Plan a Spring Getaway to the Outer Banks

If you’re craving a vacation full of sunshine and water sports, consider a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. With pristine beaches and fascinating national parks, it’s the place to eat the freshest seafood, climb to the top of a historic lighthouse, and learn about the first manned flight in America.

A visit to Wright Brothers National Monument demonstrates how the famous brothers capitalized on blowing winds and gentle slopes to experiment with their rickety airplanes. You can see a recreation of their workshop, the plane they made based on technology employed by the bicycle, and take a walk to the highest point on these barrier islands for panoramic views.

While the Outer Banks consists mostly of laid back sea villages, the town of Duck offers an upscale beach escape. Duck is especially enjoyable off-season. In the spring and fall, you’ll find miles of unspoiled coastline free of crowds. No waits for the first-class restaurants, and Duck’s luxurious hotels and beachfront rentals decrease their rates dramatically.

The Duck Boardwalk is dog friendly and has many casual eateries that are less crowded during the off season.
The best thing to do in the Outer Banks is take long beach walks in the off season.
For culture head to the island of Manteo, where there are museums, shops, galleries and seafood purveyors.

Sanderling Resort helped put Duck on the map. This five-diamond resort offers superb eateries like the casual Lifesaving Station and Kimball’s Kitchen, a fine dining restaurant with a remarkable view. The Sanderling has a range of spacious suites and vacation homes situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound. It’s a family friendly place, but doesn’t skimp on the romance either.

View from my corner room at the Sanderling Inn with rolling fog over the Atlantic Ocean.
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Don’t miss the seafood tower at Kimball’s Kitchen in the Sanderling Inn
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Kitty Hawk Kites Store in Manteo in the Outer Banks.

Duck is super dog friendly and allows “well-behaved” dogs everywhere, including the beaches. The mile-long boardwalk by the beautiful Currituck Sound has a plethora of upscale shops, spas and restaurants; locals jokingly call it Rodeo Drive. Don’t miss the iconic Kitty Hawk Kites featuring sports gear and handmade kites, and Nags Head Hammocks, an Outer Banks institution that manufactures and sells hammocks on-site.

The Outer Banks remains warm and welcoming from May to November.

Duck’s relaxing vibe is further punctuated by Aqua, a luxurious spa with posh treatment rooms facing the Sound. After your facial or massage, dine on Aqua’s healthful fare overlooking the water.

Duck Boardwalk has lovely shops and is a mile long. A great place to watch the sunset.

For those who want to exercise, visit Nor’Banks, an outfitter that benefits from the Outer Bank’s famous winds for parasailing and sailing. Sunset Watersports, part of Sunset Grille and Raw Bar, rents jet skis, pontoon boats, and paddleboards. When you’re ready to dry off, your preordered meal is served in their waterfront gazebo while you watch the boats go by.

Because I’m a history geek, my favorite destination in the Outer Banks is Manteo. This picturesque town has an assortment of art galleries and a living history museum called Roanoke Island Festival Park. The museum shows how the English settlers lived side by side with the native Croatan Indians. Tour Fort Raleigh National Park to see Indian artifacts and learn about the famed Lost Colony—a settlement predating Jamestown. Settlers sailed here from England in 1584, and subsequent ships never found them again.

The Outer Banks offers natural wonders, history and recreation, and explorers will find treasures in every season.

Outer Banks has rental houses that face the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Bayside.

Where to Stay

Sanderling Inn—a luxury beach resort with fine dining, full service spa, pools and panoramic views of the sea. 1461 Duck Road, Duck (252) 261-4111;

Hilton Garden Inn—a casual beachfront hotel at the foot of Kitty Hawk Pier. Walk or ride bikes to restaurants and attractions. 5353 N. Virginia Dare Trail, The Beach Road, Mile Post 1, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shore, 252-261-1290;

House Rentals–Houses vary in size, location and amenities. Rental rates range depending on time of year, number of days, bedrooms and baths. They are often a great deal if you travel off-season. Call Carolina Designs Realty 1197 Duck Road, Duck 252-255-6200

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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.

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