Ready for a cozy getaway for Valentine’s Day? Where you can curl up in a quaint seaside inn, explore legends and dive into living history? Join guest blogger Tara, or Sweet T as she is sometimes called, from my book, Sweet T and the North Wind. T is popping out of the pages to whisk you away on a virtual visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (southeastern US coast).
People don’t think about going to the beach in winter, but the Outer Banks, or OBX as locals say, is great place for grown-ups and kids to visit in the off-season. Room rates and crowds are low.
Plus, it rarely gets very cold in Carolina, so you only need to bring a light jacket to stay warm. Visitors from cold northern climates even wear shorts to the beach!
People who live on the OBX have the right attitude about life. Life is slower here. More relaxed. Friendlier, too
Connecting to the Mainland
To reach the Outer Banks’ 125-mile-long stretch of barrier island by car, we’ll hop across four tiny islands connected by mile-long bridges.
Food and Lodging
There are lots of choices for lodgings, from big hotels to cozy cabin rentals. Let’s stay in a cute, old-timey Inn from the 1930s. Cat likes it because it has lots of happy places for reading and writing stories.
The Inn has bikes to borrow, so we can pedal along the shore and be back in time for afternoon dessert. You can have wine or coffee with your snack; I’ll stay with sweet tea….of course!
Speaking of food, have you tried hushpuppies? They’re deep-fried cornmeal treats served a lot in restaurants in the southern US. SOOOOO good! I can eat a million of them. Hushpuppy got its name from when people threw bits of fried cornmeal to ‘hush the puppies’ and keep their dogs from barking. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes for a funny legend.
You’ll never be far from the Atlantic Ocean, wherever you stay on the OBX. The sea is just across the road and over a sand dune from our inn. Though it’s too chilly for swimming, we can roll up our jeans and wade in the shallows. It’s even fun walking along the sandy beach and chasing seagulls. If you like fishing from the shore, we can do that, too. I’ll bait your hook!
OBX Light Stations
The OBX has four light stations used in olden days to warn sailors of dangerous currents and shoals along the coast. People call the OBX the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Nearly 600 ships, including WWII-era German U-boats, sank off its coast since recordings began in the 1500s.
If we drive an hour along Highway 12, the only way to get from one part of the OBX to the other, we can visit the Cape Hatteras Light Station (I call it a lighthouse!). In summer, you can climb to the top of this tallest brick light station in the USA for a bird’s eye view. But it’s closed for our winter visit.
But we can walk around the grounds and stop in the visitors’ center. All light stations have educational programs and museums, where you can learn about their history and talk to park rangers about what life was like back then. The museums have oodles of books for adults and kids about lighthouses and shipwrecks. Ooooo!!! I must buy Cat that souvenir lighthouse magnet for her refrigerator magnet collection before we head back. Want a Lighthouse t-shirt?
Highway 12 and a Fragile Barrier Island
The island is very narrow, especially along Highway 12 near Hatteras. We can walk across some parts in just a minute.
Storms often wash away the highway and toss sand from the big dunes, so nobody can drive the road. What’s the word--- impassable!
Scientists say the Outer Banks are in danger, too. The barrier island faces a 12-inch sea-level rise over the next three decades. Locals say that they drive over salt water on Highway 12 along Hatteras every day.
Want to stop in Rodanthe, a town on one the skinniest parts of the OBX, to see the home where North Carolina author Nicholas Sparks set one of his lovey-dovey novels? Have you read that book? Cat says I need to be older to read it. Rodanthe is a small isolated town, but it’s a great place to to get away.
Pirates and Flying Machines
Did you know that Blackbeard the pirate roamed the waters off the Outer Banks? His flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, went down in nearby Beaufort Inlet in June of 1718. Legends claim his ghost can be seen wandering around the OBX. I hope we bump into him!
Cat’s Spouse and Editor Extraordinaire, JM, is a historian, so he tells us all sorts of interesting stuff like that. He says we must visit the Wright Brothers National Historic Site at Kill Devil Hills. I wasn't excited about a boring old historical site until I learned it had a full-sized model of the Wright Brother's airplane in a huge building, the Flight Room. National Park Service Rangers tell you about the plane and show how Orville had to lie down on his tummy in this teeny seat to pilot the plane. Wow, he was really brave.
Best of all is climbing to the top of Kill Devil Hill, where the plane launched, and walking 852 feet down to the spot where that first flight ended after 59 seconds. Talk about walking in the footsteps of history …
Mystery of the Lost Colony
Up for more history and a touch of mystery? Let’s cross back over the Sound to Roanoke Island, site of the first colony in North America that was settled in the late 1500s. It’s kinda spooky. All of those settlers disappeared without a trace when the colonial governor returned to check on them in 1590.
To this day, nobody knows what happened to the first citizens of Roanoke. The only clue they left was the word 'Croatoan' carved onto a wooden post. And nobody knows what that word means or where the colonists disappeared to. That's a 400-year-old mystery.
There's lots more to see and do on the OBX, but it’s time for me to get back to my Sweet T Tales. Cat says our trip helped her find ideas for her next book. Inspiration and setting, she calls it. I wonder what she'll write about. Maybe a beach-y theme? I hope so! I want to be in her story again, too, so please let her know if you enjoyed our OBX trip.
Thanks for keeping me company on the Outer Banks. Please join me on another journey soon. And have a lovely Valentine’s Day
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