Paul and I took a trip this spring to the northern coast of South Carolina and to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Outer Banks is a fantastic place and one of our favorite destinations. This story is about the second part of that journey and it begins in North Carolina, so read on my friend!
After leaving South Carolina, we drove to Wilmington, NC and made a stop at the USS North Carolina for a tour. This was on Paul’s wish list and it was worth it. This was a battleship that fought for us in World War II, and she was quite impressive!
She participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific, earning 15 battle stars. As we were standing on her deck, I happened to look over the side and was thrilled when I spotted a large alligator swimming nonchalantly along!
After we finished exploring every nook and cranny of that ship, we traveled to Cedar Island to catch the ferry to Ocracoke Island. The ferry dock at Cedar Island was surprising and not particularly in a good way. There was nothing there. No town, no restaurant, just the building that harbored the employees of the ferry systems (with bathrooms, thank goodness!), and one very small, one employee post office. And some vending machines, which is a good thing because we arrived 2 1/2 hours prior to our scheduled departure. They did however have some rocking chairs on a nice porch, which sufficed very well as we sat and read and rocked the time away!
I happen to love ferry rides. Every time I visit my sister in Washington we ride the ferry from Seattle. Today’s ferry ride was a pleasant 2 1/2 hour trip, with an occasional dolphin providing a welcome reprieve from the waves and wind. We talked with a gentleman that lived in Ocracoke and he entertained us with stories of the area, including the island of Portsmouth. At one time it was a bustling port, but the only residents of the island now are park department employees. It’s their job to maintain the buildings and homes that have long been deserted. You can catch a ferry to the island from Ocracoke. There isn’t any business there or motels, but camping is allowed and some people love the remoteness of the island. Portsmouth wasn’t on our agenda today, but I can see a trip in our future!
The Ocracoke Lighthouse could be seen from the ferry as we made our way into the ferry landing.
After landing in Ocracoke, we quickly made the journey to the next ferry station to catch the Hatteras Island ferry, which was an additional 60 minute ride.Cape Hatteras National Seashore; fantastic vacation destination on the Outer Banks of North… Click To Tweet
We truly regretted not getting to look around Ocracoke, but motel reservations awaited us in Buxton on Hatteras. So that adventure will be saved for another day! The ferry ride to Hatteras was quite interesting and actually made longer by the shallowness of the sound here. The ferry captain had to maneuver the boat through buoys strategically guiding us through the lane and to our port.
Landing in Hatteras, the ride to Buxton was only 20 minutes and we safely arrived at Cape Pines Motel.
Exploring Hatteras Island
The next day brought us a bright blue sky with puffs of white clouds scattered throughout like cotton balls tossed on a blue cloth. The breeze blowing off the Atlantic brought a cooling touch to the warm day. Our plans, explore Hatteras Island.
The two lane highway that runs from one end of Hatteras Island to the other is Highway 12 and at times you can see the sound on one side and the ocean on the other, or at least you know it’s there lurking right over the sand dune.
Our journey included a stop for breakfast at Fatty’s Eatery. When visiting the Outer banks you won’t find the chain restaurants that dot the landscape almost everywhere else. Here the flavor is for small, locally owned pubs, grills and restaurants.
Our first destination after breakfast was to see the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. There are five lighthouses along the Outer Banks, but this one is my favorite. You’re probably familiar with it because of it’s famous move in 1999. The sea was encroaching upon the area of beach it sat on and to save it the move was organized and completed. It’s really amazing and you can read all about that move here: Moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
After admiring this beautiful lighthouse, we traveled on to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, which is what a large area of the Atlantic ocean off the coast of North Carolina is referred to. This is because of the unusually large number of shipwrecks that have occurred here. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream and the cold waters of the Arctic Current meet off Cape Hatteras causing the entire coast to be an area of shifting bays and inlets which has proved to be very hazardous for ships through the years! This is also the reason for the many lighthouses along the Banks.
As we left the museum and headed back north on Hwy 12, we suddenly became aware of colorful kites filling the air and swooping, first skyward before lunging back toward the water of the sound. They were kite boarders and the riders were skimming along the water and performing acrobatic maneuvers.
This portion of the sound is a world famous destination for kite boarders. We stopped and chatted with a couple from Canada that had made the trip just for the kite boarding. The parking lot was filled with license plates from New York, Michigan, Canada and various other far off states.
Next stop was at the Pangea Tavern in Avon for lunch. I can’t begin to tell you how mouth wateringly delicious the buffalo shrimp wrap was! I have talked about it and longed for another one ever since that day. The tavern had a nice atmosphere and the staff were very friendly. I definitely recommend it!
Almost directly behind the tavern is the Avon Fishing Pier. If you aren’t a fisherman, you can still enjoy walking out on the pier and checking out everyone else’s catch or just enjoy gazing at the ocean. If you’re lucky you might spot a dolphin or two!
That evening we took our chairs and sat on the beach watching and listening to the waves while sea gulls fussed at one another and the beautiful Cape Hatteras lighthouse loomed in the background.
Tomorrow we’ll be off to Nags Head, but first a quick list of fun things to do on Hatteras Island. Click on each link and find out more:
- Water sports – surfing, windsurfing, kite-surfing, kayaking, jet-skis, paddle boarding, parasailing, etc.
- Fishing, both in the sound and the deep blue Atlantic
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
- Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
- Hatteras Island Ocean Center
- Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
- Horseback Riding (including along the beach)
- Family Water Adventures – exploring the sound
- Canadian Hole – world famous kite-boarding location
- The beaches – are both public and private beaches
- Avon Fishing Pier
- Camping – there are four National Park Service campgrounds on the island: Oregon Inlet, Cape Point, Frisco and Ocracoke. In addition there are numerous private campgrounds.
Thank you my dear friend for reading about our adventure. The first part of our trip can be found here and part 3 will be coming soon!
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