The prices drop with the crowds when fall settles over North Carolina’s Outer Banks. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Whether you’re looking for a bit of adventure, a piece of history, or just a relaxing walk on the beach, there are lots of great ways to enjoy the barrier islands, from Corolla to Cape Hatteras.
A favorite activity most any time, but especially enjoyable with fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, is the area’s wild horse tours. There are numbers of outfitters who pro-vide the tours into the sand dunes of the preserve north of Corolla. Check out the wild horse section at visitcurrituck.com to find one that suits you. They offer different types of vehicles and experiences.
Kasey Powell, of Wild Horse Adventure Tours, said the company’s two-hour experience is more of an eco-tour and definitely family-friendly, with car seats fitting into its Hummers. A portion of the profits are used to purchase land to preserve for the horses, which are believed to be descended from Spanish Mustangs brought to the area by explorers 400 years ago.
Riding past the end of Route 12 onto the beach and into the sandy streets of the Carova area, guides search for the wild horses that may be munching on vegetation in front of a home or striding along a more hidden path. If you keep your camera ready, you’re likely to get some fantastic pictures.
While some of the outfitters offer other types of tours, Kitty Hawk Kites covers the waterfront of adventure and fun along the Outer Banks.
“Kitty Hawk Kites Adventure Center offers close to 30 activities, ranging from all types of outdoor recreation to those celebrating North Carolina craft beer to relaxing sunset cruises,” said the company’s Molly Garavito.
Visitors can book a jet pack adventure, a vineyard voyage, a wild bear tour on the Alligator River, a party bus excursion, and, of course, a visit to the wild horses. And none of that includes the company’s offerings in hang-gliding, parasailing, or flyboarding.
Wright Brothers Center reopens
Fall brings an old favorite on the Outer Banks fully back to life, as the National Park Service reopens the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center in late September.
The center, closed for renovation since 2016, will include all-new interactive exhibits that provide a look at the character and personalities of Wilbur and Orville Wright, what brought them to Kitty Hawk, what life was like during their experiments from 1900 to 1903, and the many people who helped and interacted with the brothers. There also will be a 16-screen video wall.
The famous reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer will again hold center stage. You can especially appreciate the aircraft when you go outside, see the reproduced camp buildings in which they lived, climb Big Kill Devil Hill from which they launched the plane, and walk the track to the stones marking the landing spots for the first few flights.
“The interpretive rangers like to think that, once visitors learn the story of the Wright brothers’ persistence and success, they leave with a feeling that they can achieve their dreams as well,” said Mike Barber, of the National Park Service.
Insider tip: Wear comfortable shoes, because climbing Big Kill Devil Hill and walking the track of those first flights is an amazing part of the experience.
A bit to the south, in Rodanthe, a less famous piece of history is carefully preserved and worth visiting. The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station, with its two stations and five outbuildings, is the most complete of the remaining life-saving stations in North Carolina, as well as one of the most complete in the nation. The life-saving service function of rescuing mariners was assumed by the Coast Guard during the last century.
The site is open April through November and visitors learn about the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the Chicamacomico Station’s history. There are five buildings to explore on the self-guided tour.
This year marks the centennial of one of the station’s most notable rescues. The British tanker Miro was torpedoed by a German submarine at 4:40 p.m. Aug. 16, 1918, and her 51 crew members had to abandon ship in the ocean off of Hatteras Island. It took Capt. John Allen Midgett and his life-saving crew four tries to get through the rough breakers before they could reach the horrific scene, where flames and smoke from gasoline burning on the water made visibility difficult.
The life-saving crew quickly found one lifeboat with survivors, then maneuvered through the fire and smoke to find a capsized lifeboat with six crew members clinging to it and a third lifeboat with 19 men aboard. By midnight, Midgett and his men saved 42 of the 51 crew members. The British government recognized their efforts with medals for bravery.