Last-Minute Getaway 1: Outer Banks, NC

Outerbnks (Photo by Gary Clark)

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.


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    March 4, 2013 at 2:26 am
  2. Tom Foolry

    Hey, funny thing, I was actually just barely searching for Outer Banks vacation rentals! Cool that I stumbled upon this soon afterwards. I agree that it really is a great location with tons of stuff to do.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm
  3. Barbi

    The Banks has been a favorite vacation destination for my family since 1982. Beautiful place to be, any time of the year. A tip about driving…leave early on summer weekends. I-64 backs up near the Newport News area, and then at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel very easily. Good alternate is the Monitor Merrimac tunnel, or use the James River Bridge for a leisurely drive down Rt. 17 into NC.
    As for living in a tourist area, I lived in Myrtle Beach, SC for four years and loved it! I didn’t care about the tourists that packed in. Those people pay the bills of the folks who live there and have jobs in any number of areas, including retail, hospitality, and real estate. One thing I learned is that you don’t begrudge those tourists the space you have to share with them. They are paying your rent!
    Traffic snarls were the worst during Memorial Day weekend, and on most of those big holidays – and in May the Harley bikers descend on the place, but since I’m a motorcycle lover, this was fun for me!
    Great blogpost about the Banks – Sam and Omie’s is the BOMB! I’d also recommend Stack ‘Em High for breakfast – great homemade food and pancakes that will make your mouth water. And don’t let a vacation on the Banks go by without a trek over Jockey’s Ridge. The dunes are amazing and the views are great! Likewise, take the time to visit each of the lighthouses – two can be climbed – and leave some of your dollars at the visitor’s centers to help with the upkeep. They are not just sentinels of the sea – they are a living part of the history of the area and should be well cared for.

    May 14, 2011 at 2:21 pm
  4. naz.

    I agree with the last comment. We live on Lake Erie in Ohio and we have the same sometimes, frustrating problems with our visitors, so we do our best to enjoy Fall and Winter here when it’s quiet and we can actually take advantage of the lake area.

    August 22, 2010 at 8:23 pm
  5. S.A.

    If anyone has read Nelson DeMille’s Plum Island, you will remember the character in it who lived on the east end of Long Island had a city-people-going-away celebration at the end of the summer. My husband and I got a chuckle out of that, as we lived on the east end of long island and knew exactly what he was talking about. So it isn’t just northern city people going south who are annoying, but the ones heading east as well! 😀 Yes, tourist $ and second home owners keep the economy afloat, but that’s no reason to be arrogant or uncivil. People were living there long before the city traffic, and will probably be there long after (hopefully)! My husband and I will be visiting Hatteras Island this April during Easter Week. It will be our first time on the Outer Banks and I am so excited! I hope we have some warm weather. I understand it can go either way, but even if it’s chilly it will be great to get away from it all and relax. ♥

    February 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm
  6. GA DAWG

    Dan, let me guess — you’re one of those northern contingents who comes to the South every year with the arrogant attitude that you’re helping the ailing, uncivilized southern economy. Although the Outer Banks is overrun with PA and NY tags, certainly contributing to the traffic issues Tammy refers to, it steadfastly holds on to its southern charm! Confederate currency gladly accepted!

    July 5, 2009 at 10:07 am
  7. Dan

    Tammy Midgette seems like a really nice person. If you hate the tourists so much why don’t you move. If it wasn’t for the toursists bringing all the money to your town what would you do. I can’t wait to go to the outer banks tomorrow and Tammy I will beep my horn when I drive by your house.

    July 3, 2009 at 11:18 am
  8. Tammy Midgette

    I live on the Outer Banks and have the whole 50 years of my life! Try puuting up with yall tourist, it ain’t as fun as it looks! Never live in a tourist area it’s awful! Ya’ll should go visit Myrtle Beach, SC it’s much better!

    September 2, 2008 at 2:07 pm
  9. KO

    Until they build the Mid-Currituck Bridge Saturday traffic is going to remain difficult. One option is to come in on a Sunday

    August 23, 2008 at 9:18 am
  10. TB

    Tough luck. Everyone is getting the most of those summer Saturdays. Las ttime I went was early October. Wonderfully quiet.

    August 19, 2008 at 3:48 pm
  11. helpscoming012009

    The cruel truth about the Outer Banks/Nags Head – don’t even try to drive there on a SATURDAY. Spent 8 1/2 hours from DC to get there last weekend. My visit for sure.

    August 19, 2008 at 11:40 am
  12. Gerald Hobbs

    Thanks for the tip! I am headed to NC this weekend. I hope I can make it over for a McOmie….

    August 13, 2008 at 10:05 am

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