Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Few Of My Favorite Things (OBX)

Having grown up on the Outer Banks (OBX), I've just about seen and done it all. And, because the OBX is such a popular destination, I'm always getting emails and comments from people who are heading our way for a vacation. So I figured I'd write a post to offer some of my suggestions concerning my beautiful home. Note that most of the following is based on what you'll find during the summer...

Restaurants


Mama Kwans - The Pork Plate is one of the best meals ever. Tricia loves the Jawaiian Spiced Chicken. Great family atmosphere, although ask to sit away from the bar if you don't like smoke. Dinner and lunch are the same, except lunch is smaller and cheaper.

Grits Grill - Best breakfast and friendliest staff on the beach. Fun diner atmosphere (which you don't find very often down south). Not open after mid-afternoon. Tell Patrick I said "hi".

Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe - Best southern cooking and great seafood. Call ahead as they're not open some days for lunch. You'll leave full. Best club sandwich ever, and the mashed potatoes are excellent. Tricia loves the sweet potato crunch) Great view of the sound...ask for a seat with a view.

John's
- The local favorite. Best milkshakes in the world (peanutbutter chocolate is our fav), and located right on the beach. Try the dolphin (mahi mahi) boat for a local taste. Only open in the summer, never open on Wednesdays. (they open this weekend for the first time since last fall!!!)

Kill Devil's
- Great frozen custard (a yankee import)...try the coffee flavor if it's available. If you like food from the Jersey boardwalk, this is the place to go.

Rita's - Gilati are the ONLY thing I get here...not because nothing else is good, but because they are the best. Unless, of course, the Bahama Mama Mysto is available... *drool*

Orange Blossom Bakery - The BEST Apple Uglies you'll ever eat in your life...I've been eating them since I was young. If you're ever down near Hatteras (in Buxton), stop by for breakfast or brunch.

You can't go wrong if you pick a local restaurant that's been around for more than a few years (and there are plenty of options). Try the NC BBQ at least once (one of my favorite things to eat, ever), and stay away from all-you-can-eat seafood places (unless you enjoy waiting in line for an hour to eat in a loud, messy, cramped environment). The weekends are the busiest time for local restaurants in the summer, so I highly recommend you plan on eating out during the middle of the week.

And, if you're planning on bringing your own food so that you can save some money by not eating out every meal, don't wait until you arrive on Saturday or Sunday afternoon to go to the grocery store. Especially if you're arriving on the weekend, it's probably cheaper and guaranteed to be a lot less stressful if you bring your groceries with you instead of joining every other tourist waiting in line at Food Lion.

Beaches

Although none of our beaches are incredibly crowded, the further south you go, the fewer people you'll see. Nags Head beaches are our favorites because of this. Kill Devil Hills are typically the most crowded and smallest. For a full day at the beach, a drive north to Corolla (don't attempt this on the weekends) or a drive south to Coquina Beach or Hatteras are the best...very few people and lots of big open spaces.

The great thing about beaches here is you'll never have to pay for parking, never have to pay to be on the beach, never have to deal with people telling you where exactly to swim (unless the red flag is up), never have to deal with a lot of trash. Parking can be hard to find at times, but you'll find it eventually, and it will probably never be more than 50 yards from the sand. The beach is the busiest between 11am and 3pm, so go early or late if you want to easily find parking and avoid the biggest crowds.

If you're looking for the good surf spots, ask around in the local surf shops (although, we'll never tell you where the best spots are). Because our surf is dictated by the ever-shifting sandbars and other factors, good surfing can literally change from one week to the next.

Local Attractions

The Outer Banks is full of great history and unique attractions, including several national parks. Here are a few of my favorites.

Wright Brothers National Memorial - If you're into history, you can easily spend the better part of a day in the museum and walking around the park. (hint - wear shoes and socks to make the short hike up the monument hill easier and to avoid getting pricked by the dense cactus that cover most of the lawn)

Jockey's Ridge - The tallest, natural sand dune system on the East Coast. One of my favorite places in the world. (hint - park in the national park parking lot to visit the museum, park at Kitty Hawk Kites to visit the kite store, or visit the park in the morning or evening so that the sand is cool)

Fort Raleigh / The Lost Colony - The first English colony in the New World. A large national park as well as a great live show. (hint - bring a few extra bucks and schedule a few extra hours to walk through the adjacent Elizabethan Gardens)

The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum - If you're into shipwrecks (the coast of NC has thousands of shipwrecks), ghost stories and pirates, check it out!

Chicamacomico Life Saving Station - One of the old lifesaving stations set up along the coast to rescue victims of shipwrecks...one of the coolest reenactments you'll ever see. (hint - check the website for daily/weekly schedule of events)

Lighthouses - NC is famous for it's lighthouses, and there are no less than four within driving distance. The Hatteras Lighthouse is the most famous and interesting. (hint - plan for a full day if you're going to try and see more than one lighthouse)

Downtown Manteo - This is Tricia's favorite spot to get away and walk and shop. A small, "quaint" little area directly on the water, with bookstores, art galleries and coffee shops and more. (hint - park near the water and make the short walk over to the Roanoke Island Festival Park for some history, and eat at Poor Richard's for lunch)

There is so much more to see and do, especially if you love history and the outdoors, so make sure you do your research and find out all that the OBX has to offer.

A Few Other Things

> Lodging - No, I can't tell you what hotel or condo or beach house is the best and cheapest place to stay...I live here, which means I don't pay attention to those kinds of things... If you can read this blog, you can also do a quick search on the internet to determine your options...and there are plenty of options, but not so much if you wait until you arrive to book a room.

> Please, always swim near a lifeguard, ask about red flags and rip currents, and respect the ocean. My dad is the chaplain for Nags Head, which means he hears about any emergency situation that takes place up and down the beach. Nearly every day, people (almost always tourists) are seriously injured or killed here because they don't respect the power of the ocean. The ocean is always dangerous, but risks can be reduced if you know what you're doing and heed the advice of those who know. (and, don't try skimboarding if you're old and overweight...I promise it won't end well)

> Please, don't leave your trash on our beaches. If you really must litter, take it home with you and throw it in YOUR lawn. Enough said.

> Please, know where you're going and how to get there before you get in your car... The number one cause of the daily traffic accidents here are tourists who get confused and do something stupid out on the roads. There are FREE local maps available in just about every shop and restaurant. I'm tempted to say a lot more here, but I'll be nice.

Nate

54 comments:

iminthenicu said...

Hello. I just came across your blog and immediately was touched by your families story. You all are so very strong. I will keep you all in my thoughts.

megasam said...

I wish I could come there for vacation. It sounds wonderful!!

Rhonda said...

It sounds awesome! And it's unfortunate that you have to remind people to clean up after themselves. But I know you do.

Your family is so often in my thoughts.

Take care.

Little Miss Sunshine State said...

My brother (Bob) and I spotted Bob's Grill (Eat and get the hell out).
We took many pictures. He says he's going to enlarge one and hang it in his kitchen.
We went to Hatteras Light and the Wright Brothers site. So interesting.
It was a Sunday when Tricia and Gwyneth were still in the hospital. When we drove passed your church, it was in the middle of a service, so we didn't stop. Turns out you were there that Sunday!
The Outer Banks reminds me a lot of Cape Cod.

Adam said...

Hey Nate! Thanks for the awesome info. My wife and I recently moved to Wake Forest (seminary) and can't wait to take our 2nd vacation to the OBX. We went two thanksgivings ago for a week and fell in love with the place. It will be so awesome to check some of these places out when we go back.

Polka Dot said...

Patrick and I have never stayed north of Hatteras. We've camped there by the light house (windy omg windy) and have rented a house on the sound side (omg beautiful). And while we've visited all the local Hatteras shops (we love the apple uglies and always bring about 3 - 4 bags of them home with us hah), we've never stayed or visited places further north. We just prefer the lack of people and slower pace there.

aprilmoonflower said...

I have actually never heard of your area until I started reading your blog (I have been to Myrtle Beach but it was years ago) it sounds heavenly where you are though! I will keep it in mind next time I travel along the eastern coast though!

Christy said...

Nate,
Do you guys not like Tortuga's Lie?? It's my favorite restaurant ever!!! I wonder why you never mention it.
Anyway, thanks for the tips.. we'll be heading that way again next year.

KCM said...

My family ahs vacationed on the OBX twice and it has been wonderful. One we were up on the 4x4 beahces, myhusband was a bit nervous to drive the family on teh sand after seeing all the stuck cars, and the other vacation we were in Duck, it was great in both places. You are right about the traffic and the grocery store...it can be a zoo! We love it there and can't wait to get back. I love reading about your family and I am glad to hear the your little one is doing so well, she is gorgeous. I am also glad to hear your lovely wife is doing well, she is a very brave woman and a true inspiration, as are you.

Food Junkie said...

Lisa's Pizza in Rodanthe, is quite possibly the best pizza place I've ever been to. You should check it out.

Kerry said...

funny - we just moved away from a tourist trap - uh, tourist region - and I can totally relate to the drivers, the lines at buffets, the grocery store on the weekends... It is a very different way to see vacations when you live where others vacation!!

Kim said...

What a wealth of information! Thanks, Nate-I'll be printing this for reference for our upcoming trip!

Rick Lawrenson said...

Tortuga's is one of those many great local places that have been around for years. I love it, just don't get there that often.

Like Nate said, there are a ton of great local restaurants here. You never need to eat in a chain place.

Lindsay said...

I attended a family destination beach wedding in Avon (the reception was in Manteo) in May and fell IN LOVE with the OBX. It was, without a doubt, the most relaxing vacation I have ever taken. I didn't feel pressure to do anything "touristy", and instead spent an entire week sleeping in, walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and watching the gorgeous sunsets. The weather was perfect, we hardly met any crowds (even at the Food Lion), and I can't wait to go back!

mommajeane said...

I have never left a comment but have been reading your blog since Jan.and praying for you. My daughter has 2 friends who are sisters with cf. Also our daughter and husband live in Hillsbourough- he is the youth pastor of Greystone Baptist by Duke. They used to live in Durham. We also have been going to the OBX for 20 some years... and love it. It is a very special place for our family... which includes 22 children. We have adopted 17- mostly special needs children and have 5 bio. children. The OBX is the first place where our new kids get to experience the ocean and beach... often the first time they have seen the beach. Thank you for sharing so poignantly your life and love of your wife,daughter,family and the Lord. We do pray for you all... and maybe the next time we are at the beach we will come visit your church. We have stayed in Corolla but usually stay in Southern Shores... easy acess up and down to things.

ladergurl said...

Our favorite things on the OBX are the lighthouses, Corolla, Duck Deli, Owen's and the fact that we can drive to a Walmart or K-mart for those essentials we essentially forgot.

We also enjoyed Jockey's Ridge, the Wright Brothers Museum and the aquarium.

My husband will be drooling for the Grits Grill. His favorite meal of the day is breakfast.

Thanks for the tips. We will definitely be writing them down for our next vacation.

Can't wait to hear that Tricia and Gwyneth made it home safely!

Amy in Pa

Rachel said...

We live in Rochester, NY and brought our own food when we went there once only to find that groceries there are much cheaper than here. Needless to say, I was bummed. We LOVE the Outer Banks!! We will be coming next summer and promise to respect your town, be polite, and keep it clean. Slobs are annoying! Nags head is great! We stayed there both times we came. We enjoyed eating at The Wharf, and it was more fun when the power went out during a storm and we ate our meal by candlelight.
I would love to visit your church when we're there!

Renee said...

We've been to OBX for a week for the last 12 years! Sorry that Seamark was closed this time, we had to do the FoodLion run. Do "local" like the Black Pelican? We leave Richmond early and make it to the Black Pelican 10 minuets before they open for lunch every year. Gotta beat that traffic across the bridge!

Dee Dee said...

Thanks! Great tips! We are planning a beach trip next week-end & are considering something in that area of the state. Unfortunately we don't have much time, so your tips are great for helping us narrow it down for now.

Dee Dee said...

Any suggestions for a relatively inexpensive place to spend a night along with 5 kids?

The Mazza Munchkins said...

Perfect Timing! Thanks for your advice. My family and I are leaving in less than a week, and these tips will come in handy. All of us are very excited to go, and hope to make a family tradition of it.

See ya next week :)
Maura

PinkCupcake said...

Great suggestions! I plan to print these out for future reference! Thanks Nate!

Lee said...

Good morning Nat, I have started a blof for my son please take a look and keep him in your prayers. You guys are the best...

http://www.carepages.com/carepages/BrentHunter/guestbook/blocked

Mrs Redboots said...

I definitely think this will go on to our list of places to visit before we die! Our next trip to the US, though, will probably be to the West Coast - my daughter and her husband plan a trip to Washington DC next month, but I suppose that's a little far for a side-trip to NC!

We are planning a tour of the US when we retire, though, and the OBX will definitely be on our list of places to visit.

And if you should ever be coming to England, would be happy to act as Native Tour Guide and invite you to our church!

Tracy said...

My favorite vacation as a child was NC. We stayed in a rental house right on the ocean, the name of the town escapes me, but it was so beautful there. I have been trying to convince my hubby for years to leave the Midwest and move to NC.

Teresa Dunkin said...

I loved reading your tips about the Outer Banks. Last June was our 6th year renting a lovely condo at Dune Lantern in Nags Head. The beach view from our third floor condo is gorgeous. We used to go to New Jersey and the beaches were always terribly crowded. Even though there is a public access to this beach next to Dune Lantern, the beach has never been crowded, and there is a guard station right there. We hope to continue to go there for years to come and check out your recommendations. Thanks! I continue to pray for your beautiful family!

Andy Lawrenson said...

I would have to say I totally agree with Nate on the restaurant list. Excellent post! Only thing is you need to try the coconut custard at Kill Devil's (coffee is good though).

If you don't have turn lanes where you are from realize that you need to pull the entire car into the turn lane and not leave it out in the fast lane where a youth pastor in a junkie old black F150 is often tempted to clip the back end off of the offending vehicle.

Andy Lawrenson said...

Oh, if you smoke keep your buts off our beach. Collect them and dispose them. Thanks

chitwood said...

The Outer Banks is one of my favorite vacation spots. And you are right about the Food Lion on Saturday or Sunday during the summer. It is definately a test of patience, expecially after driving 16 hours to get to the beach.

Hannah said...

Just a couple days late! We have just returned from our first trip to the OBX. It was wonderful! Wish we had longer (we stayed only 1 full day). But we saw Cape Hatteras, Wright Brothers Memorial, Fort Raleigh/Lost Colony (by accident). I tried to convince hubby and friends to purchase our groceries before heading there but we were short on time. Prices weren't bad but Food Lion was CROWDED! Kept my eye out thinking I might see you guys around.

Megan and Company said...

All that is good and well, but you people haven't figured out funnel cake yet. Or really good 'board walk pizza'.

That list reminded me I need to get my seafood fix next weekend...

Kristine said...

You crack me up! My favorite thing to do in the summer here on the NH Seacoast is watch people wipe out skim boarding! Good times!!!

Thanks! That made me laugh out loud!

Susan said...

Oh man. You are making me miss home like crazy! I would love to walk up to order a chocolate milkshake from John's in my bathing suit...right now! YUM! And of course, no beach will ever be as good as our beaches! Take care!

Ally said...

THANK YOU!!! While I didn't email you any questions regarding OBX .. I was somwhat tempted to email you and ask you what a nice place to stay is (they have been having a hard time finding someplace nice to stay)... My parents are headed down there next month and I am passing this information along to them...

THANKS for the information your timing in posting this was Perfect!!

Ally
tjaksv (at) yahoo (dot) com

brunettekoala said...

I wanna come to NC!! I wanna surf!!

(and I confess I also want to visit Wilmington..)

I know this is probably really dumb and ignorant of me, but where is OBX in relation to other places in NC/SC (and whatever is north of NC because I can't remember right now...)

Anonymous said...

Coming from a previous local...these are some of my absolute favorites:
*Elizabeth's Cafe and Winery (Duck) - awesome gourmet food, but on the pricey side
*Red Sky Cafe (also in Duck), more affordable - the she crab bisque is to die for
*The Sanderling resort and spa are wonderful, especially the spa
*The Whalehead Club at Currituck Heritage Park (Corolla) - take a tour of a historic hunt club built by an eccentric industrialist and his wife. Fascinating history and architecture.
*The Outerbanks Center for Wildlife Education is also at Heritage Park and they offer lots of programs for kids. Personally, I love to kayak the sound from the ramp at Heritage Park. (See Pine Island Sanctuary for guided Audobon tours.)
*NC Aquarium at Roanoke Island (Manteo) - smaller than other aquariums, but they have great hands-on programs for the whole family. FYI: It gets crowded on rainy days.
*Visit the dock in Pirates Cove (Nags Head on way to Manteo) when all the charter boats are coming back in to see the fruits of their catch. They often show off their prize fish!
*Nags Head Woods visitors center and trails
*Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge has lots of "pullover" areas that are wonderful for bird watching enthusiasts, particularly when the migratory shore birds and waterfowl are stopping over in the spring and fall.

Nate, I hope you and the girls get to visit some of these other places too! I love the OBX and although I'm in Durham now, I try and visit every year.
Enjoy!
S

Anonymous said...

Nate gave a good list.. but be sure to check out Try My Nuts in Duck.. their Dirty White Trash (I think that is what it is called) is out of this world. And please, if you drink, do not drive down there.. Hasn't been all that long ago that several young girls lost their lives to a drunk driver. Tragic and so unnecessary. So enjoy our beaches, but please do it safely and responsibly.

Brian Rogers said...

Thank you so much for the information on OBX. We are vacationing there this summer for a week and look forward to using your advise. God Bless.

Crafty Mama said...

We vacationed in Duck last summer, and we loved it! I can agree with everything you said about the food, and I can only laugh at the lines that we saw at the grocery store that first night. My husband and I have already decided that we need to come back to the OBX every couple of years. Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nate,
Thanks for the info sounds like a great place to not only live but vacation at. I have a nephew who is stationed at New River with the USMC, and lives in Havelock. Do you have any info about that area of N.C. that you could share with me? I know they go to Atlantic beach which is within 20 mins of where they live. Thanks ~Darlene

ReeRee said...

My family and I are faithful followers of your blog. I believe you posted something like this last year. Because of that post, my entire family (17 of us!) will spend a week in June in Corolla in a beach house. We are really looking forward to checking out the OBX!
Always praying for your family.
Anne

Polka Dot said...

My husband and I vacation in Hatteras yearly and even had our honeymoon there. Every time we head out to come home, we always always stop and get a couple dozen apple uglies to bring back. Not only do we love them, but a few of our friends who've been down there do too.

We tend to stay out of the restaurants, instead opting to get some seafood and grill. And we do prefer the sound side - just as beautiful as the beach and no sign of the mainland, but a lot cheaper than an actual beach house.

Mary said...

Thanks for the info. I've always wanted to visit this part of the East coast.

Mary
Florida

Pati and Family said...

now that i have all the important info, i want to go ....sounds marvalous

Lauren said...

My family visited the OBX many summers growing up and continues to do so. Though now that I live in Pasquotank Co I don't visit very often. I always wondered how locals can stand the traffic and crowding of the tourists. I know it's good for business, but it's gotta get annoying.

TheRagan3 said...

our family loves the OBX. Hubby and I honeymooned on Ocracoke and LOVED it! So quiet and peaceful. We love the Southern Shores too... less people, but also less stores.
Howards Pub on Ocracoke is worth going, although the wait at night was a bear.
I hope to be going back this summer, after 2 years of having to spend vacation NOT at a beach! Yuck!
Thanks for all the tips!
Erinn

Kim said...

This is great, Nate. Thanks for caring and taking the time to do this!

cerealdieter said...

I was just in Nags Head last weekend for the St. Paddy's Parade... It was my first visit there (even though I'm from eastern NC). I loved it and can't wait to go back when the weather is nicer (not raining) and actually get to walk on Jockeys Ridge!

cerealdieter said...

I was just in Nags Head last weekend for the St. Paddy's Parade... It was my first visit there (even though I'm from eastern NC). I loved it and can't wait to go back when the weather is nicer (not raining) and actually get to walk on Jockeys Ridge!

Pauline said...

Please, don't leave your trash on our beaches. If you really must litter, take it home with you and throw it in YOUR lawn. Enough said.

I LOVE IT ...

Ninalindy said...

AWFUL ARTHURS...Home of the Happy Oyster...YUM!

MadMaude53 said...

Great suggestions, Nate. You hit some of our favorites. One thing to do that takes all day, but is so worth it, is to head down to Ocracoke. The free ferry ride is one of the best parts.

Anonymous said...

Hi- I'm a long time reader but have never commented- but would just like to mention that my parents live on the outer banks and a trip down there is definitely not complete without a couple of dolphin boats from John's!! Yummy!!!

Patti said...

I promise that we kept everything clean when we were there in February! We didn't get to eat out at any of the great places that you mentioned because we were staying in a beach house and visiting with family that we had never seen before so we cooked our meals. We got to visit the beach and Nate and I went to Jokeys Ridge. The sand dunes are amazing!