Outer Banks Nonprofits: A Caring Community

non-profits on the Outer BanksEvery community has certain characteristics that distinguishes it—that identifies it as unique from other places. Certainly the Outer Banks has features that people who live here would say mark it as a different community.

This is a tourist driven economy. Living here, it is something that is accepted. In the offseason the pace of life slows and during the summer peak season, everyone is very busy and our roads and businesses are filled with visitors.

Communities, however, are distinguished by how they think about themselves and the people who live there, not necessarily by how everyone earns a living. On the Outer Banks, if asked, most of the people who who make this area their home would say that what truly sets it apart from other places, what makes it truly remarkable, is how generous and giving the community is.

There are many examples of that spirit of generosity and individual examples are too numerous to list; but a good way to understand what the Outer Banks culture is all about is to take a quick glance at local community based nonprofit.

Nonprofit organizations always need help, and a wonderful way to get to know an area, meet people and make friends is to volunteer with local organizations. Here are five great Outer Banks nonprofits to start the list of and we’ve added some additional opportunities after these five.

Outer Banks Community Foundation (OBCF)

(252) 261-8839

Founded in 1982 by, among others, the actor Andy Griffith and author David Stick, the Outer Banks Community Foundation fills the role umbrella organizations like the United Way often play.

The Community Foundation is very active in giving grants to local nonprofits and through endowments and bequests has been able to fund a remarkably diverse range of causes. There are funds designated for support of animal welfare, the arts and disaster relief among others

Additionally there are a large number of endowment funds that are administered by the OBCF and are linked to support of Outer Banks nonprofits. The Community Foundation has done a remarkable job of overseeing the investment funds over the years.

The OBCF also administers approximately 50 scholarship funds and it is the scholarships that perhaps best illustrates the generous spirit of the Outer Banks. Graduating seniors were awarded almost $220,000 in scholarships in 2018 from OBCF administered funds. There are some additional scholarships that will be awarded to students attending the local community college, the College of the Albemarle, and it is possible the total amount for scholarships will approach $230,000 for the year.

Outer Banks Sporting Events (OBSE)

(252) 255-6273

Back in 2006 when the first Outer Banks Marathon was run, no one was quite sure what would happen. The hope was that there would be some funds left over to donate to the Dare Education Foundation.

The marathon exceeded expectations and to manage what was apparently going to be an ongoing event Outer Banks Sporting Events was created as a 501C3 that would donate net funds from the Marathon to the DEF.

Today the OBSE sponsors five events—Running for the Leprechaun, the Flying Tiger Half Marathon, Storm the Beach, the Outer Banks Triathlon, and the Outer Banks Marathon. The Marathon is still the premier happening of the year with races and events scheduled throughout Veterans Day Weekend when it aways occurs.

The OBSE mission continues to be a source of funding for the DEF. However, the Outer Banks Relief Foundation has a also been added to the mix.

During race weekends, the OBSE has a huge need for volunteers, especially during Marathon Weekend.

The Dare Education Foundation (DEF)

(252) 255-5545

Dare County has an excellent school system—that’s not hyperbole, state performance rankings bear that out. One of the reasons for its consistently high performance is the support from the local community and the Dare Education Foundation exemplifies that function.

Founded in 2003, in 2007 it took on it’s most ambitious role. Noting that the Dare County Schools were having a difficult time bringing younger, talented teachers to the system because of the cost of housing on the Outer Banks, the DEF built 24 affordable housing units in Kill Devil Hills. In 2011 a second 12-unit complex was completed on Hatteras Island.

The foundation continues to manage the apartments today. Additionally the DEF supports teachers and students through professional development grants to teachers and classroom grants and scholarships for graduating seniors.

Outer Banks Relief Foundation (OBRF)

(252) 261-2004

What the Outer Banks Relief Foundation does as well, if not better, than anyone else is get assistance to people in need quickly. The financial assistance is not large—generally $500-$2000—and is not designed to be a permanent solution for a family or person in need. Most grants are one a time event, designed to help during a time of particularly trying or unexpected circumstance.

Some assistance may be ongoing, especially for someone needing help with transportation because of an illness, but for the most part, what the OBRF does is get money to people in need more quickly than a government agency can.

Founded in 2004, the OBRF has filled a very important role in supporting the local community. Since its founding the foundation has given out well over $1.5 million to more than 700 people in need.

Children and Youth Partnership of Dare County (CYP)

(252) 441-0614

Working with parents of infants, toddlers and preschool children, Children and Youth Partnership has been in the forefront of effort to have children ready for school since its founding in 1997.

The organization has also been a leader in efforts to create a healthier and more positive environment for adolescents.

CYP begins working with parents through its Baby Links program that provides a registered nurse for parents of newborn children. The Partnership continues working with parents with additional, outreach including two early reading programs.

Other Opportunities

This is just a partial list. Whatever the interest, there is sure to be a local nonprofit that matches your interest and needs your help.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund
(252) 453-8002
Manages the Colonial Wild Mustang herd that roams the sand dune and forest north of Corolla.

Dare County Arts Council
(252) 473-5558
Maintains an art gallery in downtown Manteo and sponsors a number of activities throughout the year. Lot’s of volunteer opportunities.

Dare Literacy Council
(252) 216-7773
Works with adults and students to learn how to read. The organization is always looking for tutors.

Food for Thought
Every Friday during the school year volunteers gather to pack over 500 meals to send home for the weekend so at risk children will not go hungry.

Interfaith Community Outreach
(252) 480-0070
Helping individuals in emergency situations. Will give ongoing help if appropriate.

N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles)
(252) 441-8622
Sea turtles are regular visitors to the Outer Banks, usually to create a nest and lay eggs. N.E.S.T. is very active in education, protecting nesting sites and in the winter working to save stranded turtles.

Outer Banks Food Pantry
(252) 261-2756
Provides free groceries to individuals and families affected by a temporary crisis or emergency. Stock shelves, take in donations, hand out food—there’s a lot to do.

Outer Banks Transportation System: Hope for the Road Weary

outer banks roadsOnce upon a time, when the number of visitors coming to the Outer Banks was perhaps half of what it is today, the highways and roads of the area were adequate to meet transportation needs. That is no longer the case.

Visitors and locals are still able to move around fairly well, but there is no doubt that traffic has been steadily increasing, and improvements to our highways are needed.

NCDOT has been active in moving projects forward. Like any major undertaking there is considerable planning involved, as well as funding issues. Nonetheless, there are some major projects on the books that, if and when implemented will significantly improve the Outer Banks transportation system.

Pea Island

The replacement span for the aging Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet the is the most visible part a the project to improve the roads between the northern Outer Banks and Hatteras Island. However, the entire project area includes all of Pea Island, which is NC 12 from the south end of the Bonner Bridge to Rodanthe.

One part of the project is already completed, although it will have to be revisited at a later time. The Captain Richard Etheridge Bridge spanning the New Inlet area has a projected 25 year life and is not considered a permanent solution. At a future date, a more permanent solution will be constructed that will either take the road into the sound, possibly linking with the proposed Jug Handle at the S curves, or moving the road to the west and constructing a bridge with a longer projected lifespan.

The most visible component of the Pea Island project is the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge. Soaring above the old bridge, it is an engineering marvel.

Clearly NCDOT and project engineers learned a lot from the Bonner Bridge. The navigation spans are now wider and much higher, and there are 16 of them instead of just one. The pilings that support the bridge are being driven much more deeply into the sediment beneath Oregon Inlet.

There are other improvements as well, and as a consequence, the projected lifespan of the bridge is 100 years.

Construction appears to be on schedule to open the bridge in the fall of this year.

After the bridge is open, the old span will be demolished with much of it being used for artificial reefs off the Outer Banks coast.

The most dynamic—read prone to flooding—area of Pea Island is the S Curves just north of Rodanthe. Beach nourishment has been used as a temporary protection method for the road at that location, but because of the undersea geology, nourishment is not considered a permanent solution.

NCDOT plans call for a jug handle. The road will cross a short area of marsh and wetland, swing out into the sound and form a three mile jug handle shape coming back to the existing NC 12 at the Island Convenience Store in Rodanthe.

According to NCDOT the project is due to get underway this summer with an expected completion date in 2020.

A Highway Divided

There are very few things as terrifying in life as pulling into the center turn lane on the Bypass at the same time a driver from the other side pulls in. Or—which can be even more frightening—the other driver is using the center turn lane as an acceleration lane to merge with traffic.

In concept the center turn lane of the Bypass allows left turning traffic to make their turn without slowing or stopping cars behind them. In reality, it’s a study in terror during peak season when traffic far exceeds the capacity for the concept planners had in mind.

Aware that it is a safety issue, NCDOT has in it’s lates STI (State Improvement Investment) documentation a plan to create barricades along much of the center lane with controlled left hand turns at select intersections.

The project ranks pretty high in the system NCDOT uses to evaluate their priorities, so there is a good possibility that it will move forward. However, do not look for anything to happen right away.

Right of way acquisition is not scheduled to begin until 2015 with construction scheduled for 2027.

Mid Currituck Bridge

Who knows what’s happening with the Mid Currituck Bridge…and we’re not being facetious with that.

The most recent schedule for the $489 million project that will cross the Currituck Sound at Aydlett called for a Record of Decision (ROD) to be released in April of this year. That date has been pushed back to sometime in the summer, although nothing has been specified.

According to the NCDOT a reevaluation of the 2012 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) contributed to the delay. Project managers felt the six years that had passed since the original EIS was issued necessitated reviewing the document.

The ROD is the final step needed to outline the scope of the project, its cost and schedule. Without that document contracts cannot be awarded and the project cannot move forward.

Although NCDOT has indicated that they wish to proceed with the project there are quite a number of loose ends and at this time, there is neither a start date nor a completion date posted.

In conjunction with the Mid Currituck Bridge, NCDOT is planning on removing the turn lane from the Caratoke Highway (US 158) from the bridges interchange to the Wright Memorial Bridge. The road will be a four lane highway with left turns at managed intersections.

Under any circumstances, it seems likely that when the ROD is issued, the project will face legal challenges from a number of environmental groups that contend the bridge will exacerbate congestion, cause environmental harm to the Currituck Outer Banks and that there are less expensive and less intrusive means of alleviating traffic congestion that NCDOT has not explored.

The bridge will be a toll road when completed and will be administered by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Bike Paths

Bike PathsThree easy rides and a challenge. Mostly flat, but with some gentle hills, the Outer Banks is a bike rider’s paradise, and local towns and counties have put considerable effort into creating a network of interconnecting multi-use bike paths.

The multi-use paths are so extensive that it is possible to ride from Bodie Island Lighthouse in South Nags Head to Currituck Beach Lighthouse—about a 50 mile ride. Except for three miles in southern Corolla the entire ride would be on bike trails. Actually, it is possible to ride from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse to the Hatteras ferry. That ride would include an uncomfortable pedal across the Bonner Bridge that does not have a  shoulder or provision for bike riders. However, the road through Pea Island and Hatteras Island does have a generous shoulder that is used by riders and Dare County maintains multi-use paths through all of Hatteras Island’s villages.

Those rides are really more for the hardcore rider, though. Many Outer Banks visitors bring bikes with them, but generally it’s to take advantage of some of our easier rides. To help bike riders who may not know the area that well, here are some suggestions.

Roanoke Island—Elizabethan Gardens to Roanoke Island Festival Park

This is a very easy and very pleasant ride suitable for just about anyone in the family. There is plenty of parking available at the Elizabethan Gardens so that’s a good place to start.

The total length of this ride is about 3.5 to 4.0 miles or 7-8 miles round trip. If there are very young riders in the group, that may be a long ride for them.

The first part of the ride is wonderfully shaded. About a mile and a half into the ride there will be a windmill on the left in a small open field and there is a possibility that sheep may be grazing on the grass. The windmill, sheep and field are part of Island Farm, a restored 18th century farm originally owned by the Etheridge family.

After entering Manteo, turn left at Budleigh Street which will lead to the Manteo waterfront and Queen Elizabeth Avenue. Turn left on Queen Elizabeth and right onto the bridge that leads to Roanoke Island Festival Park.

When leaving, stay on Anais Dare, which is a one way street, to the main road.

For an interesting variation, turn right onto Wingina Avenue and stay on that until it intersects Mother Vineyard Road. Turn left on Mother Vineyard and right at the light.

To make the ride even more interesting—off Wingina, at Scuppernong Road turn right and follow that to Mother Vineyard and turn left. About 150  yards on the right, there will be a massive grape vine. That is the Mother Vine—the oldest cultivated grape vine in North America. Records from the Lost Colony mention the vine and location, dating the scuppernong grape vine to at least 1586.

Kitty Hawk Woods Road

A little bit more difficult than the Manteo ride, the Woods Road multi-use trail goes through the heart of a dense and verdant maritime forest. The path does have a couple of ups and downs that don’t quite qualify as a hill, but for small legs, it will be a challenge.

The David Paul Pruitt Park is on the right just past the intersection of US 158 and the Woods Road. With a small parking lot, it is a good starting point. The path parallels the Woods Road and is shaded by the dense maritime forest canopy.

About a mile and a half into the ride there will be a fork in the road at Twiford Street, with the multi-use path proceeding next to either Twiford or the Woods Road. Our recommendation is to bear right, although either ride is interesting.

Twiford ends at Kitty Hawk Road and there will be a wooden bridge to ride across—kids will really get a kick out of it…as will adults. The path ends at Rogers Street with the Austin Cemetery occupying a small block that makes a great small loop to head back to the beginning of the ride.

Staying on the Woods Road section of the ride at the fork will take riders to Kitty Hawk Road and is part of a much longer ride that includes the Wright Brothers Memorial.

Wright Brothers Loop

Iconic and historic, it doesn’t get much easier than this, although on a windy there may be a difference of opinion on that point.

There is a wide flat road that circles the Monument that is a little over a mile. The Monument is in the middle of the Wright Brothers Memorial.

If the plan is to park at the Memorial there are two possibilities. There is a fee charged at the main entrance. Another possibility, which does not have a fee, is to park at Kitty Hawk Airport that is immediately adjacent to the Memorial. At the intersection of US 158 and Colington Road proceed to the west—away from the Ocean. Just before the runway, there will be a road on the right. Turn there and park in the airport parking lot. The sidewalk leads into the Memorial.

Kitty Hawk Woods

Our “Bit of a Challenge” rides is just that—not too hard but would be difficult for a novice rider or certainly anyone under 12 years of age. Because the ride is on a trail and dirt roads, it does require wide tires and is not suitable for road bikes.

Kitty Hawk Woods is three square miles of  beautiful maritime forest in the heart of the town of Kitty Hawk.

It is possible to do a short but fun ride by parking at the trailhead at the end of Ridge Road, but for more of a challenge and to make this a loop ride, park at the David Pruitt Park mentioned in the Woods Road ride. Follow the directions listed there but when Rogers Street intersects with Ridge Road, turn right. Ridge Road ends at the trailhead of the ride.

The trail goes through the heart of Kitty Hawk Woods. Initially following a ridge, the trail dips and takes a sharp bend almost leading to a marsh, followed by a quick climb on the other side. Be ready to make some quick gear adjustments to navigate.

There are a couple of intersecting trails, but our recommendation is to stay on the main path. It can get confusing and depending on what the conditions have been, it can get very wet on some of the side trails.

If there has been a recent severe storm, a tree or two may have fallen across the trail requiring a carry.

When the trail exits the park, turn left on the dirt road, then turn right at the next road. That road is Colleton which will lead to Barlow. Turn left on Barlow and proceed to the light at US 158. Turn Right and right again at Woods Road to complete the loop.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Smaller Parks

parks on the Outer BanksOne of the problems that arises in writing about the Outer Banks is that there is so much to see and do, picking and choosing what’s best can become difficult. Almost impossible it seems at times. That is certainly the case when it comes to deciding how to describe the smaller parks that are part of the towns or county systems. There are so many of them, fulfilling a number of different functions and all of them are very well maintained. The problem is that writing about all of them runs the risk of becoming an endless list that can seem daunting and could easily become confusing.

Instead, we’re offering an Outer Banks Blue list of some of our favorite parks. This is by no means complete. On this list we’re not including skateparks or dog parks, as an example. Nonetheless, we think this is a good starting point.

Sandy Run – Kitty Hawk

Located on the Woods Road, Sandy Run Park is a gem of a little park that is perfect for the whole family. The park is set in the midst of a pond, with a wooden boardwalk and easy hiking trail surrounding the main impoundment. The boardwalk has an observation tower that is worth climbing

As soon as it gets warm enough—and that could be a good sunny day in January—the yellow slider turtles come out by the dozens and maybe hundreds, sunning themselves on the many logs that seem to fill the water. It is a guaranteed kid pleaser.

Toward late spring, summer and autumn, there are usually nesting osprey on the south end of the park. Fall and winter, migratory waterfowl are often in the waters.

In addition to simply walking around the park, there are other activities. The park is a catch and release sight for fishing and the fishing is pretty good. There are also two kayak or canoe put in sites.

Take a camera. The park is a photographers dream, filled with color and activity.

Nags Head Town Park

Tucked away from the main streets and road of the Outer Bank, the Nags Head Town Park is off the beaten track but worth the effort to find—not that it will take much effort. Turn at the light at the Ace Hardware—Barnes Street—and go tot the end of the road. Barnes will turn into Health Center Drive where the park is located.

This is a park that seems to have something for everyone. There is a large covered picnic pavilion with grills making it perfect for a family gathering, and a small playground with an extensive open field ideal for pick up games of frisbee, touch football, soccer…whatever the favorite sport may be.

There is are a number of easily hiked trails in the park. One of them, the Nags Head Town Trail connects with Nags Head Woods.

Dowdy Park – Nags Head

Occupying what was once Dowdy Amusement Park in Nags Head, Dowdy Park is the newest addition to the Outer Banks park collection and the town really seemed to get this one right.

Located at the intersection of the Bypass (US 158) and East Bonnett Street, its location next to Nags Head Elementary School seems fitting.

The playground is wonderfully designed with jungle gyms, swings and a roller slide that’s a lot like a sliding board only with rollers. There is also a soft material hill that kids can climb. The designers even included swings for children who are confined to a wheelchair so that they too can feel the childhood joy of a swing.

The middle of the park is a large open field with plenty of room to run around and play sports. Not quite as large as the open field at Nags Head Town Park, but big.

Something not seen in the past on the Outer Banks parks—there are tables with a checker or chess board embedded in them. Picnic tables and grills, as well as a fitness trail that wraps around the open field are part of the park.

On the east end there is a stage and the town has used it from time to time for performances.

Playground Parks

David Paul Pruitt Park – Kitty Hawk

Located just past the Dominion Power offices on the Woods Road, the Paul Pruitt Park is a small park that younger children especially love. The ground is mulched to keep it soft, the playground rides are designed with toddlers and younger children in mind. Not quite as busy as some of the other playgrounds, it creates a nice atmosphere for parent and child.

Hayman Street Park – Kill Devil Hills

For anyone wondering where the locals take there kids, this is it. Located in the heart of Kill Devil Hills, Hayman Park is located on Hayman Street—of course. The road, though makes a big circle around the common area, forming large open space for the park.

Swing sets, jungle gyms and a slide with multiple shoots are part of the attraction, as well as an open field where kids can run, picnic tables and live oak trees with low branches that children invariably climb.

Rec Park – Kill Devil Hills

A county facility that is home to youth soccer, football, baseball, softball and basketball, Rec Park in addition has a marvelous little playground that includes the standard equipment as well as spring balanced rocking horses that children seem to gravitate to. The park has what may be the largest covered picnic pavilion in Dare County.

Whalebone Park – Nags Head

Across the street from Jennette’s Pier, at the back of the parking lot, Whalebone Park is easy to overlook. It does have a vey nice collection of nautically themed swings, slides and climbing areas. There is not quite as much shade at the park as other parks, although there is a small covered picnic area. Nags Head labels it as a “Need a break from the beach?” park. They’re probably right.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Golf Courses

Golf on the Outer BanksThe Outer Banks has so much to do that it’s easy to overlook some of the best activities. For golfers, that may very well be the case, although local golf courses have built a reputation for great greens and beautiful scenery requiring a full range of skill levels.

The courses are fairly close together—the longest ride between any of them is 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the season creating a perfect opportunity unity for a golf weekend or week.

The courses also offer a remarkable variety of styles and difficulty, from the relatively easy, family-friendly Holly Ridge in Harbinger to the more challenging courses of Kilmarlic or the Currituck Club.

All Outer Banks courses are open year around, although weather conditions do create some closures. If hitting the links in the summer, take water, sun repellant and bug spray.

Mainland Currituck


A Tom Steele designed course, Kilmarlic may be the most beautiful course of the Outer Banks group.The course seems to wander through a maritime forest of ancient live oak, pine and holly.

A challenging course with lots of water hazards, the course regularly hosts the ODU/OBX Golf Tournament in the fall, and has hosted other tournaments in the past.

Also located on the grounds of Kilmarlic are tennis courts, pool and a full service gym.

Par: 72
Length: 6535 yards
Slope: 133
Rating: 72.2

The Pointe

A well-maintained course with an open design and relatively short length make.The Pointe perfect for a relaxing few hours outdoors.

The greens greens especially are well-maintained. Practice facilities include a driving range and putting greens.

The staff gets consistently high marks in comments about the course. The clubhouse restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for good food at a reasonable price.

Par: 71
Length: 6343 yards
Slope: 126
Rating: 70.0

Holly Ridge

Very much a beginners course. With the most reasonably priced green fees, Holly Ridge is very family-friendly, but more experienced golfers may enjoy other Outer Banks courses more.

Par: 71
Length: 5533 yards
Slope: 122
Rating: 67.5

Outer Banks Courses

Currituck Club

Wandering along the natural contours of the Outer Banks, this Rees Jones designed course has a bit of everything. Spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound from the from the ridge lines that wander into the wetlands of a maritime forest.

Often rated as one of the best courses in North Carolina.

A challenging course, but not overwhelming is the general consensus.

Par: 72
Length: 6,885 yards
Slope: 136
Rating: 74.0

Duck Woods Country Club


The first Outer Banks golf club, Duck Woods is an Ellis Maples design that opened in 1969. The course is very well-maintained. Not much elevation gain at all, but still has some challenges.

Duck Woods Country Club is a full service private club, but check with staff; there are a couple of workarounds they have for golfers who want to get on the course.

Excellent lunch and dinner at the clubhouse.

Par: 72
Length: 6589 yards
Slope: 128
Rating: 72.3

Sea Scape Golf Links


The Sea Scape course follows the ridge line of relict sand dunes—which is another way of saying, it may be at the beach, but it is not flat.

A challenging par 70 course, the exposed hill greens can get windy at times, which can make the somewhat narrow greens more difficult to play.

Management has done a good job over the past few years of maintaining the greens.

Par: 70
Length: 6,231 yards
Rating: 70.0
Slope: 124

Nags Head Golf Links


A true links style course bordering Roanoke Sound, everything about the conditions can change in a moment depending on wind direction and speed. Most golfers will find Nags Head Links challenging; more skilled players will enjoy the challenge of the wind conditions; novices will learn a lot.

A very well-maintained course with beautiful views of Roanoke Sound.

Par: 71
Length: 6126 yards
Slope: 130
Rating: 68.8

Grocery Store Wars on the Outer Banks

Grocery Store PublixNow that Publix has entered the Outer Banks supermarketer mix it seems as though the local Grocery Store Wars are kicking into high gear. And with German discount supermarket chain Lidl planning on opening where the now closed Mike Kellys Outer Banks Tavern was, well, the competition is becoming even more intense.

So what’s happening?

Hard statistics are difficult to come by but one supermarket for approximately every 8500 people seems to be about the national average. With a permanent population of a little over 40,000 between Ocracoke and Carova, reasonably the Outer Banks would have five stores, although it’s so scattered, maybe six. By our count there are 15 supermarkets in the area and when Lidl enters the mix, they’ll be 16.

To answer the “what’s happening”question in a word—Summertime. Actually it’s visitors in general, but summertime is the key.

During the summer the population swells by 300,000-350,000 every week, maybe more. No one is sitting at the bridges with a clicker counting passengers.

The Outer Banks is a family destination and most of those visitors are spending a week or two in our vacation homes, and it is a rare family that brings groceries with them. That is why supermarkets are packed with shoppers on Saturdays and Sundays—and carts are creaking under the weight of the groceries. It’s also why locals, if they have to shop on the weekend during the summer, do so as early in the morning as possible.

Making the Outer Banks even more attractive to supermarket retailers, the Outer Banks economy is healthy and growing.

One of the best indicators of that are the summary of gross occupancy tax collected in Dare County. The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau posts records of collections over the past 14 years and what the numbers show is steady, sometimes, strong growth in occupancy collections.

It is raw data, so there has to be some caution in applying the numbers. Although more visitors are the most important part of an increase in collections, weekly rental rates are also a factor. Nonetheless, what the number reveal are remarkable. Over the 14 year period from 2004 to 2017 occupancy tax collections have increased by 83.9%, far outstripping the rate of inflation.

That sustained growth is perhaps the most significant reason that supermarkets chains see the Outer Banks as a good investment.

And we should add, it’s why it’s a good investment for property owners as well.

We’ve compiled a list of Outer Banks supermarkets. For this list, we’re only including locations north of Oregon Inlet. Hatteras Island does have a Food Lion in Avon and Connor’s Supermarket in Buxton, which is a family owned business.

We are incorporating a little bit of information about each of the stores, but are not judging any way if the stores are good bad or indifferent. Stores that are opened 24 hours are indicated; for all others, hours vary seasonally.

Food Lion

The most prevalent supermarket on the Outer Banks, Food Lion has built its reputation on their focus on good quality, excellent selection and reasonable prices. The stores are always well-maintained.

Outer Banks Mall
5200 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 441-4118
Open 24 hours

Food Lion Plaza
2515 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 449-8852
Open 24 Hours

Dare Center
1720 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 449-8852

The Marketplace
5543 N Croatan Hwy, Southern Shores
(252) 261-3205
Open 24 hours

Monterey Plaza
805 Ocean Trail, Corolla
(252) 453-4544
Open 24 hours

Harris Teeter

Considered a bit more upscale than Food Lion. Deli and meat departments very good. Expect consistently good customer service. Wine and beer selection very good.

Kill Devil Hills Shopping Center
2012 S Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 449-9191
Open 24 hours

Shoreside Center
5400 N. Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk
(252) 261-2220
Open 24 hours

The Shops at the Currituck Club
601 Currituck Clubhouse Dr, Corolla
(252) 453-0153


One stop shopping—clothes, bathing suits, beach needs, food and groceries. Very good prices. Produce area well-maintained. Well-stocked with some areas offering excellent selection.

Shoreside Center
5400 N. Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk
(252) 261-6011
Open 24 hours


A bit of a hybrid—a much broader selection of groceries than a convenience store, but does not have nearly the selection of the other supermarkets. Does not have a deli or in in store meat department.

Kmart Shopping Plaza
901 North Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hlls
(252) 441-1935


The newest store in the Outer Banks mix. Very good selection of prepared meals. Deli meat and bakery departments very good. Wine selection extensive. Has built a well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service.

Publix Super Market at First Flight Square
1530 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills
(252) 255-5006

The Fresh Market

The smallest of the Outer Banks supermarkets. The meat department is excellent and wine selection best of any supermarket on the Outer Banks. Good selection of prepared food and artisan cheese. Well-maintained produce department.

Outer Banks Mall
5000 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head
(252) 255-5022


Manteo’s only supermarket. Family owned and very traditional in layout. Some very good values. Selection is good if not outstanding, although the meat department has built a reputation for quality. Expect friendly service with a local flair.

226 US-64, Manteo
(252) 473-2924

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Maritime Forests

Maritime Forest of the Outer BanksThe beach, that wonderful merging of ocean and sand that seems so perfect will always be the draw bringing visitors to the Outer Banks. But there is another side to this strip of sand, another world of beauty and wonder waiting for the slightly adventurous.

The soundside of the Outer Banks seems to be a world apart from the seashore. Heavily forested but with easy trails, it calls out to be explored.

There are four protected maritime forests on the Outer Banks. Three of them are part of the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve— Currituck Estuarine Lands, Kitty Hawk Woods and Buxton Woods. Nags Head Woods in Kill Devil Hills is administered by the Nature Conservancy.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve lands do have some ongoing research and they are protected lands, but all of them are open to the public and all offer some great opportunities to get to experience a the maritime forests of the Outer Banks.

Currituck Estuarine Lands

About three quarters of a mile past the village of Corolla heading north, NC12 takes a 90 degree bend to the right. At that bend there is a small parking lot that that is the trailhead to explore the Currituck Estuarine trails.

There is a gate that leads to a boardwalk. The gate must remain closed at all times. The Corolla Wild Horse herd does come into the reserve from time to time and the horses must be kept away from the heavily traveled areas of Corolla.

The boardwalk is a very easy half mile stroll to Currituck Sound. The boardwalk crosses wetlands and swamp, bordered by towering pine trees. The view at the end is wonderful, looking across to Monkey Island, an island that was once home to one of the most storied hunt clubs of the Outer Banks.

A little more adventurous, but still a very easy walk through the woods, is the three quarter mile Maritime Forest Trail. Look for some steps with a sign marking the trail on the right side of the boardwalk about 200 yards from the gate.

A good pair of sandals—not flip-flops—or walking shoes is fine for this trek. Eight years of age and up, should be fine be able to navigate the path.

The trail, marked by blue-topped posts, winds through the forest, passing through one of the most spectacular groves of live oak on the Outer Banks. Squirrels are abundant and there are lots of birds around.

A seasonal note: horses do come into this area during winter storms to get out of the worst of the wind.

Kitty Hawk Woods

A little more challenging than the Currituck trails, the paths in Kitty Hawk Woods should be fine for anyone in reasonably good shape ten years of age and up. The terrain does have some hills in it—although those hills, which are very heavily wooded are actually relict sand dunes.

Best trailhead is probably at the end of Ridge Road in Kitty Hawk. The trail will be right in front of you.

There are a couple of intersecting paths along the way. For anyone who has never hiked through Kitty Hawk Woods before, it’s probably best to stay on the main path—the trails can bet a little bit confusing at times.

This trail is remarkably different from the Currituck trail. There is enough elevation gain in the relict sand dunes and sufficient soil has accumulated to create a hardwood forest.

On both sides of the trail there is are extensive wetland swamps, and the trees and vegetation in the those areas are noticeably different than the trees and vegetation along the trail. The trail is about three quarters of a mile long so out and back would be 1.5 miles.

Bikes are allowed in Kitty Hawk Woods and any bike rider with reasonable skills on a mountain bike will have a great time in the reserve.

Buxton Woods

Unlike the other Outer Banks maritime forests, Buxton Woods, located on just south of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, does not border a sound—Pamlico Sound in this case. Rather, the forested area is protected by a line of dunes that keep the worst of the Atlantic Ocean winds away. It is located at the elbow of Cape Hatteras.

There are a number of ways to explore the reserve with entrances on the south end of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and off NC12.

It does take a while to drive there from the northern Outer Banks—45 minutes to more than an hour—but there are some very interesting characteristics to Buxton Woods.

All of the Outer Banks maritime forests are at a transitional point between subtropical and temperate zones. At Buxton woods it is at its most apparent. Towering pines, typical of temperate forests make up the canopy, but at their base, saw palmetto palm trees thrive.

The roads into the reserve are very sandy and recommended for 4WD only.

Nags Head Woods—The Nature Conservancy

Nags Head Woods has something for everyone. There is an ADA trail, simple loop trails suitable for younger children and a surprisingly rugged trail that follows the ridge line of what was once sand dunes.

For the adventurous, the Blueberry Ridge Trail is the way to go. The elevation gains are as steep as anything seen in mountain hiking, although not nearly as extended. Surrounded by hardwood trees, hiking up an incline of 25-30%, there are areas in Nags Head Woods that are unlike any other trail on the Outer Banks. Listen carefully, though, and the distant sound of the surf breaking on the shoreline create a sensory treat unique to a maritime forest.

Bikes are not permitted on the trails in the park. However, there are some dirt roads running through the preserve that make for a great ride.

During the summer especially, the Estuarine Preserve and Nags Head Woods have a number of programs geared toward kids.

The Estuarine Preserve offices are in Kitty Hawk at 4352 The Woods Road. Nags Head Woods offices are on the grounds at 701 West Ocean Acres Drive, Kill Devil Hills. The Estuarine office is very short staffed and someone is there only sporadically. Someone is always manning the Nags Head Woods office.



Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey's Ridge State ParkWith over 1,000,000 visitors annually, Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is one of the most visited parks in the North Carolina State Park system.

A relatively small park—426 acres—it’s appearance is striking with Jockey’s Ridge, a massive 74’ sand dune higher than any other natural feature on the Outer Banks. The park is home to the Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School, the oldest and largest in the nation. From the slopes of the dune, novice hang glider pilots learn how to soar.

It is an ideal place to learn how to fly what are actually gigantic kites. With nothing to disturb the wind, there is almost always a breeze blowing across the dunes; as landing zones go, sand is a far more forgiving surface than the packed dirt or rock of schools located in mountains.

Jockey’s Ridge may also be one of the finest places in the world to fly a kite. A consistent wind practically guarantees ideal conditions for kite flying, and the view from the top of the dune is spectacular with the Atlantic Ocean to the East and Roanoke Sound to the west.

The park, though, is much more than a huge dune or a place to fly a kite…regardless of size.

Jockey’s Ridge, that massive sand dune is called a medaño. Medaños have a number of similar characteristics; they are high, steep and hold a tremendous volume of sand. Typically vegetation does not grow on its slopes and that is the case here. Jockey’s Ridge is actually the highest of a series of dunes within the park, and because of the interaction of forces of sand, wind, sun and rain, the environment is remarkably complex for such a small area.

A good introduction to how complex the ecosystem of the park is can be seen at the end of the boardwalk that starts at the Visitors Center.

Standing on the observation deck there is a pond immediately in front of visitors. The pond varies in size by season and the amount of rain. Called a vernal pond. the water that is seen is ground water that has been forced to the surface. It is not surface water from rainfall.

That area seems to be in transition right now. Especially during the summer, if there is abundant rainfall—and that was certainly the case in 2017—the pond expands and takes on characteristics of a marsh. Grasses begin growing along its banks and sedges and rushes spring to life in the pond itself. As that first plant life dies off, it stabilizes the soil—which is sand— and provides nutrients as they decay.

If there is enough moisture, those decaying plants provide the environment for woody plants to begin to grow. Looking to the right from the observation deck, on the north end of the pond, there is an excellent example of that. A small but distinctly maritime forest has taken root. Pine trees dominate in that patch of forest; still not completely mature, larger trees—in southern coastal environments, live oak—have not yet become a part of the forest.

To see a mature maritime forest in the park…take a hike.

On the right side of the pond, there is a trail that leads up the dune and to the Roanoke Sound. Sometimes there is a bit of water on the trail, but it’s harmless water. Wade through it. The trail is not very well marked, but once on the other side of the dune, there is almost no vegetation. Keep heading to Roanoke Sound.

Even though it looks like an open field of sand, there are some interesting things to note. The entire dune field is very active, constantly migrating to the south. At one time, some areas were well-protected between two dunes with a vernal pond at the base. The fate of a maritime forest that would form at those sites can be seen in the dead, denuded tops of trees that at one time were thriving but are now covered in sand.

Arriving at Roanoke Sound, look to the south (left) and there is a beautiful, mature maritime forest. Protected from the corrosive effects of salt spray by Jockey’s Ridge, the maritime forest on the westerns side of the barrier island is representative of a barrier island ecosystem.

The evidence of that can be seen in a number of places on the Outer Banks—Nags Head Woods, Kitty Hawk Woods or the Currituck Estuarine system.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: The National Parks

The National Parks of the Outer BanksThe Outer Banks stretch over 100 miles from Carova at the Virginia/North Carolina border to Ocracoke. There is even an uninhabited island just south of Ocracoke—Portsmouth Island—that could properly be called part of the Outer Banks.

There has certainly been development—the Outer Banks economy is healthy and it’s based on visitation. But an interesting feature is how much open space remains and how much effort has been made to retain that open space and to honor the history of the area. Much of the credit for that has to go to the National Park Service and the outsized role it plays in life on the Outer Banks.

There are three separate National Park areas locally, but they are administered jointly from Roanoke Island by the Outer Banks Group. They are Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

Cape Hatteras and the Wright Brothers Memorial are very well known, but all three sites are worth a visit.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers so much to do that we can’t list everything, but certainly some of the highlights are worth checking out.

There are a number of beaches that are managed by CHNS, and the Park Service does a great job of protecting the environment.

One of our favorite beaches is Coquina Beach in South Nags Head. The sand is remarkably soft, the beach is wide, there is plenty of parking, and restrooms and showers are well-maintained. There is a bit of a walk across the dunes to get to the beach, but the effort is well spent. A fantastic beach.

Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are open for climbing, although they do close during the winter. The climb is up a narrow twisting stairwell, and yes in the summer, it gets quite warm. There are height and age restrictions on children, and that is a safety issue. It would not be safe to carry a child on the stairs; if a child is too small or too young to climb on their own, it is best that they do not go.

Although Cape Hatteras gets most of the press, the view from Bodie Island Lighthouse is spectacular and worth the effort. It is a little bit lower than it’s sibling to the south, but getting to the top still takes some muscle power.

There is a wonderful nature trail at the base of the Bodie Island Light. Take a camera for the nature trails and the views.

Off-road driving is permitted at CHNS. A permit is required, and certain areas are placed off-limit from time to time. It is very important to know which areas are restricted and to not drive in those ares. The fines for infractions are significant.

The fishing is great on Cape Hatteras beaches, with The Point at Cape Hatteras offering some of the best action on the East Coast. Best access for most of the prime fishing beaches is with an offload vehicle. Local’s Tip—Fishing at Oregon Inlet at low tide? Watch the tide. High tide covers much of the beach. Also-anyone over 16 will need a North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License

Wright Brothers Memorial

This is where heavier than air flight began, and the National Park Service has done an extraordinary job of telling the story.

A good place to start is with a trek to the top of the Monument. It is a steep climb but putting energy into the climb yields a huge reward. The view is amazing and the opportunities for pictures unlimited. Along the base of the monument the words, “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, Conceived by genius and achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Look carefully at the word “commemoration.” The m and e run together; the story goes that the stone cutters miscalculated how much space would be needed for the quote.

Kids will be fascinated by the walk along the path of the brother’s flight, and if the flight paths seem short, it’s important to remember that before that first 12 second flight no one had ever launched an aircraft with an engine in it, controlled the flight and landed safely.

Also for kids, the interpreter’s discussion of the Wright Brothers and the Wright Flyer in the visitor’s center is outstanding. Adults and children will find it interesting and informative. For the over 12-year-old set—take some time to check out the museum as it  traces Wilbur and Orville’s quest to conquer powered flight. The genius of these American originals really comes to the fore.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Tucked away on the west end of Roanoke Island, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site marks the site of Fort Raleigh, the location of the Lost Colony. There is an easily walked trail behind the visitor’s center that passes by what has been interpreted as the stockade or fort. It’s a pleasant walk and a worthwhile glimpse into one of the great mysteries of history.

Also on the grounds is the Elizabethan Gardens. a marvelous formal garden done in a traditional English style. Waterside Theater, where the play The Lost Colony is performed is also part of the Fort Raleigh site.

The Play is the oldest continually performed outdoor drama in North America. Production runs from late May to mid August. The play’s production values and acting are outstanding and attending should be a part of any visit to the Outer Banks.

The headquarters for the Outer Banks Group is located at Fort Raleigh.

Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Urgent Care, Primary Care and Specialists

Outer BanksThere was a time on the Outer Banks when a broken wrist or birth of a baby meant a trip to Elizabeth City or Chesapeake. In March of 2002 everything changed when the Outer Banks Hospital opened in Nags Head.

Outer Banks Hospital

With 18 beds, the Outer Banks Hospital is a relatively small hospital, but it serves the needs of the Outer Banks community well. In addition to the 18 acute patient beds, there are two labor and delivery rooms and three operating rooms.

For most people the first visit to the Hospital is usually the emergency room. Depending on the month, daily visits to the ER average between 40 in the winter to 80 plus in July and August.

The Outer Banks Hospital was the first North Carolina hospital to receive a dementia friendly designation.

Part of the Vidant Health network, one of the largest healthcare providers in northeastern North Carolina, the hospital is also associated with Chesapeake Regional Healthcare system, giving patients access to larger hospitals with more resources.

The Vidant Health network includes a number of regional hospitals in northeastern North Carolina as well as the Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, a 900 bed facility associated with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

There are three areas of care the hospital has focused on—Women’s Health, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and Cancer Care.

Cancer Care

The Outer Banks Hospital offers cancer care through two facilities. Its Radiation Therapy Center located just across the street from the hospital. The Cancer Resource Center is located in the Medical Office Building next door to the hospital. In addition to treatment, the cancer care team is active in promoting early detection through screenings and prevention.

Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

With two clinics, one in Southern Shores and the other in Kill Devil Hills, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine offers a full range of services including surgical procedures for joint replacements and sport injuries. Surgery is performed at the Outer Banks Hospital. The medical team also provides nonsurgical care and rehab services.

The Kill Devil Hills office is located at 3102 N Croatan Highway in Kill Devil Hills; the Southern Shores office is in the Marketplace.

Outer Banks Women’s Care

Located immediately adjacent to the Outer Banks Hospital, Outer Banks Women’s Care offers a full range of services to women, including prenatal and maternity care, well woman and gynecological surgical procedures. The practice has recently been awarded a Mother-Baby award for outpatient healthcare.

Urgent Care Clinics

The Outer Banks Hospital operates two urgent care clinics. The Southern Shores location is in the Marketplace Shopping Plaza.

The Nags Head offices are located at 4923 South Croatan Highway in Nags Head, directly across from the hospital. The Nags Head office also offers primary physician care by appointment.

Sentara Healthcare

Sentara Healthcare operates five hospitals in the Hampton Roads area and one in North Carolina at Elizabeth City. Most of the healthcare providers on the Outer Banks working in Sentara facilities are associated with Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, the Elizabeth City hospital.

Sentara maintains a large facility in Kitty Hawk at 5200 North Croatan Highway.

The Kitty Hawk site provides primary and urgent care as well as a number of medical specialist including internal medicine, OBGYN, and orthopedics and sports medicine. There are also onsite diagnostic tools.

There is also a Sentara location in Manteo. Sentara Family Medicine Physicians is located at 715 N. Main Highway and provides primary care for children, adolescents and adults.

Community Care Clinic of Dare

The Community Care Clinic of Dare provides primary and urgent care to anyone who cannot afford medical care. In addition to primary and urgent care, the Community Clinic helps patients with the cost of medications.

There are two clinics in the system: in Nags Head at 425 Health Center Drive, and on Hatteras Island at 50347 NC 12 Highway, Frisco, which is the Hatteras Island Health Department building.