Whether you’re a competitive runner, lone adventurer, or meandering shell collector, there’s something for you on the Outer Banks of North Carolina this spring and summer:
You can combine the area’s buccaneer history with a run during the Flying Pirate half-marathon weekend, April 14–15. Races include a 1K and 5K, as well as the half-marathon distance. There’s a two-day Jolly Roger expo to enjoy as well.
“Runners always comment on the great community involvement in this event that makes it even more enjoyable,” said Aaron Tuell, who promotes the Outer Banks area.
Festivals are always fun. Corolla, on the northern end of the Outer Banks, welcomes summer with a free Memorial Day Beach Blast on May 27. Historic Corolla Park comes alive with beach music, noon–5:00pm. Food and beer vendors will be on-site.
Corolla’s focus turns to the arts June 19–20 with the Under the Oaks Arts Festival on the waterfront grounds of the Whalehead mansion, also in Corolla Park. Artists and artisans display their talents in a variety of media, and local food concessions provide the nourishment.
Down the coastline a bit, kiteboarders vie for $50,000 in prize money at the Triple-S Invitational competition, June 2–8. This event is internationally recognized as the ultimate in wakestyle kiteboarding competition. The format pits riders against one another in high-stakes heats, and there are also laid-back freeriding sessions at REAL Watersports in Cape Hatteras. It’s great fun for spectators.
If you want to tackle an adventure yourself, Kitty Hawk Kites (kittyhawk.com) can set you up with a dizzying variety of experiences, including a kiteboarding school, tandem hang gliding, a wine cruise, a wild horse excursion, and plenty more.
“We’re continuing to expand activities and locations because visitors love these experiences,” said the company’s Molly Garavito, who noted many activities are available in the Beaufort area as well.
The Lost Colony’s 81st season runs May 25–Aug. 22, an entertaining history lesson for the whole family. The true-life mystery involves doomed colonists, Native Americans, music, and fun. (thelostcolony.org)
Enjoying Cape Hatteras
On the southern end of the Outer Banks, Mother Nature is always at work shifting the sands of the islands that make up Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Last summer, a 27-acre sand bar appeared off of Cape Point. The large number of shells found there led to the formation being dubbed “Shelly Island.” The currents and tides changed the landscape again by fall and the “island” was joined to Cape Point.
“Cape Point’s always been popular for fishing, and now the fishing is as good as it was before the sand bar appeared,” said park superintendent David Hallack. “The shelling has just made the Point even more popular.”
Tuell said last year’s appearance of the “island” made a big impression.
“A big part of the Outer Banks’ allure lies in the islands’ ability to hold surprises, even for the most devout fans. The whole country watched ‘the birth of an island’ last summer in the press and on social media when Shelly Island formed off Cape Hatteras, teeming with hard-to-find seashells, coral, and other beachcombing treasures. I think we’re all looking forward to what this year will bring.”
If driving on the beach is on your bucket list, the National Park Service now issues both 10-day permits for $50 and 365-day permits for $120.
Previously, annual permits were only good for the calendar year; now they’re valid for a year from the date of issue.
Insider tip: You have to watch a short educational video on the type of equipment needed and safety when you get your permit.
Safety is a top priority.
“It’s important to swim with a buddy, to have supervision for children, and to know about the rip currents that appear on this part of the North Carolina coast,” said Hallack. “It’s good to check the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) rip current forecast, too.”
In addition to the park’s “Pack It In, Pack It Out” environmental program, Hallack noted that some areas of the seashore are temporarily closed each year because of nesting wildlife.
The park’s website, nps.gov/caha, offers lots of information on the sea turtles that nest there and how to avoid disturbing the nesting
See the wild horses up close and personal on one of the wild horse tours leaving from Corolla.
“They are the most majestic wild animals you will see on our secluded, peaceful, four-wheel drive beach,” said Michele Ellis, who promotes Currituck County.
Save Money and Splash
If the ocean isn’t calling you, the H2OBX Water Park in Powell’s Point may fill the bill. The park opens its second season May 25 with more than 30 rides, slides, and attractions. There are eight thrill rides, seven family rides, and seven kids’ rides to choose from. For a bit of an upscale feel, opt for a private cabana.
If you select lodging through a partner, you can get both discounted tickets and a larger number of tickets than is available to the general public (the total number of tickets issued per day is controlled to avoid overcrowding).
New this summer will be a passenger ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke. Space can be reserved on the Ocracoke Express ferry so you can enjoy the village with its non-chain restaurants and shops. A tram can take you from the ferry landing to the village. (ncferry.org)
“A lot of people make the connection between summer vacation and the Outer Banks, but each season has its own vibe and appeal. ... Some folks like what the Outer Banks offers in the way of open space and elbow room, to peel away from their daily routine for a couple’s weekend or a classic seven-day vacation,” Tuell said.
For More Information
Currituck Co. Tourism: visitcurrituck.com
Outer Banks Tourism: outerbanks.org