Friday, July 28, 2017

Outer Banks Roadtrip

We spent a couple of days earlier this week exploring North Carolina's Crystal Coast and Outer Banks, and the coastline and islands completely fascinated all of us. It was the perfect mix of white sandy beaches and beautiful green water along with historical sites and quaint fishing villages. Before we started out, I'd done enough research so we had a general idea of where we were going and how'd we get to the islands (this is important when a place is only accessible by sea or air!). We found rooms along the way and everything just fell together perfectly.

My #1 sight-seeing goal was to see the wild ponies and then take in as many of the light houses along the way as possible. Ryan wanted some downtime on the beach and to eat really good seafood. All was achieved! We accomplished a lot in four days and three nights and our littlest travel companions were their usual easy-going selves.There was minimal fussing in the car (although I think Ryan was ready to chunk Caroline's Napping House CD out the window!). As usual, I took a cajillon photos...

We started the trip with a visit to our friends the Beams in Wilmington. They were there visiting his parents who have a house on the intracoastal waterway. We had a swim along their deck and soaked in a beautiful evening.

Then it was off to a late supper at Dockside. It's located on the waterfront and was perfect people (and dog) watching. Caroline made friends with every person and their dog. She also pointed out every boat. 

The next morning I caught the most beautiful sunrise over the water.

We got up and out and headed to downtown Wilmington. There wasn't much going on at the Riverwalk at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, but there was plenty of room for Caroline to run around!

We took the trolley around downtown and loved seeing the beautiful architecture of the buildings. The city dates back to the 1730s and is one of the few Southern cities not destroyed by Sherman.

Then it was just a short drive east to Wrightsville Beach and a fun few hours soaking up the sun and sand! The beach was just gorgeous - apparently the water comes from the Gulf Stream and is so more the color of Caribbean waters.

My days of holding them both at once is numbered I believe!

We had lunch at the Oceanic and it was our favorite meal of the trip. 

My "O" Pimms Cup drink was made with gin, Pimms Cup, strawberry Island Oasis mix and cucumbers. I'm going to have to try and copy it!

Then we started making our way from the Emerald Coast to the Outer Banks. The OBX is a line of islands that traces the northeastern coast for 125 miles. Highway 12 is the only road that goes through islands. We drove all of it and absolutely loved every single bit. Coming from the South, the only way onto Ocracoke Island is by air or sea. We chose the two-hour ferry ride from Cedar Island to Ocracoke.

We took the last ferry of the day to Ocracoke. It turned out to be more a sunset cruise than a ferry ride with a beautiful view. There was a nice passenger lounge on the upper deck which we had basically to ourselves for a picnic supper. 

We stayed the night at the Pony Island Motel and woke up to find a beautiful morning. Ocracoke Island is just 16 miles long. We decided the whole village must just run on coffee and cigarettes because every where you looked there were both! It's known as the favorite haunt of the pirate Blackbeard whose real name was Edward Teach. He married his 14th wife here and was killed there by privateers hired by Virginia's governor. There were all sort of pirate-themed shops and restaurants along the Outer Banks. 

Our first lighthouse stop of the day (there were a total of four!) was the Ocracoke Lighthouse that is still in use today. It can be seen in the picture above from the ferry at night. I loved the light keeper's house located right next to the lighthouse!

We stopped at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and then drove up Highway 12 through tiny villages.

We stopped in Rodanthe (think Nicholas Spark's Nights of Rodanthe!) for lunch and tried to get Caroline to pose for a picture with this awful pirate...she wouldn't get too close!

We had two sleeping babes in the babyseat by the time we made it to Bodie Island Lighthouse so Ryan and I took turns viewing this one! It was beautiful and probably the most iconic of the OBX lighthouses.

The most northern town of the OBX is Corolla and just above that is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. We walked around the ground and then walked through the Corolla Wild Horse Museum.

There's a 4x4 beach that you can drive on if you have 4-wheel drive. We were in my Volvo and did not, but thought we'd try with all-wheel drive. Bad idea. We ended up having to get towed but had a great time while it lasted! We later learned a local piece of advice: What is that the best kind of truck to take the beach? Anybody else's!

After a slight delay (and $225 poorer), we had a picnic supper on the beach in Corolla. The sunset was gorgeous.

This boy is all smiles when he has mama all to himself!

We'd attempted to see the wild ponies by ourselves (thus the ill-fated drive on the beach), but were told by several people that the only way to see them was on a tour. I think that's totally true unless you have a vehicle to drive the 12+ miles of the beach. I took a tour by myself early Wednesday morning and thoroughly enjoyed it. One tip from my tour guide: look for the sea oats on the dunes with no oats on top and that's where the horses have been.

This is one of the oldest buildings on the island and was used for sea rescues. Afterwards, I headed back to Kitty Hawk where Ryan said Caroline jumped from the edge of the pool into his arms no more than 60 times! We fueled up on food and sunscreen and headed down to the beach!

The beach at Kitty Hawk was absolutely beautiful and the natural pool provided the perfect mini-ocean for pint-sized beach goers. We stayed until mid-afternoon and then made a quick stop at Kill Devil Hill and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. 

The climb up Kill Devil Hill is no joke! But the view was totally worth it!

We had a fabulous trip and left with lots of ideas on what all to do next time! For those interested, I used the following to plan our trip: Moon's North Carolina Coast by Jason Frye; A North Caroline Bucket List; and USA Today's How to Travel the North Carolina Coastline.