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

Kilmarlic

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

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.

Getting to Know the Outer Banks: The Cultural Scene

Getting to Know The Outer Banks The Cultural Scene

Living on the Outer Banks is an interesting proposition. Just about everyone who lives here owes their livelihood to the four or five million visitors who find there way to this strip of sand every year.

Full time residents love living here—most of us feel as though we have found a small slice of paradise on earth, although it does create an interesting way of life.

In the summer it is just go, go, go. And anyone who wants to work should have no problem finding a job during peak season. A lot of our retirement community take advantage of that, working 12 or 15 weeks over the summer and using that as “mad money” for a special trip or purchase.

In the off season, the Outer Banks has a surprisingly vibrant music and art scene. It’s not as diverse or as large as a major metropolitan city, but for an area with a total population of maybe 40,000 if Corolla and Ocracoke are included, this area does very well.

Our summer visitors may not be aware of how strong that scene is for a simple reason—the groups that sponsor the art shows and concerts are volunteer, nonprofit organizations and the membership is too busy during the summer to put organize those types of events.

After the summer rush, though, things really pick up for the Outer Banks cultural scene. Here’s a list of some of the nonprofit cultural organizations, what they do and how to contact them.

Dare County Arts Council

If there is a father of the Outer Banks nonprofits, the DCAC is it. Marking its official birth in 1975, it was the outgrowth of a number of working artists who felt an organization was needed to promote the arts and creativity in Dare County.

The offices and gallery are located in the Old Courthouse in downtown Manteo, and the gallery is worth a visit, with the works of some of the best artists on the Outer Banks on display.

The Gallery has become the focal point of much of the cultural activity of Manteo. A favorite happening in the town is First Friday that runs from April to December—although the December First Friday is the town’s tree lighting…a must see event.

First Friday is a celebration of small town life, with live music, restaurants and bars serving food and drinks at sidewalk cafes and businesses staying open late. In the DCAC Gallery the featured artist for the month is introduced

The Gallery is also the home to two annual art shows—the Frank Stick Memorial Art Show in late January into February and the Mollie Fearing Memorial Art Show in May.

The DCAC also sponsors Surfalorus, a surf film festival in September and Artrageous—a celebration of kids and the arts—in the fall.

The DCAC is always looking for volunteers and artists. For more information call 252-256-1610 or online at darearts.org.

Outer Banks Forum

The full name for the organization is the Outer Banks Forum for the Lively Arts, and it has been bringing outstanding music to the Outer Banks since 1988.

When First Flight High School was built, the Forum was the first group to understand that the auditorium was better than anything that had been seen on the Outer Banks and as good as any school auditorium anywhere. That is where all of their shows are held.

The Forum generally opens their season with the Richmond Ballet in September and close with the Virginian Symphony Orchestra in late April or early May. In between there is a remarkable diversity of performers. Last year that included April Verch, a Canadian fiddle player and step dancer and AJ Croce, Jim Croce’s son. Both concerts were outstanding.

For ticket information or to join call 252-256-9361 or online outerbanksforum.org.

The Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series

Don Bryan was a remarkable man. joining the Army Air Corps in 1942, he rose through the ranks, retiring as a full Colonel in the Air Force in 1972, when he moved to the Outer Banks.

He went on to become the mayor of Nags Head, but what he was probably best known for was his artwork. His paintings are wonderfully real depictions of life.

Near the end of his life, he established the The Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series to bring a variety of cultural events to the Outer Banks.

Because Don’s mandate was not limited to art or music, what the Cultural Series offers is remarkably diverse. Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough has given lectures in conjunction with his book, The Wright Brothers, the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players have made two trips to the Outer Banks, and working with the state of North Carolina, a traveling art exhibit has been part of the mix.

It is a wonderfully eclectic mix of lectures, music and art and it has helped to create a more vibrant Outer Banks culture.

For more information check them out online: bryanculturalseries.org.

Getting to Know the Outer Banks: The Schools

Getting-to-Know-The-Outer-Banks-2-The-SchoolsMoving a family to a new home involves a lot of decisions and some very real concerns. One of the most important considerations for parents is the quality of the education their children are going to receive.

The good news for families coming to the Outer Banks is the schools here are excellent—consistently rated among some of the best in the state.

This article will focus on Dare County Schools; although there are schools in Ocracoke and Corolla, most of the population of the Outer Banks and most of the schools are located in Dare County.

For information on Corolla schools contact Waters Edge Village School, 252-455-9449—a K-8 charter school, or Currituck County Schools, 252-232-2223. For information on the Ocracoke school, K-12, contact Hyde County Schools, 252-926-3281.

Dare County Schools Overview

There are approximately 5100 students in Dare County public schools. The student to teach ration is 13:1, which is notably better than the national average of 16:1.

In North Carolina, teacher pay is determined by the state and public school teachers are state employees. However, county commissioners can provide additional funds for teacher salaries and Dare County commissioners have consistently supported teacher pay. As a consequence, compensation for county teachers is better than surrounding areas. Teachers also tend to be better qualified, with better skills and the turnover rate is low.

The four year graduation rate for Dare County High Schools has been between 93-95% for some time. That is a remarkable achievement and the school system typically ranks in the top ten in the state for graduation rates.

High Schools do participate in the College Promise: Tuition-Free Courses for High School and College Credit program. Juniors and Seniors who meet course and GPA requirements can take college level classes at the College of the Albemarle, a community college that serves northeastern North Carolina. Course credits are fully transferable to any state school in the University of North Carolina system.

There are 10 campuses and 11 schools in the Dare County system. The Alternative High School is housed in First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills.

The Schools

Elementary Schools
Dare County elementary schools are K-5 schools. Although all elementary schools in the system rank well, Kitty Hawk Elementary has consistently stood out as a top tier school in state rankings. Elementary schools in particular feature very active parent participation. School PTOs sponsor annual fairs that are used to finance a number of improvements and programs in the schools. All elementary schools offer after school programs.

Kitty Hawk Elementary
16 South Dogwood Trail
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949
Phone: 252-261-2313

First Flight Elementary
107 Veterans Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Telephone: 252-441-1111

Nags Head Elementary
3100 S. Wrightsville Ave
Nags Head, NC 27959
Phone: 252-480-8880

Manteo Elementary
701 North Highway 64/264
Manteo, NC  27954
Phone: 252-473-2742

Cape Hatteras Elementary
47500 Middle Ridge Trail
Buxton, NC 27920
Phone: 252-995-6196

Middle Schools
Dare County middle schools are grades 6-8. On Hatteras Island the middle school is part of Cape Hatteras Secondary School. In addition to offering a full range of team sports, county middle schools also offer band and chorus.

First Flight Middle School
109 Veterans Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Phone: 252-441-8888

Manteo Middle School
1000 Hwy 64-264
Manteo, NC 27954
Phone: 252-473-5549

High School

The three Dare County high schools rank very well in statewide evaluations. Manteo and First Flight High Schools do rank higher than Cape Hatteras Secondary School, though.

Cape Hatteras with a limited student body cannot provide the full range of athletic teams that Manteo and First Flight offer. In general, Dare County Schools compete very well in athletics and sometimes excel. The First Flight Men’s Soccer team took home the state title in 2016 and were runners up in 2015.

The schools, though, offer much more than athletics for extra-curricular activities.The three schools have very active arts programs that include award winning jazz bands, outstanding chorale groups and performance of very challenging plays.

As a gage of how popular theatre is at the schools, performances at First Flight and Manteo regularly use 60-100 students in their productions.

First Flight High School
100 Veterans Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC, 27948
Phone: 252-449-7000

Manteo High School
829 Wingina Avenue
Manteo, NC 27954
Phone: 252-473-5841

Cape Hatteras Secondary School (6-12)
48576 Hwy 12
Buxton, NC 27920
Phone: 252-995-5730

Getting to Know the Outer Banks: Basic Orientation

Getting-to-Know-The-Outer-Banks-1-basic-orientationVacationers find the Outer Banks to be a beautiful and pretty straightforward place to visit—there’s Corolla on the north end, Ocracoke to the south, and everything for the most part is aligned north and south.

However, for anyone who has made the decision to move to the Outer Banks, it quickly becomes apparent this is a more complex area than it appears at first. Different groups, of course, will have different needs and different questions; a retired couple will want to know about cultural activities, maybe a part time job and a social network; a family with children will want to know about the school systems and recreational activities.

There is some knowledge, though, that anyone moving to the Outer Banks will find useful, so we’ll start there and provide more specific information in the future.

Counties, Towns and Communities

From the Virginia state line to Ocracoke is about 125 miles and includes three counties. Currituck is the northernmost, Dare County begins at Duck on the northern end and includes most of the Outer Banks, and Ocracoke is part of Hyde County.

The Outer Banks north of Duck is sometimes referred to as the Currituck Banks and it consists of two communities. Corolla is the area from the county line to the end of the paved section of NC 12; Carova begins at the end of the paved road and extends to the Virginia state line. Carova, the home of the Corolla Wild Mustangs, has no paved roads and is accessible by 4WD vehicle only.

During the summer Corolla is a thriving small city of 40,000-45,000 new residents every week. During the winter the population shrinks to 800 permanent residents including Carova.

The Dare County Outer Banks consists of the northern Outer Banks—Duck to Oregon Inlet, and Hatteras Island or the southern Outer Banks—Oregon Inlet south to Hatteras Village.

The towns of the northern Dare County are, from north to south, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head are the original towns of the Outer Banks and have the most concentrated populations and the most services.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore begins in Nags Head and extends south to Ocracoke Island.

After crossing Oregon Inlet, the northern 12 miles of Hatteras Island is Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The first community is Rodanthe, which is the northern most of the Tri-Villages—Rodanthe, Salvo and Waves.

Although they have never boasted large populations, the Tri-Villages have a rich cultural history that extends to colonial times.

After the Tri-Villages the next town south is Avon. Old timers will sometimes refer to it as Kinakeet, which was its original name. In some ways, Avon is the commercial center of Hatteras Island with the only true supermarket and shopping center south of Oregon Inlet.

Between Avon and Buxton there is a beautiful stretch of open road where Cape Hatteras Light is located. The road then goes through Frisco and finally Hatteras Village.

At Hatteras Village there is a ferry to Ocracoke. The only way on or off Ocracoke is by boat…or aircraft. Ocracoke is a beautiful little village with a permanent population of 900.

Local Representation

Neither Corolla nor Carova are incorporated towns, and zoning decisions, local fees and ordinances are made by County Commissioners who meet in the town of Currituck on the mainland. The combined populations of Corolla and Carova elect a County Commissioner who represents them.

The northern Outer Banks towns are incorporated, as is the county seat of Manteo. The towns are responsible for fire and police protection as well as enforcing their own zoning and permitting procedures.

County Commissioners are elected from the incorporated towns and work with the towns on a number of issues. Town and county cooperation was particularly important in developing an Intra-local funding formula for beach nourishment.

None of the communities of Hatteras Island are incorporated and they are represented by a county commissioner.