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The Outer Banks, NC

No tour of North Carolina would be complete without seeing the Outer Banks or the OBX as the locals call it. The Outer Banks is the home of legends; Kittyhawk and the Wright Brothers who first proved man could fly, the Atlantic ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway, so many shipwrecks they are nearly on top of each other, the famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse, Uboats, Blackbeard the pirate, Albermarle historic highway, the lost colony of Roanoke and Virgina Dare the first English child born in the new world, the wreck of the ironclad The Monitor. It is also the home of fun where water sports abound, tour boats, fishing, camping, kite flying, etc.

Getting out onto the islands is a bit scary. Following my GPS, I drove out there on Highway 64. It brings you up to a 2 lane bridge that rises up a bit so you can’t see what is over the top. As soon as you get over the top, you find yourself driving on a bridge that goes on forever over water with no land in sight! Even my GPS screen was solid blue (water). You are left to hope there actually is land out there somewhere, that the bridge is fully intact all the way over, that a storm will not suddenly pop up. This is the Intercoastal Waterway. When you have a 7,000 pound trailer attached to you that is sure to drag you to the bottom in the water, it is a very sobering experience but one I would not have wanted to miss.

When you finally reach Roanoke, stop at the visitor’s center on the right. They have all the info you could possibly want on the area. Grab lots of brochures and coupons there before proceeding.

I chose to stay on Cape Hatteras in a C2C park, Camp Hatteras, in Waves, NC. It spans fully across the island from sea to sound for both types of camping to choose from. They have a very nice indoor pool that is quite popular, outdoor pool, jacuzzi, game room, lounge with TV and puzzles, plenty of beach to walk, and full hookups with free and quite excellent wifi. Cable TV is available for an extra charge. They also have miniature golf and tennis available. It is not a cheap park by any means at as much as $81/night in season but Coast to Coast members can stay for $10/night. Being on the ocean, it and everywhere on the OBX is very windy. My first night there, the wind was blowing pretty hard and I was actually trapped there when the road was covered by water in the town before it. You can’t miss that the park office and all the houses on the islands are up high on stilts. Happily the road cleared the next day.

The northern part of the Outer Banks is fairly developed with the usual fast food joints, Walmart, etc. Most of the camping, lighthouses, etc. are in the southern part.

I visited Cape Hatteras lighthouse which you can climb to the top of in season for $7 and I went to Bodie lighthouse. I saw a third quite different marsh lighthouse on Roanoke Island. I would like to have seen Ocracoke lighthouse as well but did not have time for the 45 minute car ferry ride over to Ocracoke Island. It was also foggy when I was there and I heard later that it was very hard sailing that day in the fog. I did however catch the maritime museum where I saw a German Enigma code machine captured from U85 uboat we sank off the coast. Around there you can also drive on the beach and if you watch the right side when heading back north on Hwy. 12, you will see a spaceship!

German Enigma Code Machine

I saw Kittyhawk and the national monument there to Orville and Wilbur Wright. The field was marked with the lengths of his test flights and they reconstructed the hangar and bunkhouse they used. There is a museum there and a good film to watch among other things.

On Roanoke Island, you can see Fort Raleigh, the first English fort in the new world, a museum, and excavated earthworks which would have been used as protection for the fort. They do a good job explaining why the Roanoke Colony failed though they still don’t know why or where they disappeared to. They came to exploit the land for England rather than build it. Instead of sending farmers and craftsman who would have made the colony self-sufficient, they sent soldiers, businessmen, and gentlemen unaccustomed to hard work. If you are English, you may find some embarrassment there in how they repaid the friendly indians who had helped them. They attacked and killed them twice out of fear and hunger when supplies ran low.

You will also see a tribute to the Underground Railroad which led many runaway slaves here. If they could cross the sound to the island, they were protected there during the civil war by union forces and encouraged to establish homesites. Unfortunately, after the war, all lands captured were returned to their rightful owners and the former slaves were “escorted” off the island. Some managed to remain and their heirs are still there.

Also on Roanoke is Festival Park where you will find the third lighthouse I mentioned, a great boardwalk, tourist shops, antiques, food, a marina, and the Elizabeth II full size replica of an english sailing ship of the time. I got to go aboard it and hear from guides in period sailor costumes about the ship. I saw the captain had quarters and there were 2 bunks up front for gentlemen but the sailors had to sleep on the deck and others slept in the cargo hold. I can’t imagine being trapped on that thing for months out at sea. The bathroom is a small door on the front over the water. Um, no thank you.

I also took some time to see the interactive museum, the village live exhibit, and play period games.

To see the rest of my pictures including descriptions, click here.

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