January 13, 2021
by Vanessa Bouchet
This destination spotlight features one of my all-time favorite places in the United States, the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Outer Banks are a string of islands that create a barrier wall along the coast of North Carolina, with shores that attract tourists all year round. The Outer Banks has miles of shoreline to visit, including Bodie Island, Currituck Sound, Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island, Portsmouth Island and Core Banks. We see the Outer Banks every year for Thanksgiving as our last big trip in our Quantum before we pack things up for the year.
Suppose you plan to visit the Outer Banks and are driving in from the north. In that case, you will enter the Outer Banks on North Carolina Highway 12 (NC-12), which will allow you to pass through Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Hatteras, Rodanthe, Waves, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and finally ending your journey at Ocracoke Island. The drive down South NC-12 is a long stretch that provides many places to stop and get local foods and souvenirs. To get to Ocracoke Island, you will need to take the Ocracoke Ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke.
The Ocracoke Ferry offers visitors to ride the Ferry in their cars. There is no charge to take the Ferry and the travel time one way is about an hour. The Ferry ride takes guests in their cars on NC-12 South (yes, the highway technically goes through the ocean on Google Maps), around the Crab Spawning Grounds (protected) and over to Ocracoke Island. If you get to the Ferry at just the right time, you will have amazing pictures of the sunset.
Ocracoke Island’s Atmosphere
Once you arrive at Ocracoke Island, you will notice a very different vibe than the Outer Banks' central islands. Ocracoke has a laid-back atmosphere and features many local artists that sell their craft at shops on the island. The Ocracoke Lighthouse is a smaller lighthouse away from the shore. Although, there is minimal parking, so visitors may have to walk to there. Another exciting piece of the island is that most people will either bike or use golf carts to visit. Visiting the island by bike may be an excellent opportunity for families to experience the island outside of their cars.
Ocracoke Island’s Local Cuisine
While on the island, we stopped at one restaurant called Howard’s Pub and Raw Bar. I have to say; if you have the opportunity to visit this place, it is a must-see. Howard’s features fabulous food and lavish décor. For parents traveling with kids, the Pub has decorations of license plates and police patches from all over, from local North Carolina plates to Iraqi plates. This could be an excellent game for families to play to see who can find license plates from all 50 states and find the one from the furthest away, geographically, from North Carolina. Our bartender, Brandon, was super friendly and knowledgeable of the local area. He was able to offer some local tips and tricks on food and places to visit.
Ocracoke Island’s Local Shops
Brandon recommended the Village Craftsman, a local shop that features artists in the community. Their work was made from different mediums, including clay, jewelry, stained glass, woodworking, and anything else you can imagine. This shop has an antique cash register and the owner, a local historian, can tell you stories about the island. One unique feature we saw was a waterline mark at the shop entrance that shows the various flood markers for multiple hurricanes that have come through the island. All-in-all, Village Craftsman is a very cool place to visit, with unique items for sale. Another art gallery on the island is the Blue Pelican Art Gallery, which features more custom-made art pieces. A unique part of this shop is the two beautiful Labrador dogs that work the counter.
Our last stop in the Outer Banks was the Hatteras Lighthouse on Hatteras Island. This lighthouse is beautiful and features fantastic stonework and is the main sightseeing point in the Outer Banks. Unfortunately, during our visit in November, the actual lighthouse was closed, so we could not get up to the top to look out at the ocean. The lighthouse closes to visitors on Indigenous Peoples’ Day annually. Visitors who are there during the offseason can walk the grounds and see the lighthouse keepers’ homes. One other exciting piece of the Visitor's Center at the lighthouse is tourists’ ability to adopt a sea turtle to preserve the species.
There are various beaches that visitors can access on the island and if you get the proper permits, you can drive on the beach with the right type of vehicle. The Outer Banks should be on everybody's must-see list of beaches in the United States. One notable part of the beaches is that they are well maintained and offer handicap accessible areas for visitors as well (these are near the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum on Hatteras Island.) Whether you plan to visit with a family or as a couple, you will undoubtedly make memories that last a lifetime.
New to RVing? Check out our free RVing How-To Guide.