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The International Writers Magazine: Outer Banks - North Carolina

OBX: A Family Paradise
• Mathew MacCormack
The golden late-afternoon sun, ready to begin its remission and tuck itself beneath the horizon, glints off the surface of the azure water. Waves form their own impromptu percussion session, their wooshing heard from several blocks away. Sandpiper birds scurry across the surface of the warm sand, sure not to let the waves wet their thin feathers.

OBX surf

A few hundred yards out in the ocean, the graphite tips of dolphin dorsal fins can be seen poking out of the water, and baitfish dance and leap from the water as manta rays, as big as a kitchen table, leap from the surface, and acrobatically backflip through the air.
Is this Heaven?

Well, sort of. Welcome to the Outer Banks, North Carolina.
OBX, as it is affectionately called by vacationers, is a set of thin barrier islands off the coast of the North Carolina’s eastern shore. Although it is famously known as the site of Wilbur and Orville’s first flying experience (you can visit the Wright Brothers’ national memorial in Kitty Hawk), OBX is much more than a piece of aviation history. It is a popular destination for fishermen and families alike, and can provide something for just about anyone.

If a rod and reel are your must-haves, the Outer Banks provide a fisherman’s haven. Take a trip down to the Nags Head fishing pier, where locals and tourists harmonize in the great equalizer of fishing. The splintery wooden pier stretches deep out from the shore, and offers access to the undersea bounty of croakers, flounder, spot, and even the occasionally puffer fish or stingray. Or, if you are a little more inclined, head to the Oregon Inlet in Manteo, where you are sure to find a fishing charter that fits you. Pony-tailed captains with callouses on their hands and decades of fishing expertise in their brains will help you every step of the way as you travel out to sea. A charter can also double as a boat ride, with sprays of seawater, a sweltering sun, and plenty of food and drink to enjoy with your family and those onboard. If you are interested in making a dinner out of your catch, joints such as the Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags Head tote a “you catch it, we cook it” mantra.

Those looking to get a look at the marine wildlife without having to tangle with a writhing bloodworm or piece of slimy squid as bait can still get their fix on the islands. Just head down to Roanoke Island to the North Carolina Aquarium, where you can see a sample of tropical wildlife. From menacing sharks that would benefit from a little dental work to the fan favorite and stupidly cute river otters, the NCA is certainly a place to check out.

If you are looking for a little more of an adrenaline rush, Outer Banks can hit the spot. Be it jet skiing in Kitty Hawk or parasailing over the sound in Manteo, there is no end to the water-sports and thrill-seeking opportunities.

Hatteras Furthermore, if you’re willing to take a day-trip, Hatteras, on the south side of the islands, beckons. Hatteras is home to the legendary Cape Hatteras lighthouse, a towering, 187 foot spire that is cloaked in a black and white, candy cane-esque design. A small fee will yield the opportunity to climb the 257 red steps that lead to the top of the lighthouse. From there, a view of the entire Outer Banks is visible, and one can catch a glimpse of “The Shoals”, a treacherous part of the shoreline where pirates of lore would wait for shipwrecks.

After a sweaty, and oftentimes exhausting journey up and down the lighthouse, on the way home be sure to stop at Ugly Mugs Coffee in Avon. This hidden gem serves up the coolest and creamiest of smoothies, topped with fluffy whipped cream. Hand-carved mugs peer curiously at customers, their ridiculous, twisted faces the namesake of the tiny beverage shack.

And of course, one must not forget the main attraction of the islands; the beaches. From Kill Devil Hills to South Nags Head, there is nary a bad beach in the bunch. Interestingly enough, as the barrier islands are two sided, there are two choices for swimming venues; the calmer, slightly warmer “sound” located on the interior, and the conventional Atlantic beach on the eastern shores. Waves are large enough to surf and body surf upon, but could become dangerous for a small child.

As far as lodging, there are a number of options in OBX. Realtors such as Stan White can set you up with a rental house just a pebble’s throw from the shore, or, if you’re willing to spend a bit more, directly on the warm sands of the nearest beach. There are also several hotels and motels if a shorter stay is your cup of tea.

While all of these treasures exist in OBX, it would be inaccurate to call the place perfect. Riptides and strong currents can be dangerous to swimmers, as can the very rare shark attack. Once in a while, a wader will feel the slimy, leather wings of a stingray flap beneath their feet, or the pinchers of a crab. It would be a lie to say that the Outer Banks has a hopping nightlife; it is, after all, mostly a family destination. Traffic can become strenuous on weekends. Sometimes it does get unbearable hot. And finally, there is the occasional threat of a storm, as my family and I experienced when we left our vacation early as category four Hurricane Charley approached in 2004.

However, as a travel destination, The Outer Banks of North Carolina provide an eclectic, family-friendly spot that isn’t as honky-tonk or overly developed as, say, Virginia Beach. If you are looking for a relaxing, beach vacation, and don’t mind staying in at night, Outer Banks is the place for you.

© Matthew MacCormack December 2013

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