The Outer Banks of North Carolina are a relatively remote, and very seasonal band of barrier islands along the Atlantic Coast. Heavily reliant on tourism, many of the hotels, restaurants and shops close up for the winter when visitors are few and far-between. On my last visit in January, these seagulls at the Avalon Pier were just about the only signs of life on the beach! As the signs of spring start to show and more visitors begin venturing back into town, the sleepy little towns of the Outer Banks start to come alive, and by now are back in full swing. With beautiful weather this time of year, it’s a great time to visit and enjoy the beaches and local flavor before the summer rush brings oodles of tourists!
While looking for a photo for today’s blog post, I ran across this one from the Outer Banks and knew it was the one I wanted to share. The setting may look familiar as I previously posted a photo with the historic US Coast Guard Oregon Inlet Lifesaving Station and the Bonner Bridge from a different location. Although the shots are similar, I love that this one incorporates the beautiful ripples in the sand that seem to be everywhere on Pea Island. Thanks to some naturally black sand and the low angle of the sun, the ripples in the sand added great texture to the foreground. That January afternoon was a cold and windy one, but it was worth the numb fingers and wind-chapped lips to capture this image.
This sunrise was captured at the Kitty Hawk Pier on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is one of many wooden piers that dot the coast of the Outer Banks and like all of the weathered piers along that section of the coast, it has a story to tell. Built in the 1950′s, the Kitty Hawk Pier was once the northernmost public fishing pier in the Outer Banks. While the wooden pilings have withstood many storms over the years, the force of Hurricane Isabel proved to be too much.
On September 18, 2003, Hurricane Isabel made landfall near Drum Inlet along the Outer Banks as a category 2 hurricane with top winds of 105 mph. Once a category 5 hurricane, Isabel had thankfully weakened but still caused unprecedented damage to the Outer Banks. Hatteras Island was cut off from the mainland for two months when Isabel created a new inlet, dubbed “Isabel Inlet” before it was closed and the missing portion of highway 12 was restored. Thousands of homes were lost, roads were destroyed and countless feet of fishing piers were lost to the Atlantic. The Kitty Hawk Pier lost approximately 300 feet from it’s end, but the pier house remained intact. Old pilings can still be seen where the pier used to extend further into the ocean. The owners were not able to make the repairs needed at the time and sold the pier with the adjacent land to a national hotel chain. The developers chose to repair the remaining portion of the pier and refurbish the pier house to use it for events at the hotel. The brand new hotel debuted in the spring of 2006 with it’s very own pier, offering fabulous views of the beach at Kitty Hawk.
Since I mentioned the beautiful light at sunset at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in my last post, it didn’t seem fair not to share a photo of it. Those familiar with the area will immediately recognize the historic US Coast Guard Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station and the Bonner Bridge in the background. The Herbert C. Bonner bridge connects Hatteras Island to the mainland and spans Oregon Inlet, a major waterway allowing access to the Atlantic Ocean for scores of fishermen. One of the first sights you see as you travel south on the Bonner Bridge towards Pea Island is the Life Saving Station. Built in 1888, the building was abandoned by the Coast Guard for a location on the north side of Oregon Inlet along the sound in 1988. The historic building sat vacant and in disrepair for twenty years before it was renovated in 2008 in spectacular fashion restoring it’s former beauty.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to visit the Outer Banks recently to visit family and had just enough time to take a few photos. The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was my destination for sunset photos. The warm orange and pink light towards the end of the day on the sand dunes was near perfect against the crisp blue Atlantic Ocean in the background. It was very windy that day, but now that I think back, I don’t remember a day that I’ve been to Pea Island when it wasn’t windy. That wind whipping through the sea oats and around the mighty sand dunes makes wonderfully intricate ripples in the sand like no other place I’ve been. The ripples in the sand alone add great contrast to the natural setting of the beach, but because some of the sand at Pea Island is black, those designs become more exquisite.
Any trip towards the south end of Nags Head results in a quick stop at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center for me. Those trips started when I was growing up and my family spent lots of our free time in the Outer Banks. My dad has always loved fishing, and may have fantasized about having a boat every now and then. I’m not sure if the draw to the marina was to look at the boats or the day’s catch, but it was a fun adventure whatever the reason. When we visited, it was always late in the day, just in time to catch the charter boats coming in from a long day of fishing in the Gulf Stream off the coast. After hours of fishing on Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills getting flounder and spot, it was really exciting to see tuna that seemed as big as I was laid out on the dock as the charter captains cleaned their boats. Now that I’m older and my husband has a fishing boat of his own, I have a new appreciation for the boats at Oregon Inlet, and am still in awe of the fantastic catch they bring in each day. On my most recent trip to the Outer Banks, I was in search of a few sunset photos at the Pea Island National Refuge and stopped into Oregon Inlet on the way back north. The colors of the boats against the pink light of the approaching dusk caught my eye, and a snapped a few photos.
Growing up in Virginia Beach meant lots of time at the beach for my family. Just not any beaches in Virginia. Odd? Not if you ask the locals. With thousands of tourists descending upon Virginia Beach each year, the Oceanfront long ago became a tourist mecca with high-rise hotels and condos, loads of gift shops and trendy bars and restaurants. Locals looking for a more low-key experience would venture towards the less crowded beaches miles away from the hustle and bustle of “the strip”. For those that truly wanted to get away from it all, however, the Outer Banks of North Carolina was the place to be, and still is today. Referred to as “OBX” often, the Outer Banks offer miles and miles of natural beaches, and really allows you to relax. My family was fortunate enough to own a cottage in Kill Devil Hills when I was growing up, and we spent nearly every weekend there and usually a week or two in the summer. This photo is of Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills, where I spent many early mornings learning to fish.
After growing up spending my summers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, as an adult my family started spending Christmases there every few years. While it can be very cold and windy, it’s a marvelous time to visit and you seem to have the beach all to yourself. The last time we held our Christmas gathering in the Outer Banks was in 2007, and the weather was downright beautiful. Sunny with highs in the low 60′s, the unseasonable weather was perfect for an afternoon to visit some of our favorite spots. We spent the day working our way south from Nags Head, ending our day at the Ocracoke Light Station on Ocracoke Island. It was a delight to see the lighthouse decorated for the season and it was the perfect ending to our day. This photo brings back memories of a wonderful time spent with family, and a truly Merry Christmas.
The quaint fishing village of Wanchese is located on the southern end of Roanoke Island, between the Outer Banks and the North Carolina mainland. Home to several custom boat builders and sport fishing charters, the main attraction is the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park. As the only Federal, State and County-financed project devoted entirely to the seafood processing and fishing industries, the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park is truly one of a kind. Thanks to the rich mix of warm and cold water fish and shellfish off the Atlantic coast of North Carolina, you can find some of the best seafood on the eastern seaboard in Wanchese.
Ocracoke Island is part of the barrier islands that form the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Only accessible by sea or air, the island is a favorite tourist destination via the free ferry service from several different locations in the Outer Banks. On the southern end of the island is the quaint village of Ocracoke and the Ocracoke Light Station, both on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977. The Ocracoke Light Station is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina, built in 1823 in the Ocracoke Inlet. Standing 75 feet tall and shining 14 miles out to sea, the Ocracoke Light Station acts as a harbor light, emitting a constant fixed beam. While other light houses along the Outer Banks are known for their distinctive stripes and patterns, Ocracoke is just as easily recognized by it’s simple all-over white.
The Oregon Inlet separates the northern Outer Banks from Hatteras Island. Created by a hurricane in 1846, the inlet was named after the first ship that passed through, the Oregon. This inlet serves as a main waterway for fisherman, especially the charter fishing boats at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. The fishing off of the coast of the Outer Banks is some of the best in the world offering Yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi and Blue Marlin, but the seas can be treacherous. The boats kept at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center are as beautiful as they are tough, many built locally to specifically to withstand the rough seas surrounding Cape Hatteras. My family has visited the Outer Banks for years and we always make sure to visit the marina to admire the boats and catch a glimpse of the day’s catch.
The Outer Banks are a 200-mile long string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. Between the Outer Banks and the North Carolina mainland is Roanoke Island, home to a small fishing village called Wanchese. Home to a thriving commercial seafood industry, Wanchese also boasts several custom boat builders that build and repair large sport fishing boats and trawlers. A walk through the marina reveals beautiful sport fishing boats ready for an afternoon charter off shore for some of the best fishing in the world.
The Cape Hatteras Light Station, one of the most famous symbols of North Carolina, is found on the Outer Banks in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It is the tallest brick lighthouse in the US at 210 feet tall with a whopping 248 steps to the top, the equivalent of a 12 story building. If that wasn’t enough, the lighthouse is also the tallest brick structure to ever be moved. After 129 years of coastal erosion, the lighthouse was within 100 feet of the Atlantic Ocean in 1999. It was very carefully moved 2,900 feet inland in to protect it over the course of 23 days.