Moving to the Outer Banks, NC?
By: Angie Brady-Daniels
We all have our favorite Outer Banks spots, places filled with memories that tie us to one of North Carolina’s top vacation destinations. The Outer Banks is home to over 120 miles of beautiful natural beaches, five distinct lighthouses, and the tallest sand dunes on the United States East Coast. The Outer Banks is often referred to as the Sport fishing, Water sports, and Hang gliding capitals of the world, America’s Birthplace, and Land of Beginnings. More importantly, it is the place where we could not wait to visit every summer as a child. We always made a new friend during the family vacation and never wanted the warm summer days of building sandcastles and playing at the beach to end.
I remember the first time that I climbed the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. I was young and in good physical shape but when I reached the top my heart was pounding. The view of the giant lens above my head took me back in history and I wondered how many ships at sea had relied on its light to guide it to shore. Carefully leaning against the black iron rail which was showing wear from the salty air, I looked down the 208 feet to see surfers and beachgoers strolling along the beautiful Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I felt like a bird looking down at the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
At the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, we hear a number of stories of why people vacation on the Outer Banks, choose it for their family reunion or even the spot they say their wedding vows. A smile spreads across their face as they recall their first visit or brag about how many generations of family are staying in their oceanfront rental home this year.
People constantly ask whether Owens Motel, the Cavalier, Beacon Motor Lodge, First Colony Inn, The Pony Island Motel, Vacationer, Vivianna or other places they vacationed as a kid are still around. They mention business owners by name wanting to visit them and reconnect. They love the large milkshakes at John’s Drive-In, the fish and chips at Awful Arthur’s, the burgers at Howard’s Pub, the sweet potato biscuits at Kelly’s Restaurant and the big breakfast platters at The Dunes, Henry’s Jolly Roger or Nags Head Pier Restaurants. They speak of playing pool at Sam and Omie’s and fondly recall shopping at the Galleon Esplanade or barefoot dancing at the Casino. They always pick up their souvenirs at Gray’s, Ben Franklin and Cahoon’s Variety Stores.
School-age children beam when they talk about visiting the NC Aquarium, climbing about the Elizabeth II Ship, or seeing the lifesaving rescue re-enactment at the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. They want their picture taken with a local pirate and will stretch their arms and run back and forth until they have run the entire distance of each of the Wright Brothers’ four successful flights. More modern attractions such as putt-putt courses, movie theatres, lazer tag, and bowling are always fun and appreciated but the things that usually top the list of favorite activities are usually free.
Favorite family memories always include a sunrise or sunset from Jockey’s Ridge State Park, a view of the wild ponies of Corolla, a whale or dolphin sighting. Some enjoy the adventure of a ferry ride and will usually give in and feed the seagulls only to regret it later in the trip. Those who have experienced a campfire and ghost stories on the beach, a clam bake, a camping trip at a National Park camping site or a boat trip under the old Mann’s Harbor Bridge to see the Purple Martin roost never forget it.
Dare County is the Land of Beginnings including mine, said Kill Devil Hills Property Owner Elaine Gregory. One of the most enjoyable things of my childhood was exploring the Avalon area and looking for clues to the Lost Colony's whereabouts. I spent countless hours walking the dunes between here and the Wright memorial doing that! Then I thought, I know what happened to them, the mosquitoes carried them away.
You don’t have to be born here to feel the connection, most say the locals are as warm and memorable as the beaches.
Cynthia Carroll of Village Realty in Nags Head said, My favorite quote about the Outer Banks is I wasn't born here, but I got here as fast as I could. That's me in a nutshell. I've been all around the world but there is no place on earth I've ever wanted to live except here on the Outer Banks. No matter where I go, coming back home across the Wright Memorial Bridge is my favorite part of every trip.
Manteo Elementary School Assistant Principal Lisa Colvin agreed with Carroll.
I moved here because of the way I felt every single time I crossed the Currituck Bridge to Dare County…the relief on my shoulders, the peace in my soul, the beauty in sight, the smell of the moist salt air and the wind in my hair, Colvin said. Now, I stay here because of the people.
The people of the Outer Banks are unique and memorable. John White and the 116 settlers, Blackbeard the Pirate and his attack on sailors, the Wright Brothers and their first successful flight, and Reginald Fessenden with the first wireless radio transmission all earned their place in history. There are stories about the Freedmen’s Colony, the Midgetts of Chicamacamico, the Pea Island Lifesaving Station Crew, the Native Americans, residents of Buffalo City and Portsmouth Island. We remember those who fought for the preservation of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, local wildlife refuge sites, the Whalehead Club, lifesaving stations and historic churches. We are grateful for early tourism promoters and historians such as Aycock Brown, David Stick and Francis Meekins who took the time to record history so that we can remember and measure how things have changed over the years. The late Francis Rogallo invented the flexible wing and lived right in Kitty Hawk.
There are a number of Outer Banks heroes we honor with our memories, but today we also salute a new breed. We recognize the importance of the commercial fishermen who provide fresh, local Outer Banks Catch Seafood for area residents. We respect all those who work in the hospitality industry and share smiles and create memories for the 5 to 6 million guests that vacation on the Outer Banks each year. We appreciate the people who are environmentally aware and work to find balance between preserving clean beaches and water and allowing public access for fishing, recreation, bird watching, surfing, sunbathing, and other activities. We appreciate all those who truly love this area, who serve as politicians, artists, business owners, and community leaders to do their part to preserve, protect and guide its growth.
Many of us love the Outer Banks. Wherever we are in the world, we can close our eyes and remember the smell of the salt air, the taste of freshly shucked and steamed oysters as they are pulled off a hot grill, the sound of a branch scratching against the house during a nor’easter storm, a local band playing at an outdoor amphitheatre, or at a Dare Day or First Friday celebration. We feel pride in our hearts when we speak of its heritage, its natural beauty, the Fall sunsets that are rivaled by none other. We smile as we remember a special friend, family member or partner that we shared a memorable time with, a first kiss, a wedding toast, a first fishing trip with a son or grandson, the big fish that didn’t get away …. at our favorite Outer Banks spot.