Autumn on the Outer Banks
The Outer Banks extends a warm shoulder to fall visitors
You dont need to be a shoestring traveler to score a few bargains this fall on a weekend jaunt to the Outer Banks. Thanks to supply and demand, the rates drop on everything from accommodations to adventure trips during the shoulder season (Labor Day to Memorial Day).
Most vacationers visit the coast during summer to bask and bake on the sand. By September, theyve taken their broiled bodies home, so every place is a lot less crowded. You dont have to jostle with tourists for your place in the sun or in line at your favorite restaurant.
If youre ready to untie the e-leash and unplug yourself from work for a couple of days, fall is the ideal time to schedule a mini-vacation thats close to home.
At the onset of the Outer Banks shoulder season, a sense of laziness lingers, but the haziness of summer is gone and theres a transparent crispness to the air that is bracing, invigorating and cleansing. The chill of winter, which forces you to seek shelter at nightfall, wont roll in for another month or more, so an evening stroll along the beach can be just the nod you need to inspire a midnight gathering around the fireplace with mugs of steaming cocoa.
This time of year is filled with spontaneous Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole adventures on the Outer Banks. You just never know what waits around the next corner. You might catch a glimpse of dolphins skimming the ocean or pelicans gracing the horizon. You could find a Scotch bonnet on the beach or a Scotch pastry at the bakery. You can explore Jockeys Ridge State Park and discover fulgurites, the glass tubes that are formed when lightening strikes a sand dune. From its peak, breathe the same winds that carried the Wright brothers plane aloft and drove ships into the shoals of the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Check out the 5,915-acre Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and discover a world of marsh dwellers ... great blue herons, raven-black turtles, sandpipers and songbirds ... or travel north and hike through the 1,400-acre maritime forest of the Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods. Both places are among the top birding spots on the Atlantic coast.
During autumn, you can freely explore the landscape of resort living on the Outer Banks without feeling pushed or pressured. Island time becomes idle time, as if adhering to author Thomas Manns observation that, Time has no division to mark its passage. Even when a new century begins, it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.
To really be footloose and car-free, head to Manteo, a quaint waterfront walking town that is flush with sidewalk shops and restaurants. Cross the bridge and tour Roanoke Island Festival Park, where you can climb aboard a 16th-century sailing ship patterned after one of the seven vessels that brought the first colonists to America in 1587. Get in touch with our nations history at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and reach out and touch seasonal foliage at The Elizabethan Gardens.
Travel to the northern end of the barrier islands. Tour the beautifully restored Whalehead Club in Currituck Heritage Park and the historic shops of Corolla Village.
Once youve seen the sights, see the lightsfive of them to be exact: The Currituck Beach Light, Bodie Island Light, Cape Hatteras Light, Ocracoke Lighthouse and the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. They may inspire a watery adventure, such as parasailing, surfing, scuba diving, windsurfing, head-boat tours, sailing, fishing and kayaking. But why pick and choose? Do them all in the fall. Or, if youd rather stick to a dry-land sport, what about scheduling a golf weekend? Outer Banks golf courses offer spectacular views and challenging greens. While a weekend golfing excursion may set you back a bit, if it shaves 10 strokes off your game, isnt it worth it?
Plan a weekend stay and youll notice that fall is typically more cost-effective than summer, plus you have a wider selection of accommodations. Finding the best deal might mean thinking outside the beach box and booking a room in one of the many hotels or bed-and-breakfast inns that pepper the coastline from Duck to Ocracoke.
If youd rather immerse yourself in a sand mattress and stretch out under a star-filled canopy, stay in one of Hatteras Islands campgrounds. They allow you to get back to nature without sacrificing creature comforts.
Because rental rates erode during the shoulder season, a huge beach house stocked with everything imaginable may no longer be a budget-buster and may be more to your liking.
While youre packing and planning, dont neglect your appetite. The Outer Banks is saturated with an assortment of great restaurants, food stands and gourmet groceries. You can even hire a chef to home-cook you a meal in your beach house.
Just remember though, the rates rise when the temperatures do. If you get away to the Outer Banks now while the weathers still mild, you might enjoy it a little more knowing you saved enough money to come back another day ... or at least to pay for a tank of gas.
-OUTER BANKS ADVERTISERS-
VACATIONS & SALES
Brindley Beach Vacations offers 310-bedroom homes, private pools, hot tubs, pets, oceanfront to soundfront, linens and towels provided, all close to shopping and restaurants. 877-642-3224, 252-453-3335, www.brindleybeach.com, email@example.com
COROLLA CLASSIC VACATIONS
Create special memories in our lovely premier homes located oceanfront to soundfront. Enjoy fishing, golf, tennis, biking. Pet homes available. We are deliberately & selectively smaller. 866-453-9660, www.corollaclassicvacations.com
PIRATES COVE REALTY
Resort vacations on the Outer Banks of NC. Pirates Cove Realty has the preferred Outer Banks vacation rentals. 1 Sailfish Dr., Manteo, NC 27954. 800-537-7245,
Mini-vacations available year round. Homes range in size from one bedroom to 10 bedrooms from Corolla to Nags Head. We provide a clean house guarantee. 4820 N. Croatan Hwy., P.O. Box 3339, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949. 252-255-4999. www.outerbanksvacations.com, www.coldwellbankerobx.com
For the rest of this article, see the July/August 2008 issue of Hampton Roads Magazine, currently available on newsstands.