Generation X (born 1966 to 1980), the current sandwich generation, caring for both parents and children, has a special reason to look to the Outer Banks. Crammed into these 130 miles of coastline you’ll find a classic mixture of fascinating history, superb local food and wine, friendly towns, natural beauty, and awesome adventure. OBX allows for activities for the entire family, so you can spend time as an extended family, as a couple, grandparents with grandkids, girls’ day, boys’ night, or any combination.
We stayed at Whalebone Cottages, perfectly positioned in Nags Head on the beach with four-bedroom units. Put the grown-ups on the first level and the kids upstairs. They’ll likely fight over the bunk beds. Equipped with a complete kitchen, stopping at one of the local grocery stores allows you to stock up on snacks or breakfast food. It’s close to Sam & Omie’s, a local favorite.
As you cross the bridge, stop at Trio Restaurant & Market for a satisfying meal and a little early shopping. Proceed to the Monument to a Century of Flight at the first Visitor’s Bureau or the Wright Brothers National Memorial. A National Park, the latter includes a Visitor’s Center, reproduction of the 1903 camp buildings, the landing strip, a granite monument atop Kill Devil Hill, and a statue park celebrating the First in Flight trips.
For the historic-minded, visit The Lost Colony on Roanoke Island and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site which contains a monument to the Freedmen’s Colony, aka the “other Lost Colony.” The Elizabethan Gardens right next door contain an artist’s rendition of what Virginia Dare, the first English-born child of the land, might look like as an adult. Stop at the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse around mealtime in the harbor. Try the hummus board at Avenue Grille or take a picnic with you as you sail around the Sound. The adults will enjoy Kill Devil Rum for their gold, silver, or pecan-flavored rum. Drive to the end of the island for the entire family to explore the North Carolina Aquarium and see how many sea turtles are currently in residence.
Any of the Outer Banks Lighthouses, Hatteras, Bodie, Roanoke Marshes, Currituck, or Ocracoke, can fulfill your wanderlust for the connection of land and sea. On the way south, stop at the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station and Pea Island. Take the time to visit the Weather Station Bureau which now doubles as a Visitor Bureau and the Graveyard of the Atlantic which explores shipwrecks and their effect on North Carolina life today.
Make reservations for horseback riding on Hatteras and stop at the Orange Blossom Café on the way south for Apple Uglies and the Diamond Shoals Restaurant for dinner on the return. You’re likely to have several family members sleeping on the hour-long drive back to the house. At the north end of the Outer Banks, visit the Corolla Wild Horse Tour for a nice day trip. Available only by reservation, these 4WD tours allow observation of up to 100 horses.
For more water sports, travel north to Duck, eat, and explore the nearly mile-long boardwalk for kayaking, water sports, or the fishing. Another great place to kayak is farther south in Alligator River.
When you’re ready for more air adventures, you can parasail over the ocean, take a Bi-Plane tour, or even skydive. For my favorite adventure of the trip, a little closer to the ground, though, learning how to hang glide over the same sand dunes that carried the Wright Brothers’ historic flight with Kitty Hawk Kites was the highlight of the trip. This must-see activity included an hour flight school and then a walk out to the sand dunes. While others flew kites or sand boarded down the dunes, we took up our positions atop the dunes and, on either end of the gliders tethered to our instructors, took a couple steps and were then flying. We learned how to land, using a superman pose and came down as properly as Mary Poppins landing in the gentle wind.
The scenic landscape offers a wondrous backdrop for all your hang gliding, sports fishing, dolphin watching, sailing, kayaking, horseback riding trips, hikes, and historic desires. There really is something for everyone at this North Carolina destination.