Visitors to the Outer Banks often become repeat visitors. The spell of OBX is a hard one to break! And so when vacation time rolls around, packing is pretty much a drill. Bathing suits, beach towels, sunscreen, summer reading materials and favorite beverages are on the top of the list. But the start of the summer season is a great time to review that list once more – with family – and talk about three other items that should be packed in the virtual suitcase. These are items that can’t be seen – except through actions – but they will go a long way in making the vacation enjoyable for you, your family, and everyone with whom you come in contact.
The first is patience. Hatteras Island is a small Island. Highway 12 is the only road on and off. In the summer, especially on weekends, traffic is heavy. Speed limits in the villages drop to 35 mph and in some places 25 mph. Many visitors are uncertain about where to go and can make sudden stops and turns. Further north on Saturday and Sunday mornings, traffic can be especially heavy. Planning a trip to Ocracoke means a very early departure, as ferry waits of an hour or more can put a crimp in even the best planned day trip. Lines in the shops can be lengthy and while we have miles and miles of beaches, you likely will have beach neighbors. So patience is truly a virtue. Try to remember you are here for vacation, and try to find the positive in every situation. In a long line of traffic, look at bumper stickers and license plates, sing along with the radio, or actually look at the scenery outside your car window. Try to schedule the day to avoid peak shopping and driving times. Meet your beach neighbors and make new friends.
The second item is common sense. It is surprising how many visitors do things or say things on vacation that they would never, ever consider doing at home. Not only can this involve interactions with others, but also making decisions about personal safety. Hatteras may seem like another world but the same social rules and laws of nature apply here as they do elsewhere. The ocean is unpredictable. Currents are stronger than you are. Period. Our trees may look magical but they won’t protect you from lightening. People here have feelings. Private property means just that. And Park rules and regulations do apply to us all – even if we don’t always agree with them. Don’t risk your life or your holiday by making poor choices.
And finally, pack a bit of courtesy. Remember your Grandma telling you you’ll get what you need more quickly using honey instead of vinegar? It’s true. Being in a motel, or at a campsite, or on the beach with a bunch of strangers sometimes can truly test your patience. But remember everyone is here for the same reason, and unless your neighbor is truly rocking the boat, try to rise above it. If laws are being broken or you feel threatened, by all means contact the authorities. But 99.9% of the time, just moving elsewhere and/or giving the situation some time and space will do the trick and things will return to normal.
Everyone wants a relaxing vacation. Being in a shared space means we all – visitors and locals alike — need to work together to keep things running smoothly. Vacations are supposed to be memorable. By packing these three things along with your suitcases, travel bags and backpacks, you will make it memorable – for all the right reasons!
We have to smile when guests ask us if there are any good seafood restaurants on the island. After all, not only are we a sport fishing capital, but also the island’s history is all about the fish! Commercial fishing was, and is, a way of life for many, many islanders and their families. The lives and stories of the watermen are a rich part of our culture here.
But back to the original question about where to go for seafood when on vacation. Here are some things we tell our guests to help them locate the restaurant that will serve the food they want at the right price point. Truly, on Hatteras Island, the restaurants all serve good seafood. It’s what they do. So it really is a matter of what you are looking for. Is it a special occasion? There are a few white table cloth restaurants with bars and wine lists that are perfect for a birthday, anniversary, proposal, or any other special event.
Are you interested in a sunset? While we do not have oceanfront dining on the island, soundside choices are plentiful and every sunset is beautiful in its own way. Are you traveling with small children? Several restaurants have kid-friendly menus and early dining allows families to get in and out quickly before the later crowds settle in. Do you want to eat where the locals eat? Some of our year-round establishments are favorites with those of us who do enjoy eating out on the off-season. Do you yearn for fried fish, French fries, hush puppies and slaw? There are places that cater to real down home southern cooking without frills.
Some places are experimenting a bit more with their menus and offer seafood with global twists and fusion cuisines. Always ask for the fresh, local catch. Shrimp and scallops are usually plentiful and softshell crabs in season are awesome. Oysters from our waters are usually harvested in the cooler months but can be enjoyed at other times of the year and they are wonderful. From light and flaky flounder to more hearty blue fish or meaty tuna, there all sorts of fish to try. Be bold and taste something you haven’t tried before. Fresh fish are amazingly flavorful and healthy and with all the preparations that local chefs utilize, you can enjoy something different all the time.
And of course we do realize that many people do not enjoy seafood or have allergies, so rest assured there are plenty of meat choices, increasing vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, to-die-for pizza places, and many, many restaurants serve homemade desserts.
One thing is for certain, you will not go hungry here on Hatteras Island. Bon apetit!
Photo from Rusty’s Surf & Turf
Locate Restaurants & Specials from Corolla to Hatteras on the Restaurant page of Outer Banks Events Calendar.
Just this weekend, new signs appeared along Highway 12 indicating that our highway is now a National Scenic By-way. We are proud of this designation and hope that when you drive down the island from Oregon Inlet heading south, you will really enjoy the drive. All too often, the scenery and the atmosphere of the island are lost in the rush to get to the motel. It was a smart person indeed who noted that the journey often is more important than the destination. In this case, we would argue the journey is equally as important, because the highway helps you put life on the island in context. There is more to see than just a ribbon of highway sandwiched between dunes and the Sound.
A National Scenic By-way is a highway that has been recognized by the US Department of Transportation for one or more of six “intrinsic qualities” – archeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational or scenic. Happily, areas of Hatteras Island can boast all of those. As you pass through the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, there is a chance to observe wildlife, especially birds, throughout the year. At the rest area, a quick walk over the dunes gives you a view of the wreck of the “Oriental” – its stack still can be seen just breaking through the surface of the water. This year the Pea Island area is also the site of construction for the replacement bridge where Hurricane Irene broke through and created a new, temporary inlet a few years back.
While the construction zone may not be scenic, it is a reminder of the shifting nature of barrier islands and its vulnerability during all types of storms – hurricanes and nor’easters included. Coming into the Tri-Villages area of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo you can often see the colorful kite sails of kiteboarders in the Pamlico Sound. Kiteboarding and wind surfing have become more and more popular and these three which filled with shops catering to these sports. The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station is well worth a visit for learning more about the history of the lifesaving stations (which were the forerunners of today’s Coast Guard) as well as an insight into life on the island years ago. Needless to say it was a far cry from what we enjoy today. You can get a real appreciation for how brave and hardy these individuals were and how traditions like “Old Christmas” took hold.
As you head from the Tri-Villages to Avon, it is interesting to reflect on how narrow the island is in sections. There are a number of parking turn-outs in this section of highway and a quick peek over the top of a dune can often give you miles of seashore to take in all on your own. Avon of course was historically known as “Kinnakeet.” The actual harbor town is off the highway and worth a quick side trip when you have a moment. Coming into Buxton, again the sound can be filled with kiters and windsurfers, but this area now also boasts several family beach areas. Not so many years ago the soundside was the forgotten step- sister of the ocean and only fishermen enjoyed its waters.
As you drive along through Buxton past the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and head on through Frisco and Hatteras, you can get a bit more of a feel of the role watermen once played, and continue to play, in the culture and economy of Hatteras Island. There are museums and docks and harbors that all show and tell these important stories. We’ve heard many people complain that the hour drive from Whalebone Junction to Buxton is “boring.” We say, enjoy the National Scenic By-way for what it offers, and that hour will flash by very quickly. Before you know it you will be here at the Cape Hatteras Motel, a bit wiser for your journey!
This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day.
There is no doubt in our minds that there is something very special about a Beach Mom. Beach Moms magically appear during family vacation time. They morph out of the Moms we all know at home but they have a special glow about them when they get to the Outer Banks.
The stress of everyday life seems to melt away with those first views of sand, sun, and sea; and Mom is more than up to the task for the family vacation. Perhaps we are reminiscing about our generation of Moms and our own beach memories, but every generation of Beach Moms has its own unique characteristics. Back in the day, coming off from the beach at Noon meant a great lunch of white bread, baloney, perhaps some fruit or homemade cookies and a big glass of milk. Then it was back to the beach for the kids while Mom cleaned up behind. Today perhaps it is fruit bars or veggie wraps on the beach – but Mom’s insistence on a good lunch is still the same. Beach Moms are also great at taking care of all of the little dramas a family vacation can bring – sunburn, a jellyfish sting, the wrong flavor in the ice cream cone – minor catastrophes which would be unnerving at home seem to shrink with Beach Mom’s love and care. Beach Mom seems more flexible with bedtimes, more flexible with picky eaters, and well, just more flexible in general. Bathing suits are always rinsed, beach towels hung to dry overnight, and buying beach souvenirs is perfectly alright!
Some of our best Beach Mom memories are when we recall that after a day of looking after the family, there was time for her to relax with a favorite book, favorite beverage, and of course, time to regale the events of the day with Beach Dad. But Beach Dad is for another time.
Family vacations make amazing memories and no matter how your beach holidays come back to you (though black and white photos, movies, faded color snaps, polaroids, videos or digital albums), Beach Mom is no doubt the star of the show.
Here’s our wish for a wonderful Mother’s Day to all Moms – Beach Mom, Lake Mom, City Mom, Suburban Mom, Country Mom – we love you all!
Enjoy your special day!
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See all of the Top 25 Gorgeous Coastal National Parks according to Coastal Living Magazine.
This past weekend we had a full house as we were one of the sponsors of the annual “4 Plus” Fishing Tournament. For many of you who vacation with us during the summer, you may not know how busy we can be in April, October and November for these large tournaments. The spring tournament has a special energy as the island is waking up from winter. Men and women who enjoy surf fishing come from central and northern Virginia to see what’s biting – and what they can catch. These events have gone on continuously for more than 30 years now and some very strong friendships have grown out of spending time together on the beach. The anglers generally come in on Friday (although some are able to sneak down a day before) and the fishing begins on Saturday morning after a meeting with all of the officials. This year Saturday began with some heavy rain, but the skies cleared quickly for a really pretty afternoon of fishing. Then the wind shifted and we had a stiff NE breeze and some cool temperatures for those hardy folks who decided to fish overnight! The catches this year were small – mostly sea mullet (or whiting as it is sometimes called), blow toads, and a few blues. On Sunday morning the fishing concluded, and winners were announced and prizes awarded at an early morning session at the Fesseden Center. But despite the fact that the catches were small, and few if any of the big drum made an appearance, all of the guests we served left with smiles on their faces and many have already booked for the fall tournament and even next April! The lesson here from behind the desk is that being at the beach can be anything you want it to be. For these folks, while they come to fish in a tournament, the fishing (and catching) is really secondary to the fun and fellowship they have at one of the most beautiful coastlines in America. Rain, wind, fish size, numbers of fish – they don’t let anything get in the way of their relaxation and enjoyment. We all want our beach vacations to be filled with blue skies, sunny days, and light breezes. But the joy of just being at the ocean, the smell of the salt, the crash of the waves, being with friends or family – those things all exist no matter what the weather and no matter what else is happening around us. Allow your vacation to be the break it was intended to be and don’t let outside circumstances interfere with your special time. The “4 Plus” fishermen and women have learned that lesson well!
PS: If you have never fished on your OBX vacation, why not give it a try this year? Many people do and get “hooked” for life!