The Outer Banks

The Outer Banks are a 200-mile (320 km) string of narrow islands off the coast of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. For the first time since we traveled to Blowing Rock in October of 2020, we decided to take a short trip and visit the Outer Banks where we had never been. It takes about three and a half hours to drive the roughly 220 miles (350 kilometers) from Chapel Hill to Roanoke Island. We set out in the morning Tuesday, April 6; upon arrival, we started with a wonderful seafood lunch at the Blue Water Grill (heartily recommended—oh,those scallops!) before visiting the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens at the northern end of the island.

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Roanoke Island: The Elizabethan Gardens


Looking from the Blue Water Grill across Pirate's Cove Marina to the Washington Baum Bridge

Looking from the Blue Water Grill across Pirate's Cove Marina to the Washington Baum Bridge


Entrance to the Elizabethan Gardens Queen Elizabeth I after whom the gardens are named

Entrance to the Elizabethan Gardens

Queen Elizabeth I after whom the gardens are named


The colors iin the gardens are lovely By the rose garden

The colors iin the gardens are lovely; there's yellow, too!

By the rose garden


The Colony Walk leads to the ocean Heading towards the Sunken Garden

The Colony Walk leads to the ocean

Heading towards the Sunken Garden


The Sunken Garden Plants and shadows

The Sunken Garden

Plants and shadows


Kill Devil Hills

We drove the remaining short distance from Roanoke Island to our hotel in Kill Devil Hills (that really is what it's called!) and checked in. We went for a walk on the beach and along Virginia Dare Trail; a picnic on our hotel balcony, including a bottle of rosé, wrapped up the day for us. I have to say that Kill Devil Hills is convenient in that it is centrally located: it's close to Roanoke Island, one can head north towards Corolla or south and follow the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but other than that, there is not much there. The beaches are fine in the off season, but if we come back to the Outer Banks (I would like to), we'll probably stay further north.


The Atlantic Ocean at Kill Devil Hills

The Atlantic Ocean at Kill Devil Hills


Heading to the beach A nice place to stroll or relax

Heading to the beach

A nice place to stroll or relax


This early in the season... ...there are not too many people.

This early in the season...

...there are not too many people.


East Helga is one of many streets leading to the ocean Typical construction of a house close to the water

East Helga is one of many streets leading to the ocean

Typical construction of a house close to the water


Vacation homes off Virginia Dare Trail Virginia Dare Trail at dusk

Vacation homes off Virginia Dare Trail

Virginia Dare Trail at dusk


Duck and its boardwalk

We began our only full day in the Outer Banks by visiting Ashley's Espresso Parlour on East Helga Street where we enjoyed a superb cup of coffee and a treat (we had already had breakfast at the hotel). We then drove north on North Carolina Highway 12. We had read that the town of Duck had a wonderful boardwalk; since we wanted to check it out, we made it our first stop, and we absolutely loved it! The boardwalk is about a mile long; it features several sections with shops and snack bars, there are a great many benches so that it is easy to sit and relax for a few minutes while admiring the magnificent scenery. While we were strolling around, we exchanged a few words with a couple sitting on a bench. Looking at my camera, the man asked, pointing upward, "Did you see the osprey in the tree?" I looked, and sure enough, there was the bird, holding down a large fish on the branch with its talon. I quickly changed lenses and was able to take the shot. It was the first time I had ever seen a fish in a tree!


View of the Currituck Sound seen from Duck

View of the Currituck Sound seen from Duck


Along the Duck boardwalk Near the center of town, there are various shops right on the boardwalk

Along the Duck boardwalk

Near the center of town, there are various shops right on the boardwalk


A nice place to enjoy a refreshment That's one big chair!

A nice place to enjoy a refreshment

That's one big chair!


View from the boardwalk View from the boardwalk

View from the boardwalk

View from the boardwalk


Walkway into the sea Maintenance work along the boardwalk

Walkway into the sea

Maintenance work along the boardwalk


An osprey sitting in a tree with a fish caught moments earlier Moving further down the boardwalk to get a better angle

An osprey sitting in a tree with a fish caught moments earlier

Moving further down the boardwalk to get a better angle


Corolla and Currituck Lighthouse

We continued northward to Corolla to take a look at the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. This 162-foot (49 meters) edifice was completed in 1875 and is made of one million red bricks. Unusually, the lighthouse is not painted so that the bricks are plainly visible. We wandered around Historic Corolla Park for a while before driving back to Kill Devil Hills. That evening, we made up for our modest sandwich lunch by indulging in a wonderful dinner at Miller's Seafood & Steak House, just a few minutes from our hotel by foot. If you are in the area, by all means check out this restaurant! We liked it so much we went back for breakfast a few hours later and were not disappointed.


The 1875 Currituck Beach Light Its red brick façade is not painted

The 1875 Currituck Beach Light

Its red brick façade is not painted


The original lens is stili use today! The keeper's house

The original lens is stili use today!

The keeper's house


The small marina in Historic Corolla Park The exit of the marina into Whale Head Bay

The small marina in Historic Corolla Park

The exit of the marina into Whale Head Bay


Bodie Island Light Station and Manteo on Roanoke Island

After breakfast, we drove south along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to Bodie Island where we went to see the Bodie Island Lighthouse. This 1872 structure is the third one that was built: the first, begun in 1837, had to be taken down as it was unstable. The second, built in 1859, existed for only two years: in the fall of 1861, it was blown up by Confederate troops during the Civil War. In 2000, the Bodie Lighthouse was transferred to the US National Park Service which built a wooden walkway and an elevated platform from where one has an excellent view of the lighthouse. A sign welcomes visitors and lets them know who is responsible for the property. We began our journey home by driving to Manteo on Roanoke Island where we wandered around the marina, strolled down Queen Elizabeth Avenue, and had a coffee at one of the many coffee shops before driving home.


The 1872 Bodie Island Lighthouse

The 1872 Bodie Island Lighthouse


The lighthouse entrance A wooden walkway leads to a platform that provides the best view...

The lighthouse entrance

A wooden walkway leads to a platform that provides the best view...


...of the lighthouse and the double keepers' quarters... ...or the wetlands on the other side.

...of the lighthouse and the double keepers' quarters...

...or the wetlands on the other side.


A last look at the Bodie Island Light Station Manteo: Bridge to Festival ParkManteo: Bridge to Festival Park

A last look at the Bodie Island Light Station

Manteo: Bridge to Festival Park


The little marina in Manteo In the marina

The little marina in Manteo

In the marina


On Manteo's Queen Elizabeth Avenue 'The Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe' in the heart of town

On Manteo's Queen Elizabeth Avenue

The Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe in the heart of town


We very much enjoyed our short trip to the Outer Banks, but I have to say it was not at all what we expected. Whenever there are severe storms, the media carry on as if the Outer Banks were going to be washed away very soon; before leaving, we even joked that we had better see the Outer Banks while they were still there. What we saw had none of the near-doomsday appearance we had expected to some degree. The area around Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk are overly touristy and give the impression that they would not be much fun during the main season; if and when we return, we will probably stay further north, most likely in Duck or even in Corolla. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore appears far less developed, and the drive down to Cape Hatteras is probably something we would like to do some day. In any case, we are reassured: it doesn't seem as though the Outer Banks will disappear any time soon, and that's a very good thing.

The photos on this page were taken between Tuesday, April 6 and Thursday, April 8, 2021.
They may also bee viewed in a Gallery or a Slide Show.




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