The Outer Banks. Ah, just saying the name makes me feel pleasantly far from reach. North Carolina’s 200-mile string of Atlantic beach towns – Kitty Hawk, Hatteras, Nags Head, Manteo, Duck, and several other coastal hamlets – all offer summer sunrises with your toes in the surf. Roam Carolina’s east coast while the long days last.
If there is any stretch of coast worth town-hopping in the South, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is the one. From where the Wright Brothers lifted off down to Cape Lookout National Seashore, the thin barrier islands provide wide beaches to explore (and even set up camp). Visitors often take a couple hours to climb at least one of the Outer Banks’ lighthouses, the most famous of which being the black and white-striped Cape Hatteras, the tallest brick beacon in the world at 208 feet.
Where to stay: Travelers find updated rooms and suites (furniture, decor, and baths) at the Sanderling Resort and Spa in Duck. The serene spot touches two bodies of water, the Atlantic and the Currituck Sound, so finding water is not a challenge. Finding relaxation takes hardly any searching as well: The Sanderling Spa uses nature’s ambiance to enhance their menu of treatments.
How to Rent a Beachhouse: On my last visit, our group rented a 5-bedroom the day of arrival for a long weekend. Most homes rent by the week this time of year, but if they are vacant, rental companies sometimes are willing to negotiate. Two reputable, easy-to-search companies to try: Southern Shores and Atlantic Realty. Larger parties can find deals where payment levels out to less than $100 per person per night.
Best Breakfast: Sam and Omie’s in Nags Head is my pick. Go for the french toast with sugar-cured ham. If you are on the go, order a McOmie (English muffin, ham, egg, cheddar) to go. The beach is just across Beach Road.
Perfect DVD to Pack: My favorite Kevin Costner movies are baseball flicks (Bull Durham was filmed in NC), but the tearjerker Message in a Bottle wins for this trip. Set in the Outer Banks, the Nicholas Sparks adaptation didn’t wow critics, but most of the women I know loved the boat builder story all the way to it’s stormy end.