The rain turned to a fine mist while a light wind blew across the brown marsh and down the narrow sound, coaxing the grass and bullrushes to sway gracefully in rhythmic harmony. Overhead, a flock of waterfowl swooped low out of the gray North Carolina sky and onto the nesting pond beyond the private hunting lodge. Two golden retrievers barked excitedly, as their quarry settled on the slate-colored pond that offers sanctuary during breeding season.
The pond and the strip of beach and marshland are situated along Currituck Sound on the state's Outer Banks. It is a favorite spot to hunt the canvasback and redhead duck, plentiful in the 1920s and '30s, but whose numbers have dwindled steadily since. Serene lakes, thickets of wax myrtle and loblolly pine provide shelter for the waterfowl, songbirds and small animals that inhabit The Outer Banks. The string of barrier islands stretches for more than 130 miles from Duck south to Ocracoke Island. Along the way are historic sites, quaint villages, a variety of recreational activities, breathtaking views and acres of unspoiled beauty.
Now is the time to venture to a place virtually like no other—to a place where beauty comes naturally. It's a memorable escape. The islands were created thousands of years ago from a high ridge of sand dunes that survived the melting of Earth's glaciers. Each chain of barrier islands is unique, depending on the weather and tides in its area. Because the waterways and coast along The Outer Banks is in constant motion, its wide variety of climates, wildlife and landscape are ever changing.
Nature is a wonderful creator when you let it take its course. And rather than stand in the way, The Outer Banks welcomed the attention. Discovery is yours in a land rich with history and stunning beauty. Every direction opens a door to adventure. Visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Tour the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. See where the first English settlers who came in 1587 attempted colonization on Roanoke Island. The site predates Jamestown, VA, by 22 years, and Plymouth, MA, by 35 years. These early pioneers mysteriously disappeared, earning them the name The Lost Colony.
The intriguing, unsolved mystery of The Lost Colony spawned America's first and oldest outdoor symphonic drama in 1937, when North Carolina's Pulitzer Prize playwright Paul Green penned a play illustrating the famed colony's disappearance. The production was intended to run just one season, but Green's blend of stirring music, energetic dance, drama and comedy has allowed the play to run continuously, with the exception of four years during World War II when the coast was threatened by German submarines.
For more of the Outer Banks' maritime history, stop by the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station. Built in 1874, the station is one of the first seven on The Outer Banks, and one of only 12 that Congress established in 1873 for crews to patrol the beaches looking for ships in distress along the treacherous North Carolina coast, now known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." Each station was patrolled by a crew of five to 10 men on foot or horseback. Chicamacomico became the most famous of the stations because of its many daring rescues.
Other famous coastal landmarks are the four lighthouses illuminating the shores of The Outer Banks—Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island, Ocracoke and Currituck Beach lighthouses—all magnificent and unique in their appearance and lore. The most illustrious of the four is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the nation's tallest brick beacon, standing a proud 208 feet high. Nicknamed "America's Lighthouse," the famous beacon attracts 200,000 visitors annually and can be seen from 20 miles out to sea. The lighthouse is a first-order lighthouse, meaning it has the largest of seven Fresnel lens sizes. For more than 100 years, it has warned sailors of the treacherous Diamond Shoals, the shallow sandbars that extend some 14 miles into the ocean off the cape.
History took flight here as well. You'll want to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. It was at this spot on Dec. 17, 1903, that Orville and Wilbur Wright broke man's bond to the earth with their first powered flight. The brothers successfully flew their renowned flyer for 12 seconds, and the site of their world-altering achievement is marked by a 60-foot granite monument dedicated in 1932 and perched atop 90-foot-tall Big Kill Devil Hill. Numbered markers indicate the distance of each of the four flights made that remarkable day.
Perhaps leaving your own imprint on The Outer Banks is on your agenda. Not a problem, with countless experiences for you to choose from. Enjoy peaceful walks on incomparable beaches, hike beautiful nature trails, venture out in a kayak and explore the many uninhabited islands, or take a trip around historic Roanoke Island. Hop on a bike and tour the many scenic wooded areas for a memorable sunset ride. Stroll through historic downtown Manteo, where shopping is the adventure. Then play golf on some of the finest year-round golf courses that challenge veteran and novice players. Or be one with the wind as you go wind surfing through majestic sound waters and rolling ocean waves. Then, after getting a taste of the area's history and culture, it's time for a taste of the famous North Carolina seafood.
In The Outer Banks, there's a delectable dish to satisfy anyone's voracious appetite. Sample mouthwatering fare at unique restaurants, where you'll find everything (or catch it yourself) from softshell crab to grilled tuna. Whether you're looking for something hip, funky, chic, laid-back, or rustic, you'll find a one-of-a-kind restaurant (most likely owned by one of the region's one-of-a-kind coastal characters) serving up unique culinary delights.
In The Outer Banks of North Carolina, unforgettable getaways are never out of season. Go and experience the splendor and exceptional vistas.