be hungry!  Everyone’s favorite is Lighthouse Bagels and Deli, also an alternative for breakfast, since you’ll be heading up this way anyway.  Or grab some on the way up and have a picnic on the Currituck grounds.

1:30pm  Time for your expedition to find the Wild Corolla Spanish Mustangs that still inhabit the remote areas of the Outer Banks.  Many tour companies run money back guaranteed tours, around 2 hours in length in open air, off road vehicles.  Guides will tell you the history of the area and of the ponies, who swam to the Outer Banks from the Spanish Galleons that wrecked in the rocky waters.  Tours cover over 20 miles of pristine beaches.

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