I had an epiphany during my most recent (and maiden!) trip to the Outer Banks. My traveling partner and I had just wrapped a deliciously filling lunch at Carolina Bar-B-Que Company and were pulling into Dare County Regional Airport for our next activity. At that moment, I had to stop and laugh. It was just after one o’clock, and so far that day, I had taken an airboat tour, I was about to board a biplane, and I had a history tour scheduled for that evening. I was quite literally experiencing the area by air, land, and sea.


It’s fitting, then, that I am in a destination in which air, land, and sea are such an integral part of the history and sense of place. After all, the Outer Banks is where English pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, notoriously operated and hid in the area. It’s where the Wright brothers completed their first flight. It’s where three National Parks preserve the past and the geographical present. The best part? You can walk—or ride—the same paths as those who have gone before you.



Helicopter view of shoreline


OBX Airplanes offers timed tours in one of two airplanes. The ​​Cessna Aircraft seats up to three passengers for tours ranging from ten minutes to an hour. Flights give aerial views of iconic landmarks such as the Wright Brothers’ Monument, Jockey’s Ridge, and Bodie Island Lighthouse. For those seeking an even more thrilling adventure, opt for a tour of the company’s Waco YMF-5C. The open-air cockpit is tight but worth it for the incredible (and breezy) perspective below. Your captain will provide you with headgear to protect your ears and also enlighten your journey. Quick up-and-down rides take just five minutes, or you can book longer more in-depth tours. If you’re lucky, your flight will be helmed by Jenny Hawk, OBX Airplanes’ owner. Her passion for aviation is palpable, and you’ll love hearing her point out various wildlife and yes, shipwrecks, too, from above.



bike, boardwalk, group, water, marina, manteo



There are loads of museums, parks, lighthouses, and other sites to explore, but for a local perspective of the history and happenings unlike any other, take the Manteo Historic Walking Tour with retired Police Chief Francis D'Ambra. D’Ambra began his tours twenty years ago. As a history buff, his tales are informative and interesting, but because of his ties and connections, his personal experiences are laced throughout them, too. D’Ambra waxes poetic about local legends like Andy Griffith who made his home in Manteo, recounts celebrity encounters with Richard Gere and Diane Lane who resided in town while filming Nights in Rodanthe, and regales about Virginia Dare and the lost colony of Roanoke. The lantern-lit tour covers the many firsts for which Manteo is responsible. You’ll have to take the chief’s tour to hear them for yourself.



outer banks adventures - airboat



For the ultimate eco-tour of the Roanoke Sound, join Captain Jamie Moore with Outer Banks Adventures on his airboat. Captain Jamie whips his nimble craft along the shallow waters of the sound, pointing to wildlife and other sites as he goes. As the only certified tourist airboat on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you can be confident in a ​safe and enjoyable ride. The two-hour tour makes multiple stops at various points, each one revealing interesting wildlife or historic information about the area. Captain Jamie leaps into the water to pull critters like horseshoe crabs for viewing and excitedly directs riders to take in dolphins and various birds. It’s no surprise that the captain is passionate about the water. He has a background in boating but also marine biology. He eagerly assists with area wildlife research, and he picks up any water litter he passes, too. Yes, even during the tours.