You’re all settled into your room and now the real vacation can begin! For first-time visitors to the ocean and the Outer Banks (and even for repeat visitors), the variety of things to do and places to visit can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to enjoy your visit to the fullest. Just please remember, the beach environment is unique and can bring you challenges you don’t deal with at home. Use a lot of common sense and heed all posted warnings of any kind related to beach access and use. We are surrounded by national park land and there are rules and guidelines to follow.
1. No doubt you are anxious to see the beach and maybe you want to drive along the beach like you’ve seen them do in other places. First rule is: if you do not have a four-wheel drive vehicle, DON’T. Do not attempt to even pull off the side of the road as the shoulders are soft sand and you may very easily get stuck. A tow is not inexpensive, and we have seen this happen time and time again. You can rent a four wheel drive vehicle if you want to do some off-roading. Even if you have four wheel drive during the dryer summer months you will want to slack your tires. You do need an off-road permit which you can obtain at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor’s Center. Be careful of the tides – we always post the tide times outside the office along with the weather forecast. An incoming tide can catch you off guard if you have taken a long beach walk. Also, beach ramp access changes regularly and due to bird and turtle nesting, some areas are off limits. Check access information regularly.
2. Speaking of driving, the posted speed limit signs in the villages are for real – yes, that includes 25 mph in Buxton. Don’t ruin your vacation with a ticket. It’s vacation time – relax and just go slowly. Nothing here is going anywhere!
3. Let’s spend a moment on the beach itself. When the sun is shining brightly, you need sunscreen – a good high number. When the day is partly cloudy with nice, billowing clouds, you need sunscreen – a good high number. And when the day is overcast with no sun, you need sunscreen – a good high number. Especially in the summer, but actually all year, the sun is intense and a bad burn is no way to spend a vacation. Protect yourself! A beach umbrella is a fine investment!
4. The ocean is amazingly beautiful but it is the ocean. Currents can be strong, waves can be rough, and the water clarity and temperature can vary. Never, ever swim alone. Watch your children. Knowing how to swim in a pool is not a indicator of swimming ability in the ocean. On really rough days, stay along the water’s edge and enjoy the magnificence of mother nature. If you want to swim at a guarded beach, there is one provided by the Park Service near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Of course, you can also enjoy our pool but the same rules apply – watch your children and don’t swim alone!
5. There are fish, jelly fish and other creatures in the sea. 99.9% of the time you will not encounter a jelly but if you do, over the counter remedies will help ease the sting. If you see a lot of jellies on a particular day, you may want to simply stay out of the water or go to a different stretch of beach. The north beach and the south beach can vary tremendously on any given day, and the sound side can be different still. More and more people like the sound side especially if they have small children. The water is calmer and very shallow and often warmer.
6. Beach fires are a vacation tradition. There are rules to follow. We have copies of the guidelines from the NPS in the office.
7. Shelling is a wonderful past time here. We have found great shells at all times of the tide, although low tide does give you some advantages. The biggest rule of thumb is to get up early and be the first one out. If we have a day of stormy conditions, often shelling improves a bit on the day following as interesting things get churned up from the bottom and tossed on the shore. We can help you identify your shells, and if you haven’t found anything by the time you leave, check out our shell buckets for a treat to take home. All are OBX shells we collected during the winter months.
8. Many people love to spend a day shelling and sightseeing in Ocracoke. We have ferry schedules in the office. Tip: if you want to spend your day on Ocracoke and not in a line for a ferry plan to leave as early in the morning as you can. You will get there ahead of the crowds, have time to enjoy the beaches, catch a bite to eat and head home easily. The ferry lines are not where you want to spend your time.
9. We love fishing – it’s what we are famous for along with the beautiful beaches. A license is required for surf fishing, which includes the beach at our motel. There is no license required at a pier. The nearest pier to us at CHM is in Avon about 7 miles away. There are tackle shops galore and plenty of fishermen and women who can give you advice on what’s biting and how to catch them. Talking to locals is truly your best bet for fishing information as they fish all year and have been fishing for many years. You can also rent charters for inshore or off shore fishing for a half day or a full day. There are also head boats (party boats) where your whole family can enjoy an outing. Check in at the harbors in Hatteras Village for information on any of these options. You can keep your catch in our freezer. Some of the local restaurants will prepare your catch for you if you bring it along.
10. Speaking of restaurants, there are some fine choices here on Hatteras Island. We have restaurants serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at every price point from family casual to special event evenings out. We keep many menus in the office for your review, and since we have eaten at all of them we can give you some firsthand information. During the summer months, most restaurants open at 5pm and close by 9 pm for dinner. A few places stay open after 9 if it is really busy. During the non-peak season, hours and closings vary widely so check in the office for who’s open and when.
As always, if you have questions on anything covered here, or something we missed, just stop by the office or call us ahead of your travels. We want you to have the best OBX vacation ever here with us at Cape Hatteras Motel.
Next up: Checking Out and Heading Home
USA Today Travel 10Best recently named, Cape Hatteras National Seashore #8 Best National Park Beach. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, America’s first national seashore, offers 70 miles of pristine sandy beaches running between the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound.
You have just checked in, and now you are ready to settle into your home away from home. Even though it is not your real home, no matter where you travel, your room should be special to you and for you. Treat things as you would at home not only for your stay, but for guests around you, and also for future guests who will use your room. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. The thermostat in your room is usually set at a reasonable temperature for the season. We know that everyone feels cold and heat differently, so it is not a problem if you adjust things a bit up or down or even turn the unit off if that is what you prefer. However, in the summer, it does no good to push the thermostat to a very low level. The room will not cool any faster, and often times the system will freeze up completely meaning you will have no cooling until the unit can be repaired. That’s no fun for you or for us!
2. The allure of the sounds and smells of the ocean are very enticing and we don’t blame you for wanting to keep doors and windows open to take it all in, especially a gentle summer breeze. But please do not run the A/C at the same time you have the doors and windows open. This is a terrible waste of energy and again, causes excess wear on the heating and cooling unit.
3. You have neighbors. They are either above or below you, and on one or both sides of you. Everyone comes to the beach for a different reason, but for most people it’s for relaxation. When it includes celebration, please remember that we do have a quiet time of 10 p.m. and we ask you to recognize that as a courtesy. Also, even children’s footfalls can be loud at times so if you have little ones and you are on the top floor, encourage them to run on the beach! Inside and outside voices apply to vacations too.
4. Everyone loves our rocking chairs. Every room has two chairs located just outside the door on the porch. Everyone wants the chairs to be there when they arrive. So, if you “borrow” a chair during your stay from a vacant room, we ask that you return it. And please don’t borrow chairs from rooms that are occupied or take the rockers onto the beach.
5. There are several rental firms operating in Buxton, Hatteras and Avon that can provide you with everything from additional beach chairs to kayaks and more. Just ask at the office for information if you would like to rent something to enhance your time at the beach.
6. We do have wifi but it can be a bit iffy at times – that is part of the joy of life on a sandbar! We don’t mind at all if you come over to the office area where the signal might be a bit better.
7. If you break something, and we know that accidents do happen, please let us know right away so that we can fix it. That way, the next guest won’t go into a room where something is not quite right because we didn’t know about it. The same goes for letting us know when something isn’t working properly. We will work diligently to make it right for you.
8. All of our rooms are non-smoking. If you smoke on the porch or the beach, please keep your cigarette butts in some sort of container to dispose of properly. Butts are litter too!
9. Read our guest information sheet and make sure we have answered all your questions. Then relax and enjoy your OBX holiday!
Next up: On the Beach/Out and About
From Maine all the way down to Florida, America’s eastern shores are home to a diverse collection of beautiful beaches perfect for your next summer vacation. A panel of Beach and East Coast Local Experts were chosen based on their extensive beach knowledge and experience to pick their top 20 Atlantic and Gulf beaches. Of these 20 nominations, 10Best readers voted online for their very favorites.
From the list of nominations, Ocracoke Island Beach ranked #3 and Cape Hatteras ranked #6. Not a bad showing for the Outer Banks of North Carolina!
Probably nothing sets a positive tone for your vacation more than an easy, welcoming check-in process. There’s no question that your hosts bear a significant amount of that responsibility. But there are some important things you can do as the guest to make it all work out smoothly and efficiently.
1. Please be sure you are checking in to the correct property. As strange as this may sound, it happens more than you might imagine. In many beach and resort areas properties have similar sounding names. Double check your confirmation letter. Print out a copy and have it with you so that if there’s a question about where you are staying, you will have the information right in front of you.
2. Know when check-in time is and try to understand that sometimes a room can be ready for an early arrival and sometimes it can’t. Our check-in time is 3:00. At Cape Hatteras Motel we try to work with early arrivals as much as possible. If the room you are checking into was not rented the night before, then you usually can go right in. If it was rented, we can try to work with our housekeeping staff to push it up on the cleaning list. In the busy season when we are constantly turning over a large number of rooms, it may not be possible to get you in until check-in time. However, you can always park in the lot, head to the beach, use the pool, or grab a bite to eat next door while you wait.
3. Let us know, if you can, if you will be a late check-in (after business hours which vary from season to season). When you arrive you will find a packet on the office door with information on your room, directions to your room, and any other information you may need at that time. Your door will be unlocked and the keys will be inside your room. There will also be an emergency number if for some reason you have any problems. We ask that you come by the office as soon as possible the following morning to let us know you have arrived, and so that you can fill out the check-in forms.
4. Please try to listen to any information provided by the desk clerk during the check-in process. While everyone is excited to get into their room and attention spans may wane after a long drive, often important information that is time-sensitive may be shared during check-in. Similarly take a moment when you get into your room to read the helpful information sheet provided. We have tried to anticipate most questions our guests have and provide you details which will make your stay even more enjoyable. If you have any questions about anything, don’t hesitate to come back and ask us.
5. If there is anything wrong with your room, let us know right away. Some things are very easy fixes (i.e. something forgotten during housekeeping, a light bulb burns out, etc.) Other issues may require more attention. If you let us know right away we can make arrangements to get it fixed, we can assign you to another room, or make some other adjustment. By you letting us know, not only can we make things right for you, but we can also insure that the room is right for future check-ins.
6. Breathe deeply and let your hard-earned vacation begin!
Taking your family to the beach creates beautiful lifetime memories … that is, as long as every member of your family remains HAPPY! The that end, U.S. News & World Report considered universally important factors like:
1- Safe Waters
2- Kid-Friendly Attractions
3- Dining Options
4- Spacious Accommodations
5- Multi-Generational Appeal
6- Overall Accessibility
The Outer Banks of North Carolina tops the list of Best Family Beach Vacations in the USA, according to travel experts plus U.S. News & World Report readers. The NC barrier islands were lauded for their “consistent-yet-manageable waves and verdant landscape. And you can count on OBX to deliver great summer weather”.