Young, scruffy-haired lifeguards cruise past us in ATV’s with the day’s warnings written on a board bolted to the back. Storms can blow through here and change as frequently with the tides, good thing they use an erasable marker. “No Swimming” flags flap in the wind as the rip currents from far-off tropical storms make swimming and splashing about a bit more of a dangerous undertaking.
We drove down the eastern coast of the United States from New Jersey to North Carolina in about six hours and then over the only bridge connecting this skinny strip of land to the mainland. If you live on the east coast of the United States, you’ve probably either vacationed in the Outer Banks or know someone who has. This narrow string of barrier islands curving alongside North Carolina in the Atlantic has long been a vacation haven for families and couples looking for an easy-going getaway. Because of the weather, it’s also a great place for a little tennis or golf. If you are looking for the ‘woop-woop’ and fist-pumping parties of Daytona Beach or Seaside Heights, this isn’t the spot for you.
I was fortunate enough to be spending a week in Corolla Beach the first week of September this year. The perfect time if you ask me (well even if you didn’t ask me…I am the one with the blog so…). The big summer season had just ended and being that it’s a major ‘family’ vacation area, most kids were back in school so it was still warm and a bit more of an all adult-resort at the moment. Plus there was the added benefit that the ocean water was still a comfortable temperature having been warmed up all season.
The north end of the Outer Banks is less commercial than the south – making it even less of a party, spring break spot. It’s a much more residential-scene with gargantuan wood-shingled beach homes that board several families and friends who come down here to enjoy a week of family-time or alone-time like us. We are staying at, St. Nicks (most houses have names, just like you find on boats, this one happens to be named for my nephew, Nicholas!), a great house just a block from the beach in a small community called Pine Island. The Harris Teeter supermarket (henceforth dubbed “Harry Teets” by my boyfriend) is just a mile away and everything else we need is at our ‘home’ for the week – a pool, a hot tub, several decks with plenty of spots to sit and chill in the afternoon sun, and a grill (nothing says American vacation like the smell of a grill), plus tennis and basketball courts nearby.
My favorite thing to do here? Nothing. We spend a good part of the week just being and being together – lying in the sun, eating junky ‘vacation’ foods from our childhoods (ya know health foods like: Pringles, Oreos, Hot dogs, & Kraft “American” cheese on Ritz Crackers) and adhering to no schedule at all.
It was wonderful. But if you are looking for a little bit more than ‘nothing’ there are all the standard water sports – kayaking, jet-skiing, wind surfing. You can also check out the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, which, like the other lighthouses on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, still serves as an aid to navigation. The beacon comes on automatically every evening at dusk and ceases at dawn.
At the north end of the Outer Banks, Highway 12 comes to quite a cool and abrupt end without much warning. Flashing signs right at the very end let you know it has ended just as you start to feel sand under your tires. The road ends, but you can keep going driving on the 14-mile-long beach where wild horses and small ‘sand’ communities of big beach homes hide among sand dunes, as long as your vehicle has four-wheel drive. The horses are apparently descendants of wild Spanish mustangs that were shipwrecked or abandoned by European explorers in the more than 400 years ago.
I snap some shots of the horses and we drive a bit more until the sand gets a bit too soft and too high for us to not worry about getting stuck. So we turn around and head back to our home for the week and return to snacking and being lay-abouts. Perfect.