BootsnAll Travel Network

The Outer Banks

So what’s with the Outer Banks? What are the Outer Banks?

It’s the name that really drew me. About 2-3 years ago, the Travel Channel had one of their specials about the best beaches. One of the beaches being the most unspoiled. And it was somewhere along the Outer Banks. Naturally, I had a certain image of what the Outer Banks looked like. Untouched. Unspoiled. Under or not developed.

The Outer Banks refers to a chain of islands off of North Carolina’s coastline. Highway 12 runs along most of it in a 100-mile arc, with a couple of ferries linking it to the mainland. The islands are very narrow, maybe less than 3 miles wide.

I woke up at 4:30 am Wednesday morning to make the 1-hour drive to the Cedar Island Ferry. It is a 2 1/2 hour crossing, and I ended up falling asleep in my car before awakening a few minutes before arriving at Okracoke Island. Okracoke island is fairly small, only 14 miles in length. You have to drive the 14 miles to the end of the island in order to catch the other car ferry and 40-minute crossing to Hatteras Island.

I spent the day visiting lighthouses, touring the museum “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” meandering small village shops and outposts, stopping by the dunes and the beaches, and just making a leisurely drive to my hotel for the evening in Kitty Hawk. As I eluded to in an earlier post, the Outer Banks have quite a bit of history associated with it. Most of these passages come direct from my visitor’s guidebooks:

* Kitty Hawk. On December 17th, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved man’s first successful powered flight. At 10:35 am, their flying machine lifted above the sands near Kitty Hawk and remained aloft for 12 seconds, covering a distance of 120 feet. There is now a “Wright Brothers National Monument”

* Graveyard of the Atlantic. For over 400 years, the waters off the Outer Banks have been among the most treacherous in the world, where so many ships and lives having been lost that the waters along the Outer Banks are known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. As a result, there are numerous lighthouses including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which at 208 feet is the tallest masonry lighthouse in the U.S.

* The Lost Colony. Jamestown is referred to as the first permanant English settlement in the New World, founded in May 1607. However, the first English settlement was established on Roanoke Island in 1587. Three years later, supply ships returned to find the colony totally deserted. The colonists had vanished, leaving behind no trace of their fate. Check this web site out! :

* Finally, the best for last. Blackbeard. The pirate was a notorious visitor of these parts in the early part of the 18th century. He got his well-known nickname from his thick beard that he braided and put smoking matches into during battle. His heyday was in 1717 and 1718, but just inside of Ocracoke Inlet on November 22, 1718, 2 British ships caught up to him and a battle ensued. This was to be Blackbeard’s last battle. British soldiers shot him, stabbed him, slashed his throat and cut his head off. His head was taken back to Virginia, where it was on display for many years. His body, which sustained more than 25 mortal wounds during the fight, was thrown overboard into the pirate’s favorite anchorage – Teach’s Hole – a place that has carried his name for more than 275 years (Blackbeard’s real name is Edward Teach). What I find most interesting is that “Despite Blackbeard’s fearful intentions, records show he was seldom brutal. By striking a fearful reputation ahead of time, he often found little resistance.” A little psychological warfare tactic!

I found the northern part of the Outer Banks to be a bit nauseating–lots of development, outlet malls, shopping malls, strip malls, plenty of souvenir stores, restaurans, gas stations, fast food outlets, hotels and 2nd vacation homes. So all in all, I enjoyed my visit and the history attached to the area, but could have done with less development. Still, I’d recommend visitors to the state to spend a few days in the Outer Banks


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