The Outer Banks of the North Carolina Atlantic Coast – aka OBX – has a draw to it. There’s a palpable sense of place. The term OBX conjures up images of seaside cottages with porches and Adirondack Chairs, lighthouses, pirates and summer vacations. The book cover of Anne Rivers Siddons’ best-seller Outer Banks shows a woman looking out to the sea over a cottage porch rail. “Life is Good” is the theme in OBX.
Camping in the Outer Banks
We love to take our camper to OBX. The image below shows our camper parked at the Cape Hatteras KOA. It’s a huge park but it’s the only one where you can easily get a spot where you can hear the ocean waves coming over the dunes. It’s a short walk to the beach with lots of amenities that the KOA affords. We’ve also camped at Frisco Woods Campground. It’s on the bay side and is also very nice.
On the last morning of one 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 over 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.
Things to Do in OBX – Food and Fun
Most all the venues are family oriented. Even Dirty Dick’s – the restaurant with the marketing tagline, “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?
Flying kites is always a blast, and there’s almost always an uplifting wind on OBX. You can fly your kite from a beach chair. Jockey Ridge is especially fun for flying kites – and climbing the largest sand dune in the east. Visit the Ranger Station in Jockey Ridge State Park and they offer a little tour for kids with stickers at the end. It’s a great break from the heat. The Bodie Island Lighthouse (haunted!) is worth a visit for kids and adults, and the Elizabethan Gardens are definitely interesting for every gardener or lover of flowers. They have an awesome gift shop too.
A Peace Settles Over You
When we camped at Frisco Woods Campground way down south by Hatteras, we found the park 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.
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. The beach at the Outer Banks has that tranquilizing effect.
A peace settles over you.
Life is good.