by Karon Warren
The Outer Banks of North Carolina has long been known as a beach destination that visitors return to year after year. But there’s much more to the Outer Banks than just the beach.
Take to the Air
Jockey’s Ridge State Park is home to the tallest natural active sand dune system in the Eastern United States. However, just to wander the massive hills of sand and enjoy the view may not be entertaining enough. If that’s the case, take it to the next level.
Sign up for hang gliding lessons with the folks at Kitty Hawk Kites. Here you can attempt to learn how to fly as the Wright brothers did at this same location more than 100 years ago. Thankfully, you’ll have more direction than the Wright brothers did. You’ll work with an instructor, who’ll guide and direct you every step of the way. They’ll show you how to handle the glider, how to run down the dune to take flight, and how to properly land. Standard beginner lessons start with five “flights,” wherein you may reach up to 15 feet in the air traveling anywhere from 30 to more than 100 yards. It’s not as scary as one may think, and it’s definitely a lot of fun.
For more information, visit KittyHawk.com.
Climb to New Heights
The Outer Banks is home to five notable lighthouses. This provides visitors plenty of opportunities to get a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding islands and shoreline. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick beacon in the world. It stands at 198 feet and contains 257 steps. Reaching 156 feet into the air, the Bodie Island Lighthouse has 214 steps. Both lighthouses are open for climbing from mid-April to Columbus Day in October. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse really stands out because of its red brick exterior. It takes 220 steps to reach the lookout of the 162-foot structure. It’s open seasonally to climbers from early spring through Dec. 1. The Outer Banks’ remaining lighthouses, the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse and the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, are not open to climbers.
Most everyone is familiar with the story of the Wright brothers’ repeated efforts and eventual success to complete the first powered airplane flight. At the Wright Brothers National Memorial, you can climb Big Kill Devil Hill. It’s home to the Wright Brothers Monument where you can look over the field where these brothers made history. Down below, you can view the flight line of those flights. In addition, there are markers along the way to pinpoint the journey of each flight. Inside the newly renovated visitors center, learn more about the Wright brothers’ history and see a full-size replica of the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer.
Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial website for more details.
Spy a Shipwreck
Are you a fan of naval history? Don’t miss your chance to see an actual shipwreck! It’s located just off the beach across from the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge visitor center. At low tide, you can see the top of the Oriental, a Federal transport during the Civil War that was grounded in 1862. Stop inside the visitor center for information on the vessel’s history before heading across the street to see the wreckage.
Rely on Nature
Many Outer Banks residents strive to maintain the natural beauty of the islands. As a result, it’s not surprising that enterprising locals are now incorporating the area’s natural resources into their businesses. For example, Brian, Shaena and Declan McMahon of Hatteras Saltworks harvest clean, mineral-rich ocean salt through solar evaporation in solar ovens. Visitors can pick some up to bring home and use in their own recipes. Hatterassaltworks.com
Always a fan of sea glass, artist Pembroke Bryant now turns this natural material into beautiful jewelry that doubles as a wonderful memento of a trip to the Outer Banks. Visitors can check it out firsthand at the KDH Artists’ Cooperative Gallery & Studios. You can also find it online at SeaSandAndHand.com.
At the Outer Banks Brewing Station, see how the first wind-powered brewery in the United States utilizes this power source to brew its own beer and serve up a full menu in the restaurant. Although it’s not 100-percent wind-powered, the brewing station is taking steps to reduce its reliance on other forms of electricity.
Rack Up the Savings
If you want to take a vacation without breaking the bank, here are a few tips:
- Visit the Outer Banks during the low season — after Labor Day and before spring break — and receive some of the area’s best rates on accommodations. With a large inventory of vacation rental homes as well as hotels, resorts, and bed-and-breakfasts, you’re sure to find a great place to stay that won’t break the bank.
- Don’t forget to check out your AAA Savings Portal for exclusive discounts on hotels, attractions and more!
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