He has an unassuming name, but right now Gus is the most important horse in Corolla. We finally find him standing in the shade under the deck of a vacation rental home, munching on some sea oats.

Gus has a lot resting on his beautiful dark brown shoulders. His ability to father a foal could ultimately save the entire herd, which has become so inbred that scientists fear for its survival.

“Come on, Gus, you need to go out and meet the ladies,” said our guide, Gary, getting a laugh from four of us seated in the beach cruiser from Back Country Safari Tours.

This is no “canned” tour with lethargic wildlife. The Back Country guides clearly love the beautiful horses, and this comes through when they relay the juicy drama of stallions fighting, mares shifting alliances, and babies born in the midst of it all.

We come upon an egret perched on a horse’s back. “They exist in a symbiotic relationship,” Gary explained, “and these horses trust egrets so much that they’ll let them pick a bug right out of their eye.”

Speaking of trust

You need a high level of trust to be hooked into a hang glider with an instructor, towed up to 2,000 feet by an ultralight plane, and released back to the airport for a graceful landing. But it’s worth it for the views of the Currituck Sound, the ocean, and the surrounding countryside.

Most of all, it’s worth it for the feeling of flying. An aviation buff’s dream, it’s an adventure steeped in history. After all, this is where the Wright brothers made aviation history in 1903.

Kitty Hawk Kites also offers many other activities besides hang gliding — standup paddleboards, kayaks, jetpacks, fly boards, parasailing, even a mermaid school — appealing to anybody keeping a recreational “bucket list.” (kittyhawk.com)

Insider tip: Make a reservation with Kitty Hawk Kites for early on in your trip, whether for hang gliding or any other activity. If flights are canceled because of rain, you’ll get a “wind check” to try again later in your stay. Two people recently cashed in on wind checks they’d received in 1976 for hang gliding lessons — and Kitty Hawk Kites honored them.

Really? A seven-story water slide?

Yes. The giant, much-anticipated new water park — H2OBX — is open in Powells Point, and, it’s the talk of all the Outer Banks towns. The 20-acre, $46 million facility features 30 rides, slides, and attractions, including the only dual beachfront entry wave pool on the East Coast and a seven-story-tall slide.

While the adventurous can seek thrills, others in the family can sample craft beer in the

private cabanas in an oasis setting with shady seating areas. 

History on display

Nestled between the North Carolina mainland and the Outer Banks, Roanoke Island Festival Park offers an interactive peak into the first attempted English settlement, which became known as The

Lost Colony. Check out the exhibits, particularly the 16th-century representative ship, Elizabeth II, and the historical interpreters on-site. Afterward, swing by the Lost Colony Brewery for a pleasantly crisp Nags Head


Also on Roanoke Island, The Lost Colony outdoor drama retells the story of Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement in dramatic fashion.

The drama concludes its 80th season this month.

Accommodations along the Outer Banks tend toward vacation homes or condos. Stuart Pack, of Resort Realty, said the price points change significantly after Labor Day.

“A five-bedroom house might drop from $4,500 to $1,500 per week,” he said, noting that the full use of the facility with kitchen, washer/dryer, and linens gives it a home feeling.

While the fall weather on the Outer Banks is temperate, down at Hatteras, it can be six degrees warmer than in Kitty Hawk and Corolla.

Before you go

Currituck Co. Tourism: visitcurrituck.com

Outer Banks Tourism: outerbanks.org

-Load your plate with festivals

Whatever your interest — from seafood to kites to running to holiday lights — festivals of all sorts are happening every weekend clear though the winter on the Outer Banks:

-Crabdaddy Seafood and Wine Festival, Sept. 24

Crabs, live music, local wines, and beer at Sanctuary Vineyards in Jarvisburg.

-Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, Oct. 17–21 and Dec. 9–10

More than 90 trips and programs in six national wildlife refuges throughout the Outer Banks. Birding, paddling, history, photography, and art.

-Brewtag, Oct. 29

Participants compete to see who can launch and fly an empty keg the furthest at Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

-Outer Banks Marathon and Southern Fried Half, Nov. 10–12

Includes a qualifying event for the Boston Marathon, a half-marathon, a 6-miler, an 8K, a 5K, a fun mile, and even a “Diaper Dash.” (I test-ran the 8K course, which goes through the Nags Head Woods Maritime Forest, a dirt road that feels good on your feet and makes for a shady, enjoyable training run.)

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