Travel USA

The Outer Banks – What’s the Magnetic Draw?

Outer Banks NC - Connor
Connor at beach near Hatteras Pier - OBX


On the last morning of our Outer Banks camping trip, I asked our 9 year old grandson what he liked best about the Outer Banks. He thought a minute and said, “You can’t get enough of it.” After probing deeper and discussing the subject around a breakfast of watermelon and cereal, we collectively agreed that the atmosphere, the karma, the sense of the place is the magnetic draw.

The Outer Banks charism is spiritual.

In other beach towns, we’ve remembered the good times we had or a specific place or annual activity. But Outer Banks memories or of the place itself. All the activities – swimming, walking the beach, flying a kite on Jockey Ridge, eating at Dirty Dick’s, kayaking, fishing, camping, lighthouses, stories of pirates … all are remembered inside the context of that magical place.

The beaches are the best I’ve seen in the US, and I’ve been to Atlantic beaches in every state bordering the Ocean. The water is clear, the surf is crisp, the sand is fine and clean. Because of the lack of high-rise hotels and condos, the beaches tend to be uncrowded with a sort of “desert island” feel. Most beach-goers are families who’ve rented the big houses that border the Atlantic.

The light at the beach is ever-changing reshaping the landscape like a kaleidoscope minute by minute. The water turns from blue to green to gray. The colors of the sand and foam on the waves shift as the sun moves in and out of the clouds. Even overcast days bring out the shadowless sharpness.

Most all the venues are family oriented. Even Dirty Dick’s – the restaurant with the marketing tag line, “We got our crabs at Dirty Dick’s” – has a children’s menu. Connor ordered a drink called “Shark Attack” and got a fizzy, clear soda topped with a plastic shark with fangs clasping a maraschino cherry. The server said, “Eat the cherry then turn him over.” As Connor tipped the shark above the drink, “blood” red cherry juice flowed from the shark’s mouth and clouded the drink. What 9 year old wouldn’t love that?

Connor at Dirty Dick's - shark attack
Connor with his "shark attack" drink at Dirty Dick's in Nags Head


We camped at Frisco Woods Campground way down south by Hatteras. The park was clean with a well equipped camp store, nice pool for Connor, kayaking on the sound and a great place to watch the sunset. It was close to the Hatteras Pier beach, which still has the remains of the once great fishing pier destroyed by Hurricane Earl in 2010. The remnant offers a place of shade for beach goers who want to get out of the sun, but also adds a bit of architectural interest to the horizon, and reminder of how brutal the storms can be here.

Beach at Hatteras Pier - Outer Banks NC
Beach at Hatteras Pier - destroyed by Hurrican Earl 2010


I sat on the beach for four hours. In between watching Connor jump in the waves and get buried in the sand, I people watched. Everyone seemed happy. The families, the older couples, the surfing class, the young people … no stress was apparent from anyone. Even we were happy, able to forget all our troubles – which have been significant lately. The beach at the Outer Banks has that tranquilizing effect.

A peace settles over you.

Life is good.

The Outer Banks - Life is Good
The Outer Banks - Life is Good


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