Summer fun in the Outer Banks of North Carolina began with snakes and shipwrecks, walks on the beach and expanded to include ferry rides, scenic drives, lighthouses, several museums and two wonderful restaurants.
The Hatteras Lighthouse is just one of several along the shores of the North Carolina Outer Banks. We saw others at Bodie Island and Okracoke. There were more we never made it to, though we packed a dozen days with as much fun as us two old farts could survive. With a couple teenagers and their parents in tow, our museum excursions didn’t last the usual full-day for each one. Maybe it was us being towed? Either way, it was an absolute joy watching them interact with museum volunteers and ropes course and hang gliding teachers. Read more about Outer Banks lighthouses here.
Wildlife, including hundreds of cute little green frogs in the strangest predicaments, thousands of fireflies, and a couple male cottonmouths, or water moccasins, duking it out for an unseen female. The herpetologists of the Facebook Snake Identification Group explained what they were doing. Mistakenly, Alicia thought they were being affectionate. Check out her video!
Museums we enjoyed visiting included the following:
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum features amazing displays of local maritime history. If you go, pick up the scavenger hunt list and earn a couple of souvenirs while you peruse the collections.
The Mariners Museum galleries are huge and feature rare ship figureheads, an exciting and interactive exhibition of the USS Monitor, a Civil War era steam-powered battleship, more than 150 smaller boats in the International Small Crafts Center, and walk or run the five-mile Noland trail around Lake Maury. No bicycles allowed.
Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station Historic Site features surfmen of yesteryear, who risked their lies to save others from disasters off the Outer Banks. The buildings and collections bring history to life, and it’s easy to imagine what the original Coast Guardsmen lives were like in the late 19th Century.
Roanoke Island Festival Park is the perfect place to adventure into the past, especially with the young, or young at heart. Interactive displays and volunteers with Elizabethan era dress and mannerisms really bring history back to life in dramatic and memorable ways. The Algonquian culture is also represented, through a recreated village scene and recorded voices sharing stories from the past.
National Wright Brothers Memorial is another must-see attraction. Although the museum closed until at least the fall of 2018, visitors can experience the 1903 Bronze Sculpture of the First Flight featuring a life-size model of the 1903 Wright Flyer and statues of those present for that historic occasion. One may also walk up Big Kill Devil Hill to the base of the Wright Monument. Read more about Outer Banks museums here.
Restaurants we highly recommend are Dajio on Okracoke, which is classy casual with plenty of options for pesky and vegan foodies, or the tavern-like Oceana’s Bistro in Avon, where the seafood is excellent! Their signature bloody Mary with Old Bay on rim pairs well with both fish and chips and fish tacos. Tip: the bar is the best place to sit when the dining room is busy.
We Choose Campgrounds over RV Parks
The National Park Service’s Cape Point Campground is nice, but we will not return due to the size of our rig. The turns into sites were mostly at 90-degree angles, so we repaired the ruts we left in the swampy grass. Shade was nonexistent, but we parked in a direct line with the path of the sun, so the rig stayed cooler than if the sun blasted the slide-outs all day. Air movement is the trick to staying cool on humid, 90-degree days. Funny, 80 degrees actually felt cool after this experience, at least for a week.
We also drove our car through the Oregon Inlet and Frisco campgrounds. Each featured one or two sites that would be doable in a big rig. Mid June during the week is the ideal time for availability, for those spots were actually available.
At Cape Point, the cold showers were actually refreshing due to the hot days. At Frisco, there were hot showers and a cold, filtered-water fountain at the bathhouse with a bottle fill. Yay!
If we go again, we’d get a site at Frisco first, for sight-seeing there and on Ocracoke. Cape Point is great for touring Hatteras, then the inlet for explorations farther north. All are primitive, so hit the dump stations first. We had to back in to the dump station at Cape Point due to our height and overhanging trees. Our solar panels kept the refer happy, and we had the place to ourselves, so early morning generator starts for coffee and breakfast were no problem.
For information about Cape Hatteras National Seashore camping, visit this link.