Why the Sandbar?
Our Inn is located at MP 10.5 on the Beach Road, across the street from the beach next to a beach access. While you will have to cross the Beach Road to get on the sand, you will not have to cross the highway, and there’s a crosswalk that drivers are obligated to stop at when pedestrians are trying to cross. It’s a great central location for those who intend to see both the northern and southern beaches and is also located close to Roanoke Island, with the town of Manteo. The Tanger Outlets are less than five miles south; Jockey’s Ridge State Park is two miles south; The Wright Brothers’ Memorial is two miles north; and the inn is within a walking and biking of some of the best shops, galleries, and restaurants on the beach. It takes less than five minutes via car to get to Kill Devil Hills, about ten minutes to Kitty Hawk and 15 – 20 minutes to Roanoke Island. The drive to Hatteras is about an hour and fifteen minutes and the drive to Corolla is an hour with traffic, 40 minutes without. The town of Nags Head also has the most relaxed pet laws of all the towns for guests who bring their pets.
Sound Like the Locals
To sound like a local, pronounce Manteo (man-tee-OH); pronounce Corolla (cah-rahl-la) – not like the Toyota; pronounce Rodanthe (road-an-thee) – with a long E at the end; pronounce Ocracoke (oh-kra-coke); and the Bodie Island Lighthouse is pronounced just like the word body.
Day Trip Up North
The Northern Beaches
Around MP 2 on the By-pass are big green highway signs announcing the turn off Route 12 (the Beach Road) north toward the towns of Duck and Corolla. The first ten miles of this drive runs through Southern Shores, which is a residential community. As the speed limit becomes 25 mph, you will enter the town of Duck. Duck has the best concentrated area of shopping on the Outer Banks and is one of the only areas where you can park your car and walk around in a central location (Manteo being the other). However, there aren’t any public beach accesses even though the beach is a public place (zoning trickery in favor of the homeowners) so plan to visit Duck but not swim there. Duck features good restaurants and the park there has a busy activity schedule in the summer with concerts, tai chi and play times for children. Everything is a little more expensive there. Another fifteen miles on a mostly 45 mph drive brings you to the town of Corolla, (you also switch from Dare to Currituck County), home of the Currituck Lighthouse, which you can climb. Corolla is a more exclusive area, marked by gigantic houses which are worth seeing simply for scale. The Timbuck II shopping center houses awesome shops and restaurants and is not to be missed, though those who don’t like congestion should avoid the parking lot at all costs and park across the street. It is overwhelming in the summer season. The road north eventually ends, but you can continue driving on the sand with four-wheel drive to the beach community of Corova, which is accessible only by vehicle at low tide. This is where the wild horses live. If you don’t have a 4X4, you can rent a Jeep or take a driven tour. The sand is finer and it’s neat to see the houses built on the sand. The horses like cool weather, so a trip north is great on a cloudy or rainy day.
Day Trip Down South
The Southern Beaches
Driving south on the By-Pass or Beach Road, around MP 16, are another set of big green highways signs announcing the turn south of Route 12, taking you to Oregon Inlet, Rodanthe and Hatteras. This is the route to Ocracoke Island as well. The first half of the drive is protected national seashore so there is no development. None. This section of the Outer Banks gives you an idea of what it looked like pre-beach house, pre-Burger King, pre-paved roads. The sea oats wave in the wind and there are a few places to stop and see the ocean. The sand gets finer the farther south you drive, and the water gets warmer, as this area sticks farther out into the Gulf Stream than the middle and northern banks, which marks the spot where the Labrador and Gulf currents meet. Incidentally, the meeting of these two currents is what makes the Outer Banks a first-class fishing hole.
Oregon Inlet is a popular spot for the Fourth of July and Memorial and Labor Day weekends. You can drive out on the beach and park next to the water, drop your cooler in the sand and put some poles in the water. It’s also a big fishing spot, along with Roanoke Island, where you can charter a boat. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is also on the way featuring trails and information about the local flora and fauna.
The towns of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Buxton, etc. all run together like the towns of the middle banks. The only real distinction between them geographically is a sign reading “Welcome to (fill in the town)”. Incidentally, the very first house on the left once you enter Rodanthe is the house from the Nicholas Sparks movie. There are some good local eateries, artists’ wares and shopping throughout these towns. Also, the best surf is down this way but you’ll have to call a surf shop for exact locations.
Finally, the town of Hatteras with its Cape and Lighthouse, which you can climb, bring the south road to an end. From there you can take the free NC ferry to the island of Ocracoke to see its lighthouse, the local wild ponies, and the national park there. The sand is gorgeous and the water is the warmest of the Outer Banks. Guests have described Ocracoke as an artist/fishing community. Charter boats are available from both of these towns.
Please note that while a trip to Hatteras can be done in half a day, a trip to Ocracoke from our inn is a full day. Many people fail to calculate all the things to do on the drive to Hatteras, which makes it longer than an hour and fifteen-minute drive. Then they add a 45-minute ferry ride without calculating the waiting time for the ferry on either end of the trip (ferries run every 30 minutes in season, every hour off season), and the docking and unloading time, not to mention sight-seeing on the island itself. Guests who visit Ocracoke should leave early in the day and expect to eat lunch and possibly dinner while away, getting back 8 – 10 hours later.
Visit the Outer Banks Historical Town
Roanoke Island & Manteo
Instead of turning south on Rte 12 toward Hatteras at those big green road signs, you have the option to go west from Highway 158, which takes you across another bridge to the NC mainland. Manteo is the home of Fort Raleigh, Lost Colony Theater, NC Aquarium, Elizabethan Gardens, Roanoke Island Festival Park, great antiquing and shopping as well as wonderful local restaurants. Manteo is another location where you can park your car and walk around the waterfront and town center. It’s easy to spend a half day enjoying the area. Don’t miss the fifth lighthouse here, located on the sound waters.