Sanderling Chic

The beloved outer banks resort has reemerged with a fresh, current and classy new look

The newly renovated Sanderling Resort

The sprawling low-rise buildings, with their nostalgic taupe-colored cedar shake exteriors, still stretch graciously and unassumingly along both sides of Duck Road on a narrow strip of land bordered by pristine Atlantic coastline on the east and the languid shoreline of Currituck Sound on the west. However, what was from 1985 until October 2012 an understated casual coastal inn on the Outer Banks of North Carolina reemerged in May 2013 as a casual coastal chic resort, adding to its list of prestigious awards and accolades a four-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide.

If your idea of a “resort” includes tropical drinks with paper umbrellas, coconut suntan lotion, and loud music, set your mind at ease. Much of what guests and locals have always sought from the beloved Sanderling Resort—especially its peace, tranquility and appreciation for the natural environment—has been preserved. Yet, the multi-million dollar renovation has infused the property with a fresh, current, and classy look along with new amenities and upgraded levels of service.

What was once a traditional, rustic Outer Banks elegance, now feels a bit more luxe, though still unpretentious. Drenched with natural light, the two-story main lobby, aka Beach House and Lobby Bar, formerly clad almost entirely in natural wood, has been lightened and brightened with creamy sand-colored walls off-set by crisp white trim, columns, and bead board wainscoting anchored by rich hardwood floors.

Moving the original grand staircase over to one side and relocating the gift shop to the Spa opened up the entire space, making room for a welcoming pewter bar and cozy conversational groupings. The skillful blend of neutral fabrics and textures; natural and man-made materials, both rugged and refined; and the occasional inclusion of formal details like nail head trim, tufted upholstery, and Cararra marble create handsome contrasts with a cohesive look.

Upstairs, a bold geometric carpet in warm earth tones links together additional seating areas, one nestled in front of an oceanside fireplace, and continues down the guestroom hallways. Well-stocked bookshelves beneath built-in window seats and board games on gently weathered wooden tables invite lingering inside, while comfy rattan chairs facing unbeatable ocean views beckon to the deck outside.

On the covered oceanside patio, just outside the Beach House doors, contemporary rattan sofas with cotton cushions in the Sanderling’s new signature color—an earthy but lively orange—and low, lean wood and metal coffee tables invite lounging. Adjacent to the Beach House and nearby South Wing, lounging continues at the sleek new Tranquility pool, in-ground hot tub, and fire pit, which are reserved for adults, while families are afforded the same amenities tucked between the North Wing and Event House and Deck. Perched between the Beach House and the dunes, the family-friendly Sandbar’s wrap-around deck and full kitchen now provide casual seaside fare to beach- and pool-dwellers.

 The hotel’s 96 guest rooms and suites, with their oversized marble bathrooms and rubber “Duck”ies, have been refreshed in a couple of phases. Eight new rooms serve as cozy prototypes for renos to come. Picture breezy and casual suites with interior decor reminiscent of a very hip grandma’s beach cottage: reclaimed-looking hardwood floors; sand-colored walls; white matelasse bedspreads and neutral cotton upholstery; rattan benches; sisal rugs; and enormous marble baths with separate showers, tubs, and water closets; fluffy white linens; and rustic-luxe shelves and furniture-style, dual-sink vanities. Generous private patios feature hammock chairs with Sanderling-orange headrests.

A weekend’s worth of delicious SOAL food (sustainable, organic, artisanal, local) is at your fingertips without ever leaving the resort. On the east side of the property, the Lifesaving Station and No. 5 restaurant and bar are located in a beautifully restored 1899 U.S. Lifesaving Station, now with outdoor seating. Contemporary Carolina cuisine can be enjoyed all day in this casual eatery with its nautical artifacts and historical memorabilia, wood floors and crisp maritime color palette. Upstairs, in No. 5, the combination of taupe walls, white trim, a black granite bar, and a welcoming fireplace create an inviting spot to enjoy drinks or a casual meal with friends.

Across the street to the west, Kimball’s Kitchen (formerly the Left Bank), reopened in 2013 to a AAA Four Diamond Award and a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. An upscale “white tablecloth” establishment—a bit more relaxed than its forebear—Kimball’s, named after the founder of the Lifesaving Service, may be the sexiest dining space around, serving up spectacular style as well as steaks and seafood from its open kitchen and raw bar. Soaring ceilings, gunmetal gray walls, stone floors, a curved expanse of windows overlooking the Sound, and a gold leaf marble bar with a monumental mirror to reflect the sunsets wrap diners in sleek, tony luxury. Creature comfort comes in various forms of seating with a spicy rust, cream, and golden-olive palette of velvet and leather.

Nearby, the award-winning 6,000-square-foot Spa at Sanderling, which remained open during the renovation, treats individuals and couples to an expansive and luxurious menu of unique coastal Carolina-inspired treats and treatments for body, soul and taste buds. Though tranquil, the Spa celebrates the local vibe through thematic sitting and treatment rooms that exude southern warmth, hospitality and charm. Sporting nearly 360-degree views of the sound, the adjacent indoor pool awes with its Cathedral-like vaulted ceiling—evocative of a ship’s ribbing—and milky gold stained glass windows.

For those seeking more active rejuvenation, the Sanderling’s new partner, Kitty Hawk Kites, with an on-site representative, offers just about any water sport imaginable. And right in the resort’s backyard, the 2,600-acre Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary offers a 3-mile walking trail with easy access from the Palmer’s Island Property Owner’s Association Trail that begins at the northeast corner of the private Sanderling Racquet and Swimming Club parking lot.

Just as the brochures claim, the Sanderling Resort really does pamper guests with “southern charm” and a “modern sensibility,” while still protecting and paying homage to the natural beauty and fragile ecology of the OBX.

Sanderling Resort
1461 Duck Rd., Duck, N.C. 27949

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